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Since I was rear-ended on Leap Day 2012, I’ve been a lot more aware of the happenings going on behind me.

It isn’t that I haven’t always peaked in the rearview mirror, it’s just that I’ve been doing it a lot more often lately.

Yeah, there’s some anxiety there.

Now, I’m totally aware that “driving” in general has become a lot more dangerous over the past 20 years (I’ve been driving since 1992) — I see the level of safety declining everyday.

Red lights are meaningless to some.

The shoulder is apparently an additional travel lane on the on the highway.

If you want to turn left, it’s okay to block crossing traffic to make it happen. Totally acceptable.

U-turns? In traffic? No problem. Just do it.

And there are signal lights? Really, what are those even for?

With all of that around me, I’m concerned enough but, of late, I’m really terrified out there.
My commute is less than 6 miles — and that includes to-and-from.

Six miles.

Every single day since that accident I’ve had at least one person in the car directly behind me totally “in the zone”.

A cell phone is the usual culprit — and I’m convinced that’s why I was hit — but it’s the freakin’ text messagers that really scare the crap out of me.

The talkers aren’t paying attention and, yeah, that’s a hazard, but it’s the texters who aren’t paying attention or even looking at where they’re headed that are the real problem.

Now, since the accident, I finally upgraded my el-cheapo cell phone to one with the full keyboard. For those that care, it’s a Samsung M575. Seven bucks per month, baby…

Anyway, once the battery charged, I sent my first text message on it to my wife from the comfort of the couch and it was clear — there is no way I could have done that from behind the wheel of a moving car. No way.

I’m getting off topic…

Okay, so back to the aftermath of the accident on Leap Day…

So, since I was in an accident, I did what I “thought” you were supposed to do when you’re in an accident — I called my insurance company.

(Yes, I now realize that this was an incredibly stupid thing to do when you’re not at fault but it turned out kinda of interesting… Read on…)

I asked lots of questions while filing my claim with Allstate and made it clear that I wasn’t at fault, I had an police accident report, and even a witness, blah, blah, blah…

It was implied that Geico — the other guy’s insurance company — would re-imburse Allstate on the claim.

Sounded feasable to me since I just wanted my car to get fixed.

Allstate scheduled me with an adjuster to take a look at the car and “issue a check” so, the day after the accident, I took the car to one of Allstate’s drive-up claim offices which just so happens to be an auto shop. Go figure.

The dude, nice enough guy, comes out, checks out the damage, takes a few pictures and then starts googling “Land Rover Bumper”.


I was a little taken aback, you know, thinking they’d have some sort of master “parts” database for that sort of thing.

Being the nerd that I am, you know I’d already googled the cost of a new bumper — yeah, around $900.

So, the adjuster guy isn’t quite as savvy on the internet as I am and he can’t find the “correct” bumper so he makes an executive decision and “chooses” a knock off bumper made in Taiwan.

Now, I’m not against using generic parts, not for one second, but if that bumper doesn’t look the same (with the words “Land Rover” embossed across the length of it), well, that’s not good enough.

I said as much too.

I mean, you don’t see people removing logos from their BMWs, Cadillacs, and Mercedes?

No, you don’t.

It’s just the Mitsubishi and pimped out Honda crowd that try to make their car appear as something else…

Anyway, he talked up some lifetime Allstate guarantee of somesort for junk aftermarket parts and put the cost down as $250.

Say what?

Yeah, $250 for a new bumper cover.

And a $50 repair on the muffler. No, really, a fifty dollar repair to the muffler.

Can I get a show of hands of people who’ve ever had anything done at a Meinieke for fifty clams?

All told, his guesstimation of the damage was $1011. Take out my $500 deductable and I was presented with a check for $511.

But, oh no, there was a printing error. He printed the check wrong so he had to void it. In the end, I left the office having been told that I’d have to wait for Allstate to correct it and mail it to me.


I drove home…kind of in a funk. Had I just gotten screwed? Again?

It didn’t sit right.

I mean, I’m not a car expert but I paid $1200 out-of-pocket for that front bumber repair last summer and that damage was far far less than this.

And why was I paying $500? I was the one that got hit — the adjuster and my claim rep only briefly mentioned getting re-imbursed by the other guy’s insurance company, as in Allstate would get re-imbursed but I wouldn’t.

Not happy about it but not sure what to do, my wife took over (she’s better at being mean), and cancelled the claim with Allstate before the check even arrived — it took like 4 business days to show up.

