Archive for July, 2014

Fast Times at Mayfield High

reunion5This past week was my 30th high school reunion. In fact, it was the first reunion that I have ever attended. It’s not that I didn’t want to attend others, but like many people, things in our busy lives often don’t afford us the luxury of time. But this year was different and I made a conscious effort to make the time to attend what turned out to be an awesome event.

I’ve often wondered what went through Cameron Crowe’s mind as he returned to high school to write Fast Times at Ridgemont High, a staple of our generation. Who can forget Jeff Spicoli, Mr. Hand or Phoebe Cates in a bikini! I would love to talk to Crowe about what he expected when he disguised himself as a teen and documented a semester’s worth of hijinks. My guess is his emotions were similar to mine. Anticipation, angst, excitement. All I knew was that there would be pizza, booze and Ray Recchia’s famous cannoli’s, which covered all of the necessary food groups for the evening.

The reunion was uniquely odd for me because I technically didn’t graduate from the high school that I consider to be my alma mater. Heck, I attended the Mayfield schools since kindergarten, which is a really long time when you are young. As I got into high school I probably didn’t attend as much as I should have, but certainly enough to keep my grades to a level where my parents left me alone. But just prior to my junior year, my dad was transferred to a different state, where I finished up high school. Despite that move, I never really lost my Cleveland roots, which I am sure most Clevelanders understand. As they say, you can take the boy out of Cleveland, but you can never take the Cleveland out of the boy. I certainly never lost my love for Mayfield, or the friends that I have known since elementary and middle school.

Like many graduates of the class of 1984, I left home, went to college, got a job, got married, had kids and lost touch with a lot of the friends that we had growing up. While we made new friends, it is very hard to replicate the types of friendships that we have while in school. I’m not sure why those friendships are different, and maybe they aren’t. Perhaps it is just the age and our perception of life as we know it at that time.

In many ways it was social networking that brought a lot of us back together. As we scattered, many people simply lost touch with one another. It really wasn’t until the advent of Facebook that I began to reconnect with dozens of people from my formative years. What was so amazing about this high school reunion was that it didn’t seem like thirty years hadn’t passed.

Sure, we have grown up. Some have lost hair, others put on a few pounds and there are some wrinkles here or there. But people didn’t seem like they were approaching fifty. They seemed the same as always. The smiles, the warm personalities, the sense of humor were just as I remembered.

While we talked about family and careers, those conversations often digressed to the silly things we used to do as kids. It is amazing the stuff that people remember from so long ago. Most of it was very funny and has me wondering what my kids are really up to. There were also serious conversations, in particular about my son Brad ( and his battle with cancer. Having such prayers and support from people you haven’t seen in so long is a truly amazing experience and is yet another example of the caring nature of people I grew up with.

Many of the things we talked about I had literally forgotten. In fact, “Do you remember that time when…” was probably the most spoken phrase of the evening. It might not have been that one time in band camp, but it definitely involved 3.2% beer, the stuff you could legally buy at 18, but for all practical purposes only needed to be about 16. We talked about teachers, some we loved and others not so much. There were trips to the principal’s office where spanking was often the punishment, cruising up and down Euclid or Mayfield on summer evenings, Friday night lights, and just about everything else that made growing up so much fun.
There were a lot of recollections by others of trips to my house, which was surrounded by woods, a short bike ride out of town. We lived on a steep hill, had a detached garage and sat atop a cliff above the Chagrin River, where we often played on homemade rafts. We had built a club house in the attic of that garage where many a nights were spent goofing around, occasionally sneaking drinks from my parent’s liquor cabinet.

I drove by our old house that seemed so big when I was so little. Now it seems so little. I’m not sure if it is the house that is little or the multi-million dollar McMansions going in around it that skews its size. The drives that seemed so far as a kid, now seemed so short. The memories of the stupid things we used to do, that we would never allow our kids to do, came rushing back. But somehow, we managed to survive. There were no such things as bicycle helmets. We drank sugary sodas, rode in the back of pickup trucks, stayed out after dark without fear of abduction and rooted for our beloved Chief Wahoo, who still ranks as the greatest mascot in professional sports.

My wife, Susan, attended the reunion with me. She had never gone to one until her 25th, and had really enjoyed it. I was a little apprehensive…hey, we all have a few skeletons! On the flip side, I had the benefit of showing how far above my pay grade I had married. Not bad for a kid from the east side of Cleveland.

All in all, it was a great weekend. Some of it involved pre-reunion activities at the Cork and Bottle in Mayfield Heights, which has really improved with age. Don’t get me wrong, it is still a dive, but not nearly as divey as I remember it. I didn’t see any underage drinking going on, so they must have cracked down on that. They also ripped out the linoleum floors and put down tile. Quite an upgrade. There is still a jukebox in the corner, but I missed the pool tables.

We had a chance to visit old non-school friends, cruised around a bit, seeing things that have changed and other things that are timeless. When on the east side of Cleveland, eating some of the best Italian around is a must, which we did. This is especially true when you live in Florida, as I do, where good, authentic Italian is about as rare as a properly cast ballot on Election Day.

