Life insurance is an important part of financial planning, but understanding insurance and purchasing the right product can be confusing. While you should rely on the expertise and recommendations of your insurance agent, it’s always a good idea to do your own research. Here are five factors to consider before you buy insurance:
1. Why you need life insurance. We all want to plan for our family’s future and financial security. Part of this process includes ensuring that our loved ones are supported in the event of our death, a spouse’s death, or the death of a parent. Insurance can provide protection in many different ways, such as helping to fund your retirement or paying for mortgages and college educations. It is also a key component of estate planning.
2. The amount of life insurance you need. There are many factors to consider when deciding how much insurance is right for you and your family, and they may change as you age. It’s important to understand the purpose, policies, premiums, benefits and, ultimately, the best insurance for your specific situation. Here are a few considerations when determining how much insurance is enough:
*How much money your family will need to live comfortably if you pass away
*Whether your home is paid for or if you still have a mortgage
*If you have a business, how your passing will financially impact the company
*Whether your family has access to money to pay for your burial expenses
*The cost of financial and legal assistance to manage your estate
*Whether your passing will create an estate tax burden for your heirs
3. The different types of insurance available. Once you decide how much insurance you need, the next step is deciding whether term insurance or whole life insurance is right for you. Here are the basics:
*Term life insurance: As its name implies, term life provides protection for a specific period of years. If you pass away during this period, your beneficiaries are paid the value of your policy. Term life insurance is the most popular for a variety of reasons, including the fact that benefits can be used to pay off outstanding debts such as mortgages in the event of a premature death, and that premiums are generally inexpensive when you purchase it at an earlier age. Someone in their 20s, for instance, will pay far less than someone in their 80s for the same amount of insurance.
*Whole life insurance: A whole life insurance policy remains in effect throughout your lifetime as long as you continue to pay the premiums. You can typically use whole life insurance policies as collateral for loans or even receive cash payments while you are still living. However, premiums for whole insurance are more costly than term insurance, so younger families are generally encouraged to buy term life, with the option of converting the term life policy to a whole life policy at a later date.
*Universal Life: A universal life insurance policy also provides permanent life insurance protection, but differs from whole life in its flexibility that allows you to select the amount of protection that best fits you, your family, and/or your business. You can increase or decrease coverage as your insurance needs change, as well as control the frequency and amount of premium payments.
4. Risks that impact insurance costs. Insurance premiums are based on many different risk factors, including age, overall health, and the use of tobacco. If you are still relatively young, are in good health, and don’t smoke, now’s the time to buy insurance!
5. How to choose the right insurance agent. With so many variables, choosing the right amount and type of insurance should be discussed with a trusted independent insurance agent. Independent brokers have access to many more insurance products and are typically more invested in your financial future. Be sure to do your homework, don’t be afraid to ask questions, and know your policy inside and out before you sign on the dotted line.