Wed04162014

Business

Life insurance: get to know the basics

About 70 percent of U.S. households agree that life insurance is the best way to protect against the financial consequences of a primary wage earner’s premature death, yet around half believe they do not have enough.

 
 Charles Sims Jr., CFP

About 70 percent of U.S. households agree that life insurance is the best way to protect against the financial consequences of a primary wage earner’s premature death, yet around half believe they do not have enough. However, choosing from the many types of life insurance policies that are available can be a difficult process. A few main categories are described here to help you search for a life insurance policy that is appropriate for you.

Keep in mind that the cost and availability of insurance depend on factors such as age, health, and the type and amount of insurance purchased. Before implementing a strategy involving insurance, it would be prudent to make sure that you are insurable.

Term life insurance


Term life insurance is the most basic and usually the most affordable. Policies can be purchased for a specified period of time. If you die within the time period defined in your policy, the insurance company will pay your beneficiaries the face value of your policy.

Policies can usually be bought for one- to 30-year time spans. Annual renewable term insurance usually can be renewed every year without proof of insurability, but the premium may increase with each renewal. Term insurance is useful if you can afford only a low-cost option or you need life insurance only for a certain amount of time (such as until your children graduate from college).

Permanent life insurance


The other major category is permanent life insurance. You pay a premium for as long as you live, and a benefit will be paid to your beneficiaries upon your death. Permanent life insurance typically comes with a “cash value” savings element. There are three main types of permanent life insurance: whole, universal and variable.

Whole life insurance: This type of permanent life insurance has a premium that stays the same throughout the life of the policy. Although the premiums may seem higher than the risk of death in the early years, they can accumulate cash value and are invested in the company’s general investment portfolio. You may be able to borrow funds from the cash value or surrender your policy for its face value, if necessary.

Access to cash values through borrowing or partial surrenders can reduce the policy’s cash value and death benefit, increase the chance that the policy will lapse, and may result in a tax liability if the policy terminates before the death of the insured. Additional out-of-pocket payments may be needed if actual dividends or investment returns decrease, if you withdraw policy values, if you take out a loan, or if current charges increase.

Universal life insurance: Universal life coverage goes one step further. You have the same type of coverage and cash value as you would with whole life, but with greater flexibility. Once money has accumulated in your cash-value account, you may be able to vary the frequency, as well as the amount, of your premiums. In fact, it may be possible to structure the policy so that the invested cash value eventually covers your premium costs completely. Of course, it’s important to remember that altering your premiums may decrease the value of the death benefit.

(Charles Sims Jr. is President/ CEO of The Sims Financial Group. Contact him at 901-682-2410 or visit www.SimsFinancialGroup.com. The information in this article is not intended to be tax or legal advice, and it may not be relied on for the purpose of avoiding any federal tax penalties. You are encouraged to seek tax or legal advice from an independent professional advisor.)


 

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