How to Get Life Insurance (If You Need It)

Why you need to know this: If you have anyone in your life who will be in deep financial trouble if you die, you should get life insurance.

When I was a freshman in college, I experienced a series of complicated medical issues that startled my parents into asking me to buy a life insurance plan. They were in no position to pay for a funeral if I suddenly died, and reasoned that my life insurance policy would cover all the expenses related to my untimely demise. I was taken aback by the idea that I would die before I was 20, but dutifully researched life insurance plans (because I am a tiger cub, and that’s what tiger cubs do).

It was a scary time (the medical things, the parents telling me that they were worried I was going to die and put them deep into debt, the process of getting approved for coverage even though my doctors were telling me I was going to be fine), but I ended up getting a 20-year-term life insurance policy worth $250,000 with a totally do-able payment of $15 a month. A decade later, I’m now paying about $36 a month for my policy, and if I were to die today, my parents (i.e. my beneficiaries) would receive more than $1 million. My folks are probably coming up with a scheme to kill me now so they can collect a payout. Kidding! (Kidding? Yes, kidding!)

I would have never considered getting a life insurance policy if none of those things had gone down. If you’re young, and relatively unattached you probably don’t need a policy. Because if you’re not married, have children, or have anyone else in your life who would be in deep financial trouble if you died, life insurance isn’t necessary. But if you have do have these people in your life and want to make sure that they’re taken care of if something happened to you, yes, it’s totally sensible to pay a few dollars a month for a life insurance policy.

Term life insurance is recommended: There are different kinds of life insurance policies (i.e. whole life), but financial advisors usually suggest that you get a term policy that covers you for a certain time period. A 20-year term policy is considered the best and advisors will usually tell you to get coverage that’s equal to at least five times your annual salary.

How much it will cost: Term policies are very affordable if you’re in good health. If you’re 30, you can get a 20-year term policy worth $500,000 for about $25 a month. If your health isn’t stellar for whatever reason, or if you smoke, you’re going to have to pay more (like three or four times more), or you may even be denied coverage.

How to get it:

Step One: Go on and enter in your personal information (height, weight, birthdate, how much coverage you’d like, and your contact information) to get a free list of price quotes. You can call an agency to get more information, but an agent is usually willing to call you to follow up on your inquiry.

Step Two: Complete an application with the company you’re interested in buying life insurance from.

Step Three: The company will work with you to schedule a medical exam because they want to make sure you didn’t lie about your medical history, and will evaluate your current state of health. The medical examiner will do a basic checkup, and take blood and urine samples.

Step Four: Put in a request for a copy of the medical evaluation results to be sent to you, because you’ll want that for your records, and they might not give it to you if you don’t ask. If you get denied coverage, you’ll want to know why.

Step Five: If you get approved for coverage, great! The price the company offers you shouldn’t be higher than what they quoted you. But if they discovered something during your medical exam that wasn’t made apparent before, they can either reject your application, or offer you a pricier rate.

Step Six: Make your monthly payments, and you’re good to go. You can now walk around saying, “I’m insured for $1 million!” and impress everyone until they realize that’s not actually your net worth.

Photo credit: Flickr/Mads Boedker

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