My advice to those who haven’t returned to a reunion is to take a chance. Thirty years removed from school changes us. We have grown, matured and become responsible adults. But, if only for a night, we get to revert back to childhood and our true inner selves. I found that the good qualities of people really stood out. All in all, our journey through life has made all of us better, wiser and more compassionate.

I’m sure if Cameron Crowe returned to Clairemont Mesa High, the setting for fictional Ridgemont, he would find the same things. Jeff Spicoli found the gnarliest break on the California coast, Brad retired from Fast Food and became a stereo salesman, Stacey and Rat are happily married with kids of their own, Mr. Vargas still sticks to decaffeinated coffee and Phoebe Cates still is a knockout in that red bikini. Some things just never change.

I guess in the end, to paraphrase Jimmy Buffet, we are the people our parents warned us about.


Christopher Tidball is an insurance consultant, speaker, freelance writer and author of multiple books including Kicked to the Curb: 20 Essential Rules To Come Out on Top When Your Life Has Been Turned Upside Down. To learn more, please visit


July 16, 2014 at 9:59 am Leave a comment

How Much Insurance Do You Really Need?

People generally have a love / hate relationship with insurance companies. We certainly don’t like the bills and rising premiums, especially those of us with teenage drivers. But we certainly don’t mind when they pay us promptly for a claim.

When it comes to expenses, insurance can be one of the biggest monthly outlays of cash. But, can you do without it? Well, I guess that depends on your individual situation. So let’s take a look at the various types of insurance and you can determine what is best for your needs.

Auto insurance is something that impacts nearly everyone. In most states, liability coverage is required. In all states, it makes absolutely no sense to go without auto insurance if you own a car. But auto insurance can be very confusing, so let’s take a look at what coverage you should have on your personal vehicles.

Comprehensive/Collision- This protects your own car in the event of damage. These coverage’s can be purchased individually. Comprehensive, which covers things like fire, theft and flood, is usually very cheap, so it is recommended on most vehicles. Collision is more costly, and the having this should be based upon cash on hand to replace a vehicle coupled with the ACV of the car which can be checked at

Liability- This will cover you, or a covered party, in the event of an at fault accident for bodily injury or property damage to others. It is mandatory in most states. While younger drivers can get away with lower limits, as soon as one starts accumulating assets it is recommended to never have less than 100/300 in BI limits.

UM/UIM- Equally as important as liability is uninsured and under insured motorist coverage that will cover you in the event that a person with no or low limits causes an accident. Don’t skimp on coverage here. There are millions of uninsured drivers on the road! There are many more who lack sufficient coverage to pay for the full value of damages. Get an amount equal to your liability limits and stack the policy if you have multiple vehicles. This means that you can get the limits multiplied by the number of vehicles on the policy.

PIP/Medpay- PIP is mandatory in some states and Medpay can be used as supplemental coverage. In non-PIP states, MedPay is provided as an option to cover damages to you or other covered parties occupying your car. This is good first party coverage to have, especially if you don’t have health insurance or have a health deductible to meet.

Rental- This can come in handy if your car is out of service and is inexpensive.

Towing/Glass- This coverage is usually very cheap and can come in handy.

Your next consideration is your personal property, including residences. This will include either Renter’s insurance or Homeowner’s insurance. Both are extremely important. Many renter’s lose sight of the need for this type of insurance, only to find out the challenges they will have to overcome in the event of fire, theft or other peril. As for homeowner’s, covering both personal property and possessions is equally important. When purchasing coverage, ensure that you consider the value of the replacement cost of both the home and the contents. Cheaper policies may be available, but the last thing you want in the event of a claim is to be handed a check for the depreciated value of your possessions or funds that don’t cover contractor rebuilding costs of your home.

Note that there are many limitations on homeowner’s coverage’s when it comes to jewelry, guns and other collectibles. In situations where you need additional coverage, an inland marine policy should be considered.

Another very important consideration is flood insurance. Most people don’t know that the majority of flood claims occur in zones where flood insurance isn’t required. The reality is that most people live in some type of flood zone, even in situations where there may be a disaster every 500 years. Flood damage is excluded in homeowner’s policies, so this is a very important coverage to have.

Earthquake coverage is disaster coverage worth considering. While only 10% of Californians possess this coverage, there are a number of other earthquake prone areas of the country, where the ground has a history or moving unexpectedly.

When it comes to one’s well-being, health insurance is a key priority. With the passage of the Affordable Care Act, it became the law of the land with the exception of some special interests who were granted exclusions. Regardless, health insurance is extremely important. Equally as important is the quality of the policy. According to an AP poll, more than half of all Obamacare policies exclude coverage at high end cancer hospitals, such as Memorial Sloan Kettering and MD Anderson. Still other policies available through various exchanges exclude, or limit, coverage at out of state hospitals. Make sure that you read your policy and understand what is and is not covered. If there are glaring exclusions, then take the steps to garner a secondary, supplemental policy to ensure that you will have access to the best coverage available should the need arise.

