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It's the season for sunshine, barbecues and big changes

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Updated: 4/30 12:08 pm

(BPT) - As temperatures rise and the economy shows signs of improvement, many Americans are warming to the idea of making major life changes. For many, spring is the season for getting married and shopping for new cars or homes. Big life changes can mean significant financial investments.

If you're planning for a major life event, you're likely focused on the immediate cost. But it also is important to take the time to consider the what-ifs-those unexpected and potentially costly crises-that can derail the best-laid plans. A video by The National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC) illustrates what can happen.

According to the NAIC, one smart way to avoid surprises is to fully educate yourself about the insurance implications of any big investment early on, before something bad happens that may require filing an insurance claim. It pays to do your homework and ask the tough questions before you say 'I do' or 'sold.'

5 tough questions to ask before tying the knot

1. How might our individual credit and legal histories impact our combined financial future?

2. Beyond rent or mortgage payments, have we budgeted correctly for our planned
living arrangements?

3. What financial responsibilities do we have to family members, today and in the future?

4. Do our individual financial safeguards such as health savings plans, life insurance, certificates of deposit, etc., still work now that we're a couple?

5. Are there any special financial issues in either of our medical histories?

Insurance considerations for getting married

Before automatically combining insurance policies, make sure you know your spouse's driving history, and confirm that the renter's or homeowners policy you plan to keep covers all of your valuables combined. Carefully review existing policies brought into the marriage. You may be able to get the same coverage at lower premiums, as most insurance providers consider marriage a qualifying event that allows you to make policy changes outside the open-enrollment period.

5 tough questions to ask before buying a car

1. Beyond the sale price, what other costs of buying and owning a car have I considered?

2. What can I do immediately to save on car-related expenses in the future?

3. What are my responsibilities if my car is involved in an accident?

4. What can I do to protect myself if my car is vandalized and someone steals personal belongings?

5. What are my responsibilities if my car is totaled and I haven't paid off the loan?

Insurance considerations of buying a car

In addition to the monthly payment, insurance premiums should be a key component of any vehicle cost analysis. You can shop around for the best rates, but expect to pay more to insure popular models like SUVs or convertibles. Another way to lower premiums is to purchase a used vehicle already loaded with safety features. You also may save money by bundling your auto policy with other coverage such as a homeowners' policy.

5 tough questions to ask before buying a home

1. Beyond the sale price, what other costs should I consider before buying this house?

2. What improvements can I make to this home now to save money in the long run?

3. How would I handle the financial burden of an unexpected disaster affecting my home?

4. What's my responsibility if someone is hurt on my property?

5. What are the financial pros and cons of operating a home business?

Insurance implications of buying a home

You probably know your credit score will affect your ability to secure a favorable home loan. But did you know your credit rating can affect insurance rates? Insurance premiums vary by geographical location and are based on the age of the home being purchased. Before you buy, be aware of natural disaster risks in the area. Features such as smoke detectors, burglar alarms and sprinkler systems can lower insurance rates. If you're considering a fixer upper, remember that a home improvement investment of $5,000 or more can change a home's value and insurance coverage.

For more tips, tools, videos, interactive games and downloadable apps to help you get smart about insurance before you really need it, visit InsureUonline.org.

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