It’ll still show up as a claim on my record though — and my premium could go up — so, in a way, I did get screwed.

For anyone out there that’s been hit by someone else — don’t *EVER* call your own insurance company even though there are places all over the internet (and in your policy) that say you should.

So then I called Geico — the other guy’s insurance company.

It felt weird calling in to file a claim with a company that you’re not even a customer with. I mean, the first question they ask is what your policy number is…

You can’t help but expect them to take a different tone the second you way, “Um, I don’t have one…” but the fellow on the other end of the line was as pleasant as could be.

That said, I could’ve done without the “I’m sorry to hear you were in an accident, was everyone alright?” No matter how you slice it, it never comes across as sincere from a total stranger over the phone.

I know he was just reading a script on the computer screen in front of him but, c’mon…

Anyway, he was able to look everything up based on the other guy’s policy number (which I had from the police accident report) and, without even having to go through the 40-questions game about nwhat occured, he flat out said that Geico had admitted fault.

(In short, the other driver had already filed a claim cause his car was really messed up.)

Wow, that was easy.

So from there I had to schedule an appointment at one of Geico’s drive in locations which, again, was at an auto body.

Annoyingly, the closest one was a bit of a hike from home and their available timeslots were less than convenient but I took a wicked long lunch one day at work and drove it out there.

For maximum effect, just before I got there, I pulled the tail light out so it looked like it was hanging by a wire.

(Post accident, it was hanging by a wire but it was easy to snap the smashed light enclosure back into place.)

This guy came out, looked at the car, took the same types of pictures that the Allstate guy did and then started looking up the parts.

His system didn’t have the rear bumper cover listed but when he looked it up (I didn’t see if he was just using google too), he said, “Man, that cover will be tough to find…” and then came to the value of $950.

Yeah, that’s more like it, I thought…

And he said the muffler was just fine — the bumper cover just wasn’t where it’s supposed to be so it’s now almost touching the muffler. Looking at it myself, I totally agree.

In the end, I was presented with a check for $1701 from Geico.

So, Allstate was going to give me $511 to take to an autobody shop to pay for the repairs and Geico was going to give me $1701.

Now I realize it’s all a matter of opinion and that either insurance company would deal with the autobody directly on the “realized” cost of the total repair but, c’mon…

That’s a $1200 difference.

Omitting the deductible, it’s still not even close.

Not even close.

So now I’m not even sure what to think…

Does Allstate suck? Are they cheap? Or is Geico that awesome? I just don’t know…

What I have learned though is that if I’m ever in another accident where it’s undoubtedly not my fault… I’m NOT calling my own insurance company.

That is the WRONG thing to do.

I know, I know, it seems obvious but snoop around on the internet a bit — it says that it’s in your best interest to call your own insurance company and I’ve come to learn that that’s completely wrong when the accident is clearly not your fault.

So now we need to decide on how to procede…

I want to get it fixed because I’ve never been the type to “benefit” from being a victim or drive a junked out car but…the damage is strictly cosmetic. It stills drive like a charm.

And let’s be honest, a $1700 payment to the credit card company is pretty enticing…

It’s almost got me thinking that Geico may have had a formula in place when they came to that $1701 number — make it less than what the actual repairs we’ll be on the hook for but high enough that the non-customer will just cash it instead.

If that’s the case, well, they hit the mark.

I’m on the fence.

And I don’t like it.

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I wish I could remember where I grabbed this -- the artist had some amazing stuff...I’ve written a lot about homeowners insurance in the past.

Right when I bought my house back in 2002, I hooked up with Allstate since that’s who I had my auto insurance with and things were groovy…for a month and then they dropped me and I had to scramble.

I’m still bitter about this…though I still have my auto insurance with them.

Apparently it didn’t sting enough.

Anyway, as a result and after much panic, I ended up with the bottom-of-the-barrel delapidated crack house insurance which cost a fortune and covered essentially nothing.

It’s called the “FAIR” Plan and it’s run by the state.

Most states offer it to those who are considered un-insurable by a reputable company.

Yeah, I felt like a loser.

Did I mention that I feel that Allstate wronged me?

Yeah, they did.

So, with that scarlet letter on my record, it was an endless uphill climb (with a roughly $50k pricetag) to get back to an insurance policy similar to what most non-crack using people have.

