The good news is that getting proper insurance coverage does not have to be expensive. Even the most pricey insurance is a pittance compared with the costs that could be incurred if you lack sufficient protection. Below are 10 types of policies that are worth the money:
This is especially important if people count on your salary to pay the bills, whether it's your spouse or your kids. "Many people put off getting life insurance," said Jeanne Heisler, a New Jersey agent. "It's very inexpensive, especially if you are young." Single people may not need the coverage if they have enough money to cover their funeral expenses and pay off their debts.
Banks require that people get this coverage before they agree to underwrite a mortgage, since it protects homeowners from damages caused on their property to other people. The key for homeowner's insurance is to make sure that there is enough to cover the replacement value of the home, according to the Insurance Information Institute. Personal items such as furniture, sports equipment or clothes are also protected under these policies from "insured disasters" such as a fire or hurricane.
Though millions of Americans do not have access to affordable health care, some people choose to go without it even though they can afford it. "It's surprising, the number of people," says San Francisco agent Scott Hauge, who calls such people "immortals -- the people who are under 30 years old and think they are going to live forever." Keep in mind that you get a better deal on health care services if you are insured. Health insurers get breaks from providers on everything from doctor visits to prescription drugs because of their purchasing power.
Going without auto insurance is a risk not worth taking. Not only are there fines and penalties, but the costs involved in an accident where a motorist is found to be even partially at fault are substantial. The Insurance Information Institute recommends that drivers make sure that they have uninsured motorist coverage, which is not mandatory in all states.
Personal umbrella policies
This is relatively inexpensive insurance that protects people against additional risks not covered by their auto or homeowner's policies. New Orleans agent Don Beery calls it "sleep insurance," meaning people should get as much umbrella coverage as they need to sleep at night.
As many residents of the Gulf Coast learned after Hurricane Katrina, homeowner's insurance doesn't cover floods. "They don't think they need it because they aren't sitting near a river or an ocean," says Heisler. But "chances of having damage from flood and rising water are greater than a fire," he asserts.
Though this often is provided as a benefit by large companies, many people do not have coverage that protects them in the case of a serious accident or injury. "There is a greater chance that you will have some sort of disability during your working years than dying," Heisler said.
You also might want to consider coverage to pay for nursing home or at-home care once you reach middle age. "As you get older, it becomes more expensive," Beery says. Remember that Medicare doesn't pay for what is called custodial care and private insurance may only pay a very limited amount.
Jewelry and art
People with valuable art, jewelry and other collectibles need to get a rider to their homeowner's policies. Otherwise, their valuables won't be protected if they are damaged by fire or stolen. "Some people never get around to scheduling their jewelry or fine arts," says Rebecca Woan, principal of Chartwell Insurance Services of Chicago.
People who rent their homes shouldn't assume that their landlord's policy will cover them in the event of a fire or other disaster covered by insurance. Moreover, like homeowners, renters are also potentially liable for any injuries guests may incur while visiting their homes. "Compared to the amount of property you could stand to lose in the event of a severe loss at your residence, renter's insurance is cheap," according to Geico.
As dogs, cats and other pets live longer, they are starting to get many of the same ailments that affect humans, such as diabetes and heart disease, which can be expensive to treat. A variety of coverage is available that's similar to health insurance for humans. "The cost of coverage is based on the animal's age, health profile and the level of care the owner chooses to buy," according to the Insurance Information Institute. "Generally, the older the animal the higher the annual premium will be."
Purchasing the right amount of insurance for your situation can be a complex equation, so be sure to consult an adviser or agent if you have any questions. Insurance is the one product that people buy and hope to never use. But with some types of coverage, it is far better to be safe than sorry.