By Janet Groene, F47166
Stake your claim
Heaven forbid that you lose your rolling home in an accident, fire, or natural disaster. You have insurance, but how can you be made whole as quickly as possible? One way is to hire your own licensed insurance claims adjuster. The bad news is that the service costs dearly, usually about 10 percent of the total settlement. The good news is that having your own advocate can assure that the settlement is higher, arrives more quickly, and requires little work on your part.
“Licensed” is the key word here. States give applicants a test and issue a state license, which may offer reciprocal privileges in other states. Insurance companies also have claims adjusters, but they may be working under the company’s license, not their own. Of course, this doesn’t necessarily mean they are less capable or less honest. Still, having your own adjuster has its pluses. A professional adjuster will help you make an inventory, fill out forms, hire appraisers, and help you find a place to live, lifting a huge burden from your shoulders. A pro also knows where to find specialists, such as soot removal or computer recovery experts, who can help put your home and your life back together.
Only you can decide whether to bring in a personal claims adjuster. During an insurance logjam that results after a widespread disaster, such as Hurricane Katrina, it can speed up the process. It also adds clout and expertise if your insurance company tries to low-ball you. A reputable public adjuster who is licensed in your state can be found through the National Association of Public Insurance Adjusters. Call (703) 433 9217, or go to www.napia.com for more information.
Safer check writing
Here are safety suggestions from a reader who asked not to be named. When you order checks, don’t have your phone number or your social security number printed on them. When it’s required, you can always write it on the check. Most full-timers have cell phones and must pay for incoming as well as outgoing calls. Why risk having the phone number put on solicitation lists? Second, don’t have your name printed the same way you sign your checks. For example, you may be John Raymond Smith but you sign your checks J. Raymond Smith or J.R. Smith. If the checks are stolen, it’s a good bet the thief will guess wrong on the signature, and the bank will immediately spot the difference.
Here’s another good idea. The next time you’re near a copy machine, pull out all your wallet cards “” credit cards, driver’s license, etc. “” and make a copy of the fronts and the backs. That way, if your wallet is lost or stolen, you’ll have all the information you need on a couple sheets of paper.
A new utensil
The fife already had been invented, so Phantom Enterprises Inc. had to call this new instrument the Knork. No, it has nothing to do with music, but it does sing a happy tune for travelers. Basically, Knorks are high-quality, stainless-steel forks with slightly sharpened edges that can cut food. They aren’t steak knives, but they do cut most knife-and-fork meals. They were designed for hospital patients who aren’t able to use a knife in one hand and a fork in the other.
For families on the go, the Knork means less weight, less room to store silverware, and less dishwashing. Knorks come in a simple, tasteful design that goes with any tableware. The cost for a set of four is $17.50. Inexpensive, reusable plastic Knorks ($2.50 for a package of 24) aren’t as effective, but they’re still a plus for use during campground potlucks. Call (877) KNORK-IT (566-7548) or go to www.knork.net. Above prices do not include the cost of shipping and handling.
When my husband’s father had a stroke, we lived for days in our RV right in the hospital parking lot, and later in Dad’s driveway. One of us could be with him at all times while the other could enjoy some much-needed rest, privacy, and downtime in our own home. Thanks to the RV, we were never more than a few footsteps away from the patient, yet it was a lifesaver to have our own home right there during that long ordeal.
Do you know of a hospital that provides plug-in for RVers, or have you boondocked in hospital parking lots while a loved one was hospitalized? How about campgrounds located very close to a hospital? If you or your partner ever needs elective surgery, your RV can carry you to the best specialists for your medical needs. Do you know of full-timer-friendly hospitals, rehabilitation centers, or nursing homes? Please drop me a note in care of Family Motor Coaching magazine or send an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org and I’ll report about such places in a future column.
Some months ago, a major video rental chain introduced, with great fanfare, an end to penalties for late returns of its movies. However, some franchises have quietly restored these fees. So, when renting movies in your travels, always ask about the store’s late-fee policy.
Towable be gone
If you’d like to have a car sometimes but don’t want the expense and hassle associated with a towed vehicle, look into Zipcar, which reportedly is the largest car-sharing service in North America. Unlike a car rental service, Zipcar offers self-service, on-demand cars by the hour or day. Available now in several major cities (more are on the way) and some college campuses, membership costs $50 per year (plus a one-time $25 application fee). Daily rates start at $8.75 per hour or $62 per day when you’re actually using a car. For more information, visit www.zipcar.com.
Books for travelers
We all pay federal tax, but things get more complicated for full-timers, depending on whether their “home” state has state income or personal property taxes. Managing taxes is not just an April agony but a year-round task according to syndicated columnist, attorney, and former IRS special agent Julian Block. New books from Mr. Block this year are Tax Tips For Small Businesses; Year-Round Tax Savings; Marriage And Divorce; Home Sales; and Travel And Moving Expenses.
You may have more deductions than you realize, so start with the year-round book and begin keeping your receipts, planning purchases, and creating strategies. If you are selling your home this year to go full-timing, Mr. Block has tips on dealing with the huge upswing in property values. If you conduct business out of your RV or have changed marital status, the other books can be invaluable as well. Did you use your RV in a volunteer program last year? Donate to a Hurricane Katrina fund? Buy a hybrid car? Pay mortgage interest on the RV as a first or second home? Use the RV as a business office? Mr. Block provides hundreds of tips, memory joggers, and suggestions for ways to start today on a whole new approach to taxes.
The price of one book is $19.95; two for $34.95; three for $42.95; four for $49.95; and all five for $52.95. Prices include postage. To order, send a check or money order to Julian Block, 3 Washington Square, Larchmont, NY 10538.
Rock Art Along The Way by Janet Farnsworth and photographer Bernadette Heath ($18.95, Rio Nuevo Publishing) is a new book that guides travelers to 55 publicly accessible sites in Arizona, Nevada, Utah, western Colorado, New Mexico, and Southern California where ancient petroglyphs can be seen. This family-friendly guide includes complete driving directions, fun-filled side trips, and respectful insights into American Indian cultures. It is available at bookstores and from online booksellers.