Insurance is necessary for almost everyone in today’s society, and most of us have several different types of insurance. We have auto insurance, home insurance, health insurance, insurance on our credit card balances, insurance when we travel, life insurance, and more. It is important for us to understand each policy we have, so that we know what to expect should we ever need to make a claim. Too many people feel like they’ve been blindsided when they have something go wrong and they assume that their insurance will cover it, only to find out that their particular policy does not include that thing. You can avoid this kind of scenario if you make the effort to understand the terms of each insurance policy you have, and if you are careful to clarify any details you don’t quite understand with your insurance agent. An insurance agent you can trust is an invaluable asset – they can save you from making insurance mistakes, find you the best possible deal for your money, and are always up to date on new insurance rules and policies.
In many cases, an insurance company gains the trust and confidence of their customers due to their insurance agents. The insurance agent’s job is to sell insurance, of course, but they are also the front-line representatives of their employer, the insurance company. As such, they are the ones who are responsible for customers coming back year after year to renew or update insurance policies. For most people, having an insurance agent who is familiar with their insurance needs, their budget, and their lifestyle is a comforting thought, and knowing who to call in the event that you do need insurance coverage can make a stressful situation much easier to deal with.
There are two types of insurance agents – there are captive agents, who work for an insurance company and sell only the products that that company offers, and then there are free agent insurance agents (commonly called brokers) who work for an insurance brokerage and can sell policies for several different companies. They are required to be licensed to sell each company’s policies, though – they can’t just sell a policy and expect the company to honor the terms of the policy if the company has no working relationship with the broker.
The selling side of the job may be the main focus of an insurance agent’s day, but they have other duties as well. They process insurance claims, helping clients to navigate through the terms of the policy and helping to complete all the necessary paperwork that goes along with it. Usually, when a client has had something happen that means they need to make a claim on their insurance, their lives are somewhat disrupted, and they may be having trouble coping with their changed circumstances. Having to negotiate through the confusing language of an insurance policy is often more than they can do. That’s where an insurance agent comes in, and this is where people start to feel that they can get control of their lives again, if they have a good insurance agent who makes things go smoothly for them.
The third aspect of an insurance agent’s job is keeping themselves educated and up-to-date on insurance policies and the insurance business as a whole. They need to read insurance business literature to keep current on changes to policy and procedures. They need to attend educational seminars and/or classes to be sure they are keeping their knowledge base current, and they need to have a good working knowledge of all of the rules and regulations governing the insurance business. It helps if they are good at math, since crunching numbers is an integral part of the job.
When you are choosing an insurance agent, it is important to know both the reputation of the company they work for, and the reputation of the agent themselves. You can search for reviews on both, and while it is great to learn some things that you may not have known, you should be careful of taking reviews at face value. It can be hard to tell whether a review is an honest critique or an attempt to make someone look bad for reasons that have nothing to do with their job performance. Online reviews can be a good tool, but they are only that – one tool in your box of ways to evaluate a potential insurance agent. The Better Business Bureau can be a good source of information as well, as they can tell you about any unresolved disputes an insurance company may have.
Even after you have chosen an insurance agent, you will need to be vigilant about your insurance policies. Keep in mind that your insurance agent’s job is to sell insurance. That means that making a sale may be more important to them than your budget, your welfare, or even the outcome of any claims you might need to make. You will need to be your own best advocate, and make sure that you understand every policy well before agreeing to its terms. It is easy to compare insurance companies and policies online (although figuring out the premiums can be somewhat harder since they are not always available online) so spending some time researching what you need and where you can get it is always a good idea.
Your insurance agent will almost always emphasize the good aspects of any policy they are trying to sell you and minimize any bad points it may have. This means that you will need to be on the alert for aspects of the policy that will not benefit you, such as high deductible, high premiums with low payouts, overly specific requirements for what would qualify as a legitimate claim, and clauses that reduce or eliminate your insurance coverage under certain circumstances. You will need to make sure you clearly understand what coverage you are buying, and if what the agent is offering is not what you need, don’t hesitate to say so. The agent may be required to offer you a certain policy first, but if you reject that policy they can certainly find you others that night suit your needs.
One thing that you must do before signing an insurance policy is read it. Ask to take a copy home so you can read it and write down any questions you have about it. Then meet with your agent again and don’t sign anything until your questions have been answered to your satisfaction. There is always a lot of fine print in insurance contracts, and even though it is boring and often hard to follow, it is always a good idea to invest some time in making sure you understand the coverage you are getting and the results you can expect should you ever need to make a claim on your insurance. One of the easiest ways to make sure you understand your insurance policy is to write out a long list of things that you might want to make a claim for, and then find the relevant section for each possible calamity and see if the coverage you would get in that situation would be adequate. For example, if one of the items on your list is “theft or vandalism” then you would look for a clause with a similar heading in the contract, and see what it covers you for under those circumstances. If you think the coverage is not good enough, it might be a sign that you need to change that section of the policy or change to a policy that has better terms for that clause.
If you have found an insurance agent that you can work well with, it can be hugely beneficial to you to maintain that relationship over the long term. If you ever had to make a claim on your insurance in the event of a house fire or similar catastrophic event, having an insurance agent that you’ve dealt with for many years can be greatly beneficial. Your insurance agent can vouch for your character, in effect, by telling his company that you are a long-term member with no history of fraudulent or frivolous claims, and as a result, you may get your insurance payout more quickly and easily than you would have otherwise. An agent you have dealt with for years will know your preferences, understand your needs, and will be able to offer you the best deals their company offers, as well as advising you of changes to policies or rules or laws. If you ever have to make a claim, it will be much easier to get through the process with the help of an agent that you know you can trust.
Most of us don’t like paying insurance premiums, and we don’t like being forced to pay ever increasing amounts of money to insurance companies, but until the requirements change, the best we can do is find an insurance agent or a broker that we can trust and work well with, and make the best of it all.