How Much Would You Replace If You Lost Everything?

Post revision: I wrote this post after seeing images of the horrifying wildfires in California.  This prompted me to think about what would happen in a similar event.  It turns out that someone in the personal finance community was right there.  They were safe but lost everything.  There’s actually a few different posts tied to this topic.  I’m honored to be among them.  See the bottom of the post for the ‘Chain Gang’ on this topic.  

There have been a lot of disasters around the world lately.  Earthquakes.  Hurricanes.  Wild fires.  In each of those tragic situations, many have lost everything.

I live in Michigan.  Many would never consider this a great destination.  Summers are beautiful but short. Because it’s practically surrounded by water, winters are often gray and slushy.

But one thing we have going for us is that we’re not a big target for any natural disasters.

  • Earthquakes – We’re not on or near any known major fault lines.
  • Hurricanes – We’re nowhere near a coastal line.  We might get a day or two of rain a few days after a hurricane fizzles out.
  • Tornadoes – While we’ve had some bad tornadoes, they’re generally not an ongoing, serious threat.
  • Wildfires – We do have a lot of trees here.  There have been instances of fires, of course, but we get enough rain to generally keep things moist enough.  Our worst droughts don’t hold a candle to anything out in California.  Another good benefit from being nearly surrounded by water, I suppose.

What If We Lost Everything?

But it still got me thinking, what happens when you lose everything?  The latest tragedy on the news is the Northern California wildfires.  The images on TV show fire taking out entire neighborhoods.  In many cases, not a thing is left standing.  There is absolutely nothing to save.

So what would you do if that happens to you?

Pretend you have something come in and take out your home and everything inside.  In the scenario, everyone comes out safe, but your stuff?  Gone.  All of it.

So, once you settle with the insurance company, what do you replace?

Nobody will put their house back together exactly as it was.  There’s no way anybody replaces things item for item.  It just doesn’t happen.

What Percentage Of Items Would You Replace?

It got me thinking.  If you lost everything, what percentage of items would you actually replace?

I don’t know if I can have a hard number, but it’s definitely less than 100%.  Let’s think about a few things.


Most people will end up replacing their house.  But in some cases, you might not.  You might not rebuild.  You could sell the lot and buy another home.  Even if you did build a home, it would likely be different.  For one, everything will be new.  You might have a different layout.  You’ll choose different finishes and fixtures.


If you lost everything, you’d need a new wardrobe.  But would you replace, piece by piece, what you had?  I know I wouldn’t.  I’d probably start off with a much smaller wardrobe to begin.  Think of your current clothes in three tiers: New, Good, Near The End.  New items would likely be replaced, as would some good items.  But right now, you probably have a lot of items that you keep but don’t wear often.  Maybe they’re near the end of their life. Perhaps they’re more reminders of something.  In any case, with shirts, pants, shorts, etc. I can almost guarantee I would have less than I do now.

Kids Stuff

We have a lot of stuff from when the kids were babies or younger than they are now.  Some we keep in case anyone else might need it.  Other items we just haven’t gone through yet.  We’ve got a whole lot of toys that can be sold or donated.  The kids would need to replace stuff they use today, but that’s it.

Bedding and Towels

Let’s face it.  When you replace bed sheets or your towels, you probably keep the old ones.  You stick them aside in case you need them for guests or emergencies.  While you’d need to replace what you use, there’s stuff you don’t that you’d skip.

Holiday Stuff

I know for a fact we wouldn’t replace all of our Christmas stuff.  One of the things I have is a Christmas village. I’ve built up the collection for years.  I love it and put it out every year.  But if we lost everything, I’m not sure I would instantly replace it.  Since many of the items were gifts, or bought at special times, replacing the whole thing piece for piece wouldn’t be the same.

Heirlooms and Other Irreplaceable Items

We’ve got some items that were passed along from family.  You simply couldn’t replace the item.  Even if you did find that exact same china set, it’s not the one your grandmother picked out and used.  The same goes with pictures (pre-digital era) and other treasures.

