Why This New Year’s Resolution Should Be the First One You Complete

Each year, as many as 60 percent of Americans make New Year’s resolutions. One of the most popular is saving money, yet it’s also one of most common resolutions to fail.1 As you look ahead to the rest of the year, we’ll show you what could be the difference-maker to keep your finances in check.

Must-Do Resolution: Evaluate your Homeowner’s Insurance

Your home is one of your largest assets, and not protecting it properly could be financially devastating. So if you’re looking to safeguard your finances over the long-term, here are a few things to look for in your homeowner’s insurance policy:

  1. Does it pay actual cash value or replacement value?
    If your policy pays actual cash value for a loss, you’ll receive enough money to pay what the home or item was worth when you bought it, with depreciation factored in. If you want to replace your home with items of the same quality, you’ll need a policy that pays replacement value.
  2. Are your home improvements reflected?
    If you’ve made recent improvements to your home, such as updating the kitchen or adding a bonus room, make sure those are reflected in your policy. That way, if your home is damaged or destroyed, you’ll be able to replace that new addition too.
  3. Does it cover temporary housing?
    If you experience a loss and are unable to live in your home while it’s being repaired or rebuilt, you’ll need a place to stay. Make sure your policy covers a temporary residence in your neighborhood or school district, and other out-of-pocket living expenses.
  4. Does it cover special losses, like floods or hurricane damage?
    Did you know that water damage makes up 45% of all interior property damage, happening more often than fire or burglary2? In the wake of wildfires, hurricanes, and floods, you may look back and wish you’d been more prepared. Now is the time to make sure you’re covered for whatever Mother Nature sends your way. Take an inventory of your home, assemble a disaster preparedness kit, and talk to your agent about the types of coverage you need.

Want additional tips for in sticking with your financial wellness resolutions? Check out this article.


1 https://www.inc.com/peter-economy/10-top-new-years-resolutions-for-success-happiness-in-2019.html

2 https://www.chubb.com/us-en/individuals-families/water/

12 Safety Tips for Recreational Boaters

As the weather warms up, many recreational boaters head to lake, river, or the ocean to fish, waterski, cruise, and relax onboard a boat, yacht or other personal watercraft. With nearly 12 million registered recreational boats in the U.S.*, it’s no wonder the waterways are a popular place to go. Before you head out with friends and family, take note of a few important safety tips.1. Make sure everyone wears a life jacket.
Victims drowned in approximately 80% of fatal boating accidents. Of those, 83% were not wearing a life jacket. Insist that your crew and guests all wear a life jacket that fits them well. This can help them stay afloat in rough waters, protect them against hypothermia, and in some cases, can keep their head above water.

 2. Use the right kind of life jackets for the situation.
Boats 16 feet and longer must be equipped with one Type I, II, III, or V personal floatation device (PFD) plus one Type IV throwable device. Boats that are 16 feet or less must have one Type I, II, III or V PFD for each person aboard. All boats must be equipped with one Type I, II, III, or V personal floatation device for each person aboard.  Boats 16 feet and longer must also be equipped with a Type IV throwable device. All PFDs should be in good condition and have a Coast Guard Approval Number.

  • Type I PFDs are often called off-shore life jackets. They provide the most buoyancy and are effective in all waters, especially open, rough, or remote waters where rescue may be delayed. They are designed to turn most unconscious wearers to a face-up position in the water.
  • Type II PFDs are near-shore buoyancy vests. They are intended for calm, inland water or waters where there is a good chance of quick rescue.
  • Type III PFDs are also called floatation aids. They are good for calm, inland water, similar to Type II.
  • Type IV PFDs are designed to be thrown to a person in the water and grasped and held by the user until rescued.
  • Type V PFDs are special use devices. They may be carried instead of other PFDs if used in accordance with the approved conditions designated on the label. They may be inflatable vests, deck suits, work vests, board sailing vests or hybrid PFDs.

3. Never drink alcohol and go boating.
Alcohol use is a leading contributor to fatal boating accidents, causing approximately 15% of the deaths each year. Stay sharp when you’re on the water by leaving the alcohol on dry land.

 4. Recreational boaters should take a boating safety course.
Only 13% of the boating deaths occurred on vessels where the operator had received a nationally approved boating safety education certificate. You may even qualify for a reduced insurance rate if you complete a safety course. Contact your local Coast Guard Auxiliary, U.S. Power Squadron chapter or visit uscgboating.org for details.

5. Put down the cell phone.
One of the top five contributing factors to boating accidents is inattention. Just like distracted driving on our highways, talking, texting, and other use of cell phones while boating is a growing problem on the water. Don’t contribute to this problem. Keep your eyes on the water ahead and around you.

