Many of my clients don't realize their need for life insurance changes over time. Let's take a quick look at how your life insurance needs change throughout your lifetime.
Young Adult: Footloose and Fancy Free
At this stage, you're independent and self-sufficient. You don't depend on your parents for your financial well-being. My first piece of advice is to buy life insurance now, while you're healthy and the rates are low. This is especially true if you're at risk for developing a medical condition (such as diabetes or cancer) later in life. If you have immediate family members, grandparents, or aunts and uncles with medical conditions such as high blood pressure, diabetes, or cancer, consider buying life insurance now to lock in a low rate.
There are other reasons to insure yourself now, too. If you have a mortgage or other loans that are jointly held with a cosigner, your death would leave the cosigner responsible for the entire debt. I suggest purchasing enough life insurance to cover these debts in the event of your death. Similarly, funeral expenses are a growing concern for young people. If your parents would be financially burdened by paying for your funeral and burial expenses, you might consider a small life insurance policy ($10,000 to $20,000) to cover these costs.
Newlyweds: Going to the Chapel
There's someone special in your life - and that means your life insurance needs have changed. For example, if both spouses contribute equally to the household finances, the death of one spouse will definitely affect the other financially. Once you buy a house, however, the situation changes. Even if both spouses have well-paying jobs, the burden of a mortgage may be more than the surviving spouse can afford on a single income. Now, it's definitely time to look into life insurance, even without children. Credit card debt and other debts can also contribute to the financial strain.
To make sure either spouse could carry on financially after the death of the other, I recommend you both purchase a modest amount of life insurance. At a minimum, it will provide peace of mind knowing that both you and your spouse are protected. Keep in mind that your life insurance needs increase significantly if you are caring for an aging parent, or if you have children before marriage. Life insurance becomes extremely important in these situations, because these dependents must be provided for in the event of your death.
Becoming Parents: Your Growing Family
When you have young children, your life insurance needs are greatest. In most situations, life insurance for both parents is a smart financial decision. Single-income families are completely dependent on the income of the breadwinner. If he or she dies without life insurance, the consequences could be disastrous. The death of the stay-at-home spouse would necessitate costly day-care and housekeeping expenses. Both spouses should carry enough life insurance to cover the lost income or the economic value of lost services that would result from their deaths. Dual-income families need life insurance, too. If one spouse dies, it is unlikely that the surviving spouse will be able to keep up with the household expenses and pay for child care with the remaining income.
Career Builder: Moving up the Ladder
For many people, career advancement means starting a new job with a new company. At some point, you might even decide to be your own boss and start your own business. It's important to review your life insurance coverage any time you leave an employer. Keep in mind that when you leave your job, your employer-sponsored group life insurance coverage will usually end, so find out if you will be eligible for group coverage through your new employer, or look into purchasing life insurance coverage on your own.
Make sure that the amount of your coverage is up-to-date as well. The policy you purchased right after you got married might not be adequate anymore, especially if you have kids, a mortgage, and college expenses to consider. Business owners may also have additional debt to consider. If your business is not incorporated, your family could be responsible for those bills if you die.
Time to Shine: Your Retirement Years
Once you retire and your priorities shift, your life insurance needs may change. If fewer people are depending on you financially, your mortgage and other debts have been repaid, and you have substantial financial assets, you may need less life insurance protection than before. But it's also possible that your need for life insurance will remain strong even after you retire. For example, the proceeds of a life insurance policy can be used to pay your final expenses or to replace any income lost to your spouse as a result of your death (e.g., from a pension or Social Security). Life insurance can also be used to pay estate taxes or leave money to charity.
No matter what stage of life you're in, the right life insurance coverage is just a call or click away.