What Does This Mean?

Thinking about this gives me a few takeaways:

  1. I need an updated digital inventory. It’s hard to imagine going through and documenting things by the item.  But a video walkthrough would let you see much of what you lost.  This would help for insurance purposes.  It’d also help you create a list of items to replace.
  2. There’s a lot of excess. If you could live without something after you lost it, could you now?  I wouldn’t get rid of the heirlooms.  But, chances are you’re sitting on a lot of items that you wouldn’t miss.  Maybe now is your chance to reduce some clutter.
  3. It’s hard to imagine.   You live with the stuff you have.  You spend hours buying it, cleaning it, keeping it.  To imagine not having any of it is pretty hard, isn’t it?
  4. It reminds you of what’s important.  As hard as it is imagining life without your items, it’s just stuff.  I know that if something bad did happen, none of it would matter.  My wife and my kids.  That would be my list of what I’d need.  It would suck to lose everything else.  But even if you did lose everything else, guess what?  Life could still get back to normal one day.

The Chain Gang

Here are other posts.  Please give them a read.

Anchor Post: DadsDollarsDebt – Tubb’s Fire – A Sudden Evacuation19
Co-Anchor: Chief Mom Officer – A Harrowing Escape Inspires The Personal Finance Community – Beyond The Emergency Fund5
1: OthalaFehu – Cool As A Cucumber2
2: The Retirement Manifesto – Am I A Prepper?1
3: Mrs. Retire to Roots – In Case Of Emergency Follow The Plan
4: The Lady In Black – Emergency Preparedness1
5: The Green Swan – Preparing For The Worst1

6: Minafi – Minimal Hurricane Preparation3
7: A Gai Shan Life – Earthquake and disaster preparedness1
8: The Financial Journeyman – Emergency Preparation: Be Proactive1
9: John And Jane Doe – Thinking the Worst: Emergency Planning or Fighting the Last War?
10: Adventure Rich – Emergency Preparation Up North

11: Money Beagle – How Much Would You Replace If You Lost Everything?
12: Crispy Doc – Fighting Fire With FI/RE1
13: She Picks Up Pennies – How Can A Planner Be Unprepared?
14: Chronicles Of A Father-Getting Ready for a Natural Disaster
15: Rogue Dad MD- Disrupting the Equilibrium1

16: Unique Gifter-10 Ways To Help Disaster Victims
17: SomeRandomGuyOnline-Friday Blog Roundup – Emergency Preparedness Edition3
18: 99 to 1 Percent: 15 Frugal Ways To Prepare For An Emergency
19: I Dream Of FIRE – Your house is burning and you can only save 10 things – what do you choose?

Readers, have you ever thought about potentially losing everything?  If every material possession went away, how much do you think you’d replace?  What does this tell you about how much you have now?

What Factors Determine Auto Insurance Pricing?

Shopping around for car insurance can be confusing.  Finding one that best suits your needs (and budget) can be just as intimidating.  What you have to realize before you even begin, however, is that while companies often differ in regard to the premiums that they offer to you.  There are several factors that will automatically result in you having a higher or lower premium.


Your age, gender, marital status, and where you live can all affect your auto insurance premiums.  If you’re under the age of 25, you’re statistically more likely to be in a car crash.  Insurance companies will put a higher premium on your policy.  However, if you are a student, many insurance companies will offer you a discount.  Don’t forget to ask about that if it applies to you.

In terms of gender, this is often tied in with age—specifically, young men tend to be in more crashes compared with young women.  However, the opposite is the case for the older cohorts.


Image from morguefile courtesy of finance

Where you call home (or more specifically, where the car will be located) can have a major effect on your premiums.  Living in a big city with higher crime rates will put you on the path to pay higher rates.  This holds true no matter the company.  On the other hand, if you live in a small, quiet town out in the country, statistically you’re more likely to be safe from auto theft or vandalism and thus will likely have a lower premium on your auto insurance.

