Is Life Insurance Right for Me?

Life insurance provides money to your family or loved ones if you should die. Life insurance can also help protect the financial interests of a business if a key employee should die. Here, we will discuss the use of life insurance for your family.

Now, no one likes to think about the consequences of their death. Yet, people die of accidents and diseases every single day. Around 2.5 million people in the United States die every year. While diseases lead the list of causes, over 100,000 people die every year of accidental causes.

If you have family members that depend on your earning power, the important question you must ask yourself is, “What will happen to them if I am no longer around to provide for them?”

And, you must ask that question now, before you die of an accident or are diagnosed with a deadly disease. Once you are involved in a deadly accident, it’s to late to obtain life insurance. And, once you are diagnosed with a deadly disease it’s awfully hard to obtain life insurance.

Life insurance can protect and provide for your family in a number of ways:

– Pay off debts

– Provide care and education of your children

– Provide needed money before your spouse can make up for your lost income

=== Life Insurance Can Pay Off Debts ===

Many families live in a home with a substantial mortgage. Your mortgage typically represents your greatest debt. Your income is probably what provides the money to pay your mortgage payment. Life insurance can be used to pay off that mortgage debt if your income is lost.

Millions of families have a large credit card debt. They often cannot pay off their credit cards every month. Those families that seldom pay off their credit cards have an average debt of nearly $8,000. And, many families that declare bankruptcy have tens of thousands of dollars in credit card debt. Life insurance can be used to pay off that credit card debt.

=== Life Insurance Can Help Pay for the Care and Education of Your Children ===

If you are a family with “special needs” children, you may be paying for special tutoring or child care. These expenses will continue beyond your untimely death. Life insurance can help provide for your child’s special needs. This help could continue for quite some time.

A university education often costs $20,000 a year or more. Your savings and investments over the years could help pay that cost. But, if your income stops before those investments can grow to help your children with their education expenses, your children will have less money available to get them through their university education. Life insurance can be used to help provide the educational costs of tuition, books, fees, and living expenses.

=== Life Insurance Helps Your Spouse ===

Your spouse may or may not be able to make up for your lost income. Depending on your spouse’s age or other circumstances, your spouse may:

– Re-marry and gain another source of income.

– Wait until a pension and/or Social Security provides an additional income stream.

– Increase income from employment or entrepreneurial efforts.

Life insurance can help your spouse make the transition from the time of your death to the time of a new income stream. While life insurance sales people often want you consider your family’s lifetime income requirements, this is often beyond what is really required.

You need to consider how large an income stream your spouse needs and for how long before a successful transition to another source of income can be made. The face value of your life insurance can be tailored to help provide the income stream through this interim period.

Typically, as you become older and income from pensions and Social Security are closer at hand, your need for life insurance decreases. And, if you have built up sufficient financial resources, your need for life insurance is almost non-existent.

=== Types of Life Insurance ===

There are two basic types of life insurance:

– Term Life Insurance

– Whole Life Insurance

Term life insurance is simply a contract that calls for you to pay a premium for a certain number of years for a certain face value of life insurance. The length of the contract can vary from 1 to 30 years. If your term policy ends without your death, you receive no benefits. If you die before your policy ends, you survivors receive the full face value of the insurance.

Some term life policies are called “decreasing term” because the face value of the policy decreases over the years. Term life insurance policies are often “renewable” when they expire, allowing you to get another policy of term life insurance without a new physical examination.

Whole life insurance is a long term policy in which you pay premiums that provide for both life insurance and a “cash value” investment plan. When the policy is surrendered, it either pays the face value death benefit (if you die) or the “cash value” of the policy. Often the “cash value” of your policy is determined by a fixed rate of return on your premium payments. After some initial period, you can borrow against the cash value of the policy. The premiums for whole life insurance are higher than for term life insurance.

Whole life insurance is also offered with some variations in premium payments and face value amount. Such variable plans can be called universal life insurance, variable life insurance, or other names.

Several factors are important when considering whole life insurance. You should clearly understand:

– When Cash Value Begins to Build — Often whole life insurance policies do not allocate much of your premium to begin building a significant cash value before you’ve paid into the policy for 10 years or more.

– Rate of Return — The rate at which your policy builds cash value is often below the rate you could get if you invested elsewhere.

You should carefully investigate both term life insurance and whole life insurance plans. It is often wise to consider buying a term life insurance policy and investing the excess of what the whole life insurance policy would cost. That way you would have the benefit of both life insurance and a higher rate of return on your investments.

