Simply put, life insurance is money that is paid to anyone you designate upon your death. A life insurance policy can be a very inexpensive way to replace your income in the event of your death.
However, it is not an investment and should not be used to fund retirement or savings plans for your children's future college expenses. There are much better investment options for those needs.
Do you need life insurance?
That depends on your answers to two more questions.
- "In the event of my death, will anyone experience an economic loss or hardship?" If the answer to that question is "yes," then you're ready for the second question:
- "Do I care?" If you do, then you've determined that you need life insurance.
How much insurance do you need?
Once you've decided that you need life insurance, you'll want to determine how much insurance you need. That, of course, is a very personal decision. A general rule of thumb is that you should have at least six times your annual income in life insurance. But in determining what is best for you, you'll also want to consider other obligations you may have and whether or not you want to have them completely or partially paid for upon your death. Such expenses include your mortgage, outstanding debts and future college expenses for your children. There are dangers associated with underestimating the amount of life insurance you'll need. If you have inadequate life insurance, your survivors may be unable to maintain their current standard of living without your financial support. In more extreme cases, your family may find it difficult to cover your funeral and other expenses that may arise as a result of your death.
No two companies will offer you identical term life insurance policies. That's why it's a good idea to think about which policy features are important to you. Here are some features to consider when comparing policies:
- Guaranteed Level Premium ensures the premium you pay stays the same for the entire term of your policy
- Guaranteed Renewable obligates the insurance company to renew your insurance policy at the end of its term
- Guaranteed Convertible offers you the option to "convert" your term life policy into a "cash value" policy
- Cost annual premiums will vary widely across policies
- Availability of optional riders such as:
- Disability Waiver Rider allows you to waive payments if you should become disabled
- Accelerated Death Rider allows you to receive death benefits during your lifetime if you become terminally ill
- Child rider insures the lives of your children through your policy
Since features vary from policy to policy, make sure you take the time to learn exactly what any policy you are interested in offers.
How much does it cost?
Term life insurance is the least expensive type of life insurance. That's because you only pay for the insurance coverage – not funding and management of an investment as you do with cash value policies. Choosing term life makes financial sense since there are much better ways to save and invest than through an insurance policy. Exactly how much a term life policy will cost depends on a number of factors, including:
- Who you are - your age, sex and health
- How long the policy will last (the policy's term)
- The amount of insurance coverage you request