What Is The Meaning Of Your Credit Score?

In the United States, your credit score is everything. It is something that you should take care of. If you don’t, getting a phone, cable or gas line hooked up in your home can be difficult to do.

There are also certain companies that take a look at your credit score first before they even hire you. Even if you are qualified to do the job, a low credit score can ruin it all for you.

Your credit score is also analyzed by creditors, such as banks and credit card companies. Just try to imagine that you need to get a loan to start your own business, with a low or bad credit score, you have a lesser chance of getting that loan approved or you may get it approved but with high interest rates.

The same thing goes when you apply for a credit card. Credit card companies or banks that issue credit cards will first take a look at your credit score before they can get your application approved. A high credit score means that you have a greater chance of getting the best credit card deals with a lot of features and also with low interest rates for your every purchase using a certain credit card.

Even if you are applying for a mortgage, a car loan and other kinds of loans, your credit score will play a very important role in it. This is why it is very important for you to have a high credit score and maintain it that way or increase it.

First of all, you have to understand what a credit score actually is.

A credit score will be a three digit number from 300 to 850. This number will represent a calculation of the likelihood of whether you will pay their bills or not. This means that if you have a high credit score, creditors will be sure that you a better credit risk than someone with a low credit score.

In the United States, FICO (or Fair Isaac Corporation) is the best-known credit score model in the country. They calculate your credit score using a formula developed by FICO. The system is used primarily by credit industries and consumer banking industries all across the country.

Credit scores are calculated using the following factors:

* Punctuality of payments

This will be 35% of the calculation. If you pay your bills on time or before the due date, your credit score will tend to be higher.

* Capacity used

This will amount to 30% of the calculation of your credit score. It will contain a ration between the current revolving debts to total available revolving credit. If you use your credit card and if you don’t use its entire credit limit, you will get a higher credit score.

* Length of credit history

This will amount to 15% of the calculation of your credit score.

* Types of credit used

This can affect 10% of your total credit score.

* Recent search for credit or the amount of credit obtained recently

This will amount to 10% of the total calculation of your credit score.

Surprisingly, not many people know their credit score and often end up wondering why they got denied for their loan or credit card application. You can easily obtain a copy of your credit report by requesting for it from the three major credit reporting agencies. The law allows you to order a copy of your free credit score from each of the nationwide consumer reporting companies every 12 months. How can you find out what your credit score is?

* On the web

Visit http://www.annualcreditreport.com

* Via toll-free telephone number

Call 1-877-322-8228

* Via mail

Complete the Annual Credit Report Request Form and mail it to: Annual Credit Report Request Service, P.O. Box 105281, Atlanta, GA 30348-5281. You can you can get a copy of the form from: ftc.gov/bcp/conline/edcams/credit.

You may order your free credit score from each of these nationwide consumer reporting companies at the same time, or one at a time.

They will be able to provide you with a free calculation of your credit score every year. It is also a great way to find out if there are any errors in your credit report that may be causing you to have a low credit score. You can request it to be fixed in order to let you have a higher credit score than before.

Always remember that your credit score is an important factor of your life. Keep it high and you will get better deals on loans, and credit cards.

21+ Useful Insurance Terms You Should Know

INSURED – A person or a corporation who contracts for an insurance policy that indemnifies (protects) him against loss or damage to property or, in the case of a liability policy, defend him against a claim from a third party.

NAMED INSURED – Any person, firm or corporation specifically designated by name as an insured(s) in a policy as distinguished from others who, though unnamed, are protected under some circumstances. For example, a common application of this latter principle is in auto liability policies wherein by a definition of “insured”, coverage is extended to other drivers using the car with the permission of the named insured. Other parties can also be afforded protection of an insurance policy by being named an “additional insured” in the policy or endorsement.

ADDITIONAL INSURED – An individual or entity that is not automatically included as an insured under the policy of another, but for whom the named insureds policy provides a certain degree of protection. An endorsement is typically required to effect additional insured status. The named insureds impetus for providing additional insured status to others may be a desire to protect the other party because of a close relationship with that party (e.g., employees or members of an insured club) or to comply with a contractual agreement requiring the named insured to do so (e.g., customers or owners of property leased by the named insured).

CO-INSURANCE – The sharing of one insurance policy or risk between two or more insurance companies. This usually entails each insurer paying directly to the insured their respective share of the loss. Co-insurance can also be the arrangement by which the insured, in consideration of a reduced rate, agrees to carry an amount of insurance equal to a percentage of the total value of the property insured. An example is if you have guaranteed to carry insurance up to 80% or 90% of the value of your building and/or contents, whatever the case may be. If you don’t, the company pays claims only in proportion to the amount of coverage you do carry.

The following equation is used to determine what amount may be collected for partial loss:

Amount of Insurance Carried x Loss

Amount of Insurance that = Payment

Should be Carried

Example A Mr. Right has an 80% co-insurance clause and the following situation:

$100,000 building value

$ 80,000 insurance carried

$ 10,000 building loss

By applying the equation for determining payment for partial loss, the following amount may be collected:

$80,000 x $10,000 = $10,000

$80,000

Mr. Right recovers the full amount of his loss because he carried the coverage specified in his co-insurance clause.

Example B Mr. Wrong has an 80% co-insurance clause and the following situation:

$100,000 building value

$ 70,000 insurance carried

$ 10,000 building loss

By applying the equation for determining payment for partial loss, the following amount may be collected:

$70,000 x $10,000 = $8,750

$80,000

Mr. Wrong’s loss of $10,000 is greater than the company’s limit of liability under his co-insurance clause. Therefore, Mr. Wrong becomes a self-insurer for the balance of the loss– $1,250.

PREMIUM – The amount of money paid by an insured to an insurer for insurance coverage.

DEDUCTIBLE – The first dollar amount of a loss for which the insured is responsible before benefits are paid by the insurer; similar to a self-insured retention (SIR). The insurer’s liability begins when the deductible is exhausted.

SELF INSURED RETENTION – Acts the same way as a deductible but the insured is responsible for all legal fees incurred in relation to the amount of the SIR.

POLICY LIMIT – The maximum monetary amount an insurance company is responsible for to the insured under its policy of insurance.

FIRST PARTY INSURANCE – Insurance that applies to coverage for an insureds own property or a person. Traditionally it covers damage to insureds property from whatever causes are covered in the policy. It is property insurance coverage. An example of first party insurance is BUILDERS RISK INSURANCE which is insurance against loss to the rigs or vessels in the course of their construction. It only involves the insurance company and the owner of the rig and/or the contractor who has a financial interest in the rig.

THIRD PARTY INSURANCE – Liability insurance covering the negligent acts of the insured against claims from a third party (i.e., not the insured or the insurance company – a third party to the insurance policy). An example of this insurance would be SHIP REPAIRER’S LEGAL LIABILITY (SRLL) – provides protection for contractors repairing or altering a customer’s vessel at their shipyard, other locations or at sea; also covers the insured while the customer’s property is under the “Care, Custody and Control” of the insured. A Commercial General Liability policy is needed for other coverages, such as slip-and-fall situations.

INSURABLE INTEREST – Any interest in something that is the subject of an insurance policy or any legal relationship to that subject that will trigger a certain event causing monetary loss to the insured. Example of insurable interest – ownership of a piece of property or an interest in that piece of property, e.g., a shipyard constructing a rig or vessel. (See BUILDERS RISK above)

LIABILITY INSURANCE – Insurance coverage that protects an insured against claims made by third parties for damage to their property or person. These losses usually come about as a result of negligence of the insured. In marine construction this policy is referred to an MGL, marine general liability policy. In non marine circumstances the policy is referred to as a CGL, commercial general liability policy. Insurance policies can be divided into two broad categories:

  • First party insurance covers the property of the person who purchases the insurance policy. For example, a home owner’s policy promising to pay for fire damage to the home owner’s home is a first party policy. Liability insurance, sometimes called third party insurance, covers the policy holder’s liability to other people. For example, a homeowners’ policy might cover liability if someone trips and falls on the home owner’s property. Sometimes one policy, such as in these examples, may have both first and third party coverage.
  • Liability insurance provides two separate benefits. First, the policy will cover the damage incurred by the third party. Sometimes this is called providing “indemnity” for the loss. Second, most liability policies provide a duty to defend. The duty to defend requires the insurance company to pay for lawyers, expert witnesses, and court costs to defend the third party’s claim. These costs can sometimes be substantial and should not be ignored when facing a liability claim.

