Saturday, September 26, 2009

Insurance and Earthquakes

Alas, once again we have found ourselves living in a place where the threat of earthquakes is real. First Tokyo, the KING of earthquakes and now SF, a place of lesser royal descent. In Tokyo you get the "thrill" of feeling the earth shake on a regular basis, your kids have quake-preparedness-bags, you actually keep bottled water in your house and shoes by the bed. In SF, we are complacent. We know there was ONE. We suspect there will be another ONE. So, we prepare by talking about preparing, and of course, spending money on Earthquake insurance, "just in case."
Over the last weeks I have been in the process getting the right level of insurance for our belongings. During this pursuit, I have (unfortunately) come to know a few things I didn't really want to know about insurance:

  • Earthquake insurance is expensive. As in, "sorry kids, there'll be no college" kind of expensive.

  • There is a reverse correlation between what you pay and what you get. You PAY a shit-load for earthquake insurance and YOU get a thimble-full of coverage. Should an earthquake occur, I can maybe get my house rebuilt. What I can't do is replace anything that is actually contained in my house. The State of California regulates how much you can cover your "stuff" for. The maximum "stuff" coverage is $100,000. Seems like a lot of moola, doesn't it? Okay, but now take a quick second and calculate what you think it would cost to replace every thing in your house - every couch, every chair, every glass, every spoon, every item of clothing. Hmmmm? 100 grand doesn't seem to go as far you'd think, eh? But, there's an interesting catch to this - - - The interesting thing is that should your house collapse in an earthquake AND THEN BURST IN TO FLAMES - - - well in this disaster scenario, your regular insurance also kicks in with your earthquake insurance and you are covered for your regular "stuff" coverage. Now that I know this, you can bet that there will be some minor changes to the Wisniewski-Earthquake-Preparedness-Drill.

  • Things that are truly valuable are not technically covered under your "contents" insurance - neither in your regular policy nor your earthquake policy. You must carry these valuable things under a completely separate policy. AND, in order to carry these on your separate policy you must get some one to give you appraisals for all this stuff. (Might I just interject here that getting an appraisal on a couch is not the easiest thing in the world?) But, let's focus on artwork for a sec. See the above picture? I own this painting. I love this painting. I want to insure this painting. So I call the insurance agent. She says get an appraisal. I get a letter of value from a gallery owner that represents this guy. She says this is not good enough, I need a "real appraiser". I say that seems like a whole lot of appraising (aka $$$) for something that is a great painting, but not exactly a Renoir. We talk some more, bantering about the risk/reward of spending $1000 for an appraisal of a painting that's not by Picasso and right before we get off the line she interjects sort of off-handedly, "Well, you could always just get a letter from the artist." (Like this option has just occurred to her in the moment) Hmmm. So we go from needing to get an independent expensive appraisal to the artist just getting to say how much the thing is worth? I know the artist, I can get the letters. My question is - who says that the artist is right? I guess this doesn't matter. Still, food for thought. I'm thinking I can use this my advantage.

Now, armed with this essential insurance information, after the next BIG one in San Francisco the following events will happen in succession in the Wisniewski-Earthquake-Preparedness-Plan:

  1. We will grab the necessities and quickly and efficiently exit our home

  2. We will immediately torch our home using our craftily designed incendiary device which will have been installed to avoid detection from any pesky arson experts after the fact. We will be smart this way!

  3. We will claim on our insurance policy for our house, our stuff and... the one billion dollars each (say this with your best Dr. Evil imitation) for the slightly lopsided ceramic leopard crafted by Henry in London, the three small ceramic bowls used to hold paperclips and safety pins that Shannon made in 1993, and the triceratops-gecko-lizard-mutant sculpture that George made in Germany. We will be able to collect this amount because we will have the aforementioned "letters from the artists" to support our value.

Who'd have thunk it? Elementary school art paving the way to securing our financial future. And there I've been bitching about having to display (and dust) this stuff over the years. I was missing the whole boat. It's good to have a plan....

1 comment:

Chris said...

Who is the artist? I like it.