Insurance

5 things March Madness can teach us about insurance

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March Madness is one of the most exciting times in the sports world. Colleges and universities across the country participate in the NCAA Tournament, hoping to take home a coveted national championship.  

There’s plenty of intrigue for fans, too. Buzzer-beaters, upsets and destroying your annoying coworker in the office bracket pool — they all contribute to a wonderful few weeks.

Beyond the on-court play, March Madness offers several tips for insurance (if you read our Super Bowl article, you should have seen where this was going...). From exploring your options to different discounts you can receive, before you fill out your bracket, study up on our tips below. 

The power of planning ahead

Every year, teams fly hundreds of thousands of miles to travel during March Madness. Between 68 men’s teams and 64 women’s teams, there are a lot of trips to navigate. The NCAA has a rule that if a team’s game is within 350 miles of its campus, it has to take a bus to the destination. Otherwise, the NCAA will work with schools and travel agents to fly up to 75 people per school to their first-round games.

The travel arrangements happen quickly. The tournament field is revealed Sunday evening, with the first games tipping off as soon as Tuesday night. However, schools start preparing months in advance. The operations department works with their assigned travel agent, filling out spreadsheets of information. Notes on who will be traveling, the dimensions and weight of each band member’s instrument, and other special considerations must all be perfectly accurate. By planning ahead, teams don’t need to stress as much once they know where they’re headed. The bulk of the work has already been done.

While you don’t have to map out every single element of your life, it’s a good idea to approach your insurance and finances with a similar forward-thinking mindset. Always research multiple companies when choosing your insurance, understand what’s included within your coverage, and, like the NCAA, put in the work when planning for a trip. All of those can save you money — and headaches — in the long run. 

You can’t always predict the future. But by having a sound strategy in place, you’ll be able to handle whatever comes your way.

Know your different options

Fifteen to 20 years ago, your options for consuming March Madness were limited. You could either attend a game in person or watch it on one TV channel. However, with up to four games going on at once, you’d better hope the game you wanted to see was being broadcast in your local area. Otherwise, you’d miss it, aside from the occasional “live look-in.”

Now? March Madness is everywhere. You can still attend games in person, but the NCAA Tournament is broadcast on four channels, with every single game televised. The official March Madness app and NCAA’s website also show games, the latter featuring a nifty Boss Button for those of us trying to catch the action while at work. And thanks to Twitter, both the NCAA and teams share highlights and updates so you won’t miss a second of the action. No matter how you want to consume March Madness, you have options.

All the highlights and classics from past tournaments are available, too. Want to relive that historic UMBC victory? You sure can. Or maybe buzzer-beaters are more your thing? We’ve got you covered. Need a laugh? Check out former Baylor forward Taurean Prince replying to a dumb reporter question in a brilliant way.

March Madness also happens to be in the midst of tax season. There are several insurance-based options that can save you some money, particularly if you’re self-employed. 

Disability insurance allows self-employed taxpayers to deduct overhead insurance that pays for business overhead expenses during long periods of disability. If you use your vehicle for freelance or other self-employed work, you can deduct both mileage and your insurance, provided you report your actual expenses and not the standard mileage rate. And if you work from home often, turning a bedroom into a home office might help you be more productive – and could lead to tax deductions every year.

Many insurance companies also offer deals for bundling, customer loyalty or even paying for an entire year’s worth of insurance upfront. Ask about all of your options — you never know what type of thrilling result you’ll get.

Remember what makes you unique

Nearly every NCAA team has some kind of social media presence. If a smaller school pulls off an upset, it might be the first time most of the country hears about them. When the spotlight shines brightest, schools should stay true to themselves.

Zach Seidel, the director of media relations for UMBC, is a perfect example of this. During the 2018 NCAA Tournament, the UMBC Retrievers became the first-ever No. 16 seed to defeat a No. 1 seed when they beat the Virginia Cavaliers — a team that had only lost two games all season long before playing the Retrievers. 

As the game progressed, fans started turning to social media, where they found a hilarious string of tweets. But as Seidel told USA Today after the upset, he didn’t deviate from his usual social strategy.

“I was like, hey no matter how many followers we have, let’s do the same thing so the people who do follow us have a good time and know that we’re not robots,” he said. “We have a personality.”

You’ve got a personality, too — and you know what works best for your driving habits and home goals. You might find mapping out your insurance research in a spreadsheet jives with your analytical mind, or it could frustrate you to track everything that way. If you work remotely and find youeself barely driving around, telematics may be the best choice for you. 

Living in an area with frequent inclement weather may cause you to purchase additional insurance for hurricanes, earthquakes or other disasters. Unique traits, such as serving in the military or being a good student, can also score you a nice discount.

It’s important to recognize your individual strengths, areas of improvement and what motivates you. That awareness helps not only with your insurance but also with future financial goals, such as buying a new car or home. 

Trust your gut

When the tournament field is released, millions of fans fill out brackets, hoping to pick the magical combination of teams to win their bracket pool. While you can spend hours digesting information on every team, in the end, it’s usually best to go with your gut. You have about a 1 in 9.2 quintillion chance to fill out a perfect bracket. If you want to select teams based on their uniform colors or mascot, go right ahead.

The NCAA typically has games playing in cities across the country. The First Four games are in Dayton, OH, while the first two rounds are played in eight cities determined on a rotating basis. The Sweet Sixteen and Elite Eight are in four different cities, and yet another city hosts the Final Four. That’s a grand total of 14 different cities preparing for an influx of players, coaches, staff and fans.

As the COVID-19 pandemic began making its way into the United States in March of 2020, the NCAA’s individual conferences made the decision to cancel their tournaments before the NCAA shut things down entirely. They realized that was their best course of action. In 2021, the NCAA opted to hold a tournament, but this time entirely in Indianapolis, essentially creating a “bubble” where everyone could stay in a safe, confined area while still successfully completing the tournament.

In both cases, the NCAA trusted that what it was doing was the right decision. Similarly, your gut usually won’t steer you wrong with financial decisions. 

Does leasing a car make more sense than buying one? Do you think trip insurance for a domestic vacation isn’t worth it? Do an insurance company’s promises sound too good to be true?

Your gut will typically have an initial reaction when there’s a tough decision to be made. More often than not, trusting it will put you down the right path.

Sometimes you just have to go with the flow

Of course, it’s called March Madness for a reason. College basketball is incredibly unpredictable, and sometimes what appears to be a smart pick ends up backfiring. In those cases, the only thing you can do is shake your head and move on to the next game. 

The good news: Until all of your teams are eliminated, you always have hope. You just have to roll with the punches. That’s all you can do.

With your insurance, things will pop up that catch you off guard. You get into a car accident and your monthly premiums rise. A bad storm hits part of your home and ruins some of your personal property. A medical emergency requires a lengthy hospital stay or multiple doctor visits. Your neighbor’s friendly large dog knocked down your shared fence. They should offer to repair it, but that may not always be the case.

Just like with March Madness, be prepared to go with the flow. Luckily, you’ve done your research, prepared a plan, and know where your values lie. When you add the flexibility of being able to smile and roll with a situation, nothing can stop you.

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Joey Held

As a writer, Joey Held has specialized in business, marketing, sports, music and insurance topics for more than a decade. He's also a podcaster and author of Kind, But Kind of Weird: Short Stories on Life's Relationships. His first car was a Buick Regal with an inconsistent radio but pretty good gas mileage.