In This Issue

Tip Sheet

April 3, 2008

Ask an Expert: Calculating life insurance

Q: “I know I should have some sort of life insurance, but how much is enough?”

Phil Garlow
ERIE agent
Charleston, W.Va.

A: “These days there are lots of good tools to help you assess how much life insurance coverage is right for you. A good starting point is the life insurance calculator on

The calculator outlines how much debt you have, as well as ongoing financial obligations. It figures how much life insurance you need to cover those obligations.  It also takes into consideration your income today and the future value of that income should you pass away unexpectedly.  

As an agent, I help customize a life insurance package that meets my customers’ needs and works within their monthly budget. Whether you choose to take advantage of the online calculator or not, your ERIE agent can advise you on the best life insurance product for your situation.* “

Have a question for an insurance expert? Let us know. E-mail us at or send us a letter.

*Erie Family Life insurance not available in New York

What makes your house a home?

A home inventory can buffer loss after a fire

For most of us, home is more than a house. It’s a cherished source of memories and a treasure chest for our keepsakes. And on a practical level, it’s filled with things we use each and every day. That’s why when a fire destroys a home, it cuts deeply into our lives.

The Insurance Information Institute (I.I.I.) makes it easy for homeowners to keep a record of belongings. They offer free home inventory software you—and family members—can easily download to a home computer. With the software, each birthday gift and new purchase can be quickly added to the ever-changing list. That list can be regularly backed up on a CD or in paper form and stored somewhere outside of the home for extra protection. To learn about the software and to download it, visit

Have you done a home inventory? How has it impacted your life? Send us an e-mail and tell us about it at

It’s good to be green

Tips for natural lawn fertilization

It might not always be easy, but being green can help the environment and save you money in the long run. One way to green-up your life this spring is to leave the clippings on the lawn.

Because grass clippings are primarily made of water they decompose quickly, keeping your lawn hydrated. In addition, grass clippings can naturally provide many of the nutrients found in other fertilizers. But to do it right, and to avoid thatch, takes a few tricks.

To keep your lawn its greenest, the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection recommends the following:

  • Remove the grass catcher.  If this won’t work, you may need a special safety plug or adapter kit to turn your mower into a recycling mower.  Check with your lawn mower dealer for specifics.
  • Monitor grass length.  In the spring and fall, keep grass length at about two inches, during the summer months, let it grow to three or four inches.  Never cut more than 1/3 of the grass blade in one mowing. 
  • Avoid wet grass.  Be sure to mow your lawn when the grass is dry.  Wet clippings will clump together on your lawn.
  • Keep the blade sharp.  This will help you to avoid tearing the grass blade and injuring the plant.  Grass that is not cut with a sharp blade can make your lawn look brown. 
  • Shred and scatter.  If the grass is longer than the recommended three to four inches when you mow, mow the clippings a second time to further shred and scatter them.
  • Check mower height.  Raise your mower for the first mowing then gradually lower it over the next several mowings.  This will prevent excess growth between mowings and prevent shock to the plants.
  • Consider a new mower.  If you’re replacing your mower look for one that will shred and scatter grass clippings.  Mulching, recycling or nonpolluting reel mowers are good for this. 

When done correctly, thatch should not be a problem. Thatch, a matted layer of dead roots and stems, is typically caused by excess water and fertilizer on the lawn.  With natural lawn fertilization the clippings decompose quickly, leaving little chance for thatch to occur.  If a thatch layer of more than ½ an inch does occur, it should be removed.

Not only is natural lawn fertilization an easy way to keep your lawn looking good, it’s also an easy way to reduce waste and save yourself time and money.  Leaving your clippings on the lawn can reduce mowing time by nearly 40 percent and saves you money on fertilizer and bags for grass clippings.

Teen drivers

Teens see dangerous driving habits in friends, but not in themselves

In a recent survey of teenage drivers in several states, nearly 95 percent of the teens considered themselves good drivers. The results are at odds with risky behaviors the teens also admitted to in the survey. These include speeding, using a cell phone and driving under the influence.

The study of more than 1,300 students was conducted by Lookin’ Out, the safe teen driving program sponsored by Erie Insurance. Students from 20 participating schools in four states took part in the survey. The objective: assess teen attitudes toward driving.
In the survey, teens said they regularly take risks while behind the wheel, including text messaging while driving and failing to buckle up.

Teens were a little more critical when asked to evaluate their peers. Survey participants deemed less than half of their friends—42 percent—good drivers.

“The survey shows that many young drivers have a sense of invincibility on the road,” said Matt Bresee, program coordinator for Lookin’ Out. According to Bresee, teens tend not to see that their own behavior is risky, but when they see their friends behave in the same way, they see it as dangerous.

“We’re going to use this information to reinforce safe driving habits with teens participating in ERIE’s Lookin’ Out Program,” said Bresee. “Teens have a good idea of what will work with other teens. By getting them involved in customizing a program for their school, we complement other safety efforts by parent groups and law enforcement. Plus, the teens take more interest in the message.”

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