Demystifying Life Insurance
While life insurance can definitely be an famous tool in financial planning, the fact is many people do not understand what part it plays. Many people who should own life insurance do not and many who do not need life insurance have it. The purpose of this article is to explain the role life insurance plays in personal financial planning and to help you understand whether you need it or whether owning it is an unnecessary expense.
A very simple way to grasp the concept slow life insurance is to think of it as “income replacement” insurance. In other words, if you have a family who depends on your earnings, you should have adequate life insurance to continue providing for them in the event of premature death. A safe example is a young married couple with itsy-bitsy children. If your family would be hard pressed to maintain their standard of living should you die prematurely then life insurance is certainly a necessary section of wise financial planning.
Many people who should have life insurance do not simply because none of us really like thinking about our own mortality and so procrastinate. This is the primary reason that people who should have life insurance don’t. It is rarely the case that they don’t have it because they can’t afford the expense. Hopefully we will all live a full life but unfortunately that doesn’t always maintain true. One of the best things you can do to guard your family and their standard of living is to pick adequate life insurance. The question isn’t whether you need life insurance, but how much.
Figuring out how much life insurance you need is actually a very simple matter. The last thing your family would need in the event of your premature death is being left with a large debt load. So first, you should consider how great would be needed to pay off all of the family debts. Next take into consideration the annual income your family would need to enjoy their current standard of living. We will use the sum of $50,000. While according to Morningstar, Inc. the average return on large company stocks (as measured by the S&P 500 Index) from 1926 to 2008 was 9.6%, your surviving spouse would need to invest the proceeds from your life insurance policy very conservatively to guard against loss of principal, so to be conservative let’s consume a figure of 8 percent annual return which is relatively easy to achieve with low risk. To generate $50,000 of income at 8 percent would require $625,000 (P x R x T; 625,000 x .08 x 1= 50,000). Based on figures from MSN Money, the average American family owes about $8,000 on credit cards and carries an average mortgage balance of $69,277 for a total of $77,227 in debt. So for our purposes we will use this figure and add it to the $625,000 figure calculated previously which indicates that as a minimum you should have about $700,000 in life insurance if your debt situation is around the average and you wish to provide your family with $50,000 a year in income. Both spouses frequently work today so this advice is applicable to both when both work and contribute a paycheck to the family finances.
The monthly premiums for life insurance vary based on a number of different factors life age, health, sex, term, type of insurance, etc. But to illustrate the relatively low cost of insuring your family’s future, the Met Life web site advertises a $500,000 10-Year Level Term policy for as low as $20 per month for a 30 year old male and $17 per month for a 30 year old female. This brings up the point that life insurance companies offer a variety of different types of life insurance products: term life, whole life, universal life. Whole life and variable life policies have an “investment” component while term life pays off only in the event of the death of the insured. Term life is the kind of life insurance that should be selected to provide income replacement for your family. There are much better places for investing money than through an insurance policy. Life insurance should only be a temporary means of assuring financial security for your family until you have the time to acquire sufficient assets so that your estate will be large enough so that life insurance is no longer necessary. Term fits this criteria perfectly and can be canceled without penalty whenever you no longer need it.
Now let’s turn our attention to those who do not need life insurance no matter what your insurance salesperson might have told you. First, children should never have life insurance purchased for them. Children are not wage earners and no one is dependent upon them for support. Sure we cherish them but in a strictly financial sense the fact is children are not assets but liabilities and so they don’t need to be insured. Most singles do not need life insurance. Without a family no one is dependent upon them for financial support and frequently singles have sufficient assets to satisfy the debts that would be left behind in the event of premature death. The insurance industry often has all kinds of “good” reasons why singles should buy life insurance policies but none of them hold water when given serious consideration. Paying monthly premiums for life insurance you don’t really need makes about as grand sense as paying car insurance premiums when you don’t own a car.
Hopefully you have now joined the ranks of the informed when it comes to life insurance and are ready to make informed decisions about whether you should have it and if so, in what amounts.
“Historical Rates of Return“. CUNA Mutual Group. June 30, 2009
“How Does Your Debt Compare? ” MSN Money. June 30, 2009 http://moneycentral.msn.com/content/SavingandDebt/P70741.asp
“Need an Insurance Quote? ” Met Life Insurance Company. June 30, 2009 http://www.metlife.com/campaign/search/life-insurance-quote/index.html? WT.srch=1&WT.mc_id=cs000359&pagefrom=MLPS_LIS
Blue Cross Blue Shield
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