Category Archives: Personal Finance




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4th of July Deaths and the Dangers of one of America’s Favorite Holidays

As the 4th of July holiday approaches, we think of sunshine, barbecues and, of course, our nation’s independence. But, unfortunately, for many people the 4th is a reminder of how tragedy can strike at any moment. According to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, an average of 200 people visit the emergency room every day with fireworks-related injuries in the month around the 4th of July holiday and, according to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, the 4th is the deadliest day for drivers, with traffic deaths numbering well above any other day of the year, including New Year’s Eve.

Every year, we hear reports of deaths related to the holiday, and sometimes they are downright grizzly. In 2011 a father of two was decapitated by a firework he was attempting to set off in front of his home in Fargo, North Dakota. A witness described the incident to a local newspaper: “All we saw was a cloud of smoke, a bang. When I walked up to his body, it was nothing but his shoulders down.”

In that same year, a 19-year-old newlywed Oklahoma man was hit in the neck and killed by exploding fireworks in front of his family who had gathered at his home for a backyard 4th of July barbecue.

In 2013, an 8-year-old Oklahoma boy fell from a 4th of July parade float and died from severe head trauma after being pulled underneath the trailer’s wheels. The float was being driven by the boy’s own father.

Freak accidents like these can happen in an instant and without warning. One small slip, or someone else’s poor judgment could end your life and change the lives of those around you forever. Even those who take strict safety precautions aren’t immune to deadly mishaps. You can never be sure whether a “harmless” firework might be defective or otherwise unsafe. And, even if you’re observing all the traffic laws while you make your way down to the family get together, it doesn’t mean everyone else is.

This isn’t to say we should all cancel our festivities. The 4th of July is a cause for celebration, a time when families get together to share a drink and a meal with loved ones and celebrate the birth of this nation we all love. But as we gather around our grills and pull out our folding chairs for the fireworks show, we should be aware of the dangers, and take steps to protect ourselves and our families, including make sure that they are covered in the event of your passing.

From staying away from large scale fireworks, to supervising your kids with something as seemingly innocuous as sparklers—which have been known to cause fires and serious injuries—there are simple things you can do to lower your chances of accidents. And for those freak occurrences that you just can’t predict, things like fire insurance and life insurance can go a long way toward protecting your family should the unthinkable happen to you. No one expects the worst on the 4th of July, but it’s always better to be prepared, just in case.


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How Smoking Affects Life Insurance Rates

According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, tobacco remains the single most preventable cause of death in America: “Cigarette smoking kills more than 480,000 Americans each year, with more than 41,000 of these deaths from exposure to secondhand smoke.” The life of a smoker is also averaged to be about 10 years shorter than a non-smoker.

Despite these facts—in addition to the exorbitant cost of tobacco and stronger prohibitive measures by state—cigarette smoking remains prevalent in our daily lives.

Cigarette prices are not the only financial cost of being a smoker; life insurance rates are also affected.

How does smoking affect life insurance rates?

In the 1970s, the US Surgeon General put out a report on the dangers of tobacco. Since then, life insurance companies have increased their premiums for smokers. Smoking is considered a high-risk activity, and therefore, a major red flag for providers. Premiums for a 30-year-old smoker can cost a third more than a non-smoker; premiums for a 50-year-old smoker can add up to double the cost of a regular policy. Because it is such a preventable and explicitly harmful habit, life insurance companies offer these high rates to justify the risk.

What constitutes a “smoker”?

Usually, an insurance provider defines a smoker as someone who has used tobacco and nicotine of any kind within a specified timeframe (usually within the last 12 months). This includes all types of tobacco or nicotine products: cigarettes, chewing tobacco, cigars, and even e-cigarettes. For example, even if the individual claims to have had one cigarette six months prior, or even a celebratory cigar, they’d still be considered a smoker by the insurance company’s standards. Even if they aren’t cigarettes, smoking of any kind will have an affect on life insurance rates.

All smokers are treated equally; underwriters rarely consider usage rate when determining premium costs. Frequency and amount of smoking are factors that rarely affect insurance rates.

Is it possible to become a non-smoker?

Those with a history of smoking may have their risk downgraded if they can prove they’ve abstained from tobacco use for a period of 12 to 36 months (depending on the company) However, this may require the individual to re-apply for insurance.

Don’t lie about tobacco usage

It’s pretty common for smokers to put “non smoker” down on their application in an effort to avoid the high premiums. Some may wonder how could an insurance company—with their countless clients—know if I was telling the truth?

Generally, it doesn’t pay to lie on the application. Companies often base their decisions on the results of health exams, which include blood, saliva and urine analyses. If they find any amounts of nicotine in any of the results, they will deny an individual coverage. This is also considered fraud, so even if you fool them in the application process, they could contest the claim if they find out you didn’t tell the truth.

Tips for obtaining life insurance as smoker

 Even though smoking may negatively affect life insurance rates, it’s not impossible to be covered. No two companies are the same, and individuals should always shop around with several companies to find the best rates. Always be truthful about tobacco and marijuana usage on the applications.


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