Shield Insurance is an Independent Agency, Endorsed by Dave Ramsey

Independent Agent: Dave Ramsey’s Number One Tip

“If you’re looking to save hundreds, even thousands, on your insurance costs, consider Dave’s number-one tip: Purchase your coverage through an independent insurance agent, which is an agent who represents several insurance companies instead of working for just one carrier.” – Dave Ramsey

Shield Insurance Agency is a 3rd Generation Agency providing all Independent Agents

In today’s economy we cut coupons, look for BOGO’s, and try to find the best insurance coverage for our buck. With insurance agents, there are two types – Captive and Independent.

A captive agent is one who works for one specific company and is able to provide one companies products.

An independent agent is one who sells insurance products for several different companies but does not work for a specific company. So as we spend our time looking for ways to trim costs, one easy way to do that is to contact your local independent insurance agency and see how they can help. 

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Shield Insurance Agency Life Insurance

How to access your life insurance policy’s cash value

The most important job of life insurance is to take care of those who count on you if something were to happen to you. While all life insurance provides a death benefit to fill this role, some types also build cash value.

What is cash value?

When you make a premium payment into a cash value life insurance policy, part of that money stays with the policy, earns a return, and accumulates over time. This is the cash value. It’s what you’d get if you surrendered the policy (less any surrender fees).

Some policies have a provision to pay out the cash value as part of the death benefit while others do not. Check your policy or check with your insurance agent to confirm which type you have.

Types of cash value life insurance

Permanent policies, including whole and universal life, offer lifelong coverage and have cash value. This cash value accumulates differently based on the type of policy.

  • Whole life cash values are pre-defined and guaranteed. In exchange for guarantees, the cash value grows at a conservative rate.
  • A fixed universal life (UL) credits the cash value with a rate determined by the insurance company based on market conditions. This rate can vary over time but won’t be less than a guaranteed minimum.
  • Indexed UL earns a rate tied to a market index, like the S&P 500®, which offers greater upside potential than the above types. When the market performs poorly, the rate may be lower, but there’s no risk of market loss since you’re not actually invested in the market.
  • Variable UL cash value accumulates based on the market performance of the mix of available investment options chosen by the policy owner. These policies can lose money.

6 ways to use your cash value

The cash value can be a useful financial tool and can be accessed in several ways — but make sure to ask your insurance agent for details to avoid any unintended consequences.

1. Pay policy premiums.
Another option to use cash value is to pay some or possibly all the premiums for your life insurance policy.

2. Take out a loan.
You can also take out a loan from your policy. The rate is usually lower than a bank loan — and you don’t have to qualify for the loan since it’s your money (good news for those with a weak credit history).

You don’t have to repay these loans, but interest will continue to accumulate. If the total outstanding loan balance including interest ever exceeds the cash value, the policy will lapse, ending your coverage. To avoid this situation, either pay the interest each year or keep an eye on the situation and take action when needed.

Any unpaid loan balances will reduce the death benefit when the insured person dies.

3. Make a withdrawal.
You can also withdraw some or all of your cash value — may be for an emergency expense or to get you through a tough time. Withdrawals can reduce the death benefit, though, so consult your agent before you pull the trigger. There are no taxes on a withdrawal as long as the amount is withdrawn is less than what you’ve paid in.

4. Supplement your retirement.
Cash-value life insurance can add to your retirement portfolio. Since it grows tax-deferred, it can accumulate faster, but it still may take a number of years, maybe 10 to 15, to become a significant asset.

Some policies also allow you to receive part or all of the death benefit early for terminal illness, long-term care, or chronic conditions, which can help protect your nest egg.

5. Surrender your policy completely.
If you no longer need the coverage, you can completely cancel or surrender your life insurance policy and receive the accumulated cash value, less any fees and outstanding loan balances.

Any money you receive that’s above what you paid into the policy will be taxed as ordinary income. So, if you paid in a total of $10,000 and you receive $12,500 after your surrender, you’ll be taxed on $2,500.

6. Sell your policy.
As an alternative to surrendering your life insurance policy, you may be able to sell it to a life insurance settlement company. The company will take over the payments and become the policy’s beneficiary.

Like a surrender, you’ll be taxed on amounts in excess of what you paid in premiums. You should still end up with more money than a surrender. However, the process can be time-consuming, and it may be hard to find an interested buyer.

With these many options, life insurance can not only protect your family, but it can also provide a flexible financial resource over the years.

