Life insurance can provide families peace of mind and financial support in the event that the policy holder dies. If you’re the primary breadwinner for your household, then a life insurance policy can help pay funeral expenses, survivors’ day-to-day living costs, and children’s college costs.
Finding affordable life insurance starts with understanding your needs and budget. There are plenty of options you can choose from when shopping for coverage.
Why Should Families Have Life Insurance?
Life insurance is designed to pay out a death benefit to beneficiaries after the insured person dies. Life insurance can provide reassurance that should something happen to you, your dependents will be taken care of.
A life insurance policy can be a key part of personal insurance planning, which also encompasses homeowners or renters, auto, health, and disability insurance. If you have a family, life insurance can help your loved ones meet the following needs:
• Replace lost income. If the sole or main income-earner dies, life insurance can help to replace their lost income and cover day-to-day expenses.
• Pay final expenses. Funeral and burial costs can be expensive, and cremation is not necessarily any cheaper. Proceeds from life insurance can pay all of the associated costs, relieving financial stress during an already trying time.
• Clear outstanding debts. If you leave behind a mortgage, student loans, credit cards, or other debts, a life insurance policy can be used to pay them off so your loved ones aren’t stuck with overwhelming debt.
• Pay college expenses. If you have children, your life insurance policy can help pay for their higher education costs or secondary education expenses if they attend private school.
• Cover basic living expenses. Even if you leave no major debts behind, your loved ones may need money to pay for utilities, groceries, and other everyday bills.
• Fund retirement for a surviving spouse. Life insurance can help to fill a retirement planning gap for couples when a surviving spouse is not left with a nest egg.
In short, life insurance can help with a variety of expenses. Having a death benefit can help your loved ones avoid having to tap into other financial resources, or it can create a cushion if they lack other resources.
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How Much Life Insurance Do Families Need?
How much life insurance you need usually depends on your income. A general rule of thumb is to purchase a policy that’s equivalent to seven to 10 times your annual income. So if you make $100,000 a year, you’d need a policy with a death benefit of $700,000 to $1 million.
Even if one person brings in most of the income, both partners can benefit from having life insurance, especially if you have kids. If one person is the primary caregiver and they pass away, that can create new costs for the one who’s left behind.
For example, if you worked while your partner stayed home, you might need to spend money on daycare or in-home care, cleaning services, lawn care services, and other expenses to cover household tasks that they might have handled so that you can continue to work. Or if you choose to take an extended bereavement leave to care for your children, then life insurance can ensure that you’re able to meet your expenses during that time.
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Types of Life Insurance for Families
There are two main types of life insurance: Term life and permanent coverage. Term life insurance is designed to cover you for a set term. For example, you might purchase a 20-year term policy. If you pass away within that term, the policy can pay out a death benefit to your family. Otherwise, the policy expires at the end of the term.
Permanent life insurance covers you for life, as long as the premiums are paid. One of the most common options for permanent life insurance is whole life. With whole life insurance, part of each premium payment is deposited into a cash value account. The account earns interest, and you can withdraw the cash you accumulate or borrow against it. When you die, the policy pays a death benefit to your loved ones, less any amounts you’ve withdrawn or borrowed against.
So which is better for families, term life vs. whole life insurance? The answer depends on your needs and budget. If you’re looking specifically for affordable life insurance for families, then term life is likely the better option. You don’t get lifetime protection or cash value accumulation, but generally, premiums for term life coverage tend to be lower than whole life.
By the way, you can typically convert term insurance to permanent insurance (such as whole life) at a higher premium if you want to keep your insurance longer than the term.
Making whole life insurance affordable is more challenging, as lifetime coverage means that your insurers are virtually guaranteed to have to pay out a claim. As such, they can charge higher premiums for the same death benefit. Age and health can also play a part in determining term life or whole insurance costs. Coverage is usually cheaper when you’re younger and healthier, so waiting to buy insurance could prove more expensive.
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How to Get Affordable Life Insurance for Families
If you’re on the hunt for an affordable life insurance policy, it’s important to do your research to know what options are available. You may have access to life insurance already without realizing it. It’s also good to consider exactly what you need a life insurance policy to do for you and whether it makes sense to purchase coverage for children or grandparents as well.
1. Review Your Workplace Insurance Benefits
It’s possible that you may already have some life insurance in place to protect your family if your employer offers group coverage as an employee benefit. That type of life insurance covers a group of employees up to a certain benefit amount. For example, you might have $50,000 in group life insurance that your employer pays for. You may have the option to purchase additional coverage and increase the death benefit, with premiums deducted from your paychecks.
Group life insurance may not provide the full amount of coverage you need. But it can be a good starting point for getting an affordable life insurance policy if your employer is picking up the tab for the premiums. Check with your HR department or benefits coordinator to see if group life is offered at your job and how to enroll in coverage.
2. Opt for Term Life, If Possible
As mentioned, term life insurance can be a cheaper option than whole life insurance. If you’re not interested in building cash value and you don’t necessarily need lifetime coverage, term life may be preferable to whole life.
When purchasing term life insurance, think carefully about how long you’d like to keep the coverage in place. If you’re 30 years old and have two kids, for example, you might want a 20-year term policy, which could help pay for their college costs if something were to happen to you before they reach adulthood.
