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You have home insurance to cover the costs you may incur in the event something happens to your home. Fire could ravage your home and render it and all the things inside it worthless and in most cases gone completely.

If something like this were to happen to you would your insurance company give you the accurate value for the contents of your home or just what they think you deserve. If someone broke into your house and ran off with your TV would you be able to claim it if the police recovered it? An even better question should be whether or not the insurance coverage you have will even pay enough to replace everything if you knew what you had.

For these reasons it is imperative that you create a home inventory. The home inventory is essentially a listing of everything you own and where possible how much you paid for it. The more detailed information you can provide the better off you are going to be. For the items you can’t find the exact purchase price it helps to have model and serial numbers on record. These details will not only help to determine replacement cost they will also aid you identifying any stolen items from your home.

You can choose to create your inventory based on the category your items are in or the room where the item resides. Either way you want to make a complete listing of the items for future reference. Include the DVD’s the furniture, HDMI cables, etc. Every item of value. Accurately listing out your items ensures you will get appropriate compensation in the unfortunate event it needs to replaced. I would suggest starting by room and listing each and every item you own. If possible take photos of each of the items and include the date of purchase and where it came from. Some typical items, by room, might include:

Living Room

Coffee Table
End Table
Panasonic 52″ TV Serial XFDET3 HDTV

Dining Room

Grandma’s Fine China (Photo’s)
Dining Table
Eight Chairs
China Cabinet
Buffet Table

Anyway you get the idea. The key here is to make your inventory complete and include as much information about each of the items as you can. If your desk is made of exotic zebra wood make sure you include that tidbit of information. I can assure you that desk would cost a lot more than the one I am using right now.

There are plenty of options for entering and maintaining your home inventory. One of the simplest, and most affordable, options is to utilize a simple spreadsheet and digital photgraphs. There is also an abundance of home inventory software on the market. Quicken offers a Home Inventory Manager which will set you back around $30.  Whether you choose to purchase home inventory software, or utilize some of the free home inventory software options like Know Your Stuff from the Insurance Information Institute the most important thing is to store your inventory off site. If you happen to be an iPhone owner there is an iPhone App I reviewed called Home Inventory you could utilize as well.

Maintaining a perfect inventory of your belongings won’t do you any good if it is in the filing cabinet or on the hard drive of a computer that were in the home that was just destroyed.

Get out there and get inventorying.

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It has been a crazy two days for me, I was an MC at a CyberSecurity conference and have been running around like a chicken with my head cut off.  One of the questions that came up for our panel of experts related to the validity of identity theft “protection” services. While the question wasn’t really on topic it certainly caught my attention as a personal finance blogger.

I really think someone should come around and slap these people for being so bold as to put the word protection anywhere near their logo. What they should really call themselves is personal assistants with an insurance policy rider.  They do not protect you from becoming a victim of identity theft, they really just monitor your credit to determine if you may be a victim.

At the point these services take any sort of action someone has already assumed your identity and is working to take out lines of credit in your name. They have just identified a theft that has already occurred and are working to mitigate that risk. Any credit monitoring service will notify you of inquiries or changes to your credit reports, their service(s) notify them so they can notify you.

Looking through the list of other services included with one of the majorly popular identity theft protection services I actually break out laughing.

  • Wallet Protection – The service I am not naming, actually lists as a feature that they will personally handle getting your contents of your wallet reissued if you lose your wallet. All this really means is someone else will call and ask your bank to issue you a new ATM card, or call your credit card company to get a new CC.
  • Junk Mail/Card Offer Reduction – It is crazy easy to stop getting credit card offers in the mail. You can do this for free, in less than ten minutes on your own. There is absolutely no reason you should consider this a feature of anything.
  • Free Annual Credit Reports – Again, you are paying someone for something that is easy to do, and free. All you have to do is go to one website to pull your three free annual credit reports. Calling this a service is just a giant crock of ….. turkey butts.

But Kyle they say they are going to pay me $1,000,000.00 if my identity gets compromised. RTFP, they say they will pay up to $1,000,000.00 to help FIX the identity theft if was the result of a failure in their service. I don’t know how anything could be a failure in their service since they don’t prevent the fraud, they just detect it early on.

What you really end up getting is a dedicated “assistant” who takes your money and monitors your credit. If something changes they give you a buzz. They also help you do things that are dead simple, and free, for a fee. The only real value is in the money and you only get what it costs to fix the problem, not a real value to you.

Now I know I will get a couple of comments from people telling me the $120 a year or whatever is worth not having the hassle of calling around or dealing with credit bureaus on your own.  I say it is a waste of money. What do you think?

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