Before we go any further to talk about the most common types on insurance ~ and do you need them or not? ~ there is something you should know about insurance agreements. Any contract of insurance is a contract uberrimae fidei ~ a contract of utmost good faith. This means that you must tell your insurance company everything and anything which may have a bearing on the risk they are taking on. If you keep any significant information back, the chances are you are not insured at all.
For example, if you have put bigger wheels and tyres than standard on your car, you should tell your car insurance company. If you’re an alcoholic / drug addict / smoker / overweight / pyromaniac, you should tell your Life Assurance company. If you have ever been refused insurance, you should tell your insurance company. And when you advise your insurance company of something pertinent, do it in writing.
All insurance companies love to collect premiums. All insurance companies hate to pay out for any claims, and will do anything and everything to avoid paying a claim. For example, you not telling your car insurance company that you have recently been found guilty of driving while intoxicated will most likely void your insurance entirely, and they will not pay out under any circumstances. So if in doubt, tell all, in writing ~ else you’re probably not insured at all. And, always pay your insurance premiums by automated bank transfer / direct debit / ACH transfer.
Your best friends when it comes to making a claim are photographs. Always take plenty of pictures of everything, including your home / car / self as it is right now, before anything bad happens. Store these pictures in a cloud, on your blog, in social media… so you can always get at them if the worst happens.
The five most common and necessary types of insurance are;
- Motor / car / vehicle / driver’s cover. In civilised countries it is a legal requirement for you to be insured for the exact car you are driving. The penalties for driving while uninsured are severe. In the small print of your insurance policy it probably says that you should not drive while you are incapable, and that includes driving after drinking. Have an accident drink driving and the chances are you are uninsured.
- Home and contents insurance. Because of the inflexible nature of the laws of probability, you should have your home and its contents fully insured, or face a life on the streets. Maybe add a margin of 10% in excess of the estimated values, to account for unexpected expenses while you put your life back together after your home has burned down, blown up due to a gas leak, been destroyed in an earthquake, flooded…
- Travel insurance. When travelling abroad you may, or probably may not, be entitled to medical services in the country you are visiting. You may have an accident, lose your luggage, get hijacked, robbed… any number of disasters may happen. Travel is by its very nature hazardous and stressful. Things which would be a minor inconvenience at home may become a catastrophe if they happen in a foreign country, or even a different state. If you are travelling abroad, or a very long way, you need comprehensive travel insurance. Only idiots don’t buy travel insurance.
- Medical / health insurance. I’m English and I don’t have any medical insurance, and that doesn’t bother me in the slightest, (for reasons that are too complicated to go into here I do have dental). In the United Kingdom we have a National Health Service, (NHS), which provides free treatment at the point of care. The NHS is paid for out of taxation. Canada has a similar system. If you live anywhere else you really, really need comprehensive medical cover. But remember, you must tell your insurer everything there is to know about your degenerate lifestyle.
- Life Assurance. (not life insurance, you are going to die, you can’t insure against it). A whole life policy pays out a sum of money when you die. You don’t need this. However, if you have a dependant family, then you may want to look after them when you’re dead, therefore most heads of households buy one or more life policies. You don’t actually need to do this. It’s actually much more cost-effective to just save the money you would have paid in premiums. But nobody has that much self-discipline. I have no dependants, therefore my life assurance policies are utterly pointless, except to pay for my funeral.
Getting life insurance is like making a bet you can’t win. If you live, you don’t get the money. If you die, you don’t get to enjoy the money. ~ Oliver Gaspirtz
There are many, many other common forms of insurance, and some really esoteric insurance policies. Lloyds of London will insure against just about anything. You could probably have got insured at Lloyds against Donald Trump being the 45th President of the United States. After all, insurance is really just a bet.
Even Life Assurance is just a bet. The bet isn’t about if you’re going to die or not ~ no matter how much you pray you are going to die. With life assurance the bet is about when you are going to die, not if. And, if you think about it, that’s just creepy.
these opinions are mine and mine alone
One of my friends is taking their first overseas trip in twenty-something years. That set me thinking a little.