 6. Drive at a safe speed and follow all boating safety and navigational rules.
Excessive speed and improper lookout are two of the top contributing factors to boating accidents. Make sure you understand the local rules and laws of the waterway and follow them closely. Take note of visibility, traffic density, and proximity to navigational hazards such as shoals, rocks, or floating objects.

7. Check the weather forecast and be prepared for it to change.
A calm day can quickly turn ugly on the water. There were 41 deaths in 2016 attributed to weather conditions. Keep an eye out for changing weather conditions and stay on top of the forecast while boating.

 8. Take action before a storm hits.
Storm and hurricane forecasts and warnings are issued by the National Hurricane Center. Boaters can get information from VHF marine radios, commercial radios and television stations and newspapers. As a boater, you need to be aware of the types of advisories and take action before a storm hits. Warnings range from small craft advisories, with winds of 18 knots or less, up to hurricane warnings with winds of 74 miles per hour (64 knots) or greater.

 9. Register for a free Maritime Mobile Service Identity (MMSI) number and have a VHF radio equipped with Digital Selective Calling (DSC) installed and connected to your GPS.
When in coastal and inshore waters, these preparations can help take the search out of search and rescue. DSC allows the VHF radio to transfer information digitally, and to instantly send a digital distress alert, which includes your exact position, to the Coast Guard upon activation of the emergency button. Part of the alert is the MMSI number, which will identify your vessel automatically.

10. Use a carbon monoxide detector.
All internal combustion engines emit carbon monoxide, a poisonous gas that can make you sick in seconds and kill in minutes. Remember, you cannot see, smell, or taste CO, so know the symptoms (similar to seasickness or alcohol intoxication).

11. File a float plan.
The U.S. Coast Guard recommends that you always tell a friend or family member where you plan to go and when you’ll be back. That way, the proper officials can be notified if you don’t return when expected.

 12. Get a free Vessel Safety Check.
Boats are complex machines and need regular maintenance to stay running smoothly and safely. The U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary and U.S. Power Squadron offer Vessel Safety Checks at no cost, so let their certified vessel examiners check your boat’s equipment and provide you with safety information before you go out on the water. Check with your marina or yacht club to find one in your area.

If you would like additional boating safety tips please click here.

Little Drips Make for Big Waste

Presented by: Alyssa Tkach

Every homeowner can attest to the importance of protecting their home. Although many are aware of the potential destruction of disasters such as fires and storms, there is less knowledge overall about the significance of home water leaks. In fact, according to Bloomberg’s article, “The Hidden Property Danger Lurking in Your Home,” almost half of all property damage losses in 2015 were due to water leaks. 1 in 50 homes have water leaks or frozen pipes each year.

Water leaks, if left unattended, can be very costly, so it is absolutely crucial for homeowners to stop them before they occurs. CHUBB lists several ways to reduce the risk of water damage in the home:

  1. If you’re leaving for an extended period of time, ask someone to stay in or check on the home periodically.
  2. Routinely check the home’s appliances for potential leaks.
  3. Inspect water supply lines.
  4. Turn off the main water supply when you leave for an extended period of time.
  5. Clear out your home’s gutters regularly.
  6. Inspect your home’s roof regularly.
  7. When you are planning to leave, set your flow-based water shut off device to “away.”
  8. Regularly replace the batteries in your water leak sensor device.
  9. Always inspect your sump pump, and keep a battery-powered backup.
  10. Schedule annual maintenance for your backup generator, and routinely ensure that it’s in working order.

Many people install anti-water damage devices within their home to help prevent a water disaster. Bloomberg’s article, “The Property Damage You’re Most Likely to Suffer,” lists three main types of devices that homeowners can choose from:

  1. Device sensors: installed near water-using appliances, these devices are triggered by water near them, and they will sound an alarm.
  2. Centralized system: attached to the home’s main water line, these devices monitor the amount of water flowing into the home, triggering the main water shut-off valve if necessary.
  3. Combination system: this system can sense when water is near it as well as control the home’s water shut-off valve.

Additionally, sump pumps can be a beneficial addition to any home. They are designed to drain excess water to another point far away from the home, preventing foundation damage.

Homeowners who take the steps to install a device, or simply just inspect their water supply regularly, have a much higher chance of stopping a leak in its tracks. Don’t let water damage your home—be proactive and stay aware!

Links used:





Separation, Divorce and Personal Insurance Considerations

Presented by Christopher F. Hawthorne, CPCU, CIC


During the period of a separation and divorce, several issues arise in terms of one’s insurance program.  Unfortunately, the untangling and restructuring of an existing insurance program can be very confusing and is often overlooked.  As an insurance program is rebuilt in what can be a hostile environment it is important to concentrate on coverage, control and accuracy issues.