The Car

The type of car you drive plays a big factor in your rates. How old is your car?  What model is it?  What are the safety ratings?  These things have a big impact on your rates.  A car that’s rated as more safe will receive a lower premium than a car that’s rated as less safe.  While this seems obvious, many people don’t think of this when car shopping.

Additionally, larger vehicles tend to be safer than smaller vehicles.  Thus, they will often receive a lower premium.  However, if the engine itself is large compared to the size of the car, then the premium may be increased.  This means you, sports car drivers!

Your Driving Record

Are you a good driver?  Or have you been in more accidents than you have fingers on your hands? Someone who has never been in an accident will often get a lower premium than someone who has been in several.

These are just some of the ways that insurance companies come up with the premium for your specific insurance policy. Keep in mind, insurance companies often will also offer various discounts, so while you may suffer some “hits” from the factors mentioned above, you might be able to find other ways to save and thus reduce the overall premium for your auto insurance policy.

Personal Finance For Young Adults

When you’re out on your own for the first time, it can be easy to live life to the fullest and avoid making a financial plan for the future. While it’s important to have plenty of fun while you’re in college, it’s absolutely vital that you form solid personal finance habits for the future. If you’re hoping to establish a bright financial future, consider the following tips regarding personal finance for young adults.

Avoid Going Out Every Weekend

College students often find that their weekly budget is completely decimated by the end of a long night of partying. While exploring local bars can be a blast, it’s never a good idea to make it a weekly habit. If you love being social with your friends but you’d like to save money, be honest and open about the fact that you’re trying to conserve cash. Instead of going out for drinks every weekend, host a game or movie night at your apartment.  Make it BYOB to really save some money.

Shop at Stores That Offer Student Discounts

While it might feel like college is the most expensive time of your life, you can actually use your status as a full-time student to your advantage. Several stores offer steep discounts for students, including the one-stop-shop of Amazon and clothing retailers like J. Crew. While it’s smart to be frugal, everyone needs new clothes occasionally.  Often you can use your student ID card to score great deals.

Find New Auto Insurance

If your parents have cut you loose from their auto insurance, you might be tempted to go with one of the big-name insurers simply because you’ve heard about them. However, it’s often worth your while to shop for a local auto insurance company. It’s incredibly important to have car insurance so you’re prepared for the unexpected.  You’ll want to have the best coverage possible for the lowest price available.

Build Your Credit

Many students are unaware of how important it is to start building a spotless credit history during your college years. If you’ve heard about the dangers of credit cards and you believe you might be tempted to overspend if you apply for a card to your favorite store, opt for something boring, like a gasoline card. If you have a car on campus, you’ll need to refuel on a regular basis.  Having a gas card makes financial sense.  Just make sure you’re committed to paying off the balance in full each month.

Get a Part-Time Job

College tuition is skyrocketing, and ensuring that your grades are up to par is a must on your to-do list. However, if you’re an established student with good study habits, it might be the ideal time to start looking for a part-time job. If you’re hoping for a manager who’s understanding of your situation, consider searching for jobs within your university. These types of jobs are usually low-stress.  You can earn extra income while also having the ability to take off work as needed. In addition to the income that you’ll earn, a job is also great to have on your resume for after graduation.

Thinking Of Switching Roadside Assistance Carriers

Having roadside assistance is important to us.  Though it’s been years since we’ve actually used it, the fact that we tow a couple of thousand miles per year makes it something we want to have.  Plus, I know that the minute I cancelled, we’d have something happen!

One mainstay I’ve had in my ‘adult’ life is that I’ve carried AAA for roadside assistance.  I actually have been covered since I got my license, which happens to be 25 years.  So, you’d think I’d want to celebrate by sticking around, but I think it’s actually time for a change.