Overall, you should evaluate your circumstances to determine if you need life insurance. If you need life insurance you should determine how much insurance is appropriate and the type of life insurance policy that would best meet your family’s needs.

Life Insurance: Smart Returns, Tax Savings

As a well-aware, net savvy professional, you must be conscious of the need of the life insurance coverage you require to secure your family’s financial life. Today, the provisions of the Income Tax Act offer you provisions under which you can buy life insurance coverage, generate returns and save on tax too.

A large number of people today research for insurance plans online and zero-in on a life insurance plan which is providing best returns, at present. Is that the right approach? Well, it is okay to research and come to know about the best possible life insurance plan.

But, here is the trap. Many people just put all of the insurance money into one single policy. Some insurance agents can urge you to do this. They can show you an online account of one of their clients who has generated returns to the tune of Rs 25-40 per cent in a year. Beware – these are mostly fake accounts which are used to dupe customers. Unfortunately, many insurance buyers fall into this trap.

People buy life insurance policies with a premium amount of as much as Rs 1 -1.5 lakh and then expect that this will bring great returns to them.

It is not advisable at all. You must spread your risks and get different types of policies. Since section 80C of the Income Tax Act provides for tax deductions of up to Rs 1.5 lakh, you can easily buy multiple policies. Here are some useful tips to diversify your insurance investments.

Get a mix of public and private sector insurance companies: Public sector insurance companies are known for their good claim settlement ratios. At the same time, they have a notorious image of producing very low rates of returns. Do not be surprised if an LIC policy gets less than 4-5 per cent returns in a year. Assuming that you are a young professional in the age between 25-40 years, you can buy a policy of not more than 25 per cent of your total insurance corpus.

Prefer leading private sector life insurance companies like HDFC Life, ICICI Prudential, Reliance Life, etc. These companies offer Unit Linked Insurance Plans (ULIPs), which can fulfil your need for financial growth.

Select your funds carefully: If you have decided to invest in ULIPs, good. But that is half job done. Under ULIPs, you have to select funds. An insurance company can suggest you default allocation of funds but you can always apply your mind to it.

Broadly, insurance companies have funds which invest in equity markets and debt instruments. Within these two categories, you have several options. Equity based funds generally have blue chip funds, mid cap funds, so on and so forth. Debt funds invest in bonds and government securities, which offer very low returns but do not carry any risks.

There is also a Balanced Fund under which you funds are equally invested in equity and debt markets. Thus, you have three different options to optimise your insurance portfolio returns.

If you have a traditional life insurance policy from a public sector undertaking, you must prefer minimum allocation to bond funds. You can allocate some 5 per cent in bonds and rest in equity based funds.

You can go for a mix of blue chip and mid cap funds. This strategy automatically balances your risks and generates superior returns in the long run.

Buy the policy online: Today, most life insurance companies offer online buying option. What is the advantage? There are several advantages. First, if you buy online insurance, the insurance company does not have to pay commission to sales agent. Thus, you will have an indirect saving since the life insurance company will be able to invest this amount on your behalf.

In the long run, you will realise that your friends who bought the same policy from an insurance agent is generating lesser returns than the one you bought online. Yes, do not be surprised. It is a market reality.

There are thousands of such cases where insurance companies have to shell out commissions in the range of 10-40 per cent. Naturally, this commission is paid out from the premium you pay. The returns are bound to be low in this case because the insurance company will invest less amount and allocate more funds in the name of expenditure.

Therefore, you must buy life insurance online. If you are facing any issues or have any queries with regards to the plan, you can consult their customer care centres through a telephonic call or online chat.

Even in the worst case situation, there is a free-look period of around 15 days you receive the policy. If you are not satisfied with any of the features, you can return the policy to the company.

Isn’t it a win-win situation for you?

Buying Life Insurance: A Shopping Checklist

When shopping for term life insurance, you want to find the right amount of insurance coverage at a reasonable price with a company you can trust. But for many people, getting started is the hardest part. That’s where the following Life Insurance Checklist can help.

1. What you would like your policy to achieve?

Ask yourself what it is you want your life insurance to do. For example, do you want to have insurance coverage that will:

o Pay funeral arrangements?

o Pay the outstanding balance owing on a mortgage and other debts?

o Offset the loss of your income? And if so, for how long?

o Contribute to the future education of your children?

o A combination of all or part of the above?

Knowing what you would like to accomplish with your life insurance policy and approximately how much you need to achieve these goals will help you determine how much life insurance you should consider purchasing. Online life insurance calculators are available to help you put a dollar value on the amount of coverage you need.

