Do you ever feel like we’re living in one disaster after another—from ice storms to hail to tornadoes? How do you protect what you’ve worked so hard to create? That’s the importance of insurance. My guest today is Jennifer Wilcox. Jennifer has been an agent with State Farm for over 18 years, and she has first-hand experience helping people prepare for disasters. She’s also a mom to three children, and she and her husband are active in our North Texas community. She’s here today to share some of her tips and insights about what she’s learned to help people prepare for protecting what matters most during times of transition.
And, of course, the disclaimer: she’s here today speaking on behalf of herself and not on behalf of State Farm.
When we talk about insurance, there are three main areas that come to mind. The first one is homeowners insurance. As a lawyer, I’m used to reading complex documents, but I will tell you, it is overwhelming to pull out the homeowner’s policy and try to decipher it.
- What are some of the most important elements we need to look for in a homeowner’s policy?
- Where do we look to see that information?
- What is the most common type of policy for homeowners to have?
- What is the deductible? How does that work?
- When is a good time to reevaluate or reassess how much coverage you need?
- What are the most common types of damage that happen to your clients?
- What are some of the basic things we need to know about car insurance?
- Is the car insured or is it the driver? For example, if a teenager drives his friend’s car, is he going to be protected?
- What are some of the factors that we look for that will help determine the cost of the insurance?
- What are you looking at to make sure that you’re adequately covered?
- What are some of the discounts? If my kid’s getting good grades, will we be paying a lower premium?
- What advice do you have for people when it comes to auto coverage when they’re getting a divorce?
- What are the main differences between life insurance options?
- How are the costs of the life insurance policy impacted by different variables?
- At what points in people’s lives does it make good sense to look into life insurance?
What Are Some of the Most Important Elements We Need to Look For in a Homeowner’s Policy?
There are two main types of homeowners policies in Texas. There’s an all-risk policy, and there’s a named perils policy. Some companies offer both. Some companies offer one type, and some offer only the other. The difference between the two is an all-risk policy says that everything is covered unless we specifically exclude it. A named peril policy lists the covered items—only those risks are covered.
So, the first thing that’s important to know is whether you have an all-risk or a named peril policy.
Where Do We Look To See That Information?
You can ask your insurance company whether you have an all-risk or a named peril policy. The office of public insurance council website should be also able to tell you which policy you have, but the easiest place would be to call your agent or to call the insurance company.
What Is the Most Common Type of Policy for Homeowners to Have?
The most common type that’s sold in Texas is the named peril policy.
Is there a difference in costs as well?
Of course. An all-risk policy, where you have more coverage, is going to cost more. That is the type of policy that State Farm offers and that I sell. The named peril policy is a more common policy. It costs less because less risks are covered.
Okay. And, of course, the time to find out that you have less coverage is before a loss. Unfortunately, I think for most people it’s a big surprise to find out that they’re not fully covered, right?
What Is the Deductible? How Does That Work?
A deductible is what the customer’s responsible for paying before the insurance company pays.
Let’s say, for example, you have a theft, and you start adding up how much has been stolen from your home. If the amount that it would cost to replace the items stolen from your home is under your deductible, then we would not recommend filing a claim. That’s the customer’s responsibility. That’s what the deductible is—what the customer pays out before the insurance policy kicks in.
In Texas the most common deductible is 1% of the amount that your home is insured for. So, if I’m insuring your home for $500,000, then your deductible is $5,000. There are two deductibles in a homeowner’s policy. One is other perils that would be fire, theft, water, and then there’s a wind and hail deductible. That’s big in Dallas.
So, I’m guessing that in Texas we probably pay a little bit more for that. The deductible is a little bit higher for the wind and hail?
You can choose your deductible. For most companies the minimum deductible for both wind and hail and other peril is 1% of the amount that your home is insured for. You can choose a higher deductible: 2%, 3%, 4%, and on. Most people don’t do that unless they are comfortable assuming more of the responsibility upon a loss.
I assume that the higher the deductible, the less expensive the policy?
That’s exactly how it works. There’s not a huge savings between a 1% and a 2% deductible, and the customer’s out of pocket money. So, most people have the 1% deductible.
That makes the most mathematical sense. When the hailstorms blow through and the wind and all of that… I know in my neighborhood I’ll drive around, and you’ll see all these roofers will be out, and I’ve heard sometimes some of the roofers want to offer that they’ll pay the deductible. Is that allowed?
That’s actually illegal and unethical.
I think a lot of people don’t know. You think: “Oh, this is great! The roofers came by, and they’ve said they’re going to pay the deductible so we’re not going to be out of any money.” But what you don’t know is that then you’re dealing with an unscrupulous roofer.
The other thing I want to talk about is the value of the house. You know, we bought our first house and lived in it for 20 years. The value changed substantially over time.