A special thank you to Grange Life Insurance Company and Kansas City Life Insurance Company for contributing this article.

Life policies are offered by Kansas City Life Insurance Company, Kansas City, Mo., and are subject to underwriting approval.


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shield-insurance-life

Is Work Life Insurance Enough?

Is the life insurance you have at work enough? 3 ways to tell

If you work full-time, chances are you have some life insurance through your employer — 75% of full-time workers in the U.S. have access to life insurance as an employee benefit and 98% of those workers are covered.1 But is it all the life insurance coverage you need?

Many people mistakenly think it is, even though they could benefit from having their own life insurance outside of work.

Here are three things to consider:

1. Is it enough coverage?

If your employer offers life insurance and you signed up for it, at least you have some coverage. That’s better than no coverage. But it might not be enough to give your family the funds they need to make ends meet if the worst happens to you.

Research shows that one of every three families would be in financial trouble in less than one month if they lost a primary wage earner — and the percentage grows to 70% within six months.2

You can help your family avoid this hardship by making sure you have enough life insurance to replace your paycheck as long as needed (for example, until the kids leave home or the mortgage is paid off).

Your employer may limit the amount of group coverage available to you, leaving you short.

2. You can’t take Life Insurance with you.

Even if you can get enough coverage through your employer, that coverage may end before you want it to — and may end suddenly

Group life insurance is an employee benefit that usually ends when your employment ends. Even if you’re going to a new job immediately, you may not be eligible for benefits right away — if the new employer offers it at all. And, if you lose your job to a lay-off, downsizing, or firing — or if you retire — it might be a while before you can replace the coverage.

If your strategy is to buy individual life insurance later, keep in mind, that your health, driving record, and credit history must remain solid in order to qualify for it. Also, coverage generally costs more as you age.

3. No extra benefits or cash value.

Employer coverage is usually affordable and reliable. But it’s also usually pretty basic, meaning it doesn’t accumulate cash value over time or have any extra benefits under your control

  • Cash value. An individual policy you buy from an insurance agent can last for life — usually up to age 100 or 120 — and, depending on the type of policy, can build up a cash value that you can borrow against or use to pay part of the cost of the policy. Employer group plans don’t offer these options.
  • Extra benefits. These days, many individual life insurance policies offer additional benefits during the living years. These include features that provide part of the death benefit early if the insured person is diagnosed with a terminal illness or needs long-term care. Another feature can extend coverage to others in the family. These extra benefits may carry an additional cost, but that cost may still be lower than stand-alone coverage.

For these reasons, it might be wise to think of employer coverage as a supplement to your own individual policy, instead of relying on it as your only source of life insurance coverage. That puts you in the driver’s seat to choose the type and amount of coverage that’s right for you — and that can be customized to your needs.

1 – National Compensation Survey, Employee Benefits, Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2018
2 – Insurance Barometer Study, LIMRA, 2017


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Independent Agents

Independent Agents vs. Captive Agents

When you’re in the market for insurance, whether it’s home, auto or commercial insurance, you typically work with an agent who can help you find a policy that meets your needs. But most people don’t know that there are two different kinds of insurance agents—captive and independent agents.

So what is an independent insurance agent vs. a captive insurance agent? In short, captive insurance agents are contracted to work for one insurance company and can only sell that company’s policies. On the other hand, independent agents are contracted to work with a variety of insurance companies and can sell policies from multiple providers.

As a consumer, it’s important to understand the distinctions between captive and independent agents. Although they sound the same, some people may benefit from working with a captive agent and others with an independent agent. In this article, we’ll explain the key differences and help you decide which agent is best for you.

Captive Agents

Most of the major insurance companies, like State Farm, Allstate and Farmers, use captive agents to sell their insurance products. Their agents are only selling policies from that one insurer, so the agents are experts at knowing the different policies available, discounts and coverage add-ons for their one carrier.

Because of that, they can be helpful for people who are buying insurance for the first time or for people who aren’t sure how much coverage to purchase.

Client satisfaction is crucial for captive agents because they get a commission for every earned sale. However, their commission rate tends to be lower than for independent agents because they are also paid a salary from the insurance company and get financial assistance with costs like advertising and hiring.

Independent Agents

Independent agents partner with several insurance companies of their choosing to sell certain policies from each provider. For example, an independent agent might contract with Pioneer Insurance, Frankenmuth Insurance,and Citizens Insurance and sell any of their auto and home insurance policies.