Our Current Roadside Assistance Coverage Through AAA

AAA offers three levels of coverage.  We had a hybrid between two options.  I was covered under the mid-tier option which covered not only towing and services for regular driving, but also for our RV.  It also allowed both to be towed for 100 miles before additional charges kicked in.  My wife was covered under their basic plan which covered basic towing up to five miles.  Because she drives in the Metro Detroit area, and I do all the RV driving, this worked great.  And, we signed up with a discount on the family option.

The AAA Change Of Plan

Image from Morguefile courtesy of Alvimann
Image from Morguefile courtesy of Alvimann

So what happened?  Why are we looking to change?  Because when I opened the bill this year, I saw that our bill went up $24.  When I called to ask about the increase, they told me that they were no longer offering the hybrid option.  So, if one person in the family requires higher coverage, everybody covered has to have higher coverage.  This added $20 to cover my wife, with the remaining $4 being a normal annual increase.

I asked the agent why they made the change, and after she couldn’t really give a reason, it became apparent that it was basically a money grab.  They probably had a lot of people doing exactly as we were, and as a way to increase revenue they changed the rules.

Looking At Options

I started looking around and narrowed down our options to three carriers that I found had good reviews and offered services we needed:

  1. AAA – They’ve served us well and have a great reputation, so I kept on the table the option to stick with them.  Cost: $136
  2. Allstate Motor Club – We use Allstate for all the rest of our insurance needs.  They had coverage that would match everything we had with AAA and we could get it for around $95 for the first year, which was great.  What wasn’t great is that it goes up to around the same price as AAA after the first year.
  3. Good Sam – I do a lot of reading up on things to do with our RV, and in the RV world, Good Sam is about a common name as they come.  They offer a roadside plan that actually has no towing limits for cars or our RV (meaning we can get towed to the nearest service center no matter how far away it is).  The cost is $80 for the first year, increasing to $105 or $115 after the first year, though you can lock up to three years at the intro rate by paying up front.

Our Decision

Right now, I’m leaning toward the Good Sam plan. It gets great reviews, seems to have a lot of participating stations so you’re always covered, and the price and increased coverage help as well.   I’m on the fence as to whether to pay up front for an extra year or two to lock in the discount, or if we should see how things go the first year, then pay a higher rate (which would still be cheaper than the other two).

We have nearly another month to decide as our AAA coverage is good until the end of the month.

Readers, who do you use for roadside assistance coverage?  Any really positive stories?  How about horror stories?  Please let me know in the comments below.

Life Insurance – Because Dying Is Not So Abstract Anymore

“We’re not the young people here at work.  When did that happen?  Now we worry about things like…life insurance!”

As we were discussing careers, a colleague and I lamented this thought.  I remember back when I started and was working with people all older than me.  They were all people with spouses and kids and mortgages and real responsibilities.  I was the young kid talking about going out, showing them how to do the Macarena (it *was* 1996) and not worrying about much else.

Now I look around and I’m in the group with the spouse and kids and mortgage and all the other responsibilities that go along with it.  How quickly does it all happen?  In the blink of an eye.

A More Serious Take

That’s the kind of fun approach to looking at how things have changed.  I have so much more to think about now, but the truth is that there’s a lot more serious part that also fits in, specifically what about if I were to get sick, or even worse, what if I were to die.

Nobody wants to think about it, and when I was back in my 20’s, I pretty much didn’t.  At that time, people our age just didn’t die.  I’d had older relatives die so it wasn’t like I was exposed to death, but for the most part, nobody that I really knew in my age group had died or even been seriously sick.  It was always one of those things to worry about ‘later’.

Later Arrived Much Sooner

There was a guy,Paul, that I graduated college with who was always a pretty cool guy.  Paul and I weren’t buddies and we didn’t hang out in the same circle of friends, but our circles overlapped so we saw each other a lot.  He was a really cool guy and you could tell that he was really enthusiastic about life and always there when someone needed him.

