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Life insurance provides those who depend on you financially with an important safety net.

What is life insurance?

A life insurance policy is a contract between you and an insurance company. In exchange for regular payments, called premiums, the insurer pays out money after you die. This payment goes to the people you choose as beneficiaries — usually children, a spouse or other family members. It can be an important safety net if anyone depends on you financially. Beneficiaries can use the money to repay debts, replace your income, or provide funds for future expenses like college tuition.

Who needs life insurance?

In general, people need life insurance if their death would place a financial burden on others. Examples include breadwinners, parents, homeowners, business owners and people with co-signed debt.

How much coverage should I buy?

To figure out how much life insurance you need, think about your financial obligations. Then, aim to take out a policy to match them. Another way to crunch the numbers is to multiply your annual income by 10, and use that as a rough estimate. Although you may have some life insurance through your job, it’s generally a good idea to have your own policy in addition to the life insurance provided by your employer. The policy through your workplace likely isn’t enough to meet your family’s financial needs and can end if you leave the job.

How much does life insurance cost?

It’s cheaper than you might think. The average life insurance rate for a 40-year-old in excellent health can be as little as $27 a month for a 20-year term policy with $500,000 in coverage, according to Quotacy, a life insurance brokerage. Rates can vary among insurers — sometimes significantly. When setting your rate, each life insurance company weighs factors like your health, lifestyle and driving record differently. Some are more lenient than others, which is why it’s important to compare quotes from several insurers.

Common life insurance terms

You might come across these terms when you’re shopping for life insurance. Click on the terms below to see what they mean.

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