In addition to health insurance, life insurance is a key consideration. There is a wide variety of life insurance available, with the most common being whole and term. Think of whole life as an interest bearing savings account that can accrue for as long as the policy is owned. When surrendered, after a small fee, the policyholder can cashout their earnings. Term life is limited to a fixed period of time and will pay out specific amounts in the event of death. What type you choose will require some due diligence. For the purposes of this article, the message is to have life insurance to cover economic loss in the event of death. It is equally as important to have spousal life insurance equal to the value of their contribution to the household. As a rule of thumb, life insurance should be at least twice your annual income, at a minimum.

One often overlooked insurance coverage is disability. The reality is that humans are fragile and over time we tend to break. A large percentage of Americans are disabled and not all quality for social security disability. If you are temporarily or permanently injured will be critical to have sustainable income. While this coverage can be obtained relatively inexpensively through some employers, it can be very expensive when purchased in the private health marketplace.

For those who provide professional services, ranging from doctors and lawyers to authors and consultants, it is very important to have professional liability coverage.
If you have assets, it is beneficial to get an umbrella policy. Umbrellas will serve as excess coverage to things like auto, home or boat insurance. Given the litigious nature of the United States, being fully insured is a worthwhile protection.

As we age, the variety of policies and coverage’s needed will change. Let’s take a look by age group as to the most important coverage’s.

Teens- Auto is the big one here. Teenage drivers will drive up your premiums, but they have to be covered. Don’t be tempted to cut back on coverage, especially when covering the age group with the highest propensity for an accident with the understanding that you need to also protect your assets. That said, when a teenager turns eighteen, there can be many advantages to putting the title in only the teens name and lowering the limits on the vehicle.

Twenties- Ah, the age of invincibility. Who needs insurance? That is often the mindset of the perpetually broken, just out of college crowd. Many don’t have health insurance, some don’t have auto insurance, renter’s coverage is sporadic and most other insurance is an afterthought. Twenty something’s should be focusing on their future and how to best prepare for that. Lack of health insurance is the #1 cause of bankruptcy in the United States. While this age group is healthy, adversity can occur, as was the case with my son, who at 21, was diagnosed with cancer. Fortunately he had a policy that covered treatment at a top rated facility in another state. Had he not had coverage, his financial future would be greatly compromised. So too are the futures of others faced with serious illness or injury in this age group.

Thirties- Now you have started to accrue assets and maybe have some children. You probably own a home and have a couple of cars. It is time to make sure that your coverage is up to date, too. Auto, home, health and life are all very important. It is probably time for an umbrella policy. If you are married and have children, life insurance is a must. If you are a professional, then make sure you have Professional Liability. If you own a business, make sure you have general liability.

Forties- These are the years when people generally hit their stride for peak money making opportunity. Your assets and net worth will rise. Auto, home, health, life, umbrella are very important. But let’s face it, you are aging. Now is the time to add disability insurance, and quite possibly some additional life insurance. Sure, you can add it earlier, but like any insurance, weigh out the pros and cons of this coverage that can be fairly expensive.

Fifties- Now is the time when the kids leave home. First and foremost, have a discussion with them on the importance of basic insurance. Then re-evaluate your own situation. It may now be time to add secondary health, as well. As we have learned, a lot of the Obamacare policies don’t afford the best coverage, so having something like Aflac may be very beneficial. When it comes to life insurance, you are getting to the point where premiums will be pretty pricey! If you don’t have it, this may be the last opportunity to get it.

Sixties and beyond- Now it is time to look at retirement and the challenges of aging. In addition to all of the coverage you have accrued to date, it is time to consider nursing home coverage. The cost of nursing homes continues to rise and can significantly eat into much of your nest egg. This is a good option to protect your assets. Speaking of assets, don’t forget to provide protection to your heirs in the form of a Revocable living trust which can dramatically reduce, or eliminate inheritance taxes for your children.

Now let’s take a look at some coverage that you probably don’t need:

Flight insurance- Flying is one of the safest ways to travel.

Travel Insurance- Conceptually a good idea if you are taking a Caribbean cruise in the midst of hurricane insurance, but these policies contain so many exclusions that are very difficult to collect on.

Life Insurance for children- Life insurance is designed to replace lost income. Chances are your children don’t have any.

Accidental death – Like travel insurance, there are usually so many exclusions that even the most accident prone will never effectuate a claim.

Disease Insurance- Spend your time trying to find the best healthcare policy that you can afford. Don’t skimp on the health coverage, but you can skimp here with the right health policy.

Mortgage Life Insurance- If you’ve got a good life insurance policy then you have enough to cover your mortgage.

Christopher Tidball is a speaker, claims consultant and author of multiple books including Re-Adjusted: 20 Essential Rules To Take Your Claims Organization From Ordinary To Extraordinary! He has spent more than twenty five years in the insurance industry in various adjusting, management and leadership roles. To learn more, please visit

July 2, 2014 at 4:28 pm Leave a comment

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Chris Tidball is a claims and revenue management consultant and author of the "20 Essential Rules" series of self and organizational improvement books. You can ask him a question at

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