When Is a Good Time to Reevaluate or Reassess How Much Coverage You Need?
When initially buying a homeowner’s policy, we ask you questions about your home. We also look on the internet for details about the house through a central appraisal district website. We can look at Google maps to look at a photo of your home, and we take all that information, put it into a calculator, and the calculator tells us how much it would cost us to rebuild your home.
We are not concerned with market value. We’re not concerned with appraisal value because those values take into account the cost of the land. We don’t have to insure the value of your land. So, we are concerned with rebuilding your home, the structure itself. That’s the first time that you should consider how much to insure your home for. When you buy a homeowner’s policy with State Farm, we have an inflation guard on our homeowners policies to keep up with the rising cost of construction and labor.
I was just going to ask about that because, right now, the costs are going through the roof. So, if you have a good policy, you want to make sure you have an inflation guard.
For sure. I always tell everyone, “My grandmother bought her home for $12,000, and when she passed away 60 years later certainly the home was insured for significantly more than $12,000 because she had a good homeowners policy that kept up with the rising cost of inflation.” I would say that you’d want to look at having your homeowners policy reviewed every two or three years. And even with the inflation guard, if you do a remodel or an addition or any kind of construction changes to your home, your insurance company needs to know about it, so they can reflect that in the insurance coverage.
That makes sense. Obviously, if you do the remodel, it’s going to be more expensive to rebuild that.
What Are the Most Common Types of Damage That Happen to Your Clients?
In Dallas, of course, we see a lot of hailstorms. Other than that, I’d love to talk about the importance of insurance for water coverage and how it’s covered under a homeowner’s policy because we do see water claims, and I don’t think many people are informed about how water is covered under a homeowner’s policy.
This is great because I’m really curious. I’ve known people who have a water leak, and they get a whole new kitchen or a whole new bathroom, and then other types it seems like there’s no coverage. So how does that break down? What are some of the things you all look for?
Yeah. So, I’ll speak about the State Farm policy because that’s what I can do. Under the State Farm policy, there is coverage for sudden and accidental water that is automatically included in your homeowner’s policy. You don’t have to pay extra for that.
So, is that floods?
It could be a pipe burst or a washing machine hose coming loose and water going everywhere. Sudden and accidental is what you can purchase with State Farm. Some companies offer a rider for slow water leaks. We do, and we always recommend it. This provides coverage for damage that’s caused from a plumbing pipe leak or an appliance leak that happens over time. You’re not aware of it. It’s behind your wall. It’s under your floors, and then you realize you have a very big problem.
You get a big water bill.
That’s one indication. A lot of times people will notice their tile shifting or cracks in cabinets or other things. You mentioned flooding. That is excluded from every homeowner’s policy in Texas. You cannot buy a homeowners policy that gives you coverage for outside rainwater coming in. That coverage is flood insurance. It’s all offered through the national flood insurance program.
Okay. So, you have to go through a whole different program.
Yes. But you can buy it through us. Most insurance agents will sell it, but it is not company sponsored. It’s government sponsored.
That is really interesting. I had no idea. So, I was thinking we’ll shift now to talk a little bit about cars. I’m the mother of three teenagers and car insurance is something that is definitely on our radar.
What Are Some of the Basic Things We Need to Know About Car Insurance?
The most important part of car insurance is your liability coverage. I will say this day in and day out, and I don’t think that everyone is aware of that.
Your liability coverage is the coverage on your declarations page. When it says 50/100/50, that means if you cause an accident and someone is injured in the other vehicle, then your insurance company can pay up to $50,000 per person for injuries, a total of 100,000 for all injuries, and a maximum of up to $50,000 to repair the property that you’ve hit, whether it’s their car or a building or whatever you’ve done. You want to make sure that your assets are protected with that first number, that first 50,000, because if you cause an accident where someone in the other vehicle is killed, your insurance company will pay that first number.
If you have assets worth more than that, you are vulnerable for a lawsuit for having to pay out of pocket. So, what I recommend to anyone who has anything to protect is to purchase a personal liability umbrella policy. It’s a $1 million additional liability coverage on top of your car insurance and your home insurance. If there was a loss, your home or auto insurance pays first, and if the damages exceed the liability coverage that’s listed on the home and auto insurance policy, then the umbrella policy pays. It’s in $1 million increments, so if you need more, you buy $2 million. If you need more than that, you buy $3 million.
So, for anybody who has more assets, Texas is a generous state. I mean, there is a lot of credit protection just in terms of your homestead protection. But once you get beyond that, then it’s fair game. So, if you own a vacation home and other properties, they’re investments that may not be protected, and that could all be up for grabs.