UMBRELLA LIABILITY COVERAGE – This type of liability insurance provides excess liability protection. Your business needs this coverage for the following three reasons:

  • It provides excess coverage over the “underlying” liability insurance you carry.
  • It provides coverage for all other liability exposures, excepting a few specifically excluded exposures. This subject to a large deductible of about $10,000 to $25,000.
  • It provides automatic replacement coverage for underlying policies that have been reduced or exhausted by loss.

NEGLIGENCE – The failure to use reasonable care. The doing of something which a reasonably prudent person would not do, or the failure to do something which a reasonably prudent person would do under like circumstances. Negligence is a ‘legal cause’ of damage if it directly and in natural and continuous sequence produces or contributes substantially to producing such damage, so it can reasonably be said that if not for the negligence, the loss, injury or damage would not have occurred.

GROSS NEGLIGENCE – A carelessness and reckless disregard for the safety or lives of others, which is so great it appears to be almost a conscious violation of other people’s rights to safety. It is more than simple negligence, but it is just short of being willful misconduct. If gross negligence is found by the trier of fact (judge or jury), it can result in the award of punitive damages on top of general and special damages, in certain jurisdictions.

WILLFUL MISCONDUCT – An intentional action with knowledge of its potential to cause serious injury or with a reckless disregard for the consequences of such act.

PRODUCT LIABILITY – Liability which results when a product is negligently manufactured and sent into the stream of commence. A liability that arises from the failure of a manufacturer to properly manufacture, test or warn about a manufactured object.

MANUFACTURING DEFECTS – When the product departs from its intended design, even if all possible care was exercised.

DESIGN DEFECTS – When the foreseeable risks of harm posed by the product could have been reduced or avoided by the adoption of a reasonable alternative design, and failure to use the alternative design renders the product not reasonably safe.

INADEQUATE INSTRUCTIONS OR WARNINGS DEFECTS – When the foreseeable risks of harm posed by the product could have been reduced or avoided by reasonable instructions or warnings, and their omission renders the product not reasonably safe.

PROFESSIONAL LIABILITY INSURANCE – Liability insurance to indemnify professionals, (doctors, lawyers, architects, engineers, etc.,) for loss or expense which the insured professional shall become legally obliged to pay as damages arising out of any professional negligent act, error or omission in rendering or failing to render professional services by the insured. Same as malpractice insurance.

Professional Liability has expanded over the years to include those occupations in which special knowledge, skills and close client relationships are paramount. More and more occupations are considered professional occupations, as the trend in business continues to grow from a manufacturing-based economy to a service-oriented economy. Coupled with the litigious nature of our society, the companies and staff in the service economy are subject to greater exposure to malpractice claims than ever before.

ERRORS AND OMISSIONS – Same as malpractice or professional liability insurance.

HOLD HARMLESS AGREEMENT – A contractual arrangement whereby one party assumes the liability inherent in the situation, thereby relieving the other party of responsibility. For example, a lease of premises may provide that the lessee must “hold harmless” the lessor for any liability from accidents arising out of the premises.

INDEMNIFY – To restore the victim of a loss, in whole or in part, by payment, repair, or replacement.

INDEMNITY AGREEMENTS – Contract clauses that identify who is to be responsible if liabilities arise and often transfer one party’s liability for his or her wrongful acts to the other party.

WARRANTY – An agreement between a buyer and a seller of goods or services detailing the conditions under which the seller will make repairs or fix problems without cost to the buyer.

Warranties can be either expressed or implied. An EXPRESS WARRANTY is a guarantee made by the seller of the goods which expressly states one of the conditions attached to the sale e.g.,”This item is guaranteed against defects in construction for one year”.

An IMPLIED WARRANTY is usual in common law jurisdictions and attached to the sale of goods by operation of law made on behalf of the manufacturer. These warranties are not usually in writing. Common implied warranties are a warranty of fitness for use (implied by law that if a seller knows the particular purpose for which the item is purchased certain guarantees are implied) and a warranty of merchantability (a warranty implied by law that the goods are reasonably fit for the general purpose for which they are sold).

DAMAGES OR LOSS – The monetary consequence which results from injury to a thing or a person.

CONSEQUENTIAL DAMAGES – As opposed to direct loss or damage — is indirect loss or damage resulting from loss or damage caused by a covered peril, such as fire or windstorm. In the case of loss caused where windstorm is a covered peril, if a tree is blown down and cuts electricity used to power a freezer and the food in the freezer spoils, if the insurance policy extends coverage for consequential loss or damage then the food spoilage would be a covered loss. Business Interruption insurance, extends consequential loss or damage coverage for such items as extra expenses, rental value, profits and commissions, etc.

LIQUIDATED DAMAGES – Are a payment agreed to by the parties of a contract to satisfy portions of the agreement which were not performed. In some cases liquidated damages may be the forfeiture of a deposit or a down payment, or liquidated damages may be a percentage of the value of the contract, based on the percentage of work uncompleted. Liquidated damages are often paid in lieu of a lawsuit, although court action may be required in many cases where liquidated damages are sought. Liquidated damages, as opposed to a penalty, are sometimes paid when there is uncertainty as to the actual monetary loss involved. The payment of liquidated damages relieves the party in breech of a contract of the obligation to perform the balance of the contract.

SUBROGATION – “To stand in the place of” Usually found in property policies (first party) when an insurance company pays a loss to an insured or damaged to the insureds property, the insurer stands in the shoes of the insured and may pursue any third party who might be responsible for the loss. For example, if a defective component is sold to a manufacturer to be used in his product and that product is damaged due to the defective component. The insurance company who pays the loss to the manufacturer of the product may sue the manufacturer of the defective component.

Subrogation has a number of sub-principles namely:

  • The insurer cannot be subrogated to the insureds right of action until it has paid the insured and made good the loss.
  • The insurer can be subrogated only to actions which the insured would have brought himself.
  • The insured must not prejudice the insurer’s right of subrogation. Thus, the insured may not compromise or renounce any right of action he has against the third party if by doing so he could diminish the insurer’s right of recovery.
  • Subrogation against the insurer. Just as the insured cannot profit from his loss the insurer may not make a profit from the subrogation rights. The insurer is only entitled to recover the exact amount they paid as indemnity, and nothing more. If they recover more, the balance should be given to the insured.
  • Subrogation gives the insurer the right of salvage.

Bad Credit Repair – Do It Legal And Right!

There’s a lot of bad credit repair offers on the web today making bold claims to “increase your credit score by 100 points in 30 days! Guaranteed!” Or something like that. But beware! These bad credit repair systems can end up making your credit worse in the long run.

So what do you do if you’re faced with extreme errors?

For instance, a mortgage or car company that keeps reporting your payments as late, even though you’ve caught up (this happened to a friend of mine). These types of dings on your credit can keep you from getting good interest rates, and may even cause you to be turned down flat by lenders! It is estimated that 79% of all credit reports contain errors. That’s a lot of errors and these errors cost Americans millions of dollars in interest every year.

But going head on with a mortgage or auto lender is like the proverbial “tilting at windmills.” Once they ding your credit – they won’t write a letter to the credit bureau retracting it! That would open them up to all kinds of liability issues. This is when you need to seek credit repair legal advice.

But before you seek bad credit repair advice (from an attorney or any other company) we wanted to give you some helpful information so that you can make a more informed decision about what to do.
What Exactly is Credit Repair?

