How Does Life Insurance Work?
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UPDATED: Mar 13, 2020
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Life insurance is designed to pay out a financial “benefit” to your loved ones (beneficiaries) in the event of your death.
Of course, you will need to pay an insurance premium to ensure the benefit is actually paid out.
Why You Need Life Insurance
Life insurance is a good idea for anyone who has debt of any kind or loved ones that depend on their income to maintain their current standard of living.
What would you leave to your family in the event of your passing? Even if you are single, life insurance could be a good idea.
With life insurance, you can provide a secure financial future for those you love and leave no bills unpaid.
You could even be in a position where you would want to purchase life insurance coverage for someone else.
Perhaps you have children you want to have a college education paid for…or maybe you just don’t want to leave a bill for your burial. Either way, life insurance makes sense.
Life insurance also costs more as we get older, so it is a good idea to start coverage while you are young and healthy to keep costs down.
Where to Start
First, you will need to determine if you are going to purchase individual life insurance or group life insurance. The options for the type of life insurance available to you are more clearly defined based on this determination.
For example, group life insurance policies typically do not provide a whole life insurance option…but more about that later. Let’s look at the difference between group and individual life insurance policy options.
Group Life Insurance
Group life insurance is most easily recognized as life insurance purchased through your employer and is typically a term life policy.
It is possible to belong to various other groups, including credit unions or various retiree programs.
The benefit of the group plan is that the cost is typically lower than life insurance purchased as an individual policy…think “buying in bulk.”
Additionally, you may not have to pass any sort of exam when participating in a group life insurance policy.
Participants are usually guaranteed acceptance into the program simply by being part of the group.
Of course, the downside to this type of life insurance policy is that when you leave the group (or company) you no longer receive benefits and must continue coverage via COBRA or through your next employer’s plan.
And, you are not able to customize a plan to your exact needs. You are subject to the plan chosen by the group.
Individual Life Insurance
Conversely, individual life insurance is purchased in the private insurance market either “direct” from an insurance company or through an independent agent, sometimes referred to as a broker, depending on the state in which you reside.
There are a few benefits recognized by purchasing individually.
Most importantly, you can choose the type of policy that bests suits your needs.
Remember; there are several different types of life insurance policies that include numerous of options for investing and growing your money.
Another benefit of individual life insurance is that you can “shop” your premium with several insurers to determine who offers the best price for the coverage you desire.
If you are not eligible to participate in a group life insurance plan, or simply decide you want to go out on your own, you need to start the process of determining what type of life insurance policy you want (or need)
The most basic options for life insurance policies are “whole” and “term” life.
There are, of course, a multitude of different policies available under each basic category.
The whole life insurance policy is meant to be in-force from when it starts until your eventual death. This type of policy typically builds cash value over time.
You may be able to borrow against the value of this policy. There are many additional options available with the whole-life policy and you can expect to pay more for this type of plan as well.
The more cost effective life insurance option is the term life policy.
Term life insurance acts more like a home or auto insurance policy in that it is in force for a specifically agreed upon time. Additionally, you can normally obtain a much higher death benefit than whole life at a lower cost.
It’s highly recommended that you obtain life insurance quotes online and speak to a local independent life insurance agent to assess your overall needs when it comes to what type of policy you should obtain.
Related: What life insurance doesn’t cover.