When is the best time to buy long-term care insurance?

You’ll never be younger or healthier and two things—age and health—determine your long-term care insurance (LTCi) premium costs.

Neither health insurance nor Medicare pay for long-term care services. Medicaid is only available to those who meet certain financial and health requirements. Rules and services for Medicaid also vary from state to state. Unless you have LTCi coverage, you will need to pay for extended care with your personal savings and assets.

Genworth’s Cost of Care Survey’s 2024 estimate for a semi-private room in a nursing home facility is $9,859 per month ($118,298 annually). The cost for a home health aide is estimated to be $6,250 per month ($72,505 annually).

Many people seriously underestimate the costs of long-term care. Understanding the true costs can help families plan ahead for how they will pay for these services before they need them.

Fortunately, LTCi policies can be tailored to cover varying circumstances and budgets. When deciding which coverage you’ll need, consider:

Associates of Clifton Park is our long-term care partner. They can help you make informed decisions about your long-term care insurance options.

1-800-893-1621
weabenefits@longtcare.com

10 things to watch for when buying a house

10 things to watch for when buying a house infographic continued from “Tips for first-time home buyers” article.

10 things to watch for when buying a home infographic

Tips for first-time home buyers

In 2021, renters spent a greater share of their household income on housing costs than homeowners did. Even before the pandemic, renters were spending substantial shares of their income on housing. But, according to the Pew Research Center, 70% of Americans said young adults today have a harder time buying a home than their parents’ generation did. Those who do want to purchase a home face record high housing prices, historically high mortgage rates, and lingering shortages in the supply of housing (UW-Extension Community Economic Development).

These circumstances underline the fact that homeownership is not something to go into without some serious thought and preparation. It’s prudent to weigh the pros and cons of home ownership vs renting before you take the home buying plunge. Consider:

The length of time you plan to stay in the house. Buying a home can be a good investment, but there is still some risk in taking on a mortgage. There is a general rule that those in the real estate industry use as a guideline—if you don’t plan to stay in the home for at least five years, it may not be a wise financial decision. The five-year rule makes sense because:

  1. When you take out a 15- or 30-year mortgage, the vast majority of your monthly mortgage payment for the first few years of the loan goes toward interest charges. That means you won’t make much progress in building equity during those early years. And building equity is the primary reason for buying a house in the first place.
  2. The closing costs associated with a home purchase include fees for mortgage origination, title insurance, inspections, appraisals, legal costs, etc. They usually run about 3% to 6% of the price of the home. So it’s costly to frequently trade up to a new home.

Mortgage debt is considered “good” debt, but there is still a certain amount of risk (and commitment) involved. A lease gives you more freedom to move and more flexibility to adjust your housing expenses based on your financial situation.

Beyond the mortgage

Go into homeownership with your eyes wide open. Owning your own place has costs beyond the mortgage. Make sure to budget for these additional expenses.

Learn more and download our free eBook, Buying a Home.

Continue with infographic, “10 things to watch for when buying a house.”

Teacher features

Your home (and everything in it) is likely your largest investment, and we help you protect it. Not all policies are the same. While many companies offer home insurance, ours is the only one created exclusively for Wisconsin public school employees like you. Here are your home insurance advantages.

Especially for teachers

Educator benefits

Increased coverage for personal property losses on school premises—regardless of the cause of loss—to $2,000. No deductible.

Loss of preparation materials

We’ll cover up to $500 ($100 per hour) as reimbursement for preparing new teaching materials that were either stolen or damaged by a covered loss. No deductible.

Protecting your home and possessions

Guaranteed Replacement Cost

If your home was built in 1950 or later, we will pay the full cost to repair and replace your home even if the cost of the repairs exceeds your policy limits.

Extended Replacement Cost

For homes built prior to 1950, we provide up to 125% of the dwelling limit on your policy.

Personal Legal Protection™

An additional benefit to our home policyholders at no extra cost. Create wills, trusts, healthcare directives, and more.