Credit repair is the term that refers to challenging inaccurate, misleading, or unverifiable information on credit reports to improve the credit score.

Is Credit Repair Legal?

Yes, but there are illegal credit repair programs you should be aware of! For example, while it is legal to challenge negative items on your credit reports that you believe to be inaccurate, misleading or unverifiable, the accurate information is supposed to remain on your credit report. It is also entirely illegal to create a “new” identity by applying for an Employer Identification Number (EIN) to use instead of your own Social Security Number. An EIN number is the number that the IRS gives to a corporation for tax purposes. To use this for credit repair is called file segregation – in order to escape responsibility by hiding one’s credit history. The use of File Segregation is a crime and can result in fines or serious jail time. This is a road you don’t want to go down.

Why Should I See A Credit Repair Law Firm And Not Just Get One Of Those “Do It Yourself” Credit Repair Systems?

First off – major errors are very hard to remove on your own.

A TRUE STORY: I have a friend who filed for bankruptcy in New York. She paid off all her debts and the bankruptcy was discharged. About 6 months later a SECOND bankruptcy filing appeared on her credit, along with a discharge. Then a THIRD one! This made her look like someone who abuses the system (filing for bankruptcy to stop collections, then canceling it without paying her bills). Needless to say her score was absolutely tanked! It took her over 18 months to get just ONE of the mistaken bankruptcies removed. She’s still working on the second one today.
Secondly – these supposed “sure-fire” credit repair systems might ruin your credit! Many of them encourage you to (or claim they will do it for you) challenge everything on your credit (good AND bad). Unfortunately this can result in removing the “good stuff” also. And as any lender will tell you, NO credit history is often times worse than BAD credit history!

A TRUE STORY: I sell cars in Phoenix Arizona and imagine my surprise when I pulled a 52-year old customers credit one day and all that was there was his name! ZERO credit score, ZERO open loans (or closed loans for that matter). He might as well been born yesterday. The thing was, he had an open car loan! So the banks knew he had “washed” his credit, which made him look suspicious. Unfortunately no bank would touch him at any rate of interest so he went home without a new vehicle that day.

This type of credit repair is illegal! If an item is old and questionable, that can be challenged and removed. A good credit attorney will know the difference and keep you out of trouble and get these items removed, thus improving your credit score.

Aren’t There Laws Regulating The Credit Repair Industry?

There are indeed. The most prominent one is theCredit Repair Organizations Act (CROA). This became law in 1996 to protect the public from unfair and deceptive advertising practices in the credit repair industry. Additionally, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) investigates complaints about credit repair organizations and takes appropriate legal action. Unfortunately it takes them a long time to operate and you could have your credit damaged further by using one of these companies.

Here Is How You Can Avoid Becoming A Victim Of Unscrupulous Credit Repair Companies.

· Avoid any credit repair company that will not tell you your legal rights and what you can do for free.

· Avoid any credit repair company that tells you to relax and let them do it all. In other words, don’t contact the credit bureaus yourself.

· Avoid any credit repair company that tells you they will dispute everything (good, bad or ugly).

· Avoid any credit company that suggests creating a “new” credit identity – and then get a new credit report by applying for an Employer Identification Number (EIN) to use instead of your Social Security Number. Remember – This is illegal and can have serious consequences.

· Talk to a real credit repair agency. We have an excellent credit law firm on our site that specializes on LEGAL credit repair! Lexington Law is a very successful credit law firm – Here’s the link where you can read all about it: http://www.1-800badcredit.com/bad-credit-repair.html

Avoid Being Vulnerable to Bad Credit Exploiters and Secured Credit Card Scams

According to a report released by the Federal Trade Commission, a Florida man was recently sentenced to spend 13 years in federal prison and to repay $12 million after being convicted of a credit card scam that issued thousands of fraudulent credit cards to consumers. Of the more than 150,000 people he defrauded or attempted to defraud, many had bad credit, which is what left them vulnerable to being victimized in this fashion. It is important for those with bad credit to be very careful when it comes to differentiating between legitimate credit opportunities and those that are merely seeking to capitalize on their past mistakes and current desires.

Understanding Terms and Conditions

If you have bad credit, the fact of the matter is that the credit opportunities available to you are going to feature terms and conditions that are less favorable than those that are offered to those with better credit ratings. That, however, is not the end of the world, as you do have the opportunity to earn those more favorable terms and conditions by meeting your financial obligations and proving your credit worthiness. Repairing bad credit takes time, something that can be hard to accept in our instant-gratification oriented society. And, that is exactly how scammers get their hooks into so many people with bad credit – they promise the consumer that he can have it now or offer what they claim to be a fast way out of a bad credit situation, a quick credit repair scheme. The scammers count on the consumer wanting the credit card bad enough that the consumer will not question the terms and conditions too deeply. They also pin their scamming hopes on reaching consumers with little credit knowledge or experience, those that will not fully understand what exactly the terms and conditions, such as additional fees, mean until it is too late.

In this recent case involving the Florida man, through an assortment of companies — including Bay Area Business Council, Inc. and American Leisure Card Corp. — he was offering consumers low-interest unsecured MasterCard credit cards. Via telemarketing, the companies he was running would tell consumers that there would be a one-time processing fee charged for the issuing of the card. At that point, the savvy consumer with bad credit, understanding that terms and conditions are generally related to his credit history, would recognize that — particularly in today’s economic climate — it is highly unlikely that they would be eligible for a credit card that included a low rate of interest among its terms and conditions. A significant advance fee should rank as a red flag, something worthy of questioning and collecting the full details of.

Secured credit cards, a credit card option used frequently by those with bad credit that are seeking to repair their credit or by those with no credit at all, are another popular device that scammers use to defraud consumers. The National Consumer Law Center, a non-profit organization that devotes its energy to consumer issues that affect people with lower incomes, recently published a report of what they call fee harvester cards.

This predatory form of secured credit card makes money for its issuers specifically because consumers do not question or understand the terms and conditions associated with the card, or are simply unaware that the negative terms and conditions exist when they enter into the agreement. One of the secured credit card offers that the NCLC report detailed told consumers that there was a $250 credit limit associated with the card. By the time that the various processing and other fees were attached to the card, the consumer was left with a mere $72 and a debt of $178, before ever actually making a purchase with the card.

When considering bad credit opportunities for credit cards, it is essential to understand the terms and conditions of the offer completely. Remember, even though you may have bad credit or no credit, there are legitimate opportunities out there, and you should never settle for those with excessive fees or other terms and conditions that vary quite significantly from the norm. Doing some research will help you to have a fuller understanding of what the norm is and will help protect you from being vulnerable to fee harvesting and fraud.

Rebuild or Establish Credit Over Time

When it comes to rebuilding bad credit to a more favorable rating or establishing credit, meeting financial obligations regularly over time is the best way. There are no legitimate quick fixes to buy and there is no way to hurry the process towards long-term improvement or establishing of credit. Any offer of credit purporting to do so should be immediately suspect.

Legitimate offers of credit for those with bad credit or no credit do exist. However, the consumer should be prepared to spend time and effort in research prior to formalizing any agreement. Finding the right credit card opportunity may take time. If terms and conditions currently offered are not satisfactory or manageable, then the consumer may be better served by focusing his efforts on reducing prior debts and working to improve overall financial standing and health, and seeking to apply for credit at a later date.

With a take it or leave it sort of attitude, backed up with the financial knowledge and understanding necessary to accurately assess credit card terms and conditions, a consumer is far less likely to be victimized by predatory lenders and scammers who seek out those with bad credit, little credit experience, or a low-income. While it is great to have a credit card for in case of emergency or for car rentals and other types of business, a credit card is not essential. It may be wiser to do without a credit card until the right sort of offer is made available. Working to improve the credit rating will help the consumer to be eligible for the better terms and conditions that reduce the overall cost of credit. With that sort of strategy, a consumer can make smart credit decisions that will enhance fiscal health and well-being.

