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Condo vs. Townhome: What Insurance Do You Need?

| June 01, 2017

When you think "condo," what comes to mind? Many people envision an apartment-style building with multiple floors and units. "Townhome," on the other hand, conjures up images of a two-story home attached to two or three other homes in a row. 

These pictures aren't entirely inaccurate: the exterior style of your home is not what determines its status as a condo or townhome. The determining factor is ownership. In a condo, you own the inside of your home. The exterior, land, and common areas are owned by an association. In a townhome, you own the land beneath your unit. 

This distinction becomes significant when selecting insurance coverage. Because you only own the interior of a condo, this is all you need to insure. Coverage may vary depending on your association bylaws, but you typically do not need insurance for anything beyond your four walls. With townhome ownership, you need coverage for the structure and the land it is on.

Generally, condo insurance covers items such as carpeting, plumbing, counters, and cabinets. Townhome coverage extends beyond these items to include the roof, frames, exterior walls, foundation, floor, and property. 

In either situation, you need insurance for your personal belongings. You should also obtain liability coverage in both settings – which is typically included in the policy automatically.

As you set up your policy, confirm with your association which types of disasters, theft, etc., are covered by their policy. With this information established, your insurance agent can help you determine what you should include in your own coverage.


You May Need More Life Insurance Than You Think

Many people avoid making decisions about life insurance because no one likes to think about his or her own death - but if you have a spouse or others who rely on your income, it's important to ensure they'll be cared for if something happens to you. And that requires purchasing an appropriate amount of life insurance coverage.

When considering how much coverage is necessary, people often react with horror at the numbers, such as $250,000, $500,000, or even $1 million. "Why would I need that much?" they ask.

The fact is, you might need even more. 

Many people consider life insurance a means of providing a lump sum of money that will be gradually spent down. But imagine if the money could actually work for your survivors, earning them a steady annual return. For example, a 6% return on $1 million is $60,000 a year - enough to provide the basics in many care facilities - and a 6% return on $2 million is $120,000 a year, which is a good annual income for your survivors.

Many think they're covered by a life insurance policy provided by an employer; this is a common misconception. Companies usually only provide the equivalent of a year's salary, which is probably not enough. As well, your employer's life insurance benefits may not be portable should you change jobs; you might need several term life insurance policies, which can be added at different times.

If you are concerned about cost, note that there are different types of life insurance. Term life insurance, for example, is the most affordable. It pays a benefit to the survivors you name, if and when you die within the specified "term" or period of time.

If possible, purchase your term life insurance policy sooner rather than later; the younger you are, the greater your chances of being healthy in the long term, and the lower your premium will be.


What Is the Best Exercise on the Planet? You Decide

It's generally agreed that cycling is the best exercise on the planet - unless you ask walkers, who say nothing beats walking for a whole-body workout. And the debate goes on.

As it turns out, the workout you get depends on the modality you choose, and both activities are good forms of exercise - for different reasons. 

Do you want to bulk up or slim down? Are you looking to increase endurance? Is your concern long-term cardiac fitness or short-term shaping?

Both biking and walking provide aerobic exercise, so they increase heart rate and are likely to improve cardiac function. They also exercise muscle and burn calories, which can be important if weight loss is your ultimate goal (although there's debate on that, as well).

According to Jessica Martinez with Livestrong.com, "A 130-pound person, walking at a moderate pace...burns 60 to 70 calories per half-hour." Martinez adds, "Walking can reduce belly fat, lower blood pressure, and raise your production of HDL, or 'good' cholesterol." 

But, in another Livestrong article, Deborah Green writes, "A person who weighs 160 pounds will burn about 288 calories in one hour of cycling at a leisurely pace." And strenuous biking can make muscles work harder, so if you're going for that "ripped" look, biking may beat walking. 

John Metcalfe (sort of) sums it up in CityLab. "As efficient as walking is, biking is more efficient, having the lowest energy cost of all transportation options, including walking, swimming, driving, ride-sharing, taking the train, and trotting through a sun-dappled meadow on a horse." Biking? Walking? The debate continues. Swimming, anyone?


Be a Happy Quitter: These Resources Can Help

Everyone knows the risks of smoking. But as many former smokers can attest, quitting smoking may be the hardest thing you've ever done. Some people have attempted to quit up to 30 times before they're successful. 

Even if you've failed before, there are many free programs and prescription medications that can help you succeed this time. For example: The American Lung Association (ALA) offers a program called Freedom From Smoking. Available online or by smartphone, this interactive program guides you through the quitting process with support from successful quitters. Additionally, Freedom offers small-group sessions around the country; you can find your local group through the ALA's interactive national map, by clicking on your state.

Smokefree.gov is another source of help. Whether you want to quit or you need help after you've quit, visit the free website and click on an appropriate link to get needed support.

Your health care insurance provider is a great resource to help you stop smoking. Medicare, for example, benefits if you stop smoking, because medical interventions are typically less costly for nonsmokers. It covers smoking cessation medications, including sprays and some oral medications (Part D coverage may offer a wider range of medications than basic Medicare), and also offers up to four individual counseling sessions plus two quit attempts per year. And did you know that most health insurance companies also offer smoking cessation programs?

If you are currently enrolled in a plan through the Affordable Care Act (ACA, also called Obamacare), you may have some level of coverage for stop-smoking programs.

Future policy changes may impact your coverage, so if you're hoping to quit at some point, you may want to look into these benefits now.

But never quit trying. When a smoker quits, that smoker and his or her family members all benefit. And while it's difficult, you can do it with the help of these and other resources.