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Term Life Insurance: Is It Right For You?

If you've spent any time at all watching television recently, you've probably seen commercials advertising low-cost life insurance with guaranteed coverage that anyone can afford. And, if you're like many people, those commercials do get you thinking about the fact that you don't have life insurance yet, but you continue to procrastinate. (After all, you're going to live forever, right?) Or, maybe you think you can't afford the premiums or that you won't qualify for the rates advertised because of a medical condition, so you put off checking into your options.

The truth of the matter is that you DO need life insurance, and there really is affordable coverage out there to meet your needs. There are two main types of life insurance, whole life and term life. The less expensive of the two is term life insurance.

What is Term Life Insurance?
When you buy term life insurance, you're purchasing a policy that will provide protection for a certain period of time. A 'death benefit' is paid only if the person insured dies during the term of the coverage. Most insurance companies have set coverage period lengths you can choose from. These coverage periods could be as little as one year at a time, but most often are offered in five or ten-year increments.

As the policyholder, you get to decide who will receive the benefit payment in the event of your death. You should know, though, that some states and insurance companies have requirements concerning who can or must be designated as the beneficiary. For example, certain states require that your spouse be the beneficiary if you're married, and some insurance companies will not allow you to name your pet as the beneficiary (too bad for Fluffy, you won't be setting her up with a golden doghouse and steaks for life!). However, within limits, you can leave the benefit to anyone you like or to your estate to be divided up according to your will.

The biggest downfall of term life insurance is that you have to die before your family gets anything out of it, because the benefit is only payable when the policyholder dies. The policy itself has no cash value, and you can't borrow against it like you can with whole life policies. Another negative aspect of term life insurance is that it becomes more expensive as you get older. And, speaking of age, you don't have the right to continue the policy regardless of your age the way you can with whole life.

You might be familiar with term life as a benefit that employers offer to their employees, but that doesn't mean you can't purchase an individual policy for yourself. On the contrary, many insurance companies offer individual term life coverage. The only trick is to determine what type of term life insurance is best for you.

What Kinds of Term Life Insurance are Available?
There are three different kinds of term life insurance. Each of them has unique aspects that make them the best choice for certain situations. The three types of term life are:

Depreciating Term Life: Depreciating term is used as a means to cover a mortgage loan in the event that someone dies prematurely. The amount of the benefit goes down, or depreciates, as the amount owed on the mortgage is paid off (a slow and painful process...). This is an excellent option if you're concerned about your spouse's ability to pay the mortgage payment after your death. The popularity of these plans has waned because level term life policies are generally cheaper.

Level Term Life: Level term policies are available in increments from five to twenty years. These policies are a good choice for anyone who needs relatively cheap coverage for a longer period of time than just a few years. The cost of the policy will be a bit more expensive than annual renewable policies for the first few years, but will then stay level for the term of the policy. Most insurance companies offer policies that once issued, premiums remain level regardless of the insured's health status.

Annual Renewable Life: Annual renewable life policies must be renewed every year, but they're a good, inexpensive option if you just need a few years worth of coverage to cover a short-term expense, such as college tuition for a child (which is only slightly less painful than paying the mortgage!).

Who Should Purchase Term Life Insurance?
Term life insurance is an excellent option for anyone who simply cannot afford the higher premiums required by whole life insurance.

One popular use of term life is to help young families to cover expenses if one of the parents passes away. Couples who are just starting out and have young children may be unable to afford expensive whole life policies, but it's not wise to leave one spouse without a means of covering financial burdens if the other should die—especially in today's two-income world. The benefit can help the spouse to pay the mortgage or care for the children on his or her own.

Another good reason to purchase term life is to cover your business debts. If you're the owner of a small business and have taken out a business loan, you may want to consider purchasing a term life policy to pay that loan in case you die.

What Options Should You Look For?
Just like the car sitting in your driveway, life insurance policies come with options (and just like the options in your car, these options may raise the price of the policy). Term life options that may be available include:

Conversion: This option allows you to convert the term life policy to a whole life policy at the end of the policy's term.

Automatic Renewal: Some companies offer an automatic renewal of the policy without requiring a medical examination.

Premium Waiver: Your insurance company may allow you to waive, or not pay, the premiums if you become disabled. The policy remains in effect just as if you were paying timely premiums.

Accidental Death Coverage: If your death is the result of an accident, the benefit paid increases, and may even double.

Regardless of your situation, there is a life insurance coverage out there for you. Take the time to request quotes and speak with insurance professionals who will be able to answer your questions. The time you spend finding a policy that meets your needs could save someone you love a lot of hassle and worry when you die.

About the Author: Gary Stuart launched his career in insurance in the mid eighties. With only a telephone book and a pen and pad, he began building his agency one 'cold call' at a time. His specialties were group health, disability, whole life, term life insurance and more. At the start of the new millennium, Gary translated his years of experience into developing a web site that explores nearly every aspect of health and life insurance. Gary recognizes the importance of educating his customers before they make that all important insurance purchase. You can visit his site anytime at:

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