Are your personal possessions protected with homeowner's insurance? Well, just as with renter's insurance, you want to pay attention to whether your losses will be paid on an "actual cash value" basis or a "replacement cost" basis. The former will cover just the depreciated value of the property at the time of loss. The latter is preferable, covering what it will cost you to replace the property at a current price. You typically will have to cough up extra to get replacement-cost coverage.

Ask the insurer what it shows as the total value of your personal property. Usually, it's an estimate the insurance company makes based on the size of your home and where you live. But it may be out of whack with the actual value of your possessions. You might live in a modest abode but have very expensive taste in clothing, furniture, and accessories, for example. Or, conversely, you may have just purchased a sprawling estate, but it's basically empty because you need to save up for furniture.

Walk through your home and mentally (or in a notebook) add up the cost of things. Then make sure your insurer's estimate is in the right ballpark. If it's not, ask to have the amount adjusted to reflect your own estimate. Your premium will move up or down, but you won't be faced with a horrible surprise if you have a loss, and you won't be paying for insurance you don't need. Review this every year or so, to make sure your insurance keeps up with you.

Also, as with renter's insurance, make sure you understand exactly what's covered and what isn't, and to what extent. There are often limits on how much you can claim in various categories, such as jewelry, art, or cash. If this is the case, and you own a lot of expensive jewelry, you should purchase additional coverage. (Learn how to document your possessions so you can prove your loss.)

We offer more information in our Insurance Center, or you can get your questions answered on our Insurance discussion board. You'll also find the websites of many major insurance companies to be helpful. Depending on the kind of insurance you're after, click over to the websites of companies such as American International Group, Allianz, AXA, Aetna, MetLife, Progressive, and Berkshire Hathaway.

You may not have thought about some kinds of insurance, such as disability or long-term-care insurance, but they're vital for many people. Take a little time to learn more, and you may be very happy you did, if some calamity occurs in the future.

On a related note, you can learn all about how to buy or sell a home by visiting our Home Center, which features lots of money-saving tips and even some special mortgage rates.

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