Eight Smart Steps For Buying Life Insurance
Life insurance can form a vital part of your family’s financial stability and well-being but, if you’re like most people, you may find the thought of shopping for the right type of coverage a little daunting. Fortunately, these eight simple steps can guide you along the way.
- Determine whether you actually need life insurance. Most people do, but not everyone. If no one depends on you financially, if you have no debt and would leave an estate with enough cash to pay its own taxes and expenses, you probably don’t need life insurance. If you do not meet these criteria, you probably will need individual life insurance.
- Calculate how much life insurance you need. There are two important questions to ask:
- What financial resources will be available to survivors after your death? For simplicity, consider three categories of resources: (1) Social security and other retirement-related survivor benefits; (2) group life insurance; and (3) other assets and resources. It is also important to know when these resources will become available—for example, social security survivor benefits are payable immediately to a surviving spouse with dependent children, but only after age 60 if there are no children.
- What financial needs will your survivors have after your death. For simplicity, consider three categories of requirements: (1) final expenses; (2) debts; and (3) income needs.
- Then subtract your survivors’ financial resources (step #2) from their financial needs (step #3) to determine how large a policy to buy. Many people are underinsured, often because they skip these steps or take a shortcut (such as simply buying a multiple of annual income). For more help in determining the right amount of life insurance, see: How Much Life Insurance Do I Need?
- Consider other objectives you may have for your life insurance. Some types of life insurance policies include a savings feature that can be used for purposes other than paying death benefits.
- Determine what type of life insurance best meets your needs. Essentially, there are three types of life insurance policies—term life, whole life and universal life. If you need the insurance for only a specific period of time, or are on a limited budget, a term policy, which has lower premiums, may be a good fit. If, however, you need the insurance for as long as you live and want to accumulate savings, a whole or universal policy may be a better choice.
- Find out if you need to add any “riders” to the policy. There are two that you should consider—waiver of premium and guaranteed insurability. Some policies come with one or both included with the basic contract but, if not, it is generally a good idea to add them. Waiver of premium pays the life insurance policy premium for you if you are disabled. Guaranteed insurability permits you to add to the death benefit without providing additional evidence that you are in acceptable health.
- Shop around. There are many ways to save money when buying life insurance, but they don’t always entail paying a lower premium immediately. That said, life insurance is a very competitive business so quotes can vary significantly between companies.
- Decide whether to pay premiums annually. In most cases, it is better to pay annually rather than in installments because there is often a relatively large additional charge for paying smaller amounts more frequently.
- Tell your beneficiaries about your life insurance policy. Once the policy is issued, inform your beneficiaries the company that issued it, where to find the paper copy of the policy and any specifics about what you want them to do with the death benefit. While is rare for people to be unaware they are the beneficiary of a life insurance policy, it does happen and you want to make sure that the benefit will not go unclaimed. And store your documents so that they can be easily accessed by your beneficiaries.
These tips apply to personal life insurance purchases. For information on the uses of life insurance for businesses see: Insuring Against the Loss of Key Personnel.