But after all of the renovations that I’d done on my home — and the obvious career path that I’ve taken (which in no way involves crack) — one independent insurance agent finally threw me a bone and got me a regular insurance policy.

It was pricey but cheaper than what I’d been paying to the state. And it actually covered something!

Anyway — that was in November of 2008.

For my first anniversay, I mean renewal, I paid my premium right on time.

But in 2010, I committed the unthinkable for a money blogger.

I didn’t pay my bill.

An offense that could’ve landed me right back on the FAIR plan.

Statistically, I appeared as a deadbeat, especially based on the reputation of my past insurer.

The renewal notice and bill just happened to come days before my dad died and, well, it got lost in the following chaos. It’s not a great excuse but it’s the truth.

Upon realizing this oversight (I *totally* freaked out expecting the worst), we paid the premium in full with a back-dated check and, thankfully, not a peep came from the insurance company.

We dodged a bullet, in my opinion.

So this year, not looking to make a habit of appearing as a crappy policy holder to the insurer that I’m still so thankful for, I paid my premium ($873) in full again.

In September.

At one point early last month I mentioned in passing that we’d dropped our dental insurance.

So, was it good idea? Well, let’s look at the numbers for 2010…

Had I enrolled in the dental plan offered by my primary employer, I’d have had $38.41 withdrawn from my paycheck.

I’m on a bi-weekly pay schedule so if you multiply that by 26, the total in dental expenses for the year would be $998.66.

(I think we pay more than that per month for health insurance — but that’s another story…)

The $998 value is a bit deceptive, though…

Dental insurance doesn’t cover everything — not sure if that’s the norm or if the insurance we’re offered just sucks but in years past (when I was carrying dental insurance), I’d still have to pay for things like fillings, root canals, and crowns out of pocket.

Perhaps I wasn’t paying the full percentage but, still, the grand total dental expenses definitely exceeded the insurance premiums coming directly out of my paycheck.

For the sake of simplicity, though, let’s just pretend the $998.66 premium covered everything.

Now, I didn’t carry dental insurance at all in 2010. I still went to the dentist twice per year — I’m pretty sure I even had a cavity filled. My wife still went on a regular schedule as well.

We never turned down a service — it was just like it’s always been except the bill came directly to us.

Total damagage for the year? $490.00

So using the unrealistically conservative $998.66 value, we saved over $500 by droping dental insurance.

Definitely a wise move.

Now, once Duncan and Duncan II are old enough to be going to the dentist, well, we might need to re-evaluate the numbers.

Coverage for the entire family (using 2011’s numbers) would set me back $1530.10 per year and still not cover many of the, what I’d consider, basic procedures.

I dunno — still seems like a raw deal.

With the “savings” we’ll have by skipping coverage each year, we should easily be afford to pay for braces should they need them…

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Not gonna happen.

I know, I know… It’s pathetic to be giving up on it after just one week but the goal of spending less than $1500 for the entire month isn’t possible anymore.

A couple of annual business expenses that I’d totally forgotten about happen to come due in February.

Further, I just received a bill for roughly $200 from the dentist for a cleaning that I had done in January. Remind me to say “No” to the x-rays next time…

We dropped our dental insurance last year as we we’d been paying out more in premiums for years than our bills would have cost if we’d paid out of pocket.

It’s times like these where it feels like a bad decision but, mathematically, it was sound.

I only wish we could do the same for our medical insurance but that’s a whole other issue…

Combined — plus the routine monthly utility and mortgage expenses — well, I’m going to exceed the $1500 ceiling in no time so here’s the new goal…

It’s actually a tangent of the original goal — I’d wanted to spent less than $1500 so I could pay down my credit card debt at a more robust pace. Well, the new goal is to have one of the remaining credit card balances paid off by month’s end.

That exceeds the original goal and, yeah, I might need to “borrow” a bit from savings to do it but it’ll be the right move in the long run.

Just like dropping our dental insurance was…

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Allstate LogoFor the past couple of years I’ve been fortunate enough to have been able to pay my ever increasing auto insurance premiums in full each time they come around for renewal.

My 6-month policy next comes due on September 4. That’s only two weeks away!

The full premium for the next six months is $900-something. I don’t know the exact amount but it doesn’t really matter: I’m not in any position to write a check (or submit an e-payment) for that kind of money.

So what’d I do?

I signed up for their autopayment plan where it charges one of my credit cards each month — plus $3.50 per payment or some such ridiculous fee.