I spent 30 years travelling to most places in Europe and North America, unluckily I also went to some more ‘off the map’ destinations ~ such as Ankara, Mexico City and Moscow. Most of these trips were ‘on business’ some were vacations, and some were both. I’ve been arrested, caught all kinds of unmentionable illnesses, been delayed at the airport for 72 hours, held on a non-moving aircraft for 8 hours, arrived at the wrong airport, returned to the wrong UK airport, been mugged by 3 Romanian girls in Rome, got ripped-off innumerable times, held at gunpoint in Nassau, worked / travelled / worked again for an entire week, lost my car at a London Airport, got utterly and completely lost in the middle of nowhere, lost my luggage innumerable times, been stuck in the dark in the Channel Tunnel for hours, and hours and hours….
Well you get the picture. Travel is often misery. International travel is often a lot worse than that.
There are some things one can do to alleviate one’s suffering. My ‘rules for travel’ are:
- Don’t go anywhere you don’t know anyone, or at least have a contact.
- Make certain all of your documentation is in order and in date. Passport, visa and driving licence are my starting point. Then check with the appropriate consulate, Foreign Office, State Department. This can usually be done on-line.
- Get all of the necessary injections.
- Book direct with the airline / hotel / car hire firm / travel insurance company, on-line or by telephone. Shop around. Check for deals and discounts. It costs me exactly nothing whatsoever to call a number in the USA using Google.
- Do not use budget airlines, down-market hotels, or car rental firms that don’t have a desk at your destination airport. Book coach on a decent airline, standard room at a decent hotel / motel. Personally I always rent an upmarket car.
- Study the geography so you know where you are going and where your layovers are. For example, transferring at Chicago ORD means you will be delayed.
- Pack no more than carry-on luggage, and check size and weight restrictions for that. (They have stores in most cities one can fly to.) Take some stuff which will allow you to look smart and clean at all times. In my case this is a shirt to change into during the journey, hand wipes, battery razor.
- Take at least twice as much money as you can possible imagine you will need. Check currency import regulations. Take at least 3 debit / credit cards, and know your PIN numbers.
- Plan on arriving a couple of hours early at airports / railway stations / ferry terminals.
- Have a fat book / tablet to keep you occupied during the interminable waiting.
- NEVER, EVER, EVER lose your temper with anyone ~ no matter how great the temptation.
- Keep your documentation, cash and credit cards very very safe at all times. Keep your carry-on bag with you at all times.
- Don’t pay for early boarding. This only means you will be at the back of the plane and getting off last. Getting on the plane last means that you get off first, (after First and Business Class travellers.)
- Don’t drink any booze during your journey.
- Try and sleep, go to the lavatory, stretch your legs in the aisle during the flight.
- Because you only have a carry-on bag and will be getting off the plane early you can probably stroll through customs and get to the car rental desk avoiding the crowds.
- Get a navigation system (sat nav), and check over your rental very, very carefully. Photograph any damage.
- If you haven’t rented a car, then take a taxi from the rank. Don’t use a gypsy cab, limo, or public transport. (except when arriving at a London Airport, when you should take the tube / surface train ~ better to rent a car)
- Learn your car before you get into the traffic. Set the sat nav. Know exactly where your hotel / friend / contact is located. Drive very, very carefully.
- Watch out for the 99% of the people you will meet who will try to rip you off.
- Do not expect anyone to be helpful, efficient, or polite. Be pleasantly surprised if they are.
- Attempt to speak the local language. Even in the States, US English is different from English English. Learn the local customs, and do it Fast.
- When the shit hits the fan, and it will, be polite and helpful. Do Not lose your temper.
- Have a nice day.
As it goes, all of the above is common sense, but so many times I have seen people get into very, very serious trouble for breaking any one, (worse more than one), of the above guidelines / rules. Sleeping on the beach isn’t the worst than can happen to you.