What the experts say
Auto insurance that works for you
Does your auto insurance company care about you, or its shareholders? asked Gretchen Morgenson in The New York Times. In a study of 300 auto insurers, data analytics firm ValChoice found that so-called mutual insurance companies offer consumers a better value. Publicly traded companies like Geico, Allstate, and Progressive “must satisfy both shareholders and policyholders,” while mutual companies are owned by policyholders. Val Choice’s study found that dividend-paying mutual companies paid out an average 72.6 percent of their premiums in claims, compared with 64.5 percent for mutual companies that don’t pay dividends and 62.8 percent for publicly held insurers. Most insurance shoppers focus on price, but claims-payment history arguably matters more. Essentially, “consumers who buy from companies whose claims payments are lower are paying for lesser coverage.”
Endangered tax deductions
Maximize your deductions now, said Laura Saunders in The Wall Street Journal, because “a Trump presidency means you could lose them.” President-elect Donald Trump and House Republicans have both proposed plans to lower income-tax rates while reducing the value of many deductions and exemptions. Tax benefits for charitable donations, for example, “could get a haircut” next year, so donors should think about upping their gifts this December, especially major ones. Deductions for state and local taxes may also be coming to an end, meaning “it could make sense to pay 2016’s remaining balances before yearend.” The mortgage interest deduction could also shrink in the near future, “so don’t buy a first or second home if you need the current law’s benefits to afford it.”
Aging parents, difficult conversations
The time to talk to aging parents about their living situation is before a crisis happens, said Penelope Wang in Money.com. Most people prefer to stay in their own home for as long as they can, “but aging in place may not be a realistic option.” Only one-third of owner-occupied homes are equipped with basic accessibility features, like a no-step entry or a firstfloor bathroom. If you have concerns, don’t start by dictating to your parents what they should do. Instead, get involved in small ways to better understand their financial health or living conditions, “such as bill paying or overseeing a home repair job.” That can open the door to more difficult conversations later on.