While insurance isn’t an investment, it’s an important part of sound, savvy personal financial management. Insurance is protection. It protects everything you’ve worked so hard to earn. It protects your spouse in the event of premature death. It sends the kids to college. It holds together a family at a time when money shouldn’t be a concern.
You need insurance but shopping for the right coverage to protect your family and your assets is like learning a new language. Term life, whole life, universal life, actual cash value, dividends, loans against policy – it’s a maze of insurance products out there and finding the right coverage for your needs may take a little research.
Here’s a starter course on getting the most for the least in life insurance and still have the protection you and your family need.
Types of Life Insurance
There are two basic types of life insurance with numerous variations on a theme.
Term life insurance is the simplest to understand. It’s also the most economical protection you can buy.
Term life insurance is paid when the insured (you) pass on within a defined term – a defined length of time your life insurance coverage is in effect. Term life comes with a variety of time frames: five-, ten- even thirty-year terms are available.
The younger you are, the lower the cost of the monthly premium – the dollar amount you pay for protection each month. Premiums are calculated based on two factors – your age (and general health) and the dollar amount of protection you need. It’s simple. A $100,000 term life insurance policy won’t cost as much as a $500,000 policy because you’re buying less protection.
With term life, you keep things simple. The insurance company pays X amount of dollars to the beneficiaries when the insured individual passes on, as long as the policy is in effect, that is, the death occurs during the term of the policy, thus the name term life insurance.
Term life policies don’t accumulate value, you can’t borrow against them and, if you choose a short term and your health changes, you could end up paying more for your term life insurance than you would if you buy a long-term policy – one that covers you for the long term.
To determine how much term life you need, add up funeral costs, outstanding personal debt, mortgage debt, the prospect of paying tuition and other large expenses that would drain family resources. Figure what it would cost your family for a single year.
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