It’s not ideal — I prefer to pay things upfront and put them out of mind — and the fee drives me insane but I’m not going to dwell on it.

My insurance policy will be renewed and paid for on its own, like autopilot, and it’s not going to break the bank in the process.

I’ll take that.

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I *so* hope that he looks like this...As we’ve come to learn, when you’re having a baby, you seem to get a lot more junk mail than usual.

The number of individual diapers and/or canisters of Similac that have come in the mail over the past few months is just crazy…

Of late, as the big day grows closer, we’ve been receiving countless glossy inserts in the mail heralding cord blood.

More specifically, “banking” umbilical cord blood.

For those that don’t have a pregnancy in the family (or haven’t in the past decade), the idea is that blood collected from the umbilical cord shortly after birth can cure diseases that may come up in your child’s earlier years so, in marketing-speak, it’s in your best interest to “bank” it for the future.

A surprising number of companies, at least ten, offer this seemingly sci-fi service and they’re all vying for my business.

The pitch is always the same.

They use guilt to sell their product.

It’s pretty creepy actually…

The most recent, which arrived yesterday, is from a company called ViaCord.

The photo on the front is of a baby on the floor where an electrical outlet “should” be. In the picture, the outlet is about 6 feet up on the wall with the caption, “Protect baby. That’s what mommas do.”

One sec, I’ll scan it…

Cord Blood Ad Slick

Okay, fair enough.

It’s kind of creative, I’ll give them that, and certainly more appealing to the eye than, say, an umbilical cord oozing blood or something.

Inside the fold, they claim that saving your baby’s cord blood is something “you’ve just got to do.”

Bluntly, all of the advertisements sugarcoat the exact same message, “If you don’t do this, your baby will DIE!” followed by an evil laugh.

In their words, it protects your baby (and apparently other family members too) from “over 70 diseases like Leukemia.”

Forgive my ignorance but I had no idea that there were 70 diseases like Leukemia.

I’m pretty sure that’s not how they meant it to be interpreted. Or maybe that was their plan.

Maybe there actually are 70 diseases just like Leukemia? I just don’t know…

The text continues, “In addition, cord blood is emerging as a treatment option for Type I Diabetes and Cerebral Palsy.”

Your baby’s cord blood is priceless.

Hmmmmm… funny that they don’t list what they’ll charge you to harvest it and then bank it…

I guess the real way to think about it is as insurance — a new-age kind of health insurance, of sorts.

I’m still not sold on it.

Neither is my wife so it’s very unlikely that we’ll invest in it when the big day arrives in a matter of weeks.

Furthering my confidence in our decision is the fine print:

The odds that a family member without a defined risk will need to use their child’s cord blood are low. There is no guarantee that the cord blood will be a match for a family member or will provide a cure. Autologous cord blood stem cells will not guarantee suitable treatment for all inherited genetic diseases.

Um… so why would I pay hundreds (or even thousands) of dollars to do this?

It costs money but doesn’t guarantee anything…

Seems a little like snake oil to me…

(Or insurance, frankly… The kind that doesn’t actually cover anything.)

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Allstate Sign - LA TimesMy auto insurance bill from Allstate arrived yesterday and it seems that things are creeping up.

Sure, it was just six months ago that I knocked $400 off my premium by actually calling my agent to tell them that I’d gotten married YEARS earlier but still…

Over these past six months, I haven’t gotten any tickets, I haven’t gotten into any accidents, and let’s face it, my cars aren’t getting any “newer”.

One is over a decade old and the other is a subcompact economy car.

And that’s why I don’t get it.

They’re worth *less* but I’m paying *more* to insure them? Huh?

But really, the “new” 6-month premium is $897.20 — that’s a mere $11.80 more than last time.

It’s not that big of a deal so I’m not going to worry about it too much but, seriously, it should perpetually go down until I purchase a new car or file a claim.

You’d think, any way…

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Happy Valentine's Day!Valentine’s day is over and I survived…

No, I’m just kidding… (I did survive, though…)

I’m actually breathing easier these days because I’m pretty confident that the dark cloud that I used to call homeowner’s insurance has finally blown over.

After 5 long years…

Yep, it’s officially been three months now with the new carrier — a conventional one, not a bottom-of-the-barrel State run one — and I haven’t been treated like a piece of crap or cancelled for no apparent reason yet.

This is a good thing. It’s new for me.

And, best of all, I’m actually covered should anything happen.

At least, I think I am

Can You Dig It?


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