Home Buyers: Improve Your Credit Score

Several months before you begin to look for a home, you should take steps to get “credit approved” for your loan. Your first step should be to make a list of all your existing loans and credit cards, with the company names, account numbers and monthly payment amounts. This will help you to analyze the information shown on your credit report. Include all closed loans and credit accounts if these records are available.

1) Get a Financial Check-Up

Next, make an appointment with a good mortgage lender, and request a full credit approval. As a part of the approval process, your credit report will be ordered. It will include data from the three main credit reporting agencies – Equifax, Experian, and Trans Union. The report will show three credit scores – one from each agency. The interest rate and type of loan available to you is related to your credit score.

The assistance of a mortgage professional to help you to understand your credit report and offer suggestions on how to improve your score is invaluable. For the average person, interpreting a credit report and dealing with errors is a daunting task. Credit reports are filled with frustrating jargon and codes. They are not written for the general public to read. Even more intimidating is the task of communicating with credit agencies to dispute or correct information.

2) Correct Mistakes

Credit reporting agencies often have mistakes in their data. Everything is done by computer. The data in your file is input by computers. A computer weighs your data using complicated mathematical formulas to arrive at a credit score.

Nearly everyone has paid bills late for one reason or another. Perhaps a bill was sent to a wrong address, or you have had a dispute with a vendor. It is likely that you have some issues on your report that should be disputed or corrected. Each of the websites of the three main agencies has a dispute resolution page. Feel free to use it.

3) Deal With Real Credit Issues

You may have had serious credit problems at some point in the past. Reviewing this can be emotionally draining, and will bring up the underlying situation that caused the credit problems. You will need advice on how long the issues will remain on your report, and how to re- build your credit worthiness.

Or, you may have a persistent habit of overspending. In this case, you should talk with a financial advisor or personal counselor to help you work out of debt, and establish better habits. The National Foundation for Credit Counseling – http://www.nfcc.org – offers low cost assistance for serious credit problems. If you place yourself under their supervision to handle your debts, you will not be able to obtain new credit during the work-out period – which may be years. Before doing that, ask a mortgage lender or financial advisor if there is a way to redeem your credit without their supervision.

4) Check Your Credit File

A law, passed in 2005, requires the three main credit agencies to provide a free credit file disclosure each year. It has been suggested that you could order a file from the first agency in January, one from the second in May and one from the third in September. This is the central site where your file can be ordered: https://www.annualcreditreport.com/cra/index.jsp

The purpose of this law seems to be to help people find out if they are a victim of identity theft. This enables you to monitor your file for any new credit that did not come from you.

If you take advantage of the free credit file reports, you should check them for mistakes. Use the credit report that you reviewed with your mortgage lender to compare with the data in your credit file. Keep in mind that the free credit file disclosure is not a credit report. It does not include a credit score.

5) Understand Credit Scores

Less than 620 – Poor

620-680 – Average – You may need to put more cash down on your loan.

680-720 – Good

720 – 800 – Excellent

800-850 – Seldom seen

6) Play by the Rules

The information in your credit file is scored by these factors:

35% – Payment history – Paying bills on time is very important. Today many people use auto draft or pre-written checks through online banking to pay bills. These help to prevent late payments. If you want a good credit score, do not pay late!

30% – The relationship between your available credit versus how much you have used is an important factor in your score. If you are over 50% drawn against your available credit, this will count against you. For this reason, it helps to keep old credit card accounts open, even though you do not use them. They build up the total amount of credit available to you, relative to what you have charged.

15% – The length of credit history on each loan has an effect on your score. A more seasoned loan is scored higher. For this reason it is not a good idea to open credit cards offering low initial rates, then close them after a few months and open new credit cards.

10% – The number of inquiries made on your credit report affects your score. Each time you open a credit card or new loan, your credit information is pulled. Keep these to a minimum. A recent law has made it possible for people shopping for homes or autos to have multiple inquiries, from the same industry (mortgage or auto), done over a 30 day period without penalty. However, to be on the safe side, do not allow your credit report to be pulled unless absolutely necessary.

10% – The types of credit used may hurt your score. Loans from finance companies, signature loans, furniture loans and some retail store loans are considered a poor judgment because of their high rates, and may count against you.

7) Improve Your Credit Score

It is easy and necessary to borrow money. We customarily make everyday purchases using credit cards, and set up loans for homes, cars and other purchases. Your credit score is especially important in the purchase of your home. It will affect the type of loan available, down payment required, and interest rate charged. A low score can cost you thousands of dollars in additional interest over the years. Even insurance companies factor your credit score into their decisions. More than ever, you need a good credit score, or you will pay the price.

Finance providers, rental agencies, car dealers, insurance companies and credit card companies are not going to help you improve your credit score. In fact, they have an economic interest in charging you a higher rate. It is up to you to be proactive about understanding and improving your own credit score. A good time to start is when you begin the mortgage approval process for a home purchase. It is a good habit to have.

Search Results

Bad credit is like an ongoing battle for many loan borrowers. Bad credit has many repercussions for the people when they apply for personal loans. You usually are branded as a bad credit borrower if you have anywhere in your credit history terms like late payments, county court judgments, bankruptcy, foreclosures, charge offs etc. All such financial blunders are termed as bad credit while applying for personal loans. But then again there is a solution to every difficulty. In this case it is called – personal loans for bad credit.

Bad credit borrower when applies for personal loans usually face the liability of higher interest rates. This is. When you make late payments on your loans, it is a negative sign with respect to loan borrowing. It is termed as bad credit on your credit report. The loan lender sees this and charges you more because your credit report indicates a paradigm of risk. It suggests that you might make the same mistake again.

The threat of higher interest rate can be considerably reduced by placing collateral for personal loans with bad credit. Secured Personal loans for bad credit will be easily approved. Also, they have lesser interest rates. This is because you are placing a security which can be used by the loan lender to pay for their money if you fail to repay. This minimizes the risk of the loan lender. A home or real estate makes the best collateral for bad credit personal loans. You can’t slip with secured bad credit personal loans. It is absolutely advised against. For you can lose your property in such a deal. The loan lender providing bad credit personal loans will also be looking at things like your job profile. If you have a stable job which you have been continuing for some years – your bad credit personal loans application will not be passed unheard.

Avoid These Six Common Life Insurance Mistakes

Life insurance is one of the most important components of any individual’s financial plan. However there is lot of misunderstanding about life insurance, mainly due to the way life insurance products have been sold over the years in India. We have discussed some common mistakes insurance buyers should avoid when buying insurance policies.

1. Underestimating insurance requirement: Many life insurance buyers choose their insurance covers or sum assured, based on the plans their agents want to sell and how much premium they can afford. This a wrong approach. Your insurance requirement is a function of your financial situation, and has nothing do with what products are available. Many insurance buyers use thumb rules like 10 times annual income for cover. Some financial advisers say that a cover of 10 times your annual income is adequate because it gives your family 10 years worth of income, when you are gone. But this is not always correct. Suppose, you have 20 year mortgage or home loan. How will your family pay the EMIs after 10 years, when most of the loan is still outstanding? Suppose you have very young children. Your family will run out of income, when your children need it the most, e.g. for their higher education. Insurance buyers need to consider several factors in deciding how much insurance cover is adequate for them.

· Repayment of the entire outstanding debt (e.g. home loan, car loan etc.) of the policy holder

· After debt repayment, the cover or sum assured should have surplus funds to generate enough monthly income to cover all the living expenses of the dependents of the policy holder, factoring in inflation

· After debt repayment and generating monthly income, the sum assured should also be adequate to meet future obligations of the policy holder, like children’s education, marriage etc.

2. Choosing the cheapest policy: Many insurance buyers like to buy policies that are cheaper. This is another serious mistake. A cheap policy is no good, if the insurance company for some reason or another cannot fulfil the claim in the event of an untimely death. Even if the insurer fulfils the claim, if it takes a very long time to fulfil the claim it is certainly not a desirable situation for family of the insured to be in. You should look at metrics like Claims Settlement Ratio and Duration wise settlement of death claims of different life insurance companies, to select an insurer, that will honour its obligation in fulfilling your claim in a timely manner, should such an unfortunate situation arise. Data on these metrics for all the insurance companies in India is available in the IRDA annual report (on the IRDA website). You should also check claim settlement reviews online and only then choose a company that has a good track record of settling claims.