On the other hand, if you’re in your 40s and don’t think you’ll need coverage that long, you might choose a 10-year term policy instead. The longer the term and the larger the death benefit, the more life insurance will cost you in premiums.
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3. Weigh the Benefits of Life Insurance for Children or Grandparents
Life insurance policies for children are typically permanent life policies. You pay in premiums and part of that money builds cash value. When your child reaches adulthood, they can take over the policy or withdraw the cash value and use the money to pay for college, buy a car, or fund other financial goals. (If their health has changed this could also be the only insurance they are able to get.)
Should you buy life insurance for children? It’s an important question to ask if you’re looking for life insurance for the entire family. You can purchase life insurance for kids at fairly low premiums, and your child can decide later if they’d like to keep the policy or cash it in. Another alternative: You might be able to grow that money by investing the premiums you would have paid to life insurance into a 529 college savings account or investment account for your kids instead.
Purchasing a burial insurance policy for your aging parents can make sense if you don’t want to be facing a large bill from the funeral home while you’re grieving. Burial coverage is generally the most affordable life insurance for seniors, since it has a low death benefit. You may be able to get coverage for as little as $50 a month.
4. Choose Guaranteed Renewal
If you’re purchasing term life and you think there’s a chance that you might need coverage for longer than the initial term, consider getting a policy with guaranteed automatic renewal. Having that benefit built in means that you can renew your policy once the initial term expires, without being subjected to an increase in premiums due to age or health. Just be aware that your new premiums will likely be much, much higher.
5. Be Selective About Riders
Life insurance riders can enhance your coverage. While some may be included at no charge, others can increase your premiums by a few dollars each. Some of the most commonly added riders include:
• Accelerated death benefit
• Accidental death
• Guaranteed insurability
• Waiver of premium
• Child rider
• Critical illness coverage
• Disability coverage
Any of these riders can make your policy more comprehensive. But if affordable life insurance is the goal, then it’s important to consider whether they’re worth the added cost. Accelerated death benefit riders, for instance, pay out benefits while you’re still living to help with end of life care. That could be worth paying for if you’re concerned about developing a terminal illness. However, you won’t use that benefit if you die in an accident or from old age.
Tips for Saving Money on Life Insurance
Finding affordable life insurance can be a challenge, but it helps to have a strategy. Do your homework so you’re not buying more coverage than you need or choosing the wrong kind of policy. Here are a few more tips for saving money on life insurance as a family:
• Consider an online insurance company, which may charge lower premiums than a traditional insurer.
• Buy sooner rather than later to get the best rates available for your age and health.
• Ask your insurance company about any discounts you may qualify for.
• Get multiple life insurance quotes to compare rates across companies.
• Take care of yourself as much as possible, since staying healthy can influence your insurance rates.
With most life insurance policies, you may be asked to complete a medical exam. This exam is used to determine your health status and how much you’ll pay for premiums. You can, however, opt for a no exam policy if you’d like to get covered online without having to see a doctor.
Finding affordable life insurance may seem a little overwhelming, but it doesn’t have to be. Start by reviewing your workplace benefits for group coverage that might be subsidized by your employer. Then, given a choice between term life and whole life insurance, term life is the more affordable option. Also, the sooner you purchase a policy the better, since premiums are tied to your age and health. Last, shop around for the best deal, and ask if you qualify for discounts.
You can start your search for life insurance online with SoFi. We’ve partnered with Ladder to make it easy to find affordable life insurance plans with coverage ranging from $100,000 to $8 million. You can get a quote and apply online in minutes.
Photo credit: iStock/gradyreese
Ladder policies are issued in New York by Allianz Life Insurance Company of New York, New York, NY (Policy form # MN-26) and in all other states and DC by Allianz Life Insurance Company of North America, Minneapolis, MN (Policy form # ICC20P-AZ100 and # P-AZ100). Only Allianz Life Insurance Company of New York is authorized to offer life insurance in the state of New York. Coverage and pricing is subject to eligibility and underwriting criteria. SoFi Agency and its affiliates do not guarantee the services of any insurance company. The California license number for SoFi Agency is 0L13077 and for Ladder is OK22568. Ladder, SoFi and SoFi Agency are separate, independent entities and are not responsible for the financial condition, business, or legal obligations of the other. Social Finance, Inc. (SoFi) and Social Finance Life Insurance Agency, LLC (SoFi Agency) do not issue, underwrite insurance or pay claims under LadderLifeTM policies. SoFi is compensated by Ladder for each issued term life policy. SoFi offers customers the opportunity to reach Ladder Insurance Services, LLC to obtain information about estate planning documents such as wills. Social Finance, Inc. (“SoFi”) will be paid a marketing fee by Ladder when customers make a purchase through this link. All services from Ladder Insurance Services, LLC are their own. Once you reach Ladder, SoFi is not involved and has no control over the products or services involved. The Ladder service is limited to documents and does not provide legal advice. Individual circumstances are unique and using documents provided is not a substitute for obtaining legal advice.
Financial Tips & Strategies: The tips provided on this website are of a general nature and do not take into account your specific objectives, financial situation, and needs. You should always consider their appropriateness given your own circumstances.