Equipment breakdown coverage

Covers the cost of repairing or replacing mechanical and electrical equipment in your home when it breaks down.

NEW! Flexible jewelry coverage

We offer a straightforward coverage for your jewelry instead of requiring itemization for each piece.

And more…

And if you have an auto policy with us, don’t forget your personal liability/umbrella coverage—keep everything under one roof to protect your family and everything you own.

Get an insurance quote

…and have your family members* and colleagues contact us to get a quote, too.

weabenefits.com/quote
1-800-279-4030

Or sign up for a personal consult. Evening consultations available by appointment.

 

*Family members who may be eligible include your spouse or domestic partner, children and their spouses, parents, and parents-in-law.

Who needs life insurance?

When considering your decision, start out by asking yourself a simple question: “Would someone suffer financially if I were to pass away?

Explore our life insurance section and learn more about:

Then compare quotes from numerous life insurance companies without sharing any of your personal information.

Evaluating insurance in retirement

Before canceling or making changes to a policy, consider this information when evaluating your different policies.

Medicare supplement insurance

Health care costs tend to increase with age, so having a policy that keeps you covered is critical.

Once you qualify for Medicare, you may want to consider looking into a supplemental insurance policy to help fill the “gaps” in health care costs. This extra coverage can help with out-of-pocket expenses original Medicare doesn’t cover, such as coinsurance, copayments, and deductibles.

Long-term care insurance

Long-term care (LTC) helps people live as independently as possible when they can no longer perform everyday activities on their own. Our life expectancies are longer than ever, and someone turning 65+ has nearly a 70% chance of needing some type of long-term care support during their lives.1

Problem: Most costs for long-term care aren’t fully covered by health insurance or Medicare.

Solution: Long-term care insurance (LTCi) can help with costs that aren’t covered.

LTCi policies can be built to fit your needs and budget. When deciding what coverage you’ll need, here are a couple of things to consider:

If you require long-term care, it can be a big relief to have a plan now that will help you and your loved ones cope in the future.

Life Insurance

Protect the ones you love! Life insurance can be an important part of your family’s financial stability. It’s an answer to the difficult question: How will my loved ones manage financially if something were to happen to me?

Did you know retirement account beneficiaries may need to fully withdraw from the account within ten years? Life insurance can help offset that and be used to cover daily living expenses, funeral costs, medical bills, loans, and many other essential expenses.

Wherever you are in life, you can apply for a life insurance policy to help ensure your family’s financial security.

Home, auto, renters, and liability (umbrella) insurance

If you’re a retiree, you’ll likely find yourself with new hobbies, new places to live, and traveling more (or less). In this case, the insurance policies you had when you were working in your district may need to be adjusted. In some situations you could be under-insured, and you could be over-insured in other situations.

Insurance evaluations are a great tool to use as you encounter life changes. Life may be different, but it’s still important to protect yourself and your family with insurance designed to fit your needs.

Find someone you trust to help advocate for you and listen to your insurance needs when reviewing your policies and liability coverage.

Member Benefits believes public school retirees deserve an insurance company that offers high-quality products and exceptional customer service.

And for those insurance products we didn’t initially offer, we’ve partnered with industry expert Associates of Clifton Park to better meet the needs of our members.

You do NOT need to leave our insurance programs when you retire. Member Benefits is here for you to and through retirement—and that includes insurance, too.

1 Source: acl.gov/ltc/basic-needs/how-much-care-will-you-need

Home and auto rates: Is cheaper better?

The idea of saving some money by choosing the cheapest auto and home insurance is a tempting idea. But does that mean the insurance meets your needs? Maybe. But cheaper may mean you’re not getting the coverage or service you need when it comes time to make a claim.

Many people treat insurance as a one-size-fits-all commodity. However, that is far from the case. Your needs are unique to you, so it’s critical that you understand what you are comparing when contacting insurance companies.

