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Let's talk about insurance. And just for the record: We're not selling any.

Both stocks and consumer spending have remained strong this year, but rising insurance costs threaten to put a dent in those trends. Not only is the cost of insurance going up, it's rising faster than it has in almost 50 years. The latest data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics shows car insurance increased by more than 22% compared to one year ago. It's the largest annual spike since 1976, when Apple Computer's headquarters was still in Steve Jobs' garage.

Some of this is due to an increase in car crashes, injuries and fatalities, according to travel company AAA. But higher-priced cars that include higher-tech features are also more costly to repair. Not to mention that the body shop or mechanic doing the work is earning a higher wage.

The homeowners insurance industry is dealing with a similar re-rating of liabilities and costs. Ten states saw home insurance premiums increase more than 30% from a year ago, according to consumer services company Bankrate. Louisiana (+63%) might seem like an obvious victim, but landlocked states Nebraska (+61%) and Colorado (+49%) placed No. 2 and No. 3 on the list.

Skyrocketing insurance premiums are hitting home for everyone. Even if you don't live in an area prone to severe weather, the carrier that issued your insurance policy likely has exposure there. It's not just local residents, in other words, bearing the costs of more frequent wildfires in California and hurricanes in Florida.

Some companies have decided to discontinue coverage altogether, even in Minnesota. When our personal home and auto insurance was up for renewal this spring, our carrier notified us they were no longer issuing personal policies because of unprecedented losses related to properties in the Upper Midwest.

After speaking to our general agent (an insurance broker who shops among multiple carriers), the best alternative was 43% more expensive for comparable coverage. Of the shrinking list of companies willing to insure our house, some required full inspections by licensed contractors on the homeowner's dime.

The rapidly changing insurance landscape stands in stark contrast to headline inflation. The latest consumer price index (CPI) released April 10 showed a 3.5% increase in the last 12 months. CPI is meant to reflect Americans' overall cost of living, but insurance costs are obviously bucking the trend.

Here is what consumers can do to minimize their out-of-pocket costs:

Work with a general agent. These are professionals whose job is to find you the best fit and best value among several insurance companies. It's a formal second opinion on your coverage. If they can't find you a better deal, you are no worse off for inquiring. They will also help determine if your existing coverage amounts and deductibles remain appropriate.

Ask if your car insurance offers a mobile app that will track and report your driving behavior. Discounts often apply for safe driving. If you work from home and drive infrequently, that might also reduce your premiums.

From an investment perspective, be mindful of the stocks and mutual funds you own tied to the financial sector. There's a big difference between a bank, a financial services firm and an insurance company, even though they lump together in the same category. None are inherently good or bad, but smart investors should always understand what they own.

Ben Marks is chief investment officer at Marks Group Wealth Management in Minnetonka. He can be reached at Brett Angel is a senior wealth adviser at the firm.