3. Treating life insurance as an investment and buying the wrong plan: The common misconception about life insurance is that, it is also as a good investment or retirement planning solution. This misconception is largely due to some insurance agents who like to sell expensive policies to earn high commissions. If you compare returns from life insurance to other investment options, it simply does not make sense as an investment. If you are a young investor with a long time horizon, equity is the best wealth creation instrument. Over a 20 year time horizon, investment in equity funds through SIP will result in a corpus that is at least three or four times the maturity amount of life insurance plan with a 20 year term, with the same investment. Life insurance should always been seen as protection for your family, in the event of an untimely death. Investment should be a completely separate consideration. Even though insurance companies sell Unit Linked Insurance Plans (ULIPs) as attractive investment products, for your own evaluation you should separate the insurance component and investment component and pay careful attention to what portion of your premium actually gets allocated to investments. In the early years of a ULIP policy, only a small amount goes to buying units.

A good financial planner will always advise you to buy term insurance plan. A term plan is the purest form of insurance and is a straightforward protection policy. The premium of term insurance plans is much less than other types of insurance plans, and it leaves the policy holders with a much larger investible surplus that they can invest in investment products like mutual funds that give much higher returns in the long term, compared to endowment or money back plans. If you are a term insurance policy holder, under some specific situations, you may opt for other types of insurance (e.g. ULIP, endowment or money back plans), in addition to your term policy, for your specific financial needs.

4. Buying insurance for the purpose of tax planning: For many years agents have inveigled their clients into buying insurance plans to save tax under Section 80C of the Income Tax Act. Investors should realize that insurance is probably the worst tax saving investment. Return from insurance plans is in the range of 5 – 6%, whereas Public Provident Fund, another 80C investment, gives close to 9% risk free and tax free returns. Equity Linked Saving Schemes, another 80C investment, gives much higher tax free returns over the long term. Further, returns from insurance plans may not be entirely tax free. If the premiums exceed 20% of sum assured, then to that extent the maturity proceeds are taxable. As discussed earlier, the most important thing to note about life insurance is that objective is to provide life cover, not to generate the best investment return.

5. Surrendering life insurance policy or withdrawing from it before maturity: This is a serious mistake and compromises the financial security of your family in the event of an unfortunate incident. Life Insurance should not be touched until the unfortunate death of the insured occurs. Some policy holders surrender their policy to meet an urgent financial need, with the hope of buying a new policy when their financial situation improves. Such policy holders need to remember two things. First, mortality is not in anyone’s control. That is why we buy life insurance in the first place. Second, life insurance gets very expensive as the insurance buyer gets older. Your financial plan should provide for contingency funds to meet any unexpected urgent expense or provide liquidity for a period of time in the event of a financial distress.

6. Insurance is a one-time exercise: I am reminded of an old motorcycle advertisement on television, which had the punch line, “Fill it, shut it, forget it”. Some insurance buyers have the same philosophy towards life insurance. Once they buy adequate cover in a good life insurance plan from a reputed company, they assume that their life insurance needs are taken care of forever. This is a mistake. Financial situation of insurance buyers change with time. Compare your current income with your income ten years back. Hasn’t your income grown several times? Your lifestyle would also have improved significantly. If you bought a life insurance plan ten years ago based on your income back then, the sum assured will not be enough to meet your family’s current lifestyle and needs, in the unfortunate event of your untimely death. Therefore you should buy an additional term plan to cover that risk. Life Insurance needs have to be re-evaluated at a regular frequency and any additional sum assured if required, should be bought.

Conclusion

Investors should avoid these common mistakes when buying insurance policies. Life insurance is one of the most important components of any individual’s financial plan. Therefore, thoughtful consideration must be devoted to life insurance. Insurance buyers should exercise prudence against questionable selling practised in the life insurance industry. It is always beneficial to engage a financial planner who looks at your entire portfolio of investments and insurance on a holistic basis, so that you can take the best decision with regards to both life insurance and investments.

The Basic Credit Card Types

It may seem incredible, but credit card issuers clog the mails with over 2.5 billion offers inviting people to apply for a credit card. Even those who would not qualify for a conventional credit card due to serious credit problems are now able to get one; some credit card issuers even specialize in this particular type of market. And according to financial gurus, there are at least a billion credit cards in active circulation throughout the United States alone.

Credit has been an economic cornerstone for some time now. Surveys show that the average American household is estimated to have at least twelve credit cards, including charge cards. While you may tend to think that one credit card is pretty much the same as the next, there are in actual fact distinct characteristics for each different credit card type. It is good to know these difference between the three different types of cards in the market: a bank credit card, a travel credit card, an entertainment credit card (although nowadays the combined travel and entertainment card has become more common) and a retail credit card or house card.

Bank Credit Cards

You have probably noticed that most credit cards bear either the logo of Visa or MasterCard together with the name of the bank. It would appear that the credit card has been issued by either Visa or MasterCard. That is not quite an accurate assumption: these two companies do not issue credit cards directly to the consumers. Most of the credit cards on the market today are offered by thousands of banks around the globe. Each bank is linked to the credit card association, because are not allowed to issue any kind of card unless they are association members.

Visa is a privately held membership association, although it is preparing to go public. It started as an association of banks in California and the West Coast. There are over 20,000 financial institutions in the membership rolls, and virtually all of them offer Visa Card. MasterCard is also a membership association, similar to Visa, and originally consisted of member banks in the East.

A bank credit card is in reality a revolving credit line. When you receive your statement, you can pay all or part of your balance each month, run up the balance again and so on. Being a credit line, the account comes with a pre-determined credit limit that depends on key factors like disposable income, credit history, etc. The credit limit can be as low as a $100 or as high as many thousands of dollars.

It is possible for card holders to get themselves into trouble when they do not properly manage the revolving credit line. When you carry a balance instead of paying it off, the credit card issuer starts charging interest on that balance — in some cases, this interest could be pretty steep. The interest rate varies widely, depending on who issued the card, but you could expect the average credit card interest rate to be at about 18 percent.

For instance, if you carry forward a $1,000 balance for 12 months, you pay $180 in interest per year or $15 every month. If you maintain a $1,000 savings account, you will earn about $40 in interest per year. Those who get into trouble will have to reduce debt, and one of the more common ways to go about this, is to arrange for credit card debt consolidation, which helps lighten the interest burden.

Travel and Entertainment Card

Travel and entertainment cards are similar to bank credit cards in the sense that holders can charge purchases at various stores and locations. However, they are also different from bank credit cards because they are offered directly by the credit card companies, namely, American Express and Diners Club.

This credit card type was once accepted primarily at travel- and entertainment-related businesses such as airlines, hotels, restaurants and car rentals. Nowadays, all other establishments, such as upscale department stores, gas stations and drugstores, accept them. Like any bank card, the typical travel and entertainment card of today offers the menu of features that most credit card holders have come to expect, such as frequent flyer miles, luggage insurance and collision insurance coverage on rented cars.

A further difference between travel and entertainment cards, and bank cards, is that travel entertainment cards do not carry an extended line of credit. This means that you will are required to pay your outstanding balances in full, either within one or two billing periods, in order to for the account to stay current.

Both travel and entertainment credit card providers, such as American Express and Diners Club, also deliver categorized summaries of expenses charged to the credit cards at the end of each year. This certainly is a convenience at tax time.

House Card

Unlike a bank credit card, and a travel and entertainment card, which you can use in many purchase locations, a house card is accepted only at a particular store or stores within the same chain. House cards (also referred to as retail charge cards) are the second largest category of credit cards; major house issuers include department stores, oil and gasoline companies, and telephone companies. Discover Card, once owned by Sears, was probably the biggest house card until it was purchased by a financial institution to become a distinct credit card company.

