Protecting your Home
As an advocate of my company’s brand, I like to talk about the value of an American Family agent. And while I often hear how our agents (and employees) excel during the claims process, there are many other times I can see why we have the best agents in the business.
I was recently reminded why I am proud to be a customer, as well as an employee, of American Family.
A few months ago, I received an email from my agent asking if I’d like to come in for my personal insurance review (PIR). While I had passed on many PIR invitations in the past, I realized there were too many things coming up I would need to address.
“Schedule us for early in the new year,” I replied, allowing me not to have to think about it for a while. Those months went by quickly and soon I found my appointment a few weeks away. Taking a moment to review my situation, I came up with a number of items that my wife and I would need to cover in our PIR:
- Before the end of the year, we are very likely to have a teen driver in our household.
- With the addition of that teen driver, we would have no more excuses to delay the purchase of an umbrella policy.
- We would need to confirm the steps to get Teen Safe Driver installed. And how would we deal with a teen who is very opposed to the idea of that technology?
- At what point in the near future might we want to adjust the coverages on our older, higher-mileage vehicle?
- If we were to have an increase on our homeowners policy, what would that look like and how could we mitigate the increase?
- Should we be looking at converting our term life policies at some point?
I summarized all of the above and sent an email to my agent. While I believed that most of these items were also on his list for our PIR, I wanted to ensure that we got the answers we needed.
The afternoon of our appointment, our agent was able to address all of our concerns. We reviewed our options and put together a plan to add or modify coverages during the course of the year. Where our rates were increasing, he was able to show us why. Since our overall insurance needs were increasing and the amount we’ll spend will eventually go up, our plan for the year spreads those costs out. In some cases, we adjusted coverages or deductibles to soften some of the increases. And yes, we made plans to add that umbrella policy.
I was impressed by my agent’s approach with our new teen driver. He requested a meeting later this year with my son to show him the impact the Teen Safe Driver program has on driving habits. He wants to reiterate that neither he, nor the company, will ever see the incidents recorded. And he wants to show him the financial impact of a ticket on insurance costs now, as well as when he is paying for his own insurance down the road.
While this was my own situation, all of us are likely to have changing and evolving insurance needs. Perhaps you are getting married this year, or maybe you’ve made an addition to your home. Perhaps you have a new baby, or a child getting a license, or one going away to college. All reasons to ensure you have the coverages you need.
The PIR process is one of those times you can really appreciate the value of having an American Family agent. I have always said we have the best agents in the insurance industry, and I saw that again firsthand.
For those of you who aren’t insured by American Family, why not make 2014 the year you make the switch? There are more than 3,400 agents in our 19 states who would be delighted to work with you!
When I was in high school, a tornado ripped through my rural community, killing a local farmer and part of his herd, twisting massive hardwoods from the earth in which they’d been deeply rooted, and prying roofs off newly constructed dwellings. The scene, upon emerging from the safety of my basement, was both surreal and spooky.
Personal belongings scattered miles from where they belonged.
Home owners in search of a place to stay.
Curious souls rummaging through the rubble.
With the electricity out, we got our updates from a battery-powered radio and from friends.
In the months that followed, life eventually returned to normal for all those families affected by the twister, but it wasn’t without considerable challenges, including identifying what was lost and estimating values.
I can’t help but think the recovery process would have been simpler, and communication much more streamlined, had this twister arrived in the Digital Age.
With smartphones rarely out of reach these days, an abundance of helpful information fits right in your hand. Here are a few planning and preparation apps you might want to load to your mobile device … especially as we enter tornado season.
When a tornado’s coming, seconds matter. This Red Cross app sends real-time tornado alerts right to your phone, so you can get to safety quickly. It also provides lots of helpful tips on what to do before, during and after a storm strikes. And there’s even an interactive quiz to test your knowledge of all things twister.
This app, from the Insurance Information Institute, provides preparation checklists for all major natural disaster types – floods, earthquakes, wind storms, etc. You can even develop your own list for an emergency unique to your area.
Disasters, by their very nature, come with little notice. It is possible, though, to prepare for the worst. This includes keeping a record of all you own, and storing it somewhere safe. American Family’s DreamVault app enables you to go from room to room, photographing your property and adding notes about its characteristics and value. You can even upload the receipt. And for safekeeping, all your data is stored in the cloud, where it’s safe from fires, flooding and any other disaster.
While there’s never a good time for a storm or disaster, the Digital Age has certainly made it easier for us to prepare and recover.
So what are you waiting for? Get those apps in hand!
When you’ve got kids, there are certain comments you just don’t want to hear.
“Daddy, the cat peed on your workbench.”
“We all traded hats in school today! How come my head itches?”
And then I'll never forget this one: “Daddy, Daddy, it’s raining in the family room!”
When I heard that, I rushed downstairs to discover my children frolicking about as a steady shower sprinkled downward from the ceiling beams. What fun!
It was on that unseasonably warm March morning when the term “ice dam” entered my vocabulary.
Looking out our family room window, I could see portions of the ice dam – a solid layer of ice and icicles encrusting the rain gutter along the edge of the roof.
The rapidly melting snow running down the roof was blocked by this dam, and the water began creeping its way back up the roof, seeping under the shingles and dripping through cracks and holes in the roof covering.
