Life Insurance Basics

Life Insurance Basics

There is no getting around death. You will die. I will die. Most of the time, we hardly think about death. Usually the idea of our own mortality is forced into our minds when someone close to us passes away. This is normally a fleeting thought, replaced by real life responsibilities, work, and more pressing engagements. 

But the reality is, we just don't like thinking about death. Because the topic of life insurance forces us to think about our death, we correspondingly don't like thinking about life insurance. It's just not fun to do. But, it is necessary to think about such insurance, especially if you have a family who depends financially upon you as a breadwinner. 

Not dealing with this responsibility means you are exposing your family to the risk of becoming financially destitute if the unthinkable happens. No matter how hard we may want to avoid dealing with death, we simply must address our financial responsibilities to those we leave behind.

Risks Covered By Life Insurance 
Life insurance may be used to protect against many different types of risk, both personal and business related, such as:

1. Regular Life Insurance - Proceeds from an insurance policy used to replace lost future personal earnings due to an untimely death. The face amount (aka "coverage amount") required to meet this need depends upon several factors, which include lost earnings, monthly housing costs, other assets available etc.. A simplified approach, that allows you to get a ballpark idea of the coverage required, is to divide your annual earnings by 5%. For example, if your annual earnings are $50,000, you would need $1,000,000 in insurance coverage ($50,000 divided by 5% equals $1,000,000).

2. Buy-Sell Life Insurance - Proceeds from an insurance policy used to acquire a deceased business associate's interest in your business. The face amount required to meet this need depends upon the fair market value of your business multiplied by your deceased associate's ownership interest in the business. For example, if the value of your business equals $1,000,000 and there are two associates, this requires insurance on each associate equal to $500,000. The business may be the owner/beneficiary/payor of premiums for the life policy or each associate may be the owner/beneficiary/payor of premiums.

3. Key Man Life Insurance - Proceeds from an insurance policy used to secure the services of a deceased employee with unique skills. The company is the beneficiary of the plan and therefore pays the insurance policy premiums.

4. Second-To-Die Life Insurance - This is an insurance policy that insures two lives (you and your spouse). If the last spouse to die has a taxable estate, the proceeds from this insurance policy will be used to pay for the federal and state estate tax. For example, if the future estate is projected to generate an estate tax of $1,000,000, then you would want a face amount equal to this amount. This ensures that your heirs receive every dollar of your estate.

5. Wealth Transfer Life Insurance - Proceeds from this type of insurance policy are used to leave a bequest to a charitable organization of your choosing.

Types of Life Insurance Policies: 
1. Term Life Insurance - Term life is "temporary" insurance. It provides for pure annual coverage only (no investment component as in other types of policies).

2. Whole-Life Insurance - Whole life provides "permanent" insurance coverage and allows you to create an quasi-retirement investment account which is tax deferred. This policy will remain in force for your entire life so long as you make the required premium payments. It is more expensive because a portion of your premium is used to create an investment asset known as cash surrender value. This cash surrender value accumulates tax-free, unless you terminate the policy before death.

3. Universal Life Insurance - Universal Life is another type of "permanent" insurance. Universal is more flexible than Whole-Life offering low-cost permanent insurance protection as well as a savings element which, like Whole-Life insurance, is invested to provide a cash value buildup. The death benefit, savings element and premiums can be reviewed and altered as a policyholder's circumstances change.

4. Variable Life Insurance - Variable Life is similar to Universal Life except that it offers a greater array of investment choices.

To summarize there are four basic principles to consider when evaluating life insurance: 
1. Determine your needs.

2. Understand the different types of policies available.

3. Determine which policy best meets your needs.

4. Review your insurance as your needs change.

5. Select a professional who specializes in life insurance.