The following attempts to highlight issues pertaining to personal insurance coverage involved during separation and post-divorce.  For insurance purposes, the work begins when someone leaves the primary residence with no intention of returning in short order (one or two weeks). It is helpful to remember that insurance policies are name and location specific legal contracts. While not flexible, they can be molded to fit your needs if care is taken throughout the process.


SEPARATION: When a spouse leaves the primary residence, if they have an ownership interests, the departing spouse should check with the agent periodically to make sure coverage is kept in force.  This will help protect what may be the most valuable financial asset in the relationship.

Once a new residence is established for the relocated spouse, a tenant’s policy should be purchased to protect this spouse’s personal liability and personal property.  The language in a homeowner’s policy states that liability protection is excluded for an additional premise rented to an insured.  Therefore, the relocated spouse will need a tenant’s policy for protection. The cost of a renter’s policy(HO4) is minimal, often less than $200 per year.

At same time the homeowner’s policy limits personal property coverage to 10% of the current homeowner’s policy for additional premises occupied by an insured.  If the new residence exceeds the 10% value, the new residence should be insured by the new tenant’s policy. Additionally, the departed spouse if depending on the existing homeowner’s policy may not want a loss payment issued in both names. A renter’s policy will solve this problem as well.

POST – DIVORCE: Once the divorce is finalized and the deed changed, the stationary spouse should have the homeowner policy changed to remove the departed spouse’s name. Also, pay attention to scheduled property as the ownership may have changed and coverage may no longer be needed.


SEPARATION: This is a very tricky area as autos are titled and until the autos are retitled, liability for both owners is in play. The safest move is to:

1) Change garaging address of an auto if the moving spouse changes towns.
2) Add all drivers to the current auto policy (including new significant others/household members in either household) as traumatic as this might be.
Note: If there are young drivers involved, while determining financial considerations for post-divorce, remember to address which parent will act as the primary auto policy for the young driver. This can be quite expensive and should be determined before the divorce is finalized.

POST – DIVORCE: The autos should be retitled.  Once retitled, the drivers listed may be limited to the drivers and household member of each individual.


SEPARATION: As with the auto, all new locations, drivers and autos should be added to the current umbrella.

POST – DIVORCE: A new umbrella should be purchased for the moving spouse and then exposures may be limited to only those locations, drivers and auto of the individual.


SEPARATION: Contact the plan administrator to discuss the situation to see if any changes must be made. A departing spouse may be moving out of the Group Health territory and changes could be required.

POST – DIVORCE: The group or plan administrator at the spouse’s place of employment should be notified of any new addresses and any change in beneficiaries.  The administrator will then notify the various plans of the needed changes.

Note: Having a divorce decree that is clear on who will be responsible for providing and paying for group health coverage will be quite helpful. The divorce decree should also address if the providing ex-spouse gets remarried. Will the ex-spouse providing coverage be expected to also insure both the ex-spouse and the new spouse as well as children? The group health carriers and employers will look to the divorce decree for instruction.


SEPARATION: Agents should be notified of new addresses and any change in beneficiary requests.  If divorce decree calls for mandatory life insurance, consider having ownership of life insurance be held by each ex-spouse to insure control of payments and benefits.

POST – DIVORCE: Finalize any changes in beneficiaries as needed.


Just as it took a team to build the financial structure pre-separation and divorce it will take a team to navigate what can be a perilous period in terms of both parties’ financial well-being.  As stated earlier, insurance policies are not very flexible and if not address appropriately, a person might discover they do not have the needed protection.

Finally, it may be a good idea for each spouse to obtain their own advisors rather than rely on the ones that were in place before the separation. There is an inherent conflict of interest in this situation and each spouse should have an advisor that is looking out for their individual interests alone.




5 Things Millennials Should Know About Life Insurance

Regardless of how well prepared you think you are for adult responsibilities, there is always room for improvement – especially when it comes to life insurance. For millennials, life insurance may not feel like a totally immediate concern; however, it is the type of insurance that is too often underestimated and even more complicated than many people anticipate.

Whether or not you think you need it, it’s time to prioritize arranging your coverage. But we know this can be a confusing process, so we’re here to make it easier.

