Life insurance is an important part of a well-rounded financial plan. But let's face it, it can be confusing. In fact, misunderstandings about life insurance cause many people to skip getting coverage altogether.
"While it can take some work to get a handle on the various types and terminology associated with life insurance, it's not rocket science," points out J.J. Montanaro, a certified financial planner with USAA. "Taking a pass altogether and putting your family at great risk for financial hardship is not the answer."
Here, we set the record straight on eight common myths about life insurance.
Myth 1: Single and young people don't need life insurance.
Truth: Your key question should be: Are there financial obligations I need to meet if I'm gone?
Even if you have no dependents, you'll likely have funeral expenses and might leave behind other debts you'd like to see paid off. You also might have family members who lent you money or to whom you would like to provide financial support.
A life insurance policy could cover these costs. Moreover, buying while you're young can help you lock in lower rates and guarantee coverage if you develop health problems later in life.
Myth 2: Only people with kids need life insurance.
Truth: Chances are your spouse depends on your income, regardless of whether you have children. Could he or she manage to pay the mortgage and all other household bills and debts alone? Would he or she need time and resources to go back to school or train for a new career?
A life insurance policy could help your partner maintain his or her standard of living and take the steps necessary to move forward.
Myth 3: If your employer provides coverage, there's no need for more.
Truth: Many corporations provide their employees with free life insurance worth one or two times their annual salary. Similarly, the military's Servicemembers Group Life Insurance (SGLI) offers $400,000 of inexpensive coverage. These are nice benefits, but if you leave your company or the military without a separate policy in place, it may be difficult, costly or even too late to buy one when you need it most.
Myth 4: Life insurance is too expensive.
Truth: It probably costs less than you think. For example, a healthy 30-year-old male can get $500,000 of 20-year term life insurance coverage for less than $25 per month.
Myth 5: Insurance policies are all the same.
Truth: There are a variety of different types of coverage, and even policies that have similar names may differ substantially in what they offer. So before you buy based on price alone, it pays to read the fine print.
Myth 6: There's no reason to insure a stay-at-home spouse.
Truth: Your stay-at-home spouse may not earn an income, but think of all he or she does to keep the household running: child care, meal preparation, transportation, housekeeping and more. With that spouse gone, life suddenly gets a lot more challenging -- and expensive. Life insurance can defray the cost of hiring help or changing jobs or work habits to accommodate a new lifestyle in your partner's absence.
Myth 7: Buy it once and you won't have to think about it again.
Truth: Life insurance isn't a set-it-and-forget-it proposition. Every significant life event -- marriage, a new baby, divorce, buying a house, retiring -- should prompt you to double-check your coverage. Even if you've had no big changes, it's also smart to review the policy every few years to ensure that you're keeping pace with inflation and still getting the best value for your premium dollars.
Myth 8: Buying life insurance is a hassle.
Truth: Today, you can use simple online tools like USAA's life insurance calculator to determine your needs, compare options and apply on the spot. Explore at your own pace with no high-pressure sales tactics.