Merchants are very much in favor of house cards as these cards are valuable in helping them to both develop customer loyalty and enhance sales; you may appreciate the shopping convenience they give you. Just like bank credit cards, house cards give you a line of credit, with a limit that varies depending on your creditworthiness. For this reason, you may choose not to pay your credit card bill in full each month. Note, however, that the majority of house cards charge fixed interest rates of between 18 and 22 percent annually; thus a house card is more expensive in terms of interest cost than a bank credit card.

All types of credit cards involve costs when you use them. After knowing the different credit card types, you may choose the credit card that best fits your personality and needs. If you have a number of credit cards on your wallet, you may also consider discarding some.

If you are the type who does not carry a monthly balance, you can have a credit card with no annual fee but make sure that there is a grace period on purchases. However, if you do carry a balance, it is wise to do away with a credit card that has the worst of the following:

· High interest rates

· Unfavorable interest calculations. A credit card may calculate interest charges based on average daily balance, not on the balance due.

· No grace period. Some credit cards might charge interest from the date of purchase until payment date, even if you pay off your balance.

· Nuisance fees. Try to do away with credit cards that have late-payment fees, over-limit fees, fees for not carrying a balance or only a balance below a certain level, or a percentage fee on your credit limit.

The modern bank credit card was first introduced in the 1960s by the Bank of America; the travel and entertainment credit cards were both introduced in the 1950s. Much may changed since then in terms of features and benefits, but the basic characteristics of each type of credit card have remained the same.

Finding the Best Mexico Insurance Solution For Your RV

For the bold and adventurous RV enthusiast, Mexico can be an RVers paradise. There are hundreds of incredibly scenic and not too crowded RV parks up and down the shores of the Baja Peninsula and Mexico’s Pacific coast. The weather is nice, the sport fishing is great, the surf is always up somewhere, and the free-spirited culture makes for a friendly and entertaining community. But before the fun begins, you need to make sure your beloved travel companion, your RV, will be protected with the proper insurance in Mexico.

For those of you not familiar with the rules about Mexican auto insurance, here is your crash course. Mexican authorities, meaning the Mexican police and the Mexican court system, do not recognize US or Canadian vehicle insurance. At a bare minimum, you must get a Mexican liability auto insurance policy to pay for damages you might cause to third parties. If you do not have liability insurance that is underwritten by a Mexican insurance company, you could face a real nightmare if you were involved in a traffic accident. If you are in a traffic accident in Mexico and you can not prove that you can pay for the damages you caused to a third party with a Mexican insurance policy, there is a good possibility that your vehicle will be impounded and you will be detained until you come up with the funds to pay for the damages. All of this hassle can be avoided if you have a Mexican liability insurance policy that demonstrates your ability to pay for the damages. So always purchase a Mexican insurance policy before you drive your vehicle into Mexico.

OK – So now that you understand that you must get a Mexican RV insurance policy, you are now probably wondering where to purchase this insurance, and what coverage do you actually need. This article will give you a road map of how to shop for your Mexico RV insurance.

Is your RV registered in the US or Canada?

This actually can make a huge difference in the options available to you for insuring you RV in Mexico. Many US RV insurance companies have recently introduced special RV insurance programs which actually extend physical damage and theft insurance coverage in to Mexico. Sorry Canadians, at this time there are no Canadian RV insurance companies who extend any type of RV insurance coverage into Mexico, but perhaps this will change in the future. Until then, this portion of the article only applies to US registered RVs.

Insurance Law – An Indian Perspective

INTRODUCTION

“Insurance should be bought to protect you against a calamity that would otherwise be financially devastating.”

In simple terms, insurance allows someone who suffers a loss or accident to be compensated for the effects of their misfortune. It lets you protect yourself against everyday risks to your health, home and financial situation.

Insurance in India started without any regulation in the Nineteenth Century. It was a typical story of a colonial epoch: few British insurance companies dominating the market serving mostly large urban centers. After the independence, it took a theatrical turn. Insurance was nationalized. First, the life insurance companies were nationalized in 1956, and then the general insurance business was nationalized in 1972. It was only in 1999 that the private insurance companies have been allowed back into the business of insurance with a maximum of 26% of foreign holding.

“The insurance industry is enormous and can be quite intimidating. Insurance is being sold for almost anything and everything you can imagine. Determining what’s right for you can be a very daunting task.”

Concepts of insurance have been extended beyond the coverage of tangible asset. Now the risk of losses due to sudden changes in currency exchange rates, political disturbance, negligence and liability for the damages can also be covered.

But if a person thoughtfully invests in insurance for his property prior to any unexpected contingency then he will be suitably compensated for his loss as soon as the extent of damage is ascertained.

The entry of the State Bank of India with its proposal of bank assurance brings a new dynamics in the game. The collective experience of the other countries in Asia has already deregulated their markets and has allowed foreign companies to participate. If the experience of the other countries is any guide, the dominance of the Life Insurance Corporation and the General Insurance Corporation is not going to disappear any time soon.
The aim of all insurance is to compensate the owner against loss arising from a variety of risks, which he anticipates, to his life, property and business. Insurance is mainly of two types: life insurance and general insurance. General insurance means Fire, Marine and Miscellaneous insurance which includes insurance against burglary or theft, fidelity guarantee, insurance for employer’s liability, and insurance of motor vehicles, livestock and crops.

LIFE INSURANCE IN INDIA

“Life insurance is the heartfelt love letter ever written.

It calms down the crying of a hungry baby at night. It relieves the heart of a bereaved widow.

It is the comforting whisper in the dark silent hours of the night.”

Life insurance made its debut in India well over 100 years ago. Its salient features are not as widely understood in our country as they ought to be. There is no statutory definition of life insurance, but it has been defined as a contract of insurance whereby the insured agrees to pay certain sums called premiums, at specified time, and in consideration thereof the insurer agreed to pay certain sums of money on certain condition sand in specified way upon happening of a particular event contingent upon the duration of human life.

Life insurance is superior to other forms of savings!

“There is no death. Life Insurance exalts life and defeats death.

It is the premium we pay for the freedom of living after death.”

Savings through life insurance guarantee full protection against risk of death of the saver. In life insurance, on death, the full sum assured is payable (with bonuses wherever applicable) whereas in other savings schemes, only the amount saved (with interest) is payable.

The essential features of life insurance are a) it is a contract relating to human life, which b) provides for payment of lump-sum amount, and c) the amount is paid after the expiry of certain period or on the death of the assured. The very purpose and object of the assured in taking policies from life insurance companies is to safeguard the interest of his dependents viz., wife and children as the case may be, in the even of premature death of the assured as a result of the happening in any contingency. A life insurance policy is also generally accepted as security for even a commercial loan.

NON-LIFE INSURANCE

“Every asset has a value and the business of general insurance is related to the protection of economic value of assets.”

Non-life insurance means insurance other than life insurance such as fire, marine, accident, medical, motor vehicle and household insurance. Assets would have been created through the efforts of owner, which can be in the form of building, vehicles, machinery and other tangible properties. Since tangible property has a physical shape and consistency, it is subject to many risks ranging from fire, allied perils to theft and robbery.
Few of the General Insurance policies are:

Property Insurance: The home is most valued possession. The policy is designed to cover the various risks under a single policy. It provides protection for property and interest of the insured and family.

Health Insurance: It provides cover, which takes care of medical expenses following hospitalization from sudden illness or accident.
Personal Accident Insurance: This insurance policy provides compensation for loss of life or injury (partial or permanent) caused by an accident. This includes reimbursement of cost of treatment and the use of hospital facilities for the treatment.

Travel Insurance: The policy covers the insured against various eventualities while traveling abroad. It covers the insured against personal accident, medical expenses and repatriation, loss of checked baggage, passport etc.

