The insurance industry is in precarious shape these days, given the downturns in many of its major investment arenas, including commercial real estate and junk bonds. And there's no government insurance to guarantee the safety of troubled insurers' assets, as there is for banks.

One way to check out an insurer's financial health is to consult Weiss Research's insurance-company reports. Besides listing obvious information such as revenues and assets, Weiss also evaluates the riskiness of various types of insurer investments, then draws conclusions about the insurer's current level of financial strength as well as its ability to withstand a severe recession.

An 18-page Personal Safety Report costs $45. Abbreviated versions can be obtained over the telephone, at $15 per company, or in one-page form for $25, from Weiss Research, in West Palm Beach, Fla., at 800-289-9222. -- Jill Andresky Fraser

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