Many consumers like working an independent insurance agent because an independent agent gives the customer more options. They aren’t locked into purchasing from a small number of plans that might be too expensive or not a great fit for their coverage needs. Those options help people shop around for plans before settling on one.

Which is better?

Generally speaking, there isn’t one better type of insurance agent. Whether you choose to work with a captive agent or an independent agent depends on you.

The main benefit of working with a captive agent is that they have extensive knowledge of their insurers products and policies, because they have one carrier. However, working with a captive agent tends to be more expensive, due to extra fees that the insurance company charges.

If you work with an independent agent, you’ll get more options, which also means a wider price range. But independent agents have in-depth knowledge about numerous carriers, where captives only need to learn one. Also, independent agents usually charge less because there isn’t one parent company to support.

If you’re concerned with keeping costs low, working with an independent agent will save you money. Keep in mind that you should already have a general idea of what you’re looking for before meeting with an agent.

Frequently asked questions

What type of insurance do independent agents and captive agents sell?

Both independent and captive agents can sell any kind of insurance they want. Some choose to sell every product that an insurer offers, while others specialize in a few areas, like home and life insurance.

Should I choose an independent agent or a captive agent?

There are a few main reasons why you would choose an independent vs. a captive agent. The first is cost—working with an independent agent will be cheaper than working with a captive agent. Secondly, independent agents can offer a wider variety of plans, so you have more choices and a wider price range to work from.

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Shield Insurance How to Prepare for an Emergency

How to prepare your phone for an emergency

In case of an emergency, here is how to prepare your phone.

Today, our phones are rarely outside of our reach. This makes them one of the best tools we have to quickly respond to an emergency and increase the chances of a more positive outcome.

How prepared is your phone to handle an emergency?

In most emergencies, you would be the one to contact someone for help. So, it’s important to take a few minutes to research and save important emergency contact numbers on your phone so you can make the call immediately and get help faster.

Here are the main emergency phone numbers to prepare

  • Your emergency contacts, such as a parent, spouse, or close friend
  • Police, 911 in the United States for emergencies
  • Poison Control Center
  • State Highway Patrol
  • Your nearest police and fire department (for non-emergencies)

You should also consider saving these important numbers to help you in an emergency:

  • Your doctor, pediatrician, and/or veterinarian
  • Your pharmacy
  • Home health aides
  • Your insurance company
  • Your roadside assistance provider
  • Your employer
  • Your child’s school or caregiver
  • A nearby relative or friend
  • An out-of-town relative or friend

There are also some emergency situations, like a bad fall or car accident, where you might not be able to communicate with first responders. For this reason, it’s important to take these two steps:

  1. Add an emergency contact in your phones, such as a parent, spouse, or close friend who can come to your aid.
  2. If your phone locks, set up a lock screen message to communicate helpful information to first responders, like your emergency contact, blood type, allergies, and medications.

Depending on the type of phone you’re using, there are different ways to add a lock screen message.

iPhone users can use the Health app on their phones to add their basic personal information, important medical details, and emergency contact numbers within the Medical ID tab and make them accessible from their lock screen. Just make sure you select “Show When Locked” and test it out after you’ve finished setting it up.

Android users can set up their lock screen message by going into their Settings, Users & Accounts, and then Emergency Information. Enter your medical information and emergency contact. Then test it out by locking your phone, swiping up, and tapping “Emergency” to find the information you entered.

Additionally, Android lets you put any message you want on your locked screen. To do this, open your Settings, go to Security & Location, and next to the Screen Lock tab hit Settings. Then, tap Lock Screen Message. Here, you can enter your primary emergency contact or important medication information so that it always displays on your locked phone screen.

Because it’s difficult to predict when or where an emergency will happen, it is a smart idea to prepare your phone now so that you’re ready to handle any situation that comes your way in the future. Be safe out there!

This article is for informational and suggestion purposes only. To learn more about Shield Insurance Agency, business and life insurance, or auto insurance including Roadside Assistance, please call or text our office at 616-896-4600

References:
– Harvard Health Publishing, Harvard Medical School
– HuffPost, LIFE

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wallet safety check list

Wallet Safety Check List

10 items to leave out of your wallet

It’s simple for thieves to turn plain, old regular crime into cybercrime – if you give them the right information. Leave these ten items out of your wallet.

Over time, it’s easy for your wallet or purse to become stuffed full of crucial information – receipts, PIN numbers, and social security cards – that thieves can use to access your online life with only a few clicks.

