Home safes: A false sense of security?

By Sheryl Nance-Nash on May 14th, 2012

With the economic events of the last few years, it's not hard to see why people are feeling insecure. These days, more people want to keep their valuables -- cash, jewelry and gold -- close at hand, locked at home in safes.

There's a surge in popularity in safes. Prices range from $50 for a basic safe to tens of thousands of dollars for more elaborate safes.

However, safes may not be the end-all for security. Even with a fireproof safe, the heat in a house can be so intense that it ruins the contents inside. And burglars may be able to easily carry away small safes.

Of course, the good news is that homeowners insurance may protect you. Then again, you may not have as much protection as you believe.

Standard home insurance policies provide a $200 limit for things like cash, gold and silver. Even some of the carriers that cater to rich folks cap coverage at $2,500. You can, however, get more coverage for jewelry with a rider, floater or endorsement.

Also, don't assume the claims process will be painless. You'll need proof like receipts, invoices, pictures or video of your items. For the best of the best, like eye-catching jewelry, an appraisal stating its value is a worthy investment. It's essential to update your inventory, not just for yourself, but for your insurer.

Cash is tricky. It helps if you have ATM or banking transaction receipts, but they aren't foolproof. If you didn't withdraw the money on the same day that it was stolen, some insurers might assume you spent the money and challenge your claim.

Is it just simpler and safer to keep your cash and other treasures at the bank? A safe surely is better than letting valuables lie around casually in your home. But other alternatives - such as a bank safe-deposit box - may be better.

Sheryl Nance-Nash

Sheryl Nance-Nash is a freelance writer, specializing in personal finance, small business, general business and career related topics. Her work has appeared in The New York Times, DailyFinance.com, Forbes.com, ABCNews.com, Money, and many others.

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