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What ifs are always hazardous to a wallet

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By JAN GLIDEWELL, Times Columnist

© St. Petersburg Times
published September 24, 2002

The letter from my mortgage company made it sound easy.

I could refinance my home from its relatively high interest rate to one or two points lower and save myself a slew of money in the process.

And it would be so easy.

Okay, it wasn't exactly easy.

They needed pretty much the same set of documents I had to provide when I first got my mortgage 15 years ago, plus a few extra ones, and a process I though was going to take a couple of days took a couple of months.

From the numbers they gave me, my new payments were going to be about $40 less than my old ones. Forty dollars isn't a lot, but at $480 per year for 15 years it adds up."

When a notary arrived at my house a few days ago with the new loan papers, I was really impressed at first, because I was looking at a portion of one of the documents that showed a lot lower payment than I had expected.

That, of course, turned out to be the principal and interest portion of the payment.

When I found the real new payment, it was $19 less that the previous one.

"What happened to my $40," I asked the pleasant woman whose job it is to answer calls from anxious customer during weekend closings.

"That's how much your insurance and taxes, mostly insurance went up," she said.

So, basically, I went through all the hassle of refinancing my new home to knock $21 off of my payments, except, of course, if I hadn't done it, I would be paying about $21 more per month instead of only $19 less.

And, from what I am reading, I'm lucky to have homeowners insurance at all. My company has stopped selling new homeowners' policies in Florida and the existing ones, like virtually every other kind of insurance, have skyrocketed.

We are rapidly reaching a point in society where being propertyless will be able to save you enough in insurance to make it almost attractive. Add up what I pay on my body, home and car, and I could have a much nicer body, home and car if I was just willing to put them at risk.

Actually I have no real choice on two of those. It's illegal to drive without liability insurance in Florida (It's also illegal to drive without a license but plenty of people do both.), and just try getting a loan for a car or house without insurance. Home deals are falling through right and left from people not being able to find someone to write them a policy.

Insurance rates and availability in Pasco and Hernando counties are high and scarce because of storms and sinkholes.

I live 40 miles from the nearest sinkhole and 40 miles from the coast at an elevation that means it will be animals-in-the-ark time before my house floods and my insurance agent, whose office is literally next door, knows this, but he doesn't set his company's rates.

I remember being told a few years back that my high car insurance rates are because people in Miami have a lot of accidents, and now my homeowner's rates are high because people in some parts of Hernando County have sinkholes and people on the coast get the brunt of the really bad storms.

Hmm, since you can pass along liability without much reference to geography, how about giving me a break and raising some guy in Kansas's rates because his countrymen in Florida are having a rough time with the weather and the firmness of the ground.

I know, I know, shut up or I'll get dinged for his tornadoes.

I will say this. My home and auto insurance guy is top notch and the few (and I stress few) claims I have had have been handled promptly and relatively painlessly, but I think I might be missing an advantage by not having him carry my health insurance too.

With what I am paying him these days my health has to get better.

There's no way I can stay fat.

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