The 9 Biggest Myths About Life Insurance

Insurance, Life Insurance
The 9 Biggest Myths About Life Insurance Story

Thinking about your death is hardly the most enjoyable way to spend your life. But that’s not the only reason people avoid shopping for life insurance.

There are a lot of misperceptions about how to buy life insurance. That confusion is part of the reason 54% of Americans say it’s unlikely they’ll buy life insurance within the next year, according to the 2015 Insurance Barometer Study from Life Happens and LIMRA.

Here are some of the most common myths about life insurance, along with facts to help you better understand it.

Myth 1: It’s expensive.

The biggest misconception about life insurance is its cost: 80% of those surveyed overestimated the price for a given policy, according to the study.

“People think it’s more expensive than it is for protection that they truly need,” says Marvin Feldman, president and CEO of Life Happens.

That is particularly the case for millennials, who overestimated the cost by 213% on average, and Gen Xers, who overestimated by 119%. When asked the annual price for a 20-year, $250,000 term life insurance policy for a healthy 30-year-old, respondents gave a median estimate of $400. Millennials put it at $600.

The actual price is about $160 annually.

Myth 2: The choices are overwhelming.

It’s true that there are many varieties of life insurance. But for most people, the best choice is term life insurance — and that’s pretty straightforward.

With term life, you determine the amount of coverage — say $250,000 or $500,000 — and the timespan for your protection, such as 10, 20 or 30 years. If you pay your monthly premiums and die within the term, your beneficiary gets the money.

Online tools make it much easier to research and purchase a policy than it was years ago. You can get a quick, anonymous quote with NerdWallet’s life insurance comparison tool.

Myth 3: If you are young and healthy, you don’t need it.

Your life insurance needs depend on many factors, but if possible, it’s better to buy a policy when you’re young and healthy and it costs the least. For example, NerdWallet’s life insurance comparison tool shows a policy that costs $12 a month at age 30 will cost about $32 a month at age 50. Because you’re more likely to develop health problems as you age, the price goes up.

Feldman recalls a client who bought a policy about eight years ago, when he was in his 40s. He now has a terminal illness and would unlikely be able to get that same insurance today. “He’s lucky that he bought it when he didn’t need it,” he says.

Myth 4: If you have health issues, you can’t get it.

Unless you have severe health conditions, you generally can buy term life insurance.

Conditions such as diabetes, high cholesterol and arthritis will mean higher higher life insurance quotes, but insurance could still be within reach. For example, NerdWallet’s comparison tool estimates that a 50-year-old man with high cholesterol and a family history of heart disease can buy a 20-year, $250,000 policy for $46 a month.

Myth 5: If you are single, you don’t need it.

There are many reasons single people buy life insurance. For example, you may have children, be planning to marry or have aging parents who are financially dependent on you. Another unpleasant but important consideration: Your benefits can pay for your burial costs.

Life insurance would also help if you’re single and own a business or have major co-signed debt.

“No one wants to think about dying or how it will affect your loved ones, but a policy could mean that no one else ends up encumbered with your debt,” Feldman says.

Myth 6: You should set money aside for savings rather than buy life insurance.

It’s important to save for retirement, but a term life insurance policy is a sensible component of a financial plan. Because life insurance is fairly inexpensive, you should be able to pay for a term life policy while continuing to save.

Young adults may say they’d prefer to invest money instead of earmarking it toward monthly insurance premiums, but this isn’t always what happens. For that matter, according to the LIMRA and Life Happens study, 29% of millennials prioritized saving for vacation over purchasing life insurance, and 23% of Gen Xers said recreational activities and shopping were more important.

Myth 7: It’s not available for older people.

Even if you’re over 60, you can generally buy term life insurance unless you have a terminal illness. Your goals are likely different from a 30-year-old’s, so you may want to consider a shorter-term policy to help your family with estate planning or buying out a business partner. The cost of coverage, of course, is much higher for older people.

Older people might also want to consider final expense insurance, offered by some companies. This generally offers a payout of $50,000 or less and is designed to help pay off final debts and burial expenses.

Myth 8: If you are a stay-at-home parent you don’t need it.

If you die, who’s going to take care of your children, elderly parents and even your pets? Your surviving spouse may need to hire help, and insurance benefits could help pay for these costs. Stay-at-home parents provide a tremendous benefit to the family, and that void is expensive to fill.

Myth 9: Life insurance through your employer is sufficient.

Group life insurance is a great employer benefit, but typically the payout is fairly low, perhaps twice your base salary. That may not be enough to provide for a young family. Plus, what if you lose or leave your job? A workplace policy doesn’t travel with you, so a personal policy is the safest way to ensure your family is taken care of.

Robyn Parets is a staff writer at NerdWallet, a personal finance website. Email: rparets@nerdwallet.com. Twitter: @RobynParets


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