He and I graduated together and went our separate ways.  We never stayed in touch, except when that glorious thing called Facebook came in vogue the opened your circles back up that you’d thought might have been forever closed.

Paul was one of the people that Facebook allowed me to reconnect with and I was able to see that he was doing well.  He’d continued his education, gotten his doctorate, and was a professor in Colorado.  In addition, he was working to turn a passion, drinking craft beer, into a reality, investing in a new local brewery.

He had a wife and a couple of young kids.  A pretty similar story to yours truly.

Then about a year and a half ago he posted that he wasn’t feeling well and was going in for some tests.  He actually created a private Facebook group to post updates to those who wanted to know what was going on.  I immediately joined.

The news, when it came back, wasn’t good.  Paul had a very aggressive form of cancer but he immediately started an equally aggressive treatment plan.  The updates to the group were incredible, full of lots of ups and downs, but he always believed that what he was doing would cure him. At the end of his treatment schedule, all of the blood tests and basic scans gave hopes that it might have.

He had to do a more detailed scan at the end of last year, and unfortunately the results were terrible.  There was still cancer in every spot where it’d originally been found plus it was in new areas.  Long story short, some of the most aggressive treatments available had reduced it but not even wiped one spot clean.

The news was grim.  It came right before Christmas, and although Paul expressed a willingness to keep fighting (and he did keep fighting), you could sense a resignation and that he was now also preparing to die.  Which, sadly he did this past July.  He left behind a wife and two small children, just older than my own.

Later Arrived Again

Another person from my college graduating class posted something last month that shocked me.  Her husband, who also graduated with us, though I don’t remember him, had had a series of strokes and was in the hospital and would require brain surgery.

Prior to that, they’d often post pictures of them as a couple doing CrossFit.  He was basically an actual iron man.  He was in peak physical condition yet now had stroke and brain surgery rehabilitation surgery.  It really rattled me.

In this person’s case, the potential for a full recovery is still much higher, but it still shakes you to the bone.   when These are people the same age as you and that people the same age as you are getting sick, and not just with the flu or mono.

Planning For Life But Without Guarantees

Seeing these things happen has hit home.  It hasn’t turned me into a person obsessed with death or sickness.  I don’t walk around thinking about death all the time and I don’t look at everything as a potential sickness.  I haven’t changed my diet or exercise (though I probably could stand to).

But I do think about it.  I do plan to live, but I now realize that my plans might not come true.  You never know what’s going to happen, and you never know when.

Live Life But Plan For Death

Life insurance has always been something I had for years, but really got serious about once we started our family.  Back when I was single, I took the basic life insurance plan that was available to me. I figured that if I were to die that I would just need my funeral arrangements taken care of.

After I got married, as the primary breadwinner, I bumped things up a bit, but some of the default options were still just fine.

When we had kids, that’s when things changed.  After becoming a father, I really looked at my options seriously.  At the time, my employer had very generous offerings, and provided adequate coverage.  A couple of years back our coverage options were reduced.  I knew that, for the first time, I’d have to look for insurance on the open market.

Once getting started, the process was straightforward.

