Just a few weeks ago, I paid my annual premium for a type of insurance I’ve never used and fervently hope never will. No, I’m not talking about life insurance. After all, most of us have paid for that type of coverage through the years, knowing full well there will come a time when what we purchased indeed will be used, but only as a parting gift for those we’ve left behind.
The insurance I’m talking about is a homeowner’s policy. Each year, I write the check for several hundred dollars, one which, like many consumers, comes with a four-figure deductible, meaning that anything short of what would financially ruin me, I’ll do what insurers want me to do anyway, which is not to bother them and pay out of my own pocket.
I often wonder just what percentage of people in our area — an area blessed, I believe, with about as catastrophe-free weather as anywhere you’re likely to find — will ever use the homeowner’s coverage for which they’ve paid for decades. And, yet, largely because pretty much everyone ascribes to the theory that what can go drastically wrong probably will, we buy the coverage to hedge against the possibility that a tornado or fire will raze the roof and all that’s under it.
Besides the worry that I’ll someday have to use the homeowner’s insurance, there’s also the added apprehension that if I ever do, the premium will rise precipitously.
I think the rub in this whole when-to-file-and-when-to-not dilemma is how the policyholder views the coverage as opposed to how the insurance folks view it. With many policyholders, they see it this way: Look, I’ve paid thousands of dollars over the years for this, so if something happens, the insurance company should pay for it regardless of whether I can afford to pay for it myself or not and then not raise the rate or cancel me later.
However, I’m pretty sure an underwriter will tell you if you can afford to pay for the fixes do so. They’ll say an insurance policy was never intended to cover home repairs regardless of how they happen if paying for them won’t cause financial hardship.
While the heavy rains affected so many last June when sump pumps either failed or just couldn’t keep up, I feel so fortunate that I’ve never had so much as a thimble of water in the basement. But, I’ve heard the stories from some of you while serving you a cold one to relive the stress at the Knights of Columbus. I’ve heard from those of you who have never filed a claim before who quickly became exasperated by the whole process of submitting a claim and dealing with notices of depreciation costs of that carpet that got ruined. The familiar refrain I heard was always the same, as in, since this is my first claim ever and I’ve paid for X amount years, (a) why isn’t this easier? and (b) why isn’t the check larger?
As time has evolved, I’ve noticed so many more types of insurances that have presented themselves, one of which I’ve carried for the last half dozen years. It’s one of those home-maintenance policies where if appliances break, it’ll be covered. However, I’ve decided this’ll be my last year of paying that $400 annual tab. I’ve sort of grown tired of rooting for my own stuff to break.
And, then there’s the plethora of extended warranties that have wormed their way into our lives. It seems as if about everything that I buy these days, someone is asking me if I want to extend the warranty.
Case in point, a few weeks ago, on the eve of one of the holy days of grilling obligation, Labor Day, I went out and bought a small $100 Char-Broil gas grill, all a single guy really needs, sans sauce racks and those other grilling bells and whistles.
I had to laugh when I stood at the register to pay and the cashier asked me if I wanted to extend the warranty for another $10. I told her it was more likely than not I’d neglect even sending in the original warranty card much less fretting over an extended warranty.
When it comes to extended warranties, the longer I live, the more comfortable I am that, just as there will come a time when I won’t be around anymore, so shall it be for the stuff I buy.
John Grindrod is a regular columnist for The Lima News and Our Generation’s Magazine, a freelance writer and editor and the author of two books. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.