Why is cheaper not necessarily better?

Almost no two insurers sell the exact same coverage. If you’re getting online quotes, make sure you’re comparing apples to apples. Some may quote you on a different levels of coverage than another company, such as bodily injury or liability protection on your auto and home policy.

Some companies bundle certain coverages together, so you may be paying for coverages you don’t need. It’s important to know exactly what you’re being quoted on.

Cheaper may mean less coverage, and that may inadvertently expose you to more loss than you expected.

You may get what you pay for when it comes to service. Is it worth a long wait time, convoluted claims process, or poor communication when you’re most in need?

A cheap insurance policy may make promises on what you can save, but when it comes time for a claim, it can really cost you.

A testament to our service

Educator Sam Bina, School District of La Crosse, had a hailstorm pass through his area on March 31, 2023, and cause damage to homes in his neighborhood. When he called us, Halona Lippert, Senior Claims Specialist, promptly assigned an adjuster to inspect his home.

The adjuster found minor damage and the amount was below Sam’s deductible, so a claim payment was not issued in this case.

However, Sam couldn’t say enough about our service.

“Halona! You get a double A++ for such incredible work, and your impeccable service to the (Member Benefits) universe.

I also did see some dings on the wind turbines but not enough to replace them. If it’s still functioning then why replace it, right?!?

Thanks for getting back to me. If a tornado, hurricane, tsunami, monsoon, Santa Claus, or hail larger than 0.76th of an inch lands on my house in the near future, YOU are the one I will contact!

Thanks for all your work helping the teachers of Wisconsin (like me).”

Be a value hunter, not a bargain hunter

We’ve said many times that insurance is an important part of your financial security. If you’re like most people who treat auto and home insurance like a commodity—or one-size-fits-all—you risk leaving yourself (and your family) exposed to financial loss or purchasing coverages you don’t need.

By going deeper and considering these three principles, you may be able to increase the likelihood that you are appropriately covered.

→ Buy value, not price
For example, is exposing yourself to loss by lowering your liability limits worth saving a few dollars every month? Make sure you understand the implications of the coverage decisions you make.

→ Maximize your insurance dollar
The risk of a catastrophic event may be low but it does happen…and it can be financially devastating. If you’re looking to save money, explore reducing your deductible before you consider reducing coverage.

→ Insure for the catastrophic
It’s the real reason we have insurance. Liability (umbrella) insurance is often overlooked, but most financial planners consider it a must-have. It’s also very affordable.

Claims service you can trust

Because we are member-focused, you can expect a great service experience.

When your life is significantly disrupted by accident or home loss, you depend on your insurance to be there for you. Member Benefits was created by educators for educators. It’s not always the least expensive, but it will be there for you when you need it most.

Help prevent a fire in your home

Keep yourself safe with some common sense precautions and make sure you’re properly insured.

Cooking and heating are the leading causes of home fires and fire injuries, and winter months are the peak time for fire-related deaths. To play it safe, stay in the kitchen while cooking and make sure you never leave space heaters or fireplaces unattended.

Frayed wires can also cause fires. Replace all worn, old, or damaged appliance cords immediately and do not run cords under rugs or furniture.

Test your smoke and carbon monoxide alarms monthly and change batteries once a year. Be sure a smoke alarm is installed on every floor of your home and in each bedroom, and that a carbon monoxide detector is near all bedrooms.

Have a fire safety plan and adjust it to help children and older adults escape a potential fire, as they are more likely to sleep through or not react to the sound of a fire alarm.

Schedule a professional inspection each year of all fuel-burning home heating systems including furnaces, boilers, fireplaces, wood stoves, water heaters, chimneys, flues, and vents.

To avoid financial hardship if you do have a major fire, be sure you have enough insurance coverage to rebuild the home and replace personal possessions. A 2022 American Property Casualty Insurance Association survey found that a majority of insured homeowners have not taken steps to ensure their insurance coverage is keeping pace with rising inflation and increased building costs, which could leave you underinsured if catastrophe strikes.