Liability Insurance: This policy indemnifies the Directors or Officers or other professionals against loss arising from claims made against them by reason of any wrongful Act in their Official capacity.

Motor Insurance: Motor Vehicles Act states that every motor vehicle plying on the road has to be insured, with at least Liability only policy. There are two types of policy one covering the act of liability, while other covers insurers all liability and damage caused to one’s vehicles.

JOURNEY FROM AN INFANT TO ADOLESCENCE!

Historical Perspective

The history of life insurance in India dates back to 1818 when it was conceived as a means to provide for English Widows. Interestingly in those days a higher premium was charged for Indian lives than the non-Indian lives as Indian lives were considered more risky for coverage.

The Bombay Mutual Life Insurance Society started its business in 1870. It was the first company to charge same premium for both Indian and non-Indian lives. The Oriental Assurance Company was established in 1880. The General insurance business in India, on the other hand, can trace its roots to the Triton (Tital) Insurance Company Limited, the first general insurance company established in the year 1850 in Calcutta by the British. Till the end of nineteenth century insurance business was almost entirely in the hands of overseas companies.

Insurance regulation formally began in India with the passing of the Life Insurance Companies Act of 1912 and the Provident Fund Act of 1912. Several frauds during 20’s and 30’s desecrated insurance business in India. By 1938 there were 176 insurance companies. The first comprehensive legislation was introduced with the Insurance Act of 1938 that provided strict State Control over insurance business. The insurance business grew at a faster pace after independence. Indian companies strengthened their hold on this business but despite the growth that was witnessed, insurance remained an urban phenomenon.

The Government of India in 1956, brought together over 240 private life insurers and provident societies under one nationalized monopoly corporation and Life Insurance Corporation (LIC) was born. Nationalization was justified on the grounds that it would create much needed funds for rapid industrialization. This was in conformity with the Government’s chosen path of State lead planning and development.

The (non-life) insurance business continued to prosper with the private sector till 1972. Their operations were restricted to organized trade and industry in large cities. The general insurance industry was nationalized in 1972. With this, nearly 107 insurers were amalgamated and grouped into four companies – National Insurance Company, New India Assurance Company, Oriental Insurance Company and United India Insurance Company. These were subsidiaries of the General Insurance Company (GIC).

The life insurance industry was nationalized under the Life Insurance Corporation (LIC) Act of India. In some ways, the LIC has become very flourishing. Regardless of being a monopoly, it has some 60-70 million policyholders. Given that the Indian middle-class is around 250-300 million, the LIC has managed to capture some 30 odd percent of it. Around 48% of the customers of the LIC are from rural and semi-urban areas. This probably would not have happened had the charter of the LIC not specifically set out the goal of serving the rural areas. A high saving rate in India is one of the exogenous factors that have helped the LIC to grow rapidly in recent years. Despite the saving rate being high in India (compared with other countries with a similar level of development), Indians display high degree of risk aversion. Thus, nearly half of the investments are in physical assets (like property and gold). Around twenty three percent are in (low yielding but safe) bank deposits. In addition, some 1.3 percent of the GDP are in life insurance related savings vehicles. This figure has doubled between 1985 and 1995.

A World viewpoint – Life Insurance in India

In many countries, insurance has been a form of savings. In many developed countries, a significant fraction of domestic saving is in the form of donation insurance plans. This is not surprising. The prominence of some developing countries is more surprising. For example, South Africa features at the number two spot. India is nestled between Chile and Italy. This is even more surprising given the levels of economic development in Chile and Italy. Thus, we can conclude that there is an insurance culture in India despite a low per capita income. This promises well for future growth. Specifically, when the income level improves, insurance (especially life) is likely to grow rapidly.

INSURANCE SECTOR REFORM:

Committee Reports: One Known, One Anonymous!

Although Indian markets were privatized and opened up to foreign companies in a number of sectors in 1991, insurance remained out of bounds on both counts. The government wanted to proceed with caution. With pressure from the opposition, the government (at the time, dominated by the Congress Party) decided to set up a committee headed by Mr. R. N. Malhotra (the then Governor of the Reserve Bank of India).

Malhotra Committee

Liberalization of the Indian insurance market was suggested in a report released in 1994 by the Malhotra Committee, indicating that the market should be opened to private-sector competition, and eventually, foreign private-sector competition. It also investigated the level of satisfaction of the customers of the LIC. Inquisitively, the level of customer satisfaction seemed to be high.

In 1993, Malhotra Committee – headed by former Finance Secretary and RBI Governor Mr. R. N. Malhotra – was formed to evaluate the Indian insurance industry and recommend its future course. The Malhotra committee was set up with the aim of complementing the reforms initiated in the financial sector. The reforms were aimed at creating a more efficient and competitive financial system suitable for the needs of the economy keeping in mind the structural changes presently happening and recognizing that insurance is an important part of the overall financial system where it was necessary to address the need for similar reforms. In 1994, the committee submitted the report and some of the key recommendations included:

o Structure

Government bet in the insurance Companies to be brought down to 50%. Government should take over the holdings of GIC and its subsidiaries so that these subsidiaries can act as independent corporations. All the insurance companies should be given greater freedom to operate.
Competition

Private Companies with a minimum paid up capital of Rs.1 billion should be allowed to enter the sector. No Company should deal in both Life and General Insurance through a single entity. Foreign companies may be allowed to enter the industry in collaboration with the domestic companies. Postal Life Insurance should be allowed to operate in the rural market. Only one State Level Life Insurance Company should be allowed to operate in each state.

o Regulatory Body

The Insurance Act should be changed. An Insurance Regulatory body should be set up. Controller of Insurance – a part of the Finance Ministry- should be made Independent.

o Investments

Compulsory Investments of LIC Life Fund in government securities to be reduced from 75% to 50%. GIC and its subsidiaries are not to hold more than 5% in any company (there current holdings to be brought down to this level over a period of time).

o Customer Service

LIC should pay interest on delays in payments beyond 30 days. Insurance companies must be encouraged to set up unit linked pension plans. Computerization of operations and updating of technology to be carried out in the insurance industry. The committee accentuated that in order to improve the customer services and increase the coverage of insurance policies, industry should be opened up to competition. But at the same time, the committee felt the need to exercise caution as any failure on the part of new competitors could ruin the public confidence in the industry. Hence, it was decided to allow competition in a limited way by stipulating the minimum capital requirement of Rs.100 crores.

The committee felt the need to provide greater autonomy to insurance companies in order to improve their performance and enable them to act as independent companies with economic motives. For this purpose, it had proposed setting up an independent regulatory body – The Insurance Regulatory and Development Authority.

Reforms in the Insurance sector were initiated with the passage of the IRDA Bill in Parliament in December 1999. The IRDA since its incorporation as a statutory body in April 2000 has meticulously stuck to its schedule of framing regulations and registering the private sector insurance companies.

Since being set up as an independent statutory body the IRDA has put in a framework of globally compatible regulations. The other decision taken at the same time to provide the supporting systems to the insurance sector and in particular the life insurance companies was the launch of the IRDA online service for issue and renewal of licenses to agents. The approval of institutions for imparting training to agents has also ensured that the insurance companies would have a trained workforce of insurance agents in place to sell their products.

The Government of India liberalized the insurance sector in March 2000 with the passage of the Insurance Regulatory and Development Authority (IRDA) Bill, lifting all entry restrictions for private players and allowing foreign players to enter the market with some limits on direct foreign ownership. Under the current guidelines, there is a 26 percent equity lid for foreign partners in an insurance company. There is a proposal to increase this limit to 49 percent.

The opening up of the sector is likely to lead to greater spread and deepening of insurance in India and this may also include restructuring and revitalizing of the public sector companies. In the private sector 12 life insurance and 8 general insurance companies have been registered. A host of private Insurance companies operating in both life and non-life segments have started selling their insurance policies since 2001

Mukherjee Committee

Immediately after the publication of the Malhotra Committee Report, a new committee, Mukherjee Committee was set up to make concrete plans for the requirements of the newly formed insurance companies. Recommendations of the Mukherjee Committee were never disclosed to the public. But, from the information that filtered out it became clear that the committee recommended the inclusion of certain ratios in insurance company balance sheets to ensure transparency in accounting. But the Finance Minister objected to it and it was argued by him, probably on the advice of some of the potential competitors, that it could affect the prospects of a developing insurance company.