Keep only what you need in your wallet and purse and keep your online life secure. Use the infographic below to help determine what should be, and more importantly, what should not be in your wallet.

Wallet Safety Check List

Wallet Safety Check List
  1. Social Security Cards
  2. Birth certificates
  3. Receipts
  4. Gift cards
  5. Extra credit cards
  6. Blank checks
  7. Passports
  8. Medicare cards
  9. Spare keys
  10. Pins and passwords
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What is insurance?

What is insurance and why is it important?

Have you ever had a moment — while looking at your insurance policy or shopping for insurance — when you’ve thought, “What is insurance? And do I really need it?”

You’re not alone.

Insurance can be a mysterious and puzzling thing. How does insurance work? What are the benefits of insurance? And how do you find the best insurance for you? These are common questions, and fortunately, there are some easy-to-understand answers for them.

To help, here are a few simple insurance explanations:

What is insurance?

Insurance is a financial safety net, helping you and your loved ones recover after something bad happens — such as a fire, theft, lawsuit or car accident. When you purchase insurance, you’ll receive an insurance policy, which is a legal contract between you and your insurance provider. And when you suffer a loss that’s covered by your policy and file a claim, insurance pays you or a designated recipient, called a beneficiary, based on the terms of your policy.

The most difficult thing about insurance is that you’re paying for something you hope you never have to use. Nobody wants something bad to happen to them. But suffering a loss without insurance can put you in a difficult financial situation.

What are the benefits of insurance?

Insurance is an important financial tool. It can help you live life with fewer worries knowing you’ll receive financial assistance after a disaster or accident, helping you recover faster. When it comes to life insurance, this could mean your family doesn’t have to move out of the house or that your kids can afford to go to college. For auto insurance, it could mean you have extra cash in hand to help pay for repairs or a replacement vehicle after an accident. Insurance can help keep your life on track, as much as possible, after something bad derails it.

Your independent agent is a great resource to learn more about the benefits of insurance, as well as the benefits in your specific insurance policy. For example, you may have access to perks such as free roadside assistance, risk control consulting for businesses or cash value in a life insurance policy, in addition to your insurance coverage.

And in some cases, like auto insurance and workers’ compensation, you may be required by law to have insurance in order to protect others.

How does insurance work?

Insurance is essentially a gigantic rainy day fund shared by many people (called policyholders) and managed by an insurance carrier. The insurance company uses money collected (called premium) from its policyholders and other investments to pay for its operations and to fulfill its promise to policyholders when they file a claim.

Because of the unpredictable nature of natural disasters — like tornadoes, hail, wildfires and hurricanes, and everyday disasters such as fender benders and kitchen fires — an insurance company’s main goal is to remain financially strong enough to handle anything that comes its policyholders’ way.

How do I choose an insurance provider?

Here are a few things to consider when choosing an insurance company to work with:

  • Insurance coverage. What types of insurance does the company offer? Can you buy all of your insurance through the company and receive a discount?
  • Financial strength. Would the company be able to pay your claim? Look to U.S. credit rating agency AM Best to determine the company’s financial strength.
  • Agency model. Would you prefer the help of a local agent? Or would you prefer to manage your insurance on your own?
  • Customer service. Do others recommend this company? What are people saying about it in online customer reviews?

When in doubt, contact Shield Agency and ask them any questions you have about insurance. Shield agents are insurance experts with the knowledge to guide you through the process and help you find the best protection for you and the people and things you care about most.

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Shield Insurance Homeowners Insurance

Ladder safety tips everyone should know

Ladder Safety

Ladder Safety. Remember in old cartoons when the main character is caught wobbling at the top of an extension ladder? A funny skit ensues as the ladder inevitably begins to fall and a friend scurries around under an expanding shadow trying to catch them.

Scaling a ladder in real life, we know, is a lot more serious. According to OSHA, portable ladders (step, straight, combination and extension ladders) are one of the leading causes of falls and injuries to workers on the job. Knowing how to use a ladder properly at home or at work decreases your chances of risk and injury.

From cleaning your gutters to fixing a roof, you’ll most likely need a ladder to get the job done. Keep these ladder safety tips in mind the next time you climb to ensure the job is completed in a safe and timely manner.