  • Determine who needs coverage. My wife and I both knew that if one of us were to die, the other person would have a financial burden.  I work and provide most of the household income, where she stays home, thus providing child care and offsetting other costs.  So, we determined that we both needed some level of coverage.
  • Estimate the amount needed. We knew that I should have more coverage than her.  We ran some numbers through some estimators and came up with what we thought were fair amounts.
  • Brush up on verbiage. I spent some time getting to understand the various types of life insurance and understanding some standard options.  When you ask for and receive quotes to compare, you want the information to be comparable.
  • Get quotes. We got quotes from a variety of sources, including our agent for home and auto coverage.  We looked up reputable companies online, reading reviews and using trusted sources (lie fellow bloggers that I’d worked with for a long time) to narrow things down.  So much has transitioned to online these days that you can have quotes at your fingertips within moments.
  • Compare. We made sure that our quotes were covering the same things and looked at other items and
    mb-2015-03-checkbook clauses.  I  had some phone conversations as well as e-mail exchanges to make sure I had every question answered.
  • Look ahead.  We ended up getting life insurance that covers 20 years.  What this means is that as long as we pay in our annual dues every year, our rates or coverage don’t change for 20 years.  When we first signed up, our kids were 4 and 2.  We wanted coverage until they would be at or near the point where costs for them to grow up and go to school would be covered, should my wife or I die.
  • Keep options open. One thing that I learned that was really key to life insurance is that you can carry multiple policies.  So, if we decided we needed more coverage, we can add a second policy to cover our needs.  Understanding this flexibility made our decision seem a lot less permanent.

In the end, as with anybody that buys it, we hope that life insurance is something that we don’t use.  Paul didn’t make it to see his kids grow up and to get to grow old with his spouse.  I hope to do these things, If that’s not part of the plan that I’m not aware of, I’m comfortable knowing that the people who depend on me will not have money as something that they need to worry about.

Scoring a Deal: Common Car Insurance Quandaries to Be Aware Of

Car insurance can be extremely confusing. There’s of course basic coverage and protection to have.  There are also additional items and sub limits that you need to be aware of. Not every motorist’s situation will call for additional coverages or higher than minimum protection.  However, you never want to guess with insurance coverage. After all, it’s designed to protect your financials in case something unexpected happens.

Here are some of the more common options that you should be considering with your car insurance situation:

Uninsured and Underinsured Car Insurance Coverage

The law says that every driver must have car insurance.  Still, there are many people who drive without.  Additionally, there are countless more people who are covered but underinsured.  These are scary thoughts.  What if your car is worth $30,000 and when someone slams into you, you find that their minimum coverage only covers $15,000?

In addition to the other damage that could be caused (hitting a fence, causing damage to a neighboring building or tearing up the yard where one of the cars ends up, just to name a few), you now have someone either with zero car insurance or with the “cut rate” state minimums and they will be responsible to pay all of that money. The chances that it actually happens are slim to none.  If it does, you can use the uninsured and underinsured options your policy provides you with to cover any resulting gaps.

Common Exclusions and Barred Drivers

You need to know the specific language of your actual policy to know what it excludes and covers. What if you’re towing a trailer and your policy doesn’t allow coverage on the trailer due to the size? What if you deliver pizzas or drive for Uber and find that your policy doesn’t cover work driving?How about  if your roommate needs to back your car out of the drive, and damages another car in the process?

All of these things not only can happen, but they do, each and every day. You have to know that your specific auto policy is not just a guideline.  It is actually a legal contract that you are responsible to maintain and follow the directions and agreement within. If you suffer a loss while doing something that’s not covered,  you’ll have a vehicle needing repair but no money to do so. Know the specifics ahead of time.  Verify that the company you receive a quote from will in fact step up when something goes wrong.

Know What Your Limits Are

It is extremely important to know what is excluded.  You also want to know every benefit afforded to you when shopping for new car insurance rates. There are many cool sites out there that can provide comparisons.  Something like this can be helpful so that you’re getting equivalent information.

What if your limits do include the perks like rental reimbursement and towing after a collision? Do your limits include lost wages if you can’t work? What about the coverage for your passengers that are inside the vehicle? Some people think that every car insurance option is exactly the same.  But there are so many options offered that if you don’t know the particulars, you could have a big problem.

Knowing the amount of car insurance you pay as well as the amount of coverage you have are essential to know.  Other pertinent information still lies within. Drivers need to know that their vehicle and their financial assets (as well as their health) will be protected in case something does happen and an accident does occur. By taking the time to thoroughly quote auto insurance with a provider that knows their stuff, you have a much better shot of being covered in the worst-case scenario of an auto accident.