Imagine this scenario: Two teenagers and a 7-year-old are suddenly in a single-parent household when their mother dies from cancer. Their father is doing the best he can, but a three-hour round-trip commute to work makes it challenging to be there as much as he wants for his children. And the struggle isn’t just one of time—because the children’s mother had no life insurance, there is no money available to pay for extra help needed to take care of all those responsibilities and duties that she once handled.
For Boomer Esiason, a former MVP NFL quarterback, and now a seasoned radio and TV broadcaster, that scenario was all too real. He was the 7-year-old who watched his father, Norman, struggle to handle the twin responsibilities of being the sole parent and the breadwinner. “I was handed a life lesson early,” says Boomer. “It wasn’t the easiest life—my dad sacrificed a lot.”
Unfortunately, Boomer’s circumstances are also all too real for many other households where a key family provider passed away and because of being under- or uninsured, left behind loved ones reeling from the emotional loss and the financial hardship. Statistics show that only 44% of households own individual life insurance, which combined with a reduction in the number of consumers with group insurance, leaves about one-third of people with no insurance at all. And one-third of those who do have life insurance don’t believe they have enough.
Which group do you fall into: the uninsured, the under-insured or the lucky group with enough insurance to provide for those who would be left behind? If you’re not sure, then this month, which is Life Insurance Awareness Month, is the ideal time to perform an insurance evaluation.
Where to Start
Make a list of your current life insurance coverage—group and individual, the benefit amount for each type and your total coverage. (Tip: this is also a good time to make sure your beneficiary information is up-to-date.)
Next, use LIFE’s Life Insurance Needs Calculator to determine how much your loved ones will need when you’re gone, not only to pay the final expenses but also as future income that is needed to sustain the household. (Note: Even if you’re not contributing financially to the household—for example, you may be a stay-at-home parent—your role has a dollar value. If you’re no longer there, chances are someone would have to be hired to handle some or all of the responsibilities that fell under your jurisdiction.)
Surprised by the amount the calculator recommends you should be insured for? Many people are! Now it’s time to bring in an insurance professional who can advise you on the best type of life insurance to purchase to fit your needs and goals:
- Term life insurance provides protection for a specific period of time (“term”)—anywhere from one to 30 years, with 20 years the most common— and generally pays a benefit only if you die during the “term.”
- Permanent life insurance provides lifelong protection as well as offering the ability to accumulate cash value on a tax-deferred basis, and remains in force as long as the premiums are paid. Permanent insurance includes whole life, variable life, universal life and variable universal life.
Your insurance advisor may also recommend certain options and riders to consider, such as accelerated death benefits, as well as advise you on what medical tests will be required before the policy is in force.
Make sure you understand all your options, the cost of your premiums and the benefit amount of the policy. As for naming beneficiaries, the following suggestions can be helpful:
- Always name a “contingent,” or secondary beneficiary, just in case you outlive your first beneficiary.
- When naming beneficiaries, be specific to avoid any confusion and ensure that the right person received the benefit amount.
- Select a specific beneficiary, rather than having the proceeds of your life insurance paid to your estate. This enables the beneficiary to access the funds immediately, rather than waiting until the policy goes through probate with the rest of your assets.
Be life insurance smart. Use Life Insurance Awareness Month to ensure that you are doing everything you can to protect those you love!