Insurance is a financial safety net for when life just doesn’t go your way, but that doesn’t mean you should ignore it when things are going well. Here are 10 things you can do in 2017 to strengthen your net and avoid common insurance claims.
1. Make a home inventory
After a fire or natural disaster, you want the insurance claim process to go as smoothly as possible. Making a list of items in your home before a disaster occurs helps guarantee you won’t forget to claim anything, but 48% of homeowners say they don’t have an inventory, according to the Insurance Information Institute.
2. Read your insurance policies
The key to making a claim is understanding your policy. For auto and home insurance, look for the policy’s declarations page. For health insurance, look for the summary of benefits.
Make sure you understand the limits and deductibles of each policy, along with the copayments and coinsurance for health insurance.
3. Quit smoking
If you smoke, your insurers want you to quit. Both health and life insurance typically cost less for nonsmokers, and your health plan might even help by paying for counseling and medication to help you quit.
If you’re shopping for life insurance, you need to be smoke-free for at least a year to get nonsmoking rates, says Robert Wolfe, managing director of United Capital, a financial advising firm.
4. Improve your credit
Bad credit may be having a bigger impact on your car insurance bill than you realize. Credit history can impact your car insurance rates more than your driving record, according to Consumer Reports. Only California, Hawaii and Massachusetts ban the practice.
The worse your credit, “the higher the risk your insurer sees you as,” Wolfe says.
5. Stop leaving the keys in your car
One in eight stolen cars is a “freebie” for the thief, according to the National Insurance Crime Bureau. Auto theft with the keys or an electronic fob inside the car is up 31% since 2013, with a car stolen this way every 6 1/2 minutes.
If you don’t have comprehensive coverage and your car is stolen, you’ll have to buy another car with your own money.
» MORE: What does car insurance cover?
6. Stay in the kitchen while you’re cooking
You can help avoid the time loss and frustration of a common insurance claim by staying in the kitchen when you cook.
Cooking fires are the No. 1 cause of home fires, according to the National Fire Protection Association. Out of all cooking fires, unattended cooking was by far the leading cause.
7. Find out the real price of life insurance
The biggest reason 64% of consumers with some or no life insurance don’t purchase more is because they think it costs too much, according to industry research group LIMRA.
If someone depends on you financially, consider getting life insurance quotes. A policy might be cheaper than you think.
8. Tell your life insurance beneficiaries about your policy
Letting your life insurance beneficiaries know where to claim money if you die seems simple enough. But $8.8 billion in life insurance benefits are unclaimed nationwide, according to the Florida Office of Insurance Regulation.
Part of the reason is that those who are owed money don’t know about the policies or where to find them. Your beneficiaries don’t need a policy in hand to make a claim; they only need to know which insurer you bought from.
9. Don’t overexert
If you plan to get in shape after the New Year, ease into your routine slowly. “Unintentional overexertion” is one of the top three causes of injuries that land adults in the emergency room, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. ER visits are rarely cheap, so don’t let getting fit lead to extra bills.
10. Download your insurers’ apps
Currently, 46 states allow drivers to provide electronic proof of car insurance during a traffic stop, according to Property Casualty Insurers Association of America. That means you no longer have to remember where you put your paper insurance card. Some auto insurers will even let you start a claim and see your policies on their apps.
Lacie Glover is a staff writer at NerdWallet, a personal finance website. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org. Twitter: @LacieWrites.
This article was written by NerdWallet and was originally published by USA Today.