That’s right. And in order to purchase an umbrella policy, your auto insurance policy must read $250,000 per person, $500,000 for all injuries, and $100,000 for the property damage. You have to have those underlying limits first, and then you can purchase the umbrella policy. Umbrella policies are very affordable. They range from $12 to maybe $50 a month. It just depends on your drivers. If you have youthful drivers or if you have accidents that will increase the cost of your umbrella policy. It also depends on the number of vehicles you have. Your agent can tell you how much it costs, but it’s the most important part of auto insurance coverage.
Very insightful. I’m so glad we’re having this conversation. The other question I have is about auto policies.
Is the Car Insured or Is It the Driver? For Example, if My Teenage Driver Ends up Driving His Friend’s Car, Is He Going to Be Protected?
His friend’s insurance would need to pay. The insurance follows the vehicle. If your son had permission to drive the car under State Farm, we would pay for that claim. Not all companies will do that. Some companies will only pay if it’s a listed driver on the policy. So, I would be cautious about that. And know if that’s your plan and know that you can’t allow someone else to drive your car because it could be excluded.
I know we see that come up quite a bit especially with families that are getting remarried, and you have lots of kids joining under one household, and you need to make sure that everybody’s listed on the policies for driving the cars, right? And also needing to make sure my teenager isn’t inviting others to drive our automobiles,
It’s safest if we all just drive our own vehicles.
What Are Some of the Factors That We Look For That Will Help Determine the Cost of the Insurance?
The things we can control with auto insurance rates, our coverage and discounts, those are the things that make up your premium. There’s liability coverage, which we discussed. There’s personal injury protection, which pays if you’re injured in an accident. I usually recommend covering your healthcare deductible with that personal injury protection number 2,500/5,000/10,000. Then comprehensive and collision, which is what makes up full coverage. Comprehensive is theft or hail damage, and flood is covered under comprehensive. And then collision is if you have an accident, and your car is damaged. Those are the two most expensive coverages of an auto policy.
Okay. Liability is making sure that the other people are protected, so you’re not going to have a lawsuit. But you also want to make sure that you’re covered if you’re hit by an uninsured driver and they don’t have proper coverage.
What Are You Looking at to Make Sure That You’re Adequately Covered?
There’s two ways to cover yourself for uninsured motorist or an uninsured driver hitting you. You can purchase uninsured motorist coverage. That coverage lists bodily injury to you and the people in your car, just like the liability covers the other folks. Let’s say you have an insured motorist in the 50/100/50. I’ll come back to that—it’s a common number. You’re hit by somebody who doesn’t have insurance, or they don’t have enough insurance. We can pay for your medical injuries, $50,000 per person in your car, $100,000 for all injuries in your vehicle, and then up to $50,000 to repair your car with a $250 deductible. So that’s one way of protecting yourself. Also, you could carry collision coverage on your policy, and if you were hit by somebody who didn’t have insurance, your collision coverage could fix your car after usually a higher deductible. Most people carry $500 deductibles under collision. Some people carry $1,000. It just depends on their comfort level.
Okay. There’s so much. That’s why it’s really helpful to have a great agent to help navigate through all the options.
What Are Some of the Discounts? If My Kid’s Getting Really Good Grades, Can I Expect That We’ll Be Paying a Lower Premium?
For them? Yes. Youthful discounts are critical when customizing their plan. It is expensive to ensure youthful driver because they hit things. So, discounts for youthful drivers would be academic achievement discounts. Good grades—usually 3.0 or better. There’s also driver’s training. They take a driver’s training course, either a parent-led course or a commercial course because State Farm offers a specific discount called “steer clear,” and it’s a wonderful discount for youthful drivers. It’s just layering those discounts, adding as many together as we can to try to get the price as low as possible.
The other way to mitigate a youthful driver premium is that collision coverage is very expensive. So, if you can have your youthful driver in a car that does not need collision coverage, that’s another way to mitigate the price. Don’t show this to the youth. They won’t like hearing that, but it is an option. Every family gets to make their own choice on what’s comfortable for them, but it is something they can do.
That’s great. Now, when people are going through a transition like a divorce, obviously that’s a time to pick up the phone and call your agent and talk about what your needs are going to be going forward.
What Advice Do You Have for People When It Comes to Auto Coverage When They’re Getting a Divorce?
When we split an auto insurance policy after divorce, we like to talk with the husband to help him customize his plan based on the new situation as well as the wife. And we start from scratch because now their situation is different. Their finances are different. How they need to protect themselves is different. For example, maybe they need to add rental car coverage to their plan; whereas, before they could manage with one car, and borrowing cars is not an option anymore. There’s just this big conversation that we encourage folks to have with us to make sure that their plan is right for their current situation.
And especially in terms of who’s going to be responsible for the children. So, if the children don’t have their own car, you’re each gonna put them on a policy if they’re driving your cars?
