For years there has been a debate in the financial services industry over which type of life insurance people need. One side says to "buy term and invest the difference" while the other says that cash value life insurance is a safe way to lock in a rate and let your money grow. I'm not going to argue the pros and cons of either in this post because I think that it really depends on what the client's situation is. In other words, despite the financial gurus who like giving generic advice, I prefer having a discussion with a client to find out what their needs are.
With that in mind, this post will be about term life insurance and things to be aware of when purchasing it. Here are a few things to keep in mind when buying a term life policy.
1. Make sure you're buying enough. That small policy that is offered to you through work probably isn't going to be enough coverage. Take into consideration things like the balance of your mortgage, replacing your income, paying off credit cards and other debt (like car payments). If you have children, include education costs. In other words, make sure that your family can continue to comfortably live in their home, without worrying.
Also, if you have a 2-income family, make sure to insure both spouses. Those two incomes are typically combined to pay the bills. When determining how much you need to replace income, a simple formula is to take your annual income and multiply it by 10. It may sound high, but it is realistic.
2. Don't wait too long to buy life insurance. By putting off a life insurance purchase, you are actually paying more in the long run. As you age, your premiums increase, so waiting five years to buy a policy will actually cost you more. More importantly, you can leverage your good health by getting coverage when you're younger. Odds are good that you will not be any healthier in the future as you are now and it only takes one health event, such as a heart attack to leave you either uninsurable or with a rate that is out of your price range.
A friend of mine, who is in his early 40's, recently had a mild stroke. Luckily he had coverage in place, but if he didn't, the chances of him getting another policy would be difficult and probably out of his price range.
3. Don't buy too short of a term. Unless you have a specific need in mind, like a 10-year note that needs to be secured, you should be looking at longer term periods. Consider how many years it will take to pay off your mortgage and get the kids out of the house (they may "boomerang" back). A 20 or 30 year term may be what you need. We even offer a term policy that locks in until age 65, which may be the perfect solution for a younger couple.
4. Be careful with riders. The majority of policies have different riders you can add to your policy, such as a disability rider or accidental death. I personally think that a disability waiver of premium rider is a great value, because it continues to pay your premiums for you if you are deemed "disabled" and can't work. The last thing you need in that situation is your life insurance pulled out from under you.
Depending on the carrier, some riders will be included at no charge, such as accelerated death benefits. We have a term life policy that includes a chronic illness rider with no extra charge.
5. Review you policy every few years. The fact is that as time passes, your financial situation may change. If you bought a policy 10 years ago, you may now have a totally different status. You may have received a raise, relocated, had twins, or become fabulously wealthy.
Also, making sure your beneficiaries are up to date is very important. If the individuals you have chosen are deceased or no longer in your good graces, you can replace them at any time.
6. Find a policy that is convertible to a permanent policy. The convertibility option of a policy is important because your term policy will eventually run out. Having the option to convert your policy to a permanent policy without any health questions makes sense in case you have some change in your health status.
Term life insurance can be affordable and can be great helping your family if you were to die too soon, but keep in mind that the vast majority of term policies never pay a claim because the term expires before the policy holder. If you have questions or concerns look us up on website and book an appointment to discuss your needs. In the meantime, stay healthy!
Chris Castanes is the president of Surf Financial Brokers, helping people find affordable life and disability insurance coverage. He's also is a professional speaker helping sales people be more productive and efficient and has spoken to professional and civic organizations throughout the Southeast. And please subscribe to this blog! Thanks!