2. Who would you like to insure under the life insurance policy?

Most insurance companies offer a variety of life insurance products to suit your lifestyle and family needs. You can get an insurance policy on your own life, or you can get one policy for both you and your spouse (called a joint life insurance policy). The most common joint life policy provides coverage when the first partner dies, leaving the life insurance benefit to the surviving spouse.

3. How long will you need life insurance?

Consulting a psychic isn’t necessary, although it does require that you estimate the timing of your life insurance needs. For example:

o When will your mortgage be paid off? The amortization period of your mortgage will often determine how long your term life insurance policy should be.

o When will your children be finished school? One day they’ll finish their education and having enough life insurance coverage to pay their educational expenses won’t be necessary.

o When are you planning to retire? You will have less income to replace at that time.

Knowing how long you’ll need life insurance coverage before you begin shopping will ensure you’re comfortable with the life insurance product you end up purchasing. Online tools are available to help you figure out which term for your life insurance policy is most recommended for people with similar lifestyles.

So now that you’ve got the how much, who and how long questions answered, you’re ready to shop.

1. Compare life insurance quotes from multiple companies:

It pays to shop around because life insurance rates can vary considerably depending on the product you choose, your age, and the amount of coverage you request. This is the easy part, because with the Internet you can compare life insurance quotes easily, online, anytime.

2. Which life insurance rate has been quoted – standard or preferred?

There are two basic life insurance rate groups you should know about when shopping for life insurance coverage: standard rates and preferred. Standard life insurance rates are the rates the majority of Canadians qualify for, while about one third of the population is eligible for preferred rates.

Preferred life insurance rates are typically offered to very healthy people and means you may pay a smaller premium than most. Usually preferred rates are offered only once the results of the medical information and tests are known. It will depend on your blood pressure, cholesterol levels, height, weight, and family health history. But preferred rates are worth it. They could save you up to 30-35% off your quoted premium.

When comparing prices, make sure you’re comparing ‘standard to standard’ or ‘preferred to preferred’ life insurance rates. If you’re not sure, ask the broker. It would be disappointing to find out you were quoted preferred rates at the beginning, only to find out you don’t qualify for them later.

3. Review the life insurance broker’s availability:

How easily can you get a hold of the broker? What are their hours of operation? Whether it is through their website or telephone, the life insurance broker should be easily accessible to you should you ever have questions or need to speak to them about a change in your life insurance needs. Look for toll-free numbers and extended hours of service as guides.

4. Review the medical information required to obtain the policy:

Typically the more medical information you provide, the better the price. For a policy that asks few or no medical questions, you can bet the premium is higher for the same coverage then a plan asking for more information. Depending on the company, your age, and the amount of coverage you want, you could be asked to provide blood and urine samples. To obtain the samples, a nurse will visit at not cost to you.

5. Consider a life insurer’s financial stability and strength:

A company’s financial stability is something to consider if you are planning on making a long-term purchase like life insurance. There are organizations out there, like A.M. Best, that evaluate insurers and provide a rating on their stability and strength.

6. Ask about renewal options and requirements:

Once the initial premium is set, it is usually guaranteed for the length of the policy (often 10 or 20 years). But what happens when the policy expires? Most policies are renewable until you are 70 or 75 so don’t forget to ask your broker if you will have to take a medical to renew your policy. While your premiums will be higher on renewal, find out if they will also be guaranteed to remain level for the second term of the policy.

7. Confirm the policy can be cancelled without penalty:

Most term life insurance policies can be cancelled at any time without penalty. Make sure to check with your broker to see if the life insurance company has any unusual cancellation policies.

8. Consider the conversion options and restrictions for the policy:

As your life changes so do your life insurance needs and you may want the option to convert your coverage some day.

To convert a term life insurance policy means to transfer all, or part of, the death benefit of the policy into a permanent life policy without a medical. For example, say you originally bought a term policy to protect a mortgage and child. Once the mortgage is paid and the child grown, you might find it desirable to convert the policy into one that will give you a new level premium for the rest of your life, and a death benefit that is guaranteed not to expire as you age.

When you purchase your life insurance policy, find out if there are any limitations on your age at the time of conversion. In most cases, you have the option of converting up until you are 60 or 65. As well, ensure you are given several options of the type of policies you can move into, the more the better.

Final tip – choose a life insurance broker you trust:

While it doesn’t necessarily impact the type of policy you choose to purchase, a rapport with your broker is critical in feeling comfortable with the life insurance policy you buy and the information you’ve received.