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on June 16, 2010
Insurance is a notoriously boring, even painful, subject; one of life's burdens towards which we only begrudgingly direct our attention. There are several explanations one could put forth as to why, some relating to disreputable practices ( pushy salesmen, unethical denial of claims, etc ) others pertaining to the mind-numbing details contained in lengthy contractual boiler-plate which most folks regrettably ( if understandably ) gloss over prior to committing their signatures. In no small part, human psychology plays a role, finding it distasteful to shell out for services that provide no immediate, tangible benefit ( "I paid all this money and all I got was this lousy policy" ) or to contemplate the various accidents and incidents to which we are all too vulnerable. And yet, for all the loathing associated with the subject, a strong case can be made for insurance as the foundation of financial security, a benefit to both individuals and society- its importance is only magnified by the disdain with which it is treated. In fact, purely as a matter of prudence, insurance should be considered as the foundation upon which a family may erect other household "programs" ( ie, emergency fund, long-term investment, living wills ).

Jack Hungelmann's "Insurance for Dummies" rectifies this situation of malign neglect with 300+ pages of highly practical, jargon-free information for each of six specific categories of insurance:

1) auto insurance
2) home insurance
3) umbrella (liability) insurance
4) health insurance
5) disability insurance
6) life insurance

A functional ( if not dictionary ) definition of insurance is "management of risk". Bearing this in mind, Mr. Hungelmann goes through what he calls the ARRT of risk management: Avoid, Reduce, Retain, Transfer. It is evident that the aforementioned principles involve more than mere procurement of policies: while chance always plays a role, it is in fact the choices people make in life ( how and where they conduct themselves ) that often have the greatest impact on the amount of risk to which they are exposed. Hungelmann makes this point in the course of providing numerous detailed explanations and tips, many of which this reviewer considers to be of an immediately actionable character.


If you're like me, you just "inherited" insurance contacts from relatives and let the "family broker" set you up with an auto policy straight out of high school. More than likely, that broker set you up with a low deductible ( i.e., the amount you pay for repairs in a claim ) in order to save you money. As the years went by you just kept renewing your policy, never adjusting the deductible. Everything's fine, right? Well, "Insurance for Dummies" points out that in all likelihood your liability limit is woefully inadequate ( especially considering the litigious nature of our society ) but could be raised to safer level with a cost offset by simultaneously raising your deductible. Did your broker tell you this? Mine never did, and the realization that "professionals" weren't always providing me with useful information was the necessary goad towards a modicum of self-education ( on insurance and other topics ).

Vis a vis litigation, Mr. Hungelmann demonstrates just how cheap it is to buy an umbrella (excess liability) policy, describing it as "flat-out the best value in the insurance business". For a nominal amount of money, you increase the amount of skin your insurance company has in the game and in essence, provide an incentive for them to either settle or vigorously defend you ( up to your umbrella amount ) on their own dime.

A thorny and expensive thicket, life insurance is a matter of vital importance for married couples ( especially those with children ). "Insurance for Dummies" surveys the various pros and cons, enabling one to be conversant in the language of the industry when discussing a prospective policy with an agent. In the course of negotiation, and granting the obvious level of asymmetric knowledge between parties, it does make a tremendous difference knowing some of the tricks of the trade. While the author generally comes down on the side of term life as being of greatest benefit to most couples, he doesn't ( as is often the case ) savage the alternative of permanent ( cash value or "whole" ) life when circumstantially applicable ( high net worth, maxed out retirement contributions, etc. )

Finally, Mr. Hungelmann considers the woefully neglected matter of long term disability insurance. In his own words ( page 271 ):

"You have to deal with five possible causes of a major financial loss through insurance: lawsuits, destruction of home and personal property, major medical bills, premature death with dependents, and long-term disability. Most consumers, in their insurance programs, carry protection for the first four threats. But many consumers don't protect themselves from long-term loss of income from illness or injury unless their employer provides the insurance. Yet a person is three times more likely to become disabled for six months or more than to die prior to age 65."

"Insurance for Dummies" has proven to be one of the most useful tools my wife and I have found in laying the groundwork for a reasonable amount of insurance; a truly useful "hedge" against risk. Recommended in the highest possible terms.
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on January 18, 2015
I purchased this book prior to taking the Property and Casualty state test. I read this book cover to cover and then began studying the offered material for the exams and I had a much better understanding than if I would have jumped right into studying. This book does exactly what is says it dumbs down insurance to a point that anyone can understand and draw their own decisions and conclusions on their own coverage. Whether you want to be an agent or just learn alittle more about insurance in general, this is a great resource.
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on March 2, 2011
If I had read this book earlier, I would have known that Eric Tang and Allstate are the worst insurance combination I could have found. Their rates are much higher than other insurance companies. If you try to modify your insurance they will find any reason to screw you. For example, I reported a hit and run but canceled the claim since it only resulted in a dent to my car and the accident happened while my car was parked. However, because I reported that, the insurance company I used for 18 years decided it was a reason to raise my rates when I tried to change my policy, even though I received no money from Allstate.

If I had read this book earlier I would have never bothered with the claim and would have just found a better agent and a better insurance company. There are so many caveats and exemptions and "gotchas" when it comes to insurance that a little knowledge can save you a lot of money.
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on October 2, 2013
If you just want an overview, and a good one at that, this is a good place to start. I was especially impressed with the section on health insurance. This edition was published before the Affordable Care Act, but it still covers Medicare surprisingly well.

So I liked the book, but one is constantly reminded that it was written by someone in the insurance business who believes in the product. The more the better. If you're looking for strategies to beat the insurance racket, the pickings are far and few.

Nevertheless, for someone who knows very little about insurance (like me), this book will bring you up to speed on the subject very quickly.
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on April 9, 2013
I never realized the issues involved in buying insurance, whether it is auto, home, motorcycle (I have good health insurance). Hungelmann helps guide you to understand that minimums are potentially dangerous in case you are sued based on your net value or potential for earnings. He guides you in understanding "the gap" that most people have in their insurance policies that make your policy next to useless. Buy it; borrow it; just read it and use that information.
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on June 3, 2013
I recently started working as an insurance agent, and this book is a must-read! It covers the basics but I particularly like that it gives advice on what to buy and what to avoid. It is a consumer oriented book that will help me be a consumer oriented agent. This book will easily pay for itself with the knowledge it delivers. The author makes a somewhat dull subject interesting!
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on December 25, 2012
Wondering what kind of insurance to get? Wondering how to handle an insurance problem? This book not only tells you what kind of insurance to get for your situation, it also helps you handle situations in which insurance is difficult or impossible to come by.

This particular book may be outdated due to the new PPACA.
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on November 24, 2012
I only read the portion dealing with Health Insurance as my family was in the market for a new policy. It did a good job of describing the general principles so that I could speak more intelligently with our insurance agent, but because the copyright is 2009, it is obviously missing details on the Affordable Care Act (aka Obamacare). I have not yet read the other sections, so I cannot comment on those.
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on March 25, 2010
This book is well written and provides practical consumer information on a wide range of insurance coverage. Sleep better knowing you're protected and using your insurance dollars wisely.
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on March 19, 2010
I was reading many other books on insurance at the same time and this one was the best. Unlike some of the other "Dummies" books, and their kind, it is written by someone who has practiced in the field for many years -- an expert, in other words -- rather than a generalist journalist.
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