Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Do you need an Umbrella Policy?

I've been thinking recently about Personal Umbrella Policies (also known as PUPs). A PUP is an insurance policy that protects you against the potentially catastrophic impact of a liability suit. "What are the odds of that?" you may ask. Well, they are a long shot for sure. But that is precisely why the policies are so affordable.

Remember that when you assess a risk, you should ask yourself two questions. First, try to determine the likelihood that the incident occurs. Second, ask yourself the financial impact if that incident were to occur.

For example: the likelihood of my DVD player breaking is reasonably high. I'm sure it will probably happen within a few years. However, the impact is low -- less than $50. So I'm likely not going to buy insurance on my DVD player (although somehow BestBuy convinces millions of people they should....but that's another rant).

On the other hand, the possibility of you being sued for some sort of liability claim is relatively low, but the consequences could ruin you financially. And remember, we aren't just talking about the money you already have. Law suits can impact your wages for the future.

This is where a personal umbrella policy comes in. For likely less than $200/yr. (my GEICO policy is $144/yr.) you can buy $1 million worth of coverage. The coverage in an PUP is usually very broad and may even cover potential liabilities that your homeowners or auto policies do not. If the incident is covered by both policies, the PUP coverage is in addition to the coverage provided by your primary policy.

So is it worth it? Obviously there is no right or wrong answer because no one can see the future. But for less than $200/yr. -- it surely does let me sleep better at night knowing that if I'm at fault in a catastrophic car accident, I won't lose everything I've ever earned (or earn in the future).