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Health Care & Insurance

Is Your Insurance Too Pricey?

Dave and Marla Ruff know the pain of high insurance premiums. After daughter Katie, 17, got a speeding ticket, their auto-insurance rates jumped $250. The Ruffs, who live in Bartlett, Tenn., now pay $2,890 a year on three cars, plus $1,800 more for son Greg, 20, who has a fourth car at college in North Carolina. That's well above the $867 in premiums that the average household pays for auto insurance in 2006.

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After a run of hailstorms and tornadoes in Tennessee, the Ruffs' bill for homeowners coverage is also well above the national average of $668. In 2006, their premium jumped 30%, to $1,091.

But the Ruffs do a lot better on other insurance. Dave, a captain in the Navy, pays nothing for his health coverage, a rare benefit nowadays. The average family pays $2,973 a year for its share of employer-sponsored health insurance, even if the company picks up most of the bill, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation.

Dave, 46, pays $348 per year for $400,000 in group life insurance through the Navy; Marla, 48, has $100,000 in spousal coverage, which costs $168 per year. But Dave also pays about $400 per year for an extra $200,000 in individual term insurance.

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Once their kids are out of the house and on their own, the Ruffs, like most people, will probably be able to cut back on life insurance. They could then use that money, plus the cash they'll save with no children on their car insurance, to buy coverage for long-term care.

Cut the cost of coverage with these five tips:

  • Shop for term life insurance. Premiums continue to drop, so compare low-cost policies at a Web site such as www.accuquote.com.

  • Recalculate your needs regularly. Boost your homeowners coverage after home improvements. Buy life insurance equal to eight to ten times your income.

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  • Raise your deductibles on homeowners and auto insurance to at least $1,000. That may save you as much as 25%. Don't file small claims that could cost you a rate discount or cause your insurer to drop you.

  • Shop for car insurance when your kids start to drive and again when they leave home. The company with the best rates for adults may have some of the highest premiums for teen drivers and vice versa.

  • Get discounts on car insurance if your teen drivers maintain a B average or participate in a safe-driver program, or if you insure multiple cars as well as your property with the same company.