As with all insurance, life insurance plans are about preparing for the unexpected. We don’t plan to have a heart attack or meet an untimely end. We may fret about the unforeseen, but there are few ways to prepare for it. Life insurance provides a way to be prepared and get peace of mind.
The main reason to buy life insurance is for financial protection for your family and dependents. If you are the sole income earner or the major provider in your family, then life insurance definitely makes sense. If you should die unexpectedly, your policy will help your loved ones pay your final expenses and potentially receive ongoing support. The amount they receive will depend upon the size of policy you buy.
Do You Need Life Insurance When You Are Young?
Most people don’t think about buying life insurance when they are young, healthy and single. However, if something should happen to you unexpectedly, a life insurance policy could pay for your student loans or other large outstanding debts, as well as your funeral expenses. These are never fun things to think about, but evaluating risks is a first step to preparedness.
Another good reason to consider buying life insurance at a younger age is to lock in rates. The affordability of life insurance is based largely on your age and risk factors, and life insurance for adults becomes increasingly expensive. While you are young and healthy, you will pay lower premiums. With short term insurance you can choose a lock-in term, such as 15 or 20 years at a preferred rate.
It is important to know that many term policies can be converted into permanent policies later on, without having to re-qualify. If you develop a severe or chronic condition at any point, your life insurance is already secured. Essentially you can insure your insurability.
Life Insurance Over 30
Most people begin seriously thinking about buying a life insurance policy at about the time they start a family. If you are like many people, the light bulb may come on at about the age of 30, when you realize that you are mortal, and that you have real financial responsibilities.
An important consideration for anyone who wants to purchase life insurance is that it will never be cheaper than it is today. It’s not too late at the age of 30, 40 or 50 or even later to buy life insurance that will protect your dependents from financial hardship or provide for you in retirement. But your costs will go up the longer you wait. If you do buy life insurance now, you can lock in a life insurance premium at a more affordable rate than it will be a few years down the road.
How Much Life Insurance Do You Need?
Choosing a life insurance plan requires a bit of math. You want to figure out how much your family needs for daily spending and major upcoming expenses in the event that you pass away too soon and cannot provide for them. Or, if you are young, single and healthy, you can look at the cost of paying off any debt you have accumulated, or the cost of care for an aging parent.
For the following simple example, we will pretend there is no interest or tax. But in reality those factors will affect the amount of benefit your beneficiaries receive.
• You purchase a $500,000 life insurance policy.
• Upon your passing, your family spends $10,000 for your final expenses, leaving $490,000 to be divided up over the payout period for your designated beneficiaries.
• If the payout period is 20 years, the payments would be about $24,500 per year, or about $2,040 per month.
Again, interest and tax are not figured into this simplified example. What makes life insurance so confusing is that there are several different types of coverage, including term life and whole life or permanent life insurance. Additionally, the details of the policy you choose will be unique to your personal situation.
Life Insurance Terminology
It can be difficult to make sense of life insurance terminology. Here is a brief overview of the most common terms:
• Annuities: An annuity is a type of insurance that either pays income after your initial investment (immediate annuity) or accumulates income (deferred annuity). Either of these types of annuities can be fixed (guaranteed) or assigned a variable rate that pays out based on the policy’s associated investments. Life insurance companies typically offer annuities to help people obtain a stable income during retirement.
• Term life insurance: This is a life insurance policy that provides a death benefit only. Your annual premiums are locked in for a set term, such as 10, 20 or 30 years. In the event that you pass away during this period, a death benefit is paid to your beneficiaries.
• Permanent life insurance: This is a long-term policy, such as universal life insurance or whole life insurance, that includes an investment component and can cover retirement expenses in addition to providing a death benefit.
• Universal life insurance: A permanent life insurance policy with a “liquid” account that accrues cash value, as well as interest, with each premium you pay. You can take out loans as needed for unexpected expenses or opportunities, such as a home purchase. You also can pay more than the scheduled premium, or take breaks from paying premiums.
• Whole life insurance: Whole life is a permanent policy with an investment component that provides for your financial needs similarly to universal life insurance, but without the liquidity of the funds. This life insurance policy accrues a cash value and pays out at the end of the policy, if it is kept current.
Finding the Right Life Insurance for You
Life insurance causes more confusion for people than perhaps any other type of insurance, partly because there are several different types of life insurance products, and partly because the best life insurance is unique to each individual.
Depending upon the ages of your children and how long it is until they graduate from college, a 10-year, 20-year or 30-year life insurance term policy might be appropriate for you. Or, you may need life insurance to cover only your final expenses. These choices are individual, and for this reason it is smart to consult with your Insurance Station agent.