published Saturday, April 10th, 2010

Phillips: Spring clean those financial dust bunnies


by Ellen Phillips

Happy Birthday to me! My mother always spring cleaned in early April and declared the house "spruce up" to be an out of the ordinary birthday gift for my benefit. (Good thing she and Daddy also gave me gift-wrapped presents, too!)

My gift to you on my special day is another kind of spring cleaning, a list sent to me by Kelly Davis, account executive at BlissPR, a strategic, business-to-business public relations and marketing communications firm in New York City. One of Mr. Davis' clients happens to be MetLife Auto and Home with local career agent Joe Muse. (Without recommending one company over another, I do like MetLife's spring cleaning ideas that help us scrub and scour our financial dust bunnies.)

* Are you one of those lucky people who own jewelry and the like? Before you shake your head, look again, especially as most homeowners' policies limit loss of valuables to amounts ranging $500-$2,500. Ladies, let's say you wear a half-carat or more diamond ring. How about your grandfather's pocket watch and fob? A gold chain or two (with gold skyrocketing to over $1,000 per ounce)? And some folks have acquired sterling silver, furs, artwork and other fine niceties. It only takes one loss -- whether the diamond falls out of its setting to Bart Burglar making off with an entire truckload of your prized possessions -- and that thousand or two even without first paying the deductable doesn't go very far at all. Check out a rider on your policy to cover all such losses. Moreover, if you own a boat, a swimming pool, even a hot tub, a separate policy is the way to go.

* What about home repairs? Obviously, the more expensive the materials, the higher the cost. But even with older and less pricey homes, home repairs are on the rise. When my husband and I added on to our deck and made a few minor changes at a previous home, we were shocked to discover its assessed value soared by over $15,000! And when faced with the cost of upgrading materials in an older home, such as wiring or fixtures, your homeowners might not pay you what's necessary. As a result, even if you're not planning to move anytime soon but you've renovated, you probably need to up your insurance.

* Hopefully, you checked on liability insurance when I first suggested it some months ago, but just in case... Heaven forbid your once best friend tripped over the loose brick on your front porch, fell down the steps, and broke both hips. I say "once" BF because he might just lodge a personal injury lawsuit against you and, when he arrives in court sitting in a wheelchair and wrapped head to toe in bandages, the jury takes less than 10 minutes to decide in his favor. If you're underinsured (as most of us are), I urge you consider the need for more coverage.

Tax Tip: Surely hope everyone has their tax ducks all in a row by now. One final alert is necessary, however, to prevent tax identity theft. Yep, these fraudsters aren't even afraid of Uncle Sam. If your wallet is lost or stolen, immediately contact the IRS' Identity Theft Hotline at 1-800-908-4490 so the IRS can flag your account. Thieves love to scarf up other people's refunds or make a false filing using your info.

Editor's Note: Ellen Phillips is a retired English teacher who has written two consumer-oriented books. Her Consumer Watch column appears on Saturdays in the Business section of the paper. An expanded version is at www.timesfreepress.com under Local Business. E-mail her at consumerwatch@timesfreepress.com.

about Ellen Phillips...

Ellen Phillips is a retired English teacher who has written two consumer-oriented books. Her Consumer Watch column appears on Saturdays in the Business section of the paper. An expanded version is at www.timesfreepress.com under Local Business.

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