When you are young, the main purpose of having adequate life insurance is to provide a financial safety net for your family during your most crucial income-earning years. As one gets older that need gradually changes, but there are still valid reasons to have significant life insurance, such as estate planning. For those who are younger, here are a few guidelines for choosing life insurance for the first time.
Step 1: Calculate the need. On line calculators can help. Insurance agents can help. These tools will help you analyze your net worth and potential long-term income and expenses. Use those numbers to determine your life insurance needs.
Step 2: Max out employer-provided life insurance. This is generally the best place to start. You may be eligible upon initial employment for coverage without underwriting. Often you can add more coverage using payroll deductions. Remember that employer-provided coverage is generally term insurance available while you are employed. But those policies often allow you to convert it to an individual policy when you change jobs or retire.
Step 3: Choose a policy type. It’s good to have some coverage not tied to your job. While there are other variations available, you are most often dealing with two choices—term and cash value. Term insurance is for specific period of time and is usually cheapest. Cash value has an investment component built in. Seek appropriate council on which best fits your needs.
Step 4: Plan for your spouse. Both spouses should have life insurance, especially if there are young children in the family or an elderly family member that may require care. The price of providing someone to fulfill those duties can be costly for the surviving spouse.
Step 5: Name your beneficiaries. Most people name their spouse. If you want to name as beneficiary minor children, a trust, or your estate, see appropriate professional guidance. Otherwise you may create unintended tax consequences and other problems.
It may also be cost-effective to provide added protection by including accident and disability riders to your life insurance policy. Once your life insurance is in place, be sure to revisit it every few years to make sure it still meets your needs. This is especially critical if there are change in your family or employment status.
(For ministers and church employees, GuideStone offers term life, accident and disability policies designed for those in ministry.)
Don Spencer is the church financial benefits consultant for the Kentucky Baptist Convention.