Before use

Preparation is key to ladder safety. Keep these tips in mind before you climb:

  • Inspect the ladder for cracked or broken parts such as rungs, steps, side rails and locking components.
  • Be sure all locks on an extension ladder are properly engaged.
  • Do not place ladders on boxes, barrels, tables or other unstable objects to gain additional height.
  • Make sure all tools and materials are securely fastened to the ladder to prevent falling.
  • Do not use a self-supporting ladder, like a step ladder, as a single ladder or in the partially open position.
  • An extension ladder should extend three feet above the point of support.
  • To set your ladder at the right angle, place its base a quarter of the working length of the ladder from the wall or other vertical surface.
  • If using a ladder outside, do not use in windy or inclement weather.
  • Check in with yourself: Avoid using a ladder if you feel dizzy, tired or are impaired.

During use

Ladder safety doesn’t stop on the ground. Keep these tips in mind while your ladder is in use:

  • Do not exceed the maximum load rating of the ladder. Read and follow manufacturer’s labels and warnings for use and weight rating.
  • When climbing, maintain three points of contact through a combination of hands and feet at all times.
  • Don’t stand on the top rung of the ladder unless it’s designed for such activity.
  • Never have someone climb up to bring you something. Only one person should be on a ladder at a time.
  • Don’t move the ladder while it’s in use.
  • Don’t lean or overreach. Reposition the ladder instead.
  • Face the ladder and always grip the rungs, not the side rails.

This article is for informational and suggestion purposes only. To learn more about your insurance needs, contact Shield Insurance Agency.

References:
– Grange Risk Management
– Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA)
– National Safety Council (NSC)

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Shield Agency Life Insurance

Calculate how much life insurance you need

Calculate how much life insurance you need

Life insurance is an important part of planning for the future. In your absence, life insurance can help protect your family’s finances, allow your small business to live on and give you something to leave behind for your loved ones or a favorite charity.

Many people understand the importance of life insurance.

According to LIMRA, 80% of consumers believe that most people need life insurance and as many as 132 million Americans rely on life insurance to protect their financial security. But when it comes to actually purchasing a policy, the confusion sinks in and one big question often comes to mind: how much life insurance coverage do I need?

A life insurance policy isn’t “one-size-fits-all.”

Everyone has a unique financial situation, so coverage needs are just as unique. To answer this question, you’ll need to get your own personal estimate. Although meeting with your life insurance agent will give you the most accurate results, there are a few different methods you can use to get started.

One way to determine the costs you’ll leave behind is through the “DIME” method. DIME stands for:

D – Outstanding Debts
I – Income Replacement
M – Mortality
E – Education

To get an estimate of how much coverage you will need, take some time to list out all of your expenses that fall under these four categories.

Debt

Outstanding debt can be anything from outstanding student loans, to money you owe on a credit card. You also want to be sure your family can keep their home and stay there for years to come, so be sure to factor in your mortgage into your life insurance estimate. Regardless of how the debt was accumulated, you don’t want these expenses falling on the shoulders of your loved ones.

Income

How will your absence affect your family’s finances? Income replacement calculates just that—the amount of coverage your loved ones would need to continue living a similar lifestyle. Consider day-to-day living costs, as well as other types of spending, like childcare. And keep in mind that inflation will likely cause costs to increase. Don’t forget to factor in income that comes from any investments, in addition to the income that comes from your job.

Mortality

The mortality portion of “DIME” covers all final expenses, including funeral costs and other expenditures associated with end-of-life. When estimating final expenses, you may want to leave a little wiggle room for costs that you may not anticipate or be able to determine an exact number for, such as unpaid medical bills. There are also many costs and taxes that come along with settling your estate, so keep that in mind as well.

Education

If you have children who are in or are planning on going to college, or even a spouse who may want to go back to school, consider the costs of their education when estimating your life insurance policy.

Once you add up all of these expenses, you may end up with a pretty big amount. However, there are a few items that you can subtract from this number, such as the amount of coverage on a group life insurance policy, funds from your retirement plan or any other savings you’ve accumulated.

In addition to the DIME exercise, there are many online tools you can use to help you estimate your needs. For instance, Life Happens provides a nifty online calculator for estimating these costs. Enter all of your information in the form, and click on the question marks next to each form field for additional tips and information. Once you’ve filled in all of the fields, Life Happens will instantly estimate how much life insurance you need.

While the DIME method and Life Happens’ calculator are helpful tools, they cannot replace the knowledgeable insight and helpful advice of an independent insurance agent. An agent will speak with you about all aspects of your life, and work with you to find the right amount of coverage for your specific needs, contact Andy Simmons, our Life Insurance specialist, and get the coverage you need to protect your loved ones’ financial future.

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