College Parenting 101: Protecting valuables

Adult Son Moving Out Of Parent's Home

As parents, we don’t often think of the expense that goes into computers and instruments our kids take to college. But, especially since students these days are stacking up tech for Zoom and other online ventures, the value can mount up. If you run a total on a Post-it note, you might find yourself coming up with as much as $10,000 worth of equipment that will accompany your child into their messy, crowded, shared dorm room. 

As any campus police officer will tell you, theft on college campuses is a common problem. Because the value of our son’s instruments and computers that we’ve purchased over time would be more than we could replace all at once if his gear were stolen, I asked my insurance agent about coverage. She said we should be insured with a scheduled personal property plan because this coverage replaces items that are broken, lost or stolen.

Serious college girl packing laptop in bag when leaving for universityBut, you’ll need appraisals (often available for free from your favorite music shop if the item is an instrument) or receipts (many of which are lying neglected in your Amazon or email history; still others can be sent to your email from stores that keep computer records just because you called and asked nicely). While this may sound like a lot of effort, the insurance covers loss, breakage and theft. As an example, Farmer’s Insurance offered us $8,000 worth of coverage for about $200 a year. That’s a lot of peace of mind for a little effort. 

Originally, I thought we should have renter’s insurance, like my parents had for me eons ago when I headed to Ohio State. But at least in New York state (where our son is headed) these policies now only cover catastrophic events like storm damage or room collapses. While that’s possible, it seems far less likely than a guitar walking off a train with the wrong person. When renter’s policies become important is if your child is in off-campus housing: for example, a guest who slips and falls at an apartment might sue for medical or other expenses. In that case, the renter’s policy would step in to protect your family’s finances (which are probably already busy enough getting your kid through school). To get a complete evaluation of your situation, you’ll need to call an agent in the state where your child will be housed with their stuff (not the state where you reside). 

If they plan to take instruments with them, it’s also wise to plan ahead with TSA approved cases for those who will fly with valuables. One way to evaluate if the cases are the right choice would be to divide the case value by the value of the instrument. For example, a $250 TSA-approved, locking guitar case is worth about 10 percent of a good guitar. 

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