Below are five things that all millennials should understand about life insurance:

  1. Life insurance can help family avoid bankruptcy. Life insurance is often thought of as money that will be inherited from a parent or guardian once they pass. However, life insurance also helps to cover the expenses that would normally fall to those who are responsible for making arrangements.
  2. Student loans don’t disappear. Believe it or not, your loans don’t go away if you die. If you have Federal student loans, your loans will be discharged and your family will not be responsible for your debt; however, private loans will be inherited by your family. The last thing your family needs are debt collectors harassing them in their moment of grief.
  3. Life insurance is cheaper the younger you are. At this age, you can buy a quality life insurance policy for less than the cost of a commuter pass – especially if you don’t have big expenses to cover after you’ve died. As you get older and your health risks increase, you’ll pay more.
  4. Life insurance may be part of your employee benefits. Take some time to assess your benefits package because many employers offers life insurance as part of it. That said, if you plan to switch jobs in the next few years, it will be worthwhile to obtain an individual policy as well.
  5. There are many different types of life insurances to consider. Millennials should know that there is not one type fits all when it comes to life insurance. At Cleary, we offer a variety of categories under life insurance. These include, Whole Life Insurance, Term Life Insurance, Disability Insurance, Long Term Care, Key Employee Insurance and Buy Sell Insurance.

We are here to answer your questions. Contact us at any time, and we will be happy to assist you.

The Skinny on Life Insurance

If you have any dependents that fall under your responsibility – children, spouse, a special needs adult – it may be time to have the life insurance policy conversation. It’s not always a pleasant thought, but it’s certainly necessary to consider if you are the primary caregiver to another person. In the event of your death or serious illness, the money needed to support loved ones comfortably in your absence can hard to come by and having a policy in place beforehand will make it easier.

At Cleary, we make sure that a life insurance policy is tailored to your specific wants or needs. The two most common types of insurance are term and whole life insurance, both of which can benefit you and your loved ones in a variety of ways.

Term Life Insurance, often regarded as the simplest and least expensive plan, provides coverage for a fixed period of time and typically may be renewed after the initial contract term expires. However, this offering does not provide savings.

On the other hand, Whole Life Insurance provides life insurance protection for as long as you live. Whole life policies also provide for the accumulation of cash value on a tax-deferred basis which can be used when you need it, to help with life’s opportunities.

Again, we know it’s not the prettiest thought, but it can be a comfort to know that the money afforded through these plans can help your family’s daily living expenses, the mortgage of your house or debts, and so on.

4 Questions to Ask Yourself When Considering Renter’s Insurance

When most people think about insurance, they associate it with buying a car or home. Renter’s insurance is often overshadowed in this way. Even though renter’s insurance is not always required, it’s still important when considering the net worth of your personal items.

At Cleary, we recommend renter’s insurance so that you’re protected against the damage or loss of personal property when you rent an apartment or house and have liability protection in case any lawsuits are made against you.

For example, if someone gets hurt on your rented property, and he or she decides to sue you, renter’s insurance will likely pay for both the injured person’s medical expenses as well as a lawyer.

Sounds pretty good, right?

Here are a few questions to ask yourself when you consider renter’s insurance:

  1. How much would it cost to replace my belongings if they were damaged or stolen?
  2. Could I afford to replace them?
  3. Do I live in an area prone to theft or other destructive forces?
  4. Can I afford Replacement Cost* coverage over Actual Cash Value (ACV)**?

* Replacement Cost refers to the cost of replacing lost or damaged items

** ACV involves the monetary reimbursement for what the item would have been worth by an insurance company.

If you’re still having trouble deciding, contact us and we’ll give you the skinny on renter’s insurance.

Insurance for Your College Student

Renters Insurance
So you’ve kicked off your kid’s college career with a new laptop and some other expensive high-tech gadgets. Now it’s time to follow up to ensure his or her property is safe in the event of theft, fire or other mishap.

In general, protecting a student’s personal property boils down to a simple rule: If your child is living on campus and going to school full time, your homeowners, renters or condo insurance policy (including liability protection) will cover his or her gear. But if he or she moves off campus, your policy most likely won’t protect his or her assets. Ditto if your students starts taking fewer classes.

Kids who change their permanent home addresses on such legal documents as driver’s licenses or tax returns (say, to qualify for in-state tuition at a public university) are no longer considered official parts of your household. They’ll need their own renters insurance.  Students who rent a shared apartment will need insurance, too, but be aware that they might have a tough time getting it. That’s because insurers might not sell a policy to a student unless everyone in the household has his or her own policy, too.

Auto coverage
Congratulations if your college student left the car at home. You might have some savings coming to you. But to get it, your student’s school needs to be at least 100 miles away. If you meet this criterion, give your insurer a call. You’ll generally receive about 10 percent off your premium.

Did your child leave with the car?   It is important to call your insurance broker and discuss your options.  The insurance carrier could conceivably raise your rates if the vehicle’s moved to a different location.