8 Tips for Talking to Your Spouse About Life Insurance

Insurance, Life Insurance
8 Tips for Talking to Your Spouse About Life Insurance

It’s not easy to discuss death, particularly when it means talking to your spouse about his or her mortality. But if your partner died without life insurance, you and your children could be left without a financial safety net.

Families with two incomes generally depend on both to support their lifestyle. And a stay-at-home spouse often provides essential child care that would be expensive to replace.

Life insurance agents say it’s common for one spouse to be the driver behind a life insurance purchase.

“That’s the norm,” says Scott Johnson, an insurance agent in Mill Valley, California. “A lot of times you win one person over on the phone, and it just falls apart” when the other spouse becomes involved.

With a little tact, good timing and a focus on the consequences for your family, you can persuade your spouse that life insurance is well worth considering.

How to have a talk about life insurance

“Speaking about life insurance is always going to be a touchy subject,” Johnson says. “There is really no way around it.”

If your spouse is someone who needs life insurance, here are some good ways to approach the topic:

  1. Find the right opportunity. People tend to be more comfortable discussing life insurance just after financial or estate planning or the birth of a child, Johnson says. An impending birthday can be an opportunity too. Life insurance generally gets more expensive with each passing year.
  2. Set the mood. Life insurance isn’t something to bring up in the car on the way to the grocery store. Set aside some time when you’re both at home and relaxed.
  3. Focus on your family. Frame life insurance as protection for you and your kids, advises Jesse Olson, an insurance agent with Farm Bureau Financial Services in Anoka, Minnesota. “I think it all just comes down to having that conversation about what it means to the survivors.”
  4. Lay out the numbers. Point out how much it would cost to pay the mortgage, provide child care and eventually fund college, and how hard that would be without your spouse.

[Life insurance quotes are available through NerdWallet’s Life Insurance Comparison Tool.]

5. Note that employer-provided life insurance isn’t enough. If your spouse has group life insurance through work, compare the amount of coverage to your financial obligations, and note that the group insurance would disappear with a job loss or change.

6. Show your spouse life insurance rate quotes. People often don’t realize how cheap life insurance can be. A 2015 survey by insurance and financial services industry research group LIMRA and the nonprofit insurance group Life Happens found that 65% of respondents said they didn’t buy life insurance because they thought it was too expensive. When asked how much they thought a 20-year, $250,000 term life insurance policy for a healthy 30-year-old would cost, people gave a median estimate of $400 a year. That’s more than twice the actual cost.

7. Get professional help. Life insurance agents talk to reluctant buyers about coverage options and prices every day. So find an agent you like and then get him or her together with you and your spouse. NerdWallet’s advisor network includes agents who deal with life insurance.

8. Be persistent. Your spouse may not agree to buy life insurance the first time you discuss the issue. That means you may need to try again. After all, it’s better to keep bringing it up than to be faced with a financial disaster if you lost your spouse.

Wives making the call

We’ve left this discussion gender neutral until now. But the truth is that these days the typical scenario involves wives talking to their husbands about life insurance.

Back when most husbands viewed themselves as the main breadwinners, they often saw life insurance as essential protection for their families. But this message doesn’t resonate with younger husbands, who tend to see their spouses as equal financial partners who could carry on without them, according to a recent study by LIMRA.

Still, a recent NerdWallet survey found that life insurance shortfalls hurt women more than men. Almost half (49%) of married women said they worried about their ability to pay the mortgage and other bills if they lost their spouse. Only 37% of married men expressed the same concerns.

That puts a burden on wives to broach the subject. And they are often not shy about raising the issue.

“I usually hear from the female first,” Olson says. “Then it moves into, ‘We’re going to really have to work this over with my husband or my partner.’ ”

Johnson also finds women generally are more accepting of the concept of life insurance, while men tend to be more willing to take greater financial risks, such as going without life insurance.

When it’s time to have the conversation, a good place to start is NerdWallet’s life insurance tool, which provides term life rates and guidance on how much coverage you need. 

Aubrey Cohen is a staff writer at NerdWallet, a personal finance website. Email: acohen@nerdwallet.com. Twitter: @aubreycohen.


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