Maurie Backman, The Motley Fool
You’ve probably been told time and time again that you should have a life insurance policy, but if you’re like many consumers, you’ve been putting it off due to one key factor: money. It’s true that life insurance isn’t always cheap, but there are steps you can take to make it more affordable. Here are a few to begin with.
1. Get a term policy
You have two primary options for buying life insurance: permanent life insurance and term life insurance. With the former, you’re covered forever, and your policy accumulates a cash value that can serve as an income source for you when you need it. With the latter, you’re only covered for a specific period of time (hence the name “term”), and once your policy runs out, you get nothing. You also don’t accumulate a cash value with a term life policy. That said, term life insurance is generally a lot cheaper than permanent insurance, since you forgo the benefit of cash value and indefinite coverage, so if cost is a concern, it pays to look into term policies.
2. Apply when you’re relatively young
The younger you are when you apply for life insurance, the lower a premium rate you’ll generally snag. Many people put off life insurance until their 40s or 50s because they don’t want to start making premium payments earlier on. But by waiting that long, you risk getting slapped with a prohibitively high premium instead.
3. Get healthier
The healthier you are, the easier it becomes to snag an affordable premium rate on a life insurance policy. Therefore, if you work on improving the picture of your health, you could save a bundle. If you’re overweight, aim to shed enough pounds to get into a healthy range. If you’re underweight, do the opposite, because you will be penalized any time your weight lands in what’s considered an unhealthy range. And of course, if you’re a smoker, kick the habit — incidentally, it’ll save you money, too.
4. Buy only the coverage you need
You’ll pay more for a life insurance policy with a $2 million death benefit than you will for a policy that pays a $500,000 death benefit. If you want to keep your premiums manageable, don’t overbuy coverage.
How should you calculate your coverage level? A good way to start is to establish a benefit that’s a certain multiple of your income — say, 5 or 10 times that sum. Next, evaluate your outstanding debt, like your mortgage, and aim for enough coverage to pay it off. From there, think about financial goals you have for your family, and include enough money to pay for them (putting kids through college, for example). Finally, make sure there’s enough money in your death benefit to cover your funeral costs.
Let’s say you earn $60,000 a year and want five times that amount as a basic death benefit for a total of $300,000. Let’s also assume you want to include enough money to pay off your $100,000 mortgage, you want another $100,000 to put your child through college and another $10,000 to ensure that your funeral is taken care of. That means you’re looking at a death benefit of $510,000. If that’s the case, don’t buy a policy with a $1 million payout — you don’t need it.
You don’t need to be rich to get life insurance; you just need people in your life who stand to suffer financially in the event of your passing. If those people exist, then do some research and aim to find an affordable policy that gives your loved ones — and you — the peace of mind you all deserve.