No, I would not recommend that if you don’t want to pay double. If the husband chooses to cover the cost of the youthful driver on his plan, if they’re driving mom’s car and there’s an accident, it is okay. State Farm would cover that. Not all companies would, so you’d want to talk to your company to make sure that if it’s a listed driver policy, then yes, you would need to have both drivers listed on both. That’s an important conversation.
Can You Help Us to Understand the Main Differences Between Life Insurance Options?
Of course. Really, there’s two types of life insurance policies. There’s term insurance, which is a temporary policy. It’s good for a specific period of time. Usually it’s 10 years, 20 years, or 30 years. So, you buy a policy to cover your temporary needs, and sometimes you only need coverage for 10 years. Sometimes you need coverage for 30 years. You buy the plan that fits that goal.
And then of course there’s whole life insurance, which is a permanent plan that’s designed to last your entire life. The State Farm whole life insurance policies go to age 121, so you can’t outlive them. And that plan covers permanent goals. I don’t think there’s one set way to do life insurance. It’s a personal plan, and we just talk about how much coverage you need. We have a conversation for that. How long do you want it? And how much do you want to pay?
I know in my own life the needs or the desires sort of evolve. So, when you bring that new baby home, you want to make sure you have enough coverage in place to cover them. But maybe you’re young, and you’d say you want to get the most affordable policy, but that term policy expires. My oldest is 21 now, and that 20-year policy that we got…it’s at its end.
It did its job, but it’s not so inexpensive anymore at this stage of life to get another term policy. Right?
How Are the Costs of the Life Insurance Policy Impacted by Different Variables?
Well, certainly age is the main factor when determining a life insurance cost, but also health. You can’t buy a life insurance policy after you’re not healthy any longer, so we always recommend buying as much as you can afford as soon as you can and for as long as you can because we never know what tomorrow brings. And you might still be around just not in the best medical condition to get those preferred pricing.
At What Points in People’s Lives Does It Make Sense FOr Them to Look Into Life Insurance?
Buying a home is always a reason because you’ve accepted a loan that you’ve both agreed to. That usually will depend nowadays on both incomes. You want to make sure that if something happens to one of the spouses, do we need to cover the mortgage? Do we need to pay off the mortgage? So, the other spouse can live comfortably in the home without having to worry about it or make a quick sale or something like that—so, buying a home.
Having children is always an additional responsibility financially. So, we want to make sure that we can cover, potentially, their education costs. If you died before they go to college, you want to have that covered as income replacement.
Also, getting married is a good time to look into life insurance. If you are now making decisions based on two incomes, if one of them is not here tomorrow, what happens? So, we just talk through goals, and everybody’s different.
I personally have all three types of insurance. I have term insurance to cover my temporary needs, like my mortgage, my college education, my children’s college education plans. I have a return of premium term, which I didn’t talk about, which is really a fun policy. It’s a temporary policy that at the end of the plan you get all your premiums back. Some people love that. It costs more, but it’s like a forced savings account, so at the end of the 20 years, you didn’t die. That’s really good. You get all your premium back, and you can pay off your home with it. You can pay for your children’s college education with that money. You can do whatever you want to with it. So, I have one of those to satisfy one of my goals.
And then I have permanent insurance because I want to make sure that whenever I die, whether it’s at age 50 or at age 90, I have a legacy for my family. I’m doing that with life insurance. So, hopefully I live to age 90, but in my retirement years, I can spend all my retirement income on me. I don’t have to feel like I have to put some aside for my children because my permanent life insurance plan is going to do that for me.
That makes so much sense. Thank you. You know, I was sitting here thinking about how there’s so many ways to buy insurance these days. I know I get bombarded with offers all the time. And you know, one of the benefits of State Farm is that you’re working with an actual agent. And I know from knowing you the kind of service and engagement that you have with your clients. Talk a little bit about what you get to experience working as an agent with people through what I imagine are some of the most difficult times,
And best times! We’re there for the best and worst times of everyone’s life. So, we get to rejoice when our customers get married or buy their first home or have their first baby—these are all really fun things that we get to go and customize their insurance plans to protect. And then we also do the very hard stuff. I’ve had three home fires this year. Those are traumatic, but it’s so important to have someone that you trust that you can call when this happens to you. I would just encourage your viewers, your friends, your family, to think about: Who do I want to call when something really bad happens?
Car accidents can be very traumatic and change people’s lives forever. Who do you want on your side, giving you advice, walking you through the process? I know me and my office provide huge value to our customers whenever we’re helping someone.
Thank you so much for coming and helping educate us on insurance. This has been very insightful.
Thank you so much. I enjoyed it.
You can find out more about Jennifer Wilcox and State Farm insurance on here website at: https://www.jenniferwilcox.com/ and here is a link to the flood insurance program that she referred to in our talk today: https://www.fema.gov/flood-insurance