Wednesday, January 31, 2007

What is a Hurricane/Wind deductible and why is it on my Homeowners Insurance policy?

Aaron Stein, Long Island Insurance BY AARON STEIN

If you are a resident of the Long Island area and have not looked at your homeowners insurance policy lately, you probably should. One of the big changes that has come about over the last couple of years is the addition of a special, higher deductible for hurricane damage. Sometimes the higher deductible is for 'wind and hail', not just specifically hurricane. It depends on the insurance company.

So what does this mean? Quite simply, it means that if Long Island is hit by a hurricane, instead of your standard policy deductible of $500 or $1000 (the amount you have to pay in a property loss, after which the insurance company pays) may instead be tens of thousands of dollars! Usually, the deductible is a percentage of the amount of insurance on your house, ranging from 2% to as much as 10%. By law, the insurance companies must put both the percent and the dollar amount on the face of your policy.

These are being dictated by the reinsurance companies, the place where insurance carriers go to protect themselves againts catastrophic losses (those that affect large numbers of policy holders at the same time). These are your giant off-shore companies, many based in Bermuda or in the London market. They are not subject to the same state regulation as our 'domestic' carriers, and so they can decide what they want to charge and what coverages they will provide, and our Long Island homeowners insurance carriers pretty much have to live with it or assume more risk themselves, which they don't want to do.

As an example, if your house is covered for $400,000 and you have a 5% hurricane deductible, you would have to shell out $20,000 after a hurricane before your insurance company would be involved. And one of the biggest problems is that there is no standardization among the insurance carriers. Some have deductibles that activate with ANY hurricane that hits Long Island, some for category 2 storms, some just for any wind or hail whether or not it's associated with a hurricane.

There has been some talk in the state legislature about allowing a tax deductible savings plan that people can put money into each year to prepare for paying these large deductibles if a hurricane hits. The Small Business Administration (SBA) may also get involved in offering low interest loans but that is not guaranteed at this point in time. You can also buy an insurance policy to cover the deductible, from Lloyd's of London, for about 10% of your deductible. So in our example above, it would cost $2000 a year to cover your $20,000 deductible, not a very good bet.

This is an evolving area and as insurance agents here on Long Island, and in particular in Suffolk County, we need to be paying attention. But as consumers, readers of this article need to look at their own policies and make sure you understand what coverage you have so it doesn't come as a surprise when the inevitable storm hits.

Friday, January 05, 2007

Here’s to the New Music, Same as the Old Music

By Michael Watt Ask Mr. Long Island

This past New Year’s Eve my family and I spent the holiday with our friends across the street from us, as we have for the past couple of years. There’s a lot to be said for keeping it simple and low-key on New Year’s Eve. For one thing, I saved a bundle not having to dry-clean my tuxedo, and there can be no denying the benefits of only having to cross the street back to your house when all is said and done.

But this past New Year’s Eve was also a learning experience for me. After midnight I found myself watching the musical performances on the Dick Clark’s Rocking New Year’s Eve program. (I was also taken aback at how uncomfortable I felt when – just prior to the ball dropping – somebody changed the channel and put something other than Dick Clark’s program on. Even though Dick’s presence on the program was minimal, it just felt oddly un-American to watch anything BUT his show – just like it felt wrong back in the day to watch anything but Uncle Walter on CBS when the nation was in the midst of a crisis.)

Anyway, as things settled down at my friend’s house I watched the musical performances. I fully expected to not know who any of them were and my expectations were realized in spades, with one unfortunate exception.

Take this Fergy person, for instance. Up until recently when I heard people on the radio referring to “Fergy” I swear I thought they meant the woman who used to be married to one of the princes over there in England. Now I know they are referring to a woman who is on the verge of becoming the flavor of the month, which means it is only a matter of time before she becomes passe and has to go out for the night sans undergarments to get people to pay attention to her. (As this is being written, somewhere out there the performer known as “Pink” – remember her? - is coordinating with her record company and agent as to which public event she will…oh, never mind. There’s a really funny joke here but decorum prevents me from going any further. If you want to know what I was going to write, you’ll have to contact me directly).

So this Fergy performed her first musical number while wearing what appeared to be a Catholic School uniform. This amused me to no end because based on what I remember from my time served at St. Williams in Seaford the girls there chafed at having to wear such clothes because they felt the uniforms were painfully unattractive. I guess it’s all in how you carry yourself.

Then someone named Ludacris – aptly so, I might add – appeared on stage and sang. I guess you can call that singing. He really just seemed to be extremely angry and anxious to express that anger by ranting into a microphone kept so close to his mouth that I would imagine none of the other singers would want to use it when he was finished. As he stalked from one side of the stage to the other, however, the camera panned to the audience and, amazingly enough, I could see members of the audience mouthing the lyrics along with Ludacris as he performed.

This was quite the epiphany for me. I mean, I suppose I realized these songs had lyrics but it never occurred to me that anyone would make an effort to listen, much less memorize, them. I was under the impression that the whole point of rap and hip hop was to annoy people of my ilk and that this goal was accomplished simply by playing the music at a volume level capable of raising the dead. Lyrics – much less lyrics of any significance – were merely an afterthought, I figured.

That said, I should also point out that I find it amusing when people my age – you should pardon the expression – lament that the reason they detest rap and hip hop so is because, “the songs don’t have any real meaning.” I just think back to what my father must have been thinking when he heard Bruce Springsteen singing “Blinded by the Light”:

“Madman drummers bummers and Indians in the summer

with a teenage diplomat

In the dumps with the mumps

as the adolescent pumps his way into his hat

With a boulder on my shoulder feelin' kinda older

I tripped the merry-go-round

With this very unpleasing sneezing and wheezing

the calliope crashed to the ground

Some all-hot half-shot was headin' for the hot spot

snappin' his fingers clappin' his hands

And some fleshpot mascot was tied into a lover's knot

with a whatnot in her hand

And now young Scott with a slingshot finally found a tender spot

and throws his lover in the sand

And some bloodshot forget-me-not whispers daddy's within earshot

save the buckshot turn up the band."

Uh huh. And, you know, Bruce was SO clean cut back in those days. What goes around comes around, my friends.

Perhaps the most disturbing image from the night, however, was old friend Meat Loaf reprising his hit song “Paradise By The Dashboard Light.” Unfortunately for the Meatster his former in-concert duet partner Karla DeVito was not available – rumor has it she was stuck at home babysitting her granddaughter for the evening. Instead they paired the Meat Man - who turns 60 this year - with a female singer who seemed, ironically, to be “barely 17” and, I might add, “barely dressed.” The contrast was striking and creepy. Instead of “Let me sleep on it” I half- expected to hear his Meatness sing, “Young lady, you behave yourself or you’ll be grounded for a month.”

Time marches on, I suppose, and the music world continues to march right on by me. That’s all right. I can always keep Dick Clark company should he ever decide to pack it in completely on New Year’s Eve. Just as long as I do not have to wear a tuxedo while doing so.

Thank for you for reading this column.

Monday, January 01, 2007

Happy New Year, 2007!

Happy New Year!
I usually like to wake up early on New Year's Day and take a photo of the sunrise.
There is something so magical, so ethereal, about seeing the first light of the first day of a new year.....a new beginning. The promise of something wonderful.
Well, if you were on Long Island today, you know how the rain poured, non-stop.
So, I am giving you a photo taken a few days ago, in black and white, but you can see the shadows cast from a glorious sun.
I wish you a Happy, Healthy New Year for you and your families!