New Year, New Opportunities: 2019 Trends for Independent Insurance Agents

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    The New Year can bring about noticeable changes in consumer behavior across industries, including the insurance world.

    Many people want to improve their lives by making New Year’s resolutions, writes the team at Heritage Insurance. Some of these improvements include enhancing their quality of life and protecting key investments.

    The good thing for independent agents is that many of their customers’ concerns are predictable. Knowing which are most common should help you meet your customers’ needs and capitalize on opportunities. Here are some 2019 trends that should be on your radar at the start of the year.


    Reviewing Homeowners Insurance

    People are committed to protecting their greatest investment — their home. Independent agents should see an increased demand for homeowners insurance at this time of year.

    It’s also a great time for homeowners to review their policy to determine whether or not their current coverage is sufficient, says financial expert Laura Adams. She outlines three factors that should be considered in this process:

    • The cost to rebuild a home.
    • The cost of staying elsewhere while their property is being repaired or rebuilt.
    • The cost if someone is injured or killed on their property.

    These are all things that independent agents can assist homeowners with and ensure they’re properly covered.

    For instance, you can advise customers to take replacement costs into account when insuring their property. “People often buy homeowners insurance based on their mortgage or what the bank tells them they need,” explains David Macknin, CEO of risk management firm Alper Services. “But that number is just tied to the market value and doesn’t represent what it would actually cost if you experience damage or total loss.”

    Sarah Max at This Old House concurs, saying that coverage should not be based on the home’s appraised value. Instead, homeowners should examine recent per-square-foot replacement costs specific to their area. This information can be found by searching for a person’s ZIP code on the National Association of Home Builders website.

    Macknin points out that homeowners insurance should include Loss of Use coverage, which kicks in if a person has to temporarily relocate while their home is being repaired or rebuilt. Beyond that, he says that robust liability coverage is a must to protect homeowners in the event that someone is injured or killed on their property.

    Many customers prefer low liability coverage because of the initial savings. But this can backfire if they’re ever liable. Bumping it up from $100,000 to something like $1 million should protect a homeowner even in a worst case scenario but is still fairly inexpensive at under $200 annually, Macknin adds.

    Natural disasters are a growing concern for homeowners with hurricanes, wildfires and flooding being top of mind. Hurricane Florence in September 2018 alone resulted in more than $20 billion in damage to residential and commercial properties across the Southeast, writes personal finance reporter Jacob Passy. While homeowners are covered for some natural disasters like wildfires and hailstorms, they are not protected when it comes to flooding and earthquakes without extra coverage, says the team at Farmers Insurance.

    These gaps in coverage must be clarified by independent agents for customers, whether they are reviewing their existing homeowners insurance or looking to take out a new policy. In addition to explaining exactly what a policy covers, the agent should offer relevant suggestions to fill in any coverage gaps.

    Composite image of new years resolutions against overhead of notepad and pen and coffee - 2019 trends


    Obtaining or Reviewing Life Insurance

    Life insurance is another aspect of security that enters people’s minds during the New Year, according to American Family Insurance. It’s a time when customers are focusing on health and wellness while looking to the future.

    For some, this means taking out a life insurance policy. American Family Insurance explains that this is a vital part of sound financial planning and ensures that a person’s loved ones are taken care of financially. Competitive life insurance quote provider AIG Direct adds that a life insurance policy can help cover a host of expenses including college tuition expenses, a mortgage and even daycare. It’s especially critical for providing financial assistance to households that lose half of their income.

    Some individuals with permanent life insurance may even be interested in using it as a means of supplementing their retirements savings, personal finance writer Alice Holbrook points out.

    For others, this means examining how things have changed over the course of the year. Marriage, divorce or a new child are examples of major life changes that may require changes to life insurance policies, Kirby Thomas at The Week writes. An increase or decrease in personal income is another.

    Existing customers as well as potential prospects will likely have a lot of questions regarding life insurance. With myriad variables impacting the cost of life insurance (age, weight, and health history), people naturally seek the guidance of an independent agent. Providing comprehensive answers and offering advice on how to choose the ideal coverage plays a crucial role in building your insurance business.


    Gathering Health Insurance Documents for Tax Filing

    A person’s health insurance coverage directly impacts their taxes, personal finance writer Ben Luthi says. For individuals with employer-sponsored health insurance, the amount of federal and state income taxes withheld depend on what they earn and the number of allowances claimed. Those with employers who don’t offer health insurance or who are self-employed may qualify for premium tax credits, which affect how they prepare their return.

    The bottom line is that there’s a connection between healthcare and taxes. According to the ValuePenguin, one of the following three types of health insurance forms is needed to file:

    • Form 1095-A: Health Insurance Marketplace Statement.
    • Form 1095-B: Health Coverage.
    • Form 1095-C: Employer-Provided Health Insurance Offer and Coverage.

    Tax expert Kelly Phillips Erb reports that the IRS will not accept electronically filed tax returns that are silent on health insurance coverage for the 2018 tax season. And while not required by the IRS, some additional types of documents are recommended for streamlining the process. These include insurance cards, payroll statements and statements from the insurer.

    With tax day looming, this will certainly be a concern for individuals who obtain their health insurance through your company and something you can assist them with.

    Cuddling dog - 2019 trends


    Pet Insurance

    Americans love their pets, spending roughly $72 billion on them in 2018, according to the American Pet Products Association. Some $17 billion of that was on veterinary care. Interestingly, there’s a significant spike in pet insurance claims during the holidays and the New Year.

    “Last year, Nationwide Pet Insurance members spent more than $41 million on medical conditions commonly associated with the holiday season,” writes Jayleen R. Heft at Benefits Pro. “During the four days surrounding Christmas Day and New Year’s Day last season, pet owners took their dogs and cats to the veterinarian more often than the rest of the year to treat the medical maladies associated with holiday animal hazards.”

    Illnesses and surgeries increase dramatically when pets get into holiday foods and encounter hazards like electrical shock from Christmas lights and lacerations from ornaments. This is a yearly trend independent agents should anticipate.

    Only one to two percent of pets in the United States have insurance coverage, explains Michael G. Malloy in Contingencies, an actuarial magazine. However, there has been considerable growth over the past five years.

    The best time to obtain pet insurance is while a pet is relatively young and healthy, writes Chelsea Mull at The Dog People. Customers with pets prone to eating things they shouldn’t should seek robust or additional coverage.


    Capitalizing on Key Opportunities

    Consumer behaviors shift at the start of each year. As an independent agent, this means your customers will have some specific needs and interests. Understanding what they are and how to address them is critical because it puts you in a position to deliver value, while at the same time growing your business.

    Homeowners, life, health and pet insurance are four particular types of coverage that should be on your radar. Structuring your strategy around them allows you to provide your customers with greater peace of mind and make you their go-to agent.

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