Meanwhile, inside our house, the ceiling had become so sodden that it began to shower indoors.
Three factors contributed to this predicament:
Insulation and structural issues: We had warm air in the attic, largely due to improper insulation, and the lack of ridge and soffit vents. This warm air heated the underside of the roof, increasing the rate of melting snow on top. So, uh, it was the house’s fault!
Clogged gutters: Okay, this one’s on me. I was lazy and didn’t clean my gutters the preceding fall.
Snow buildup: If I had removed about 3 to 5 feet snow feet from edge of the roof, that would have reduced or even eliminated the ice dam(age). Hindsight is 20-20.
Maybe there were other causes, but those seemed to be the big ones.
By the time I figured all of this out, the “rain inside” was starting to get out of hand. When your kids have to wear raincoats and boots just to watch TV, you know you’ve got a problem.
I had to act quickly. Using a hastily purchased roof rake, I pulled enough snow off the roof to bring the indoor showers to a virtual halt.
Then came the arduous work of cleaning everything up, and addressing the lack of insulation and venting.
Ever since then, I’ve religiously cleaned my gutters in the fall, and have used my roof rake to remove snow from the roof throughout the winter.
No more ice dams.
I guess that’s water under the, um, bridge.
I never tire of the view at our headquarters in Madison, Wis. The surrounding landscape features wildflowers, stone walls, seating areas and a pond. These gradually change over to oak woodlots and large grassland areas.
When our facility was built, the intent of the grasslands was to transition to outlying natural areas and keep expenses down by reducing the costs associated with large well-groomed lawns. It turns out these tall grasses are an ideal habitat for nesting grassland birds. An employee discovered this 20 years ago when he spotted a Dicksissel living in the grasses.
Knowing this, American Family decided to strike a balance between economic development and land resource protection. We realized we have an opportunity to protect and restore diverse plant and animal species on our lands.
As an example, we found that simply by delaying the annual mowing of our meadow until mid-August, the Dicksissel – whose population has been steeply declining – could successfully raise their young.
Our land use plan has three goals:
- Research existing habitat and wildlife.
- Implement land-management practices to support habitat-enhancement strategies.
- Promote employee and community involvement.
Since then, some of our land-use achievements include:
- Installation of a native prairie butterfly garden.
- Restoration of oak woodlots to oak savannas.
- Conversion of several acres of non-native plants to native species.
- Pond management for habitat diversity.
- Installation of a 34 bluebird nest boxes.
It’s been a gratifying experience. Some of the most rewarding compliments on our land use come from customers. One guest said that after discovering American Family’s dedication to responsible land management, he would definitely remain our customer. He was an administrator at a local college and was so impressed with our land use plans that he asked if his facilities team could contact me for more details!
I also received a similar compliment from a customer who is an employee with the Wisconsin DNR. She said, “I am so thrilled and impressed to discover I have been doing business with a company that truly cares about the environment.”
At American Family, it’s rewarding to know our good stewardship isn’t just a financial way of life, it extends to our land resources as well.
Editor's note: Learn more about the environmental sustainability efforts at American Family Insurance on our website.
Can I tell you a secret? I’d take a staycation over a vacation any day.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not one to pooh-pooh a luxurious, tropical getaway or a dazzling, big-city adventure. I’m just saying by choosing to stay home and savor more local delights, you might find the escape you’ve been dreaming of all summer.
Not only are staycations typically more affordable than traditional vacations, they also offer the gift of time and a fresh perspective on things. A cheesy thought? Perhaps. But there’s something truly powerful about slowing down to appreciate your life just as it is – no bells and whistles.
A few weeks ago I took my first staycation.
Instead of waiting in long lines at the airport as I normally would, I took time for me – a day at the beach, a morning run through the park, indulgent, sun-lit naps in the hammock.
Instead of splurging on a pricey hotel, I took time for family and friends – catching up with loved ones, sending a handwritten note to an old pal, joking with my neighbors across the fence.
And instead of having my nose in a map, navigating a new place, I kept my head up to explore MY city, trying local restaurant specialties, visiting nearby nature sights, and getting to know the friendly faces at the farmer’s market.
If you’re considering a staycation, remember, there is no one right way to go about it. Keep it casual. Skip the rigorous itinerary, and instead, get everyone in the family involved in brainstorming a list of fun things to do. Here are a few ideas to get started:
- Pop a tent in the backyard and have a family campout. Don’t forget a deck of cards!
- Plan a themed movie night. Dine on snacks inspired by the film.
- Embark on an ice cream hop and lick your way through the neighborhood’s sweet shops.
- Dust off your photo albums and giggle at old snapshots.
- Pack a picnic. Stay for the whole day.
- Teach your dog a new trick – or just give him extra belly rubs.
- Call up someone far away.
- Sit on the front porch and eat a popsicle while reading the funnies.
- Take a family bike ride to the neighborhood diner.
What do you dream of doing on YOUR staycation?
Editor's note: Throughout summer, American Family is sharing family-friendly ideas. We’ll also offer opportunities for you to share your own summer experiences with us. Visit the American Family Insurance Facebook page today and throughout the summer to join the 30 Days of Summer celebration with your own comments, stories and pictures. Or check out the #30DaysOfSummer hashtag on Twitter and Facebook.