Life Insurance

Many of us buy life insurance because we want to make sure that our loved ones, especially dependents, remain financially secure after we die. Income replacement is the No. 1 reason people buy life insurance.Life insurance is a long-term proposition, so you should pay particular attention, at time of purchase and throughout the life of the policy, to the financial stability ratings of your life insurance company. Ratings indicate a company's ability to pay claims.
  • Before purchasing a life insurance policy, consider your financial situation and the standard of living you want to maintain for your dependents or survivors. For example, who will be responsible for your final medical bills and funeral costs? Would your family have to relocate or otherwise change their standard of living after losing your income? The assumption of immediate death is necessary to determine the current life insurance needs for a family or individual.
  • Add in the longer term financial needs of the remaining family members, such as: children's expenses, income for the surviving spouse, mortgage and other debt payoffs, college education funds and an additional emergency fund.
  • 1) Assess your needed life insurance amount..
  • 2) Decide on the most appropriate policy type for your goals.
  • 3) Choose possible companies by setting high standards for financial stability ratings.
  • 4) Shop until you find the best price.
  • 5) Look at ways to get the best possible life insurance rate.
  • Guaranteed Convertible. Another built-in feature of most term life policies is the right to convert your coverage to any cash value policy that the company might offer at current rates without having to take another physical exam. This feature may be of use in the future if you decide you want cash value life insurance.
  • Guaranteed Renewal. Before you buy a term life policy, ask the agent or company to confirm to you that the policy contains a guaranteed renewable option, which grants you the right to continue coverage beyond the initial rate-guarantee period without a medical exam. This feature, found in most term life policies sold today, is extremely important should you become sick and uninsurable toward the end of your rate-guarantee period.

Because life insurance needs change over time, your life insurance amount should be reevaluated periodically. We recommend a review at least once every five years or whenever you experience a major life event such as a change in income or assets, marriage, divorce, the birth or adoption of a child, or a major purchase such as a house or business.In theory, you should have a declining need for life insurance as you age because fewer people remain dependent upon you for income support. Exceptions would be protecting a business entity or paying taxes on a large estate for heirs. If the purpose of buying life insurance is to pay estate taxes, then you'll need permanent life insurance, which is in-force as long as you live and pay premiums.Non-earning caregivers also have an important - and often overlooked - economic value that should be covered by life insurance.Life insurance is also purchased by those interested in achieving specific business or estate-transfer goals.Assessing your life insurance needsThe first step in life insurance planning is to analyze your life insurance needs - meaning the economic needs of dependents left behind. A great way to determine your coverage needs is to use an online calculator like's Life Insurance Needs Estimator Tool.
Here's an orderly way to go about shopping for life insurance:Life insurance is a long-term proposition, so you should pay particular attention, at time of purchase and throughout the life of the policy, to the financial stability ratings of your life insurance company. Ratings indicate a company's ability to pay claims.Term life insurance
The simplest of all life insurance to understand and the cheapest to buy: Term life insurance provides death benefit protection without any savings, investment or "cash value" components for the term of the coverage period.
Term life insurance is a popular choice because of the long rate-guarantee periods and because of the ability to get a low cost life insurance policy. However, if you get to the end of your policy term and still need life insurance, you'll need to shop for a new policy, which will then be priced based on your older age and health status.
Choosing an initial rate-guarantee period is easy: Match the period of time your dependents need your income to the available rate-guarantee periods. For example, if your children are young and you have decades to go on your mortgage, try 30-year term life. If your children are leaving the nest and your home is paid off or nearly paid off, 10-year term might fit the bill.
Term life insurance is available for set periods of time such as 10, 15, 25 or 30 years. With "annual renewable term life," your policy automatically renews each year and premiums increase as you get older. Choose "level term insurance" if you want your premium to stay the same for the duration of the policy. Also available is "decreasing term insurance," where premiums remain level but your death benefit declines over time. This is good if you want to cover only a specific debt that decreases, such as a mortgage or business loan.
You may have sticker shock right now but these premiums don't look so high when you are very sick and uninsurable but still in need of coverage.
If you'd like term insurance to cover you for a certain period of time but you're confident you'll outlive the policy, consider a "return of premium" (ROP) term life insurance policy. Under this type of policy, if no death benefit has been paid by the end of your insurance term, you receive all your premiums back (tax-free). Return of premium term life insurance generally costs 50 to 150 percent more than a comparable term policy but it provides a way to hedge your bets no matter what happens.
Other policy provisions that drive the popularity of term life insurance are guaranteed renewal and guaranteed convertibility.
For example, say that you've been paying $800 per year on a $500,000, 20-year level term life policy and develop cancer near the end of the 20-year period, thus making you uninsurable. Assuming that you want to continue the coverage, a guaranteed renewable clause would allow you to continue the coverage beyond 20 years on an annual renewable basis without an exam, albeit at a much higher annual premium of, say, $8,000 in year 21, $11,000 in year 22, and so on.

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