If you’re unsure about your coverage, give us a call at 1-800-279-4030 or set up a personal phone consultation. We can help you evaluate your policy to make sure you have the right coverage for your situation.

Sources: National Safety Council, Ready.gov

Are you missing these important pieces of your financial security?

Perhaps you’ve been working to get your finances in order. You’ve set up a budget to get your spending under control and build up your savings. You’re putting money into a retirement account and you have the right amount of auto and home insurance coverage for your needs. You’ve taken advantage of Member Benefits’ financial planning services. You may think you’re all set, but there are more pieces to your financial security to consider—long-term care insurance and life insurance.

Protecting your financial security

Long-term care insurance can help protect part of your financial security. Long-term care is the care you may need at home if you are unable to perform daily activities on your own, such as eating, bathing, dressing, or going to the bathroom. It may also include care in the community, such as in an adult day care facility.

It’s best to plan for long-term care insurance while you’re still healthy. Having a long-term care insurance policy gives you more choice to live on your own terms and more say in the decisions for your care.

And not only does it help protect your assets, but it also helps reduce the potential financial burden on your family.

Long-term care insurance can be tailored to cover varying circumstances. Policies are not one size fits all. When deciding which coverage you’ll need, here are some things to consider:

Protecting your family and their future

Life insurance is an important part of your family’s financial stability and well-being. If anyone depends on your income, they would likely struggle without it if you were to pass away.

Some common everyday expenses your family may use life insurance for include:

In addition to letting your loved ones maintain their standard of living now, life insurance also helps ensure their future. It may help with college costs, a spouse or partner’s retirement, or other important costs down the line.

Life insurance costs less the younger you are, so it’s good to plan for it as early as possible. The life insurance landscape has also changed considerably over the past several years—there are many more options available to meet your needs and budget. One of the best ways to help you decide is to work with a licensed insurance agent who can walk you through the entire process.

Learn more and get a quote

Our partner for long-term care insurance and life insurance is Associates of Clifton Park. They have years of expertise to share with you to help you make informed decisions about your insurance options. Let them help you build a policy that fits your needs and budget.

How to avoid common home insurance mistakes

Have you made any of these mistakes with your home insurance coverage? If so, don’t worry—Member Benefits can help you sort it out.

Not keeping up with costs

We all know that inflation has affected our budgets recently. Inflation hit 8.5% in March 2022, a 40-year high. You’re probably paying attention to the rising cost of food and gas, but have you thought about the impact of inflation on the insurance coverage for your home?

A 2022 American Property Casualty Insurance Association/Harris Poll survey reveals a majority of insured homeowners have not taken steps to ensure their insurance coverage is keeping pace with rising inflation, despite increased building costs and potential reconstruction delays due to labor or materials shortages. The price of construction materials rose by 44 percent from December 2019 through December 2021, yet two-thirds of homeowners may be without key additional coverages that can better protect them in this economic climate.

Some companies offer inflation guard protection that automatically adjusts your coverage limits by a certain percentage each year to help keep up with increases in material and personal property costs. However, you shouldn’t rely solely on this option to keep your coverage current—especially now.

Confusing market or assessed value with the cost to rebuild

There is some confusion between a home’s replacement cost, market value, and assessed value and which one to use when purchasing coverage for your home. These values are usually not the same and serve different purposes.

Replacement cost is how much it would cost to rebuild your house in the same spot with materials of like kind and quality.

Market value is how much you could expect to get for your home in the current real estate market if you were to sell.

Assessed value is the dollar amount placed on your home by your local government for taxation purposes. The higher the assessed value, the more you pay in taxes.

The cost to rebuild your home in the event of a fire or other loss doesn’t follow market value, and as we’ve seen recently, the prices of labor and materials don’t necessarily follow the housing market. When insuring your home, base it on replacement cost—you should have enough coverage to rebuild your home if needed. Using assessed or market value to decide on this amount could mean you are under- or over-insured.