LAW COMMISSION OF INDIA ON REVISION OF THE INSURANCE ACT 1938 – 190th Law Commission Report

The Law Commission on 16th June 2003 released a Consultation Paper on the Revision of the Insurance Act, 1938. The previous exercise to amend the Insurance Act, 1938 was undertaken in 1999 at the time of enactment of the Insurance Regulatory Development Authority Act, 1999 (IRDA Act).

The Commission undertook the present exercise in the context of the changed policy that has permitted private insurance companies both in the life and non-life sectors. A need has been felt to toughen the regulatory mechanism even while streamlining the existing legislation with a view to removing portions that have become superfluous as a consequence of the recent changes.

Among the major areas of changes, the Consultation paper suggested the following:

a. merging of the provisions of the IRDA Act with the Insurance Act to avoid multiplicity of legislations;

b. deletion of redundant and transitory provisions in the Insurance Act, 1938;

c. Amendments reflect the changed policy of permitting private insurance companies and strengthening the regulatory mechanism;

d. Providing for stringent norms regarding maintenance of ‘solvency margin’ and investments by both public sector and private sector insurance companies;

e. Providing for a full-fledged grievance redressal mechanism that includes:

o The constitution of Grievance Redressal Authorities (GRAs) comprising one judicial and two technical members to deal with complaints/claims of policyholders against insurers (the GRAs are expected to replace the present system of insurer appointed Ombudsman);

o Appointment of adjudicating officers by the IRDA to determine and levy penalties on defaulting insurers, insurance intermediaries and insurance agents;

o Providing for an appeal against the decisions of the IRDA, GRAs and adjudicating officers to an Insurance Appellate Tribunal (IAT) comprising a judge (sitting or retired) of the Supreme Court/Chief Justice of a High Court as presiding officer and two other members having sufficient experience in insurance matters;

o Providing for a statutory appeal to the Supreme Court against the decisions of the IAT.

LIFE & NON-LIFE INSURANCE – Development and Growth!

The year 2006 turned out to be a momentous year for the insurance sector as regulator the Insurance Regulatory Development Authority Act, laid the foundation for free pricing general insurance from 2007, while many companies announced plans to attack into the sector.

Both domestic and foreign players robustly pursued their long-pending demand for increasing the FDI limit from 26 per cent to 49 per cent and toward the fag end of the year, the Government sent the Comprehensive Insurance Bill to Group of Ministers for consideration amid strong reservation from Left parties. The Bill is likely to be taken up in the Budget session of Parliament.

The infiltration rates of health and other non-life insurances in India are well below the international level. These facts indicate immense growth potential of the insurance sector. The hike in FDI limit to 49 per cent was proposed by the Government last year. This has not been operationalized as legislative changes are required for such hike. Since opening up of the insurance sector in 1999, foreign investments of Rs. 8.7 billion have tipped into the Indian market and 21 private companies have been granted licenses.

The involvement of the private insurers in various industry segments has increased on account of both their capturing a part of the business which was earlier underwritten by the public sector insurers and also creating additional business boulevards. To this effect, the public sector insurers have been unable to draw upon their inherent strengths to capture additional premium. Of the growth in premium in 2004-05, 66.27 per cent has been captured by the private insurers despite having 20 per cent market share.

The life insurance industry recorded a premium income of Rs.82854.80 crore during the financial year 2004-05 as against Rs.66653.75 crore in the previous financial year, recording a growth of 24.31 per cent. The contribution of first year premium, single premium and renewal premium to the total premium was Rs.15881.33 crore (19.16 per cent); Rs.10336.30 crore (12.47 per cent); and Rs.56637.16 crore (68.36 per cent), respectively. In the year 2000-01, when the industry was opened up to the private players, the life insurance premium was Rs.34,898.48 crore which constituted of Rs. 6996.95 crore of first year premium, Rs. 25191.07 crore of renewal premium and Rs. 2740.45 crore of single premium. Post opening up, single premium had declined from Rs.9, 194.07 crore in the year 2001-02 to Rs.5674.14 crore in 2002-03 with the withdrawal of the guaranteed return policies. Though it went up marginally in 2003-04 to Rs.5936.50 crore (4.62 per cent growth) 2004-05, however, witnessed a significant shift with the single premium income rising to Rs. 10336.30 crore showing 74.11 per cent growth over 2003-04.

The size of life insurance market increased on the strength of growth in the economy and concomitant increase in per capita income. This resulted in a favourable growth in total premium both for LIC (18.25 per cent) and to the new insurers (147.65 per cent) in 2004-05. The higher growth for the new insurers is to be viewed in the context of a low base in 2003- 04. However, the new insurers have improved their market share from 4.68 in 2003-04 to 9.33 in 2004-05.

The segment wise break up of fire, marine and miscellaneous segments in case of the public sector insurers was Rs.2411.38 crore, Rs.982.99 crore and Rs.10578.59 crore, i.e., a growth of (-)1.43 per cent, 1.81 per cent and 6.58 per cent. The public sector insurers reported growth in Motor and Health segments (9 and 24 per cent). These segments accounted for 45 and 10 per cent of the business underwritten by the public sector insurers. Fire and “Others” accounted for 17.26 and 11 per cent of the premium underwritten. Aviation, Liability, “Others” and Fire recorded negative growth of 29, 21, 3.58 and 1.43 per cent. In no other country that opened at the same time as India have foreign companies been able to grab a 22 per cent market share in the life segment and about 20 per cent in the general insurance segment. The share of foreign insurers in other competing Asian markets is not more than 5 to 10 per cent.

The life insurance sector grew new premium at a rate not seen before while the general insurance sector grew at a faster rate. Two new players entered into life insurance – Shriram Life and Bharti Axa Life – taking the total number of life players to 16. There was one new entrant to the non-life sector in the form of a standalone health insurance company – Star Health and Allied Insurance, taking the non-life players to 14.

A large number of companies, mostly nationalized banks (about 14) such as Bank of India and Punjab National Bank, have announced plans to enter the insurance sector and some of them have also formed joint ventures.

The proposed change in FDI cap is part of the comprehensive amendments to insurance laws – The Insurance Act of 1999, LIC Act, 1956 and IRDA Act, 1999. After the proposed amendments in the insurance laws LIC would be able to maintain reserves while insurance companies would be able to raise resources other than equity.

About 14 banks are in queue to enter insurance sector and the year 2006 saw several joint venture announcements while others scout partners. Bank of India has teamed up with Union Bank and Japanese insurance major Dai-ichi Mutual Life while PNB tied up with Vijaya Bank and Principal for foraying into life insurance. Allahabad Bank, Karnataka Bank, Indian Overseas Bank, Dabur Investment Corporation and Sompo Japan Insurance Inc have tied up for forming a non-life insurance company while Bank of Maharashtra has tied up with Shriram Group and South Africa’s Sanlam group for non-life insurance venture.

CONCLUSION

It seems cynical that the LIC and the GIC will wither and die within the next decade or two. The IRDA has taken “at a snail’s pace” approach. It has been very cautious in granting licenses. It has set up fairly strict standards for all aspects of the insurance business (with the probable exception of the disclosure requirements). The regulators always walk a fine line. Too many regulations kill the motivation of the newcomers; too relaxed regulations may induce failure and fraud that led to nationalization in the first place. India is not unique among the developing countries where the insurance business has been opened up to foreign competitors.

The insurance business is at a critical stage in India. Over the next couple of decades we are likely to witness high growth in the insurance sector for two reasons namely; financial deregulation always speeds up the development of the insurance sector and growth in per capita GDP also helps the insurance business to grow.

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