There are lots of things to consider at the start of a new year. In many cases, these will vary from province to province, so it’s important to speak with a lawyer in your area to get advice that’s tailored to your circumstances. The following information isn’t legal advice, and doesn’t take the place of speaking with a qualified lawyer.
Every year on New Year’s Eve when the clock strikes midnight, many of us are thinking about parties and holidays. But there are a number of things that we should add to our list to consider every time we start a new year. Things like updating our insurance and changing passwords. These may not be as much fun as watching the ball drop, but they’ll set us up for a good year in important ways.
UPDATE INSURANCE POLICIES
The first thing we should be thinking about annually, and the New Year is a good reminder, is updating insurance policies to make sure that they reflect our circumstances and our needs. This includes house and car policies – are you covered for damage from an ice storm? Are you now driving to work when you used to walk? But it also includes your health and life insurance policies. You want to make sure that if you’ve entered into a new relationship or ended a relationship, you’ve updated your health insurance coverage to reflect that change. These policies can be worth a lot, and most of the time you have a set period to make a change after a life event. For your life insurance, you want to take a minute think about whether you’re still happy with your choice of beneficiary – that is, the person who will get the insurance money if something happens to you. If not, you should make a change.
GET TRAVEL INSURANCE
Around the holidays, a lot of people are taking vacations. You may have booked a great sun getaway filled with activities that make you forget about all the snow and cold weather. But one of the things people sometimes forget to think about is their travel health insurance. It goes without saying that anytime you leave the country, you should make sure to get health insurance for wherever you’re traveling. Many people have this through their jobs, but otherwise you can typically buy coverage. The thing to remember, whether you have coverage or you’re buying it, is to ask about the activities you intend to participate in while you’re away, especially if you’re doing anything considered an “extreme sport”. So if your resort offers parasailing or hang gliding or even scuba diving, there’s a chance that your travel insurance won’t cover you if you’re injured while doing one of these activities.
There have been cases of people buying insurance and having an accident, and their policy won’t pay their medical bills because they were doing something that was excluded from the policy. A Canadian recently had this happen when she went sky diving. She ended up accumulating hospital costs of more than $500,000 in just two weeks of treatment in the USA, and she wasn’t covered by her policy. You can always read through your policy to see what’s excluded, and if anything is unclear make sure you call ahead of time to find out if you’ll be covered and, if not, whether there’s additional insurance you can buy.
PROVINCIAL HEALTH INSURANCE
For people in Ontario, it’s important to mention that as of January 1st, your provincial health insurance will no longer pay any out-of-country medical expenses. It used to be that the province would cover some amount – up to $400 a day for intensive care treatment out of the country – and now that’s been cut. This cut is being challenged by the Canadian Snowbird Association, but the legal challenge isn’t heading to court until June, so we don’t yet know what will happen. We have to assume that there’s no coverage and act accordingly when buying insurance.
CHECK YOUR CREDIT SCORE
The new year is also a good time to check your credit. This will have the effect of telling you whether there’s been any identity theft, fraud, etc. that has affected your credit score. You want to make sure that no one’s out there taking out credit cards in your name and racking up debt. Checking yearly will make sure that if there’s any unwanted activity, you’ll catch it before too long. Checking your credit won’t lower your credit score; it’s only certain types of credit inquiries (like if you’re taking out a loan or a mortgage) that will have an effect on your credit score.
CHANGE YOUR PASSWORDS
One other thing to consider yearly, and the New Year is a good time, is changing passwords for the online accounts you use. Every year, internet security companies release lists of the most common (meaning the worst) passwords that people use. If you are still using 11111 or 12345, it’s time to change your password! Passwords get stale and the longer you use them, the better the chance that they’ll be hacked. You also want to avoid using the same password for multiple accounts.
All of these items are less fun than being at a New Year’s party, but they’ll help you in the long run. Let the new year be a time for celebrating, and then for spending a few minutes setting up the year to come so that you have less to worry about.