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Buy insurance for that bling

By Michelle Singletary
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, February 5, 2011; 9:31 PM

We may be going through a tough economy, but many guys know they had better buy something for their sweetie come Valentine's Day.

Yes, I know that sounds sexist. But let's keep it real. Men spend the most and have to endure the guilt trips if they neglect to purchase chocolate, dinner or diamonds on this retail-driven holiday.

Don't believe me? Well, let's go to a source that would know. As usual, men plan to spend, on average, more than twice as much ($158.71) as women ($75.79), according to the National Retail Federation's 2011 Valentine's Day Consumer Intentions and Actions Survey.

Then there are the guys who will propose on Valentine's Day. I hope they aren't listening to that nonsense that they have to spend two to three times their monthly salary on an engagement ring. Nonetheless, the average amount spent on a ring is nearly $6,000, according to the latest figures from The Knot Wedding Network.

So here's some advice you might not think of as you're shopping for bling: Don't forget to insure it.

Seventeen percent of love-struck shoppers will be buying jewelry this Valentine's Day, shelling out $3.5 billion, up from an estimated $3 billion last year, according to the retail federation. I know what you're thinking. Billions, really? Yes, that is projected billions that could balance the budget in some states.

Market researcher IBISWorld expects jewelry sales to jump 11.3 percent over February 2010.

"Luxury spending is already on the rise, so it will come as no surprise that bracelets, earrings, necklaces and rings will be the go-to gift choice for many Americans," said Nikoleta Panteva, a retail industry analyst for IBISWorld.

IBISWorld expects jewelry to make up nearly 8 percent of all Valentine's Day sales, making its way back to pre-recession levels.

In a survey conducted for the Hartford Financial Services Group, almost one-fifth of respondents said they have lost an expensive piece of jewelry or watch. And more than three-quarters who lost a valuable said it was not insured. In fact, after receiving a gift, 95 percent of respondents said they have not changed their insurance, or initiated a new insurance policy, to cover the expensive item. Thirteen percent of survey respondents said they have bought or received a Valentine's gift that cost $500 or more, of which almost half said they themselves have spent $1,500 on a gift for the holiday.

So you should insure the expensive stuff.

Lisa Lobo, consumer insurance expert for Hartford, and Bob Passmore, senior director of personal lines for the Property Casualty Insurers Association of America, offer these tips when buying pricey jewelry:

l Check to see whether the gift may be covered under the person's homeowner's or rental policy. A homeowner's basic policy will typically have a $1,500 jewelry limit as coverage for theft regardless of the item's value or how many pieces you have, Lobo said. "With the price of gold, you be surprised how quickly you reach that $1,500 level."

l To be sure that all your jewelry is covered for any type of loss, get extended coverage. You can get an add-on to your current policy or a separate policy. With the add-on, you wouldn't be limited to the low coverage under your basic policy, and the extra feature typically costs $50 to $100 a year.

Also consider getting scheduled personal property coverage. This broader policy would give you full coverage for your jewelry on most types of losses.

l If you don't opt for a rider or higher coverage, be clear under what circumstances you can file a claim with your basic policy. Carefully read the language of your policy because only certain specified "perils" would cover your loss. If the item is stolen, your loss would be covered but the limit that you get for theft losses is generally $1,500 total. However, basic policies won't pay out if you lose the jewelry. "That is one of the most 'ah' moments when people realize there is no coverage," Lobo said. A loss due to fire would fall under contents coverage and would not be limited to $1,500.

l Get an appraisal. Although you might not need one under a basic policy, it's good to get a written appraisal at the time of purchase, Passmore said. You will need one for a broader policy.

l Be clear about your deductible. It will apply to a jewelry claim on the basic policy. With the scheduled personal property coverage, however, you would not typically have to pay a deductible, Lobo said.

I know this isn't very romantic. But if you're going to spend big bucks for jewelry, you ought to be sure your sweetie can replace it if it's lost, stolen or goes down the kitchen drain.

Readers can write to Michelle Singletary c/o The Washington Post, 1150 15th St., N.W., Washington, D.C. 20071. Her e-mail: singletarym@washpost.com. Due to the volume of mail, personal responses may not be possible. Please note comments or questions may be used in a future column, with the writer's name, unless a specific request to do otherwise is indicated.

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