Underestimating your liability coverage needs

Most experts recommend at least $300,000 worth of home liability coverage, but others like Member Benefits recommend even more. “Our home policy includes $500,000 of liability coverage. We don’t even offer anything lower,” says Kay Licciardello, Personal Insurance Consultant Supervisor. “The additional coverage is a relatively inexpensive way for members to protect their assets. It offers protection for you and all family members who live with you, including kids away at college, and it typically covers incidents on or away from your property.”

Because typical home policies can still leave you financially vulnerable, you should also consider additional liability insurance (umbrella insurance) for more protection. Umbrella insurance provides protection above and beyond the limits of your existing home policy and for claims that may be excluded from that policy. It covers not just the policyholder but also other members of their family or household. For example, maybe your dog viciously attacks a neighbor and your neighbor sues you, or your teenager has a party where an underage guest receives a driving under the influence offense and their parents sue you. Your costs could easily exceed your home policy’s $500,000 liability limit. An umbrella policy would add additional liability protection at a very affordable price.

Not creating a home inventory

Only 20% of insured homeowners created or updated a home inventory less than a year ago; 25% have never completed one (2022 American Property Casualty Insurance Association/Harris Poll). Don’t risk undervaluing your possessions if catastrophe strikes. Take photos, video, or download our free Personal Property Home Inventory eBook.

Failing to have insurance reviewed or adjusted

Some people buy their policy and never look at it again, despite the fact that they may have made major improvements to their home or that the cost of materials and labor may have increased significantly since purchasing their policy. Among insured homeowners who completed renovations or remodels during the pandemic, only 40% updated their home insurance to account for those changes. Just 30% of insured homeowners updated their policy less than a year ago, and 36% reviewed their policy less than a year ago (2022 American Property Casualty Insurance Association/Harris Poll).

Evaluating your coverage periodically will help to ensure you have adequate protection. Member Benefits can help.

Not understanding how your premium is determined

There is a big misconception among homeowners that the value of their land (51% surveyed) and the market value of their home (46% surveyed) affect their home insurance rates (Forbes Advisor survey, 2022). Your home’s location, condition, land value, and the selling prices of comparable properties, among other things, may be factored into market and assessed values, but not your insurance rates. Home insurance rates are based on the cost to rebuild the house, coverage limits, your personal claims history, and other factors.

Basing your insurance decisions solely on price

Price has always been a sticking point with insurance. Insurance is one of those gotta-have intangibles that unless you’ve been in a situation where you’ve needed it, the value isn’t always obvious. Maybe you went for the lowest price when you chose your insurance. But is it worth increasing your financial risk to save a few bucks?

Kay shares an example. “Say your house is insured for $250,000, but the replacement cost of your home is calculated at $300,000. That’s a $50,000 difference. That’s a lot of money if you need to rebuild your home. In this situation, the premium difference would be about $125 per year. It doesn’t make sense to underinsure a home by $50,000 for such a small annual savings,” she explains. “A better way to save money on home insurance premiums is to increase your deductible. Choosing a higher deductible could reduce your premium 15% or more—perhaps even as much as 30%.”


What’s going on with insurance premiums?

Many homeowners have noticed their home insurance bill has increased recently. The average premium for home insurance rose 12.1 percent from May 2021 to May 2022; the average annual increase was $134 (AARP.org).

Longer waits for qualified contractors, delayed supplies, and the rising costs of materials lead to higher claims, increasing premium. And those experiencing longer waits to get back into their home after renovating are claiming more living expenses from their policies as well.

As costs continue to rise, it’s important to make sure your insurance coverages are still appropriate. Don’t try to save on premium costs by shortchanging your coverage. This is the primary reason homeowners find themselves without enough coverage when they need it. Increasing your deductible is a better way to manage your premium costs. And make sure you’re getting all of the discounts to which you’re entitled.