Life insurance often feels like a tricky topic. Most people know it's something they should have, yet it can seem daunting to choose a policy. Because of that, people end up putting it off, or worse, avoiding it altogether.
One way to get more comfortable with learning about life insurance is by covering the basics. Here are a few key life insurance questions you should ask as you begin exploring your options.
1. Why Do I Need Life Insurance?
There are many reasons to buy life insurance, but the primary one is it can help protect your family financially after you pass. With a life insurance policy in place, your death benefit will go to your named beneficiaries.
Your beneficiaries — typically loved ones such as a spouse, children or other family members — can use your death benefit to replace your income, pay down debt or cover mortgage or schooling costs.
2. How Much Do I Need to Make Sure My Family is Supported?
Every family is different, so it's critical to look at your specific needs, income and obligations as you determine how much coverage you want. A good rule of thumb is to look at your salary and aim for a death benefit that is 10 times that amount.
Many have two main goals with life insurance: help ensure their family stays in a similar financial situation and pay off debts. The amount of the policy coverage you'll want depends on these factors, so it varies per person. Working with a financial advisor or speaking with a life insurance agent about your specific situation can help you run the numbers.
If you're considering life insurance in retirement, the calculations are different. First, look at actual expenses you'll want to cover, including burial costs, any outstanding debt, or any inheritance you'd like to leave loved ones. Then find a policy that meets those needs.
3. I Have Life Insurance Through Work; Isn't That Enough?
You may have a group life insurance policy through your employer. Or maybe you don't know you can have multiple life insurance policies and think you need to choose one. However, work policies typically only provide a death benefit that is one to two times your salary, and that may not be enough to cover your family's needs.
In addition, you may lose access to your policy if you retire, are laid off or switch jobs. Suppose you don't have another policy in place during that in-between time and something happens to you unexpectedly. In that case, your loved ones won't receive any death benefit and may suffer financially.
4. What Types of Life Insurance Plans Can I Choose From?
There are two main types of life insurance: term and permanent. These policies have different coverage periods, benefits and costs, so you'll want to understand the difference between them.
You select coverage for a set period with a term policy, usually between 10 and 30 years. In addition, term policies are generally more affordable. Many find them a cost-effective way to have coverage.
On the other hand, a permanent policy is with you for the rest of your life as long as the premiums are paid. These policies tend to be more complex and offer additional benefits, depending on the coverage you choose, which means they are often more expensive.
5. Will This Plan Last Long Enough?
As you continue asking life insurance questions, another might focus on the length of the plan. How do you know if you want a shorter term policy or one that will last for the rest of your life?
The answer depends on your needs. For example, if you're a parent of young children, selecting a 20-year term policy can help cover college and living expenses if you were to pass away unexpectedly. If you want to be sure your beneficiaries receive a death benefit, a permanent policy may be better for you.
Keep Asking Questions
As you explore your options, don't be afraid to keep asking life insurance questions. The more you know about policies, the better. That way, you can determine the best coverage for your needs. Reach out to your advisor or life insurance agent for help.