Managing Risk – One Insurance Nerd’s Story of Obliviousness and Procrastination
by Mike Carrington, Estate Clarity Advisor and Insurance Executive
Intro: Launching Estate Clarity
As an insurance professional with over two decades of experience in risk management, I’ve seen a lot of different insured loss scenarios over the years. These losses have run the gamut from frivolous 3rd party liability claims to the most catastrophic of losses in property and even life, so suffice it to say I understand the risk of living in an uncertain world. I often find myself reflecting on how complacent and/or unaware we’ve all grown over the years about certain risks and exposures while going about living our daily lives. I too have been lulled into a foolhardy level of optimism and frankly flat out failure to see the leaves through the forest thanks to a healthy dose of situational dismissiveness (i.e. it couldn’t happen to me) coupled with an undertone of incidental indifference (i.e. I have other priorities).
Let’s face facts: it’s easy to do in an increasingly busy world full of needs and priorities, to-dos and commitments, all the while trying to manage an endless supply of 24/7 distractions. However; it is my experienced opinion that regardless of how busy each of us may be, I can say with absolute confidence that there’s never a bad time to prepare. In the immortal words of John Lennon “Life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans”.
Last year when I had the chance to consult with Estate Clarity before their platform launched, I of course jumped at the opportunity as it isn’t every day that one gets to be part of building something that provides a tangible solution empowering everyday people to effectively manage their personal property exposures. Up until the launch of Estate Clarity last Fall, the primary way to document and organize one’s belongings was both extremely manual (i.e. think notepad, receipt folder, and camera) and fraught with safekeeping challenges (e.g. saving documentation onsite in a file cabinet or thumb drive).
For an insurance nerd like me, this tool was an answer to the age-old insurance claim problem of being able to provide proof of your possessions in the event of destruction or theft, but more importantly, I was most impressed with “how” they facilitated the solution process. Estate Clarity created a platform that was easy to use (RE: smartphone app), employed effective risk mitigation techniques (e.g. all records stored offsite in a secured cloud environment) with infinite accessibility (24/7). Boom! If this wasn’t a win-win-win for all of us with personal property asset exposures, I didn’t know what was!
“So, for an insurance nerd like me, this tool was an answer to the age-old insurance claim problem of being able to provide proof of your possessions in the event of destruction or theft, but more importantly, I was most impressed with “how” they facilitated the solution process.”
There I was testing the tool documenting random items around my house with differing attributes including a few items of higher than average value where the feature details were important to note (e.g. my bike is more valuable than one bought at Walmart or REI), a few novel items to determine the cost-benefit breakeven of the documentation process (e.g. is it worth spending 1 min to document our IKEA silverware?) and a few less tangible assets like important papers and documents (e.g. titles, deed, birth certificates). We spent a lot of time focusing on the look and feel of the user interface to make sure the platform was ready to go live. Then came launch day and I sat back and basked in the warm glow of pride from our concerted efforts, like a father watching his son help an elderly woman across the street, it was at that time I officially patted myself on the back and checked the Mission Accomplished box… but was the mission really accomplished?
Mission Accomplished? A real-world scare… Hope is not a strategy.
Fast forward to about two weeks ago… It was just another warm and breezy day across our rural foothill community with most of the residents going about their usual mid-afternoon yard related routines. It’s early June which just so happens to correlate with the start of our fire season here
in Northern California, so it’s not like we’re unaware of the risk, just too caught up in the moment, the daily routine and life in general for most of us to take the small important steps to lock down a comprehensive emergency evacuation plan.
Around four o’clock I was startled from my desk by the oh-too-familiar sound of a Cal Fire spotter plane passing overhead and the view out my window of a large plume of smoke signaling the clear and present danger of a wildfire in our neighborhood. Yikes! No need to freak out just yet I assured myself and my wife; we just need to make sure we are ready to go at a moment’s notice in case the fire turns towards our home. We quickly prepared our vehicles and reviewed our escape plan; kids – check, pets – check, spare clothes – check, firebox – check (i.e. a 60lb banker’s box full of important papers and vital records); OK, we’re ready to roll!
In that moment of controlled panic, I realized my failure… It was as stark as it was clear; my mission from last fall was NOT accomplished as I never took my own advice and documented our valuable possessions with the very tool that I had helped to develop for this exact purpose! forced to leave most of our worldly possessions with only the hope that our insurance company would make us whole with “like & kind” replacement property based solely on my word. You know what they say about hope? It’s NOT a strategy, and in my experience with property claims, I know (or should have known) better than to expect an insurance company to replace my personal property without some sort of proof.
“You know what they say about hope? It’s NOT a strategy, and in my experience with property claims, I know (or should have known) better than to expect an insurance company to replace my personal property without some sort of proof.”
Lucky for us our local fire department was able to extinguish the fire before it had a chance to damage anyone’s property… but in my post-emergency reflection, I had to ask myself “Why didn’t I do this sooner?” I must surmise that regardless of my professional vocation, at the end of the day I’m a red-blooded American and, as such, I tend to be hyper-focused on the now, full of endless optimism, have a love affair with the big picture while being a bit indifferent to details. These attributes, while commendable in many social situations, helped to create an environment of obliviousness that ultimately lead to my failure to properly protect the possessions I have worked so hard to acquire over the years. Later that night, I finally took 45 minutes and documented every darn possession over $300 in my house! 45 minutes is all it took for the peace of mind I needed to safeguard our possessions for when fire returns our neighborhood so no longer will I have to worry about potentially losing tens (if not hundreds) of thousands of dollars in my family’s personal assets.
“Failure to plan is planning to fail and when it comes to your possessions, don’t get screwed by your own lack of effort!”
My message to the rest of you is this: The details matter, bad things do and will happen, take advantage of tools at your disposal and prepare, prepare, prepare. Failure to plan is planning to fail and when it comes to your possessions, don’t get screwed by your own lack of effort! Take an hour TODAY and lock your property up with Estate Clarity.