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How to tell your husband he needs life insurance

If your husband has been procrastinating about buying life insurance for himself, there are ways to start a conversation.

According to LIMRA, nine in 10 Americans call life insurance a necessity, while only six in 10 own some sort of life insurance; half say they need more.

Women often cite stress over economic pressures as a reason for not discussing life insurance. They are also worried that the husband might react negatively to the topic if he recently lost his job. Ginita Wall, director of the Women's Institute for Financial Education, suggests that women bring up the issue in a manner that does not injure their husbands’ egos.

"Maybe start the conversation by saying, 'Gosh, I heard today about someone whose husband suddenly died and she ended up without enough life insurance. I am afraid of what would happen if something happened to you. I would like to sit down with our adviser or accountant and know what you would want me to do,'" says Wall.

How to tell your husband he needs life insuranceEasing into life insurance conversations

Another way to ease into the conversation is to set a date for an annual review of family finances, Wall suggests. Women then can raise the subject of life insurance without triggering a defensive reaction. "What we recommend is that people have regular contingency-day meetings where they go over their finances," she says. "What would happen if one of us dies? Once a year, take a pulse of the finances."

While wives in the United States have assumed much more responsibility for financial management than women of previous generations, husbands still retain most responsibility for such things as managing investment portfolios and making insurance decisions, Wall says. When taking stock of the need to buy life insurance, it is important that women do not undervalue their own contribution to the household. They need to consider whether their own policy is adequate.

The sooner the better

"A lot of times it is women who are doing the spending," Wall explains. "They are in control of the budget, but it is still the men who are doing the investing. If a woman is trying to hold down a job and take care of the family and get the kids off to school, then she is not going to have time to handle the finances, too."

Nancy Fagan, a marriage and family therapist in San Diego, says insurance discussions can become contentious. She recommends that wives use the phrase "help me understand" when they bring up the topic of adequate life insurance. To avoid conflict, she advises them to reassure their husbands that they are committed to making sure that there is enough insurance for the survivor if either spouse dies.

Talking about the need to buy life insurance may be difficult, but wives who do not deal with the issue risk being thrown into a panic situation if their husband dies suddenly, Fagan says. The sooner you begin shopping for life insurance, the more likely you will be to find the policy you need.

"In my marriage, I have a file with everything in there so if my husband's plane goes down I have the file," she says. "I tell my clients to do the same. If there are children involved, this is especially important."

Focus on your own mortality

While women have taken more active roles in managing household finances, they still lag behind men when it is time to buy life insurance, says Mary Quist-Newins, State Farm's chair for women and financial services and an associate professor of women's studies at The American College.

"Life insurance has very patriarchal roots," she says. "Seventy percent of working couples are dual income. In about half of marriages, the wife earns as much as the husband and in a third she earns more."

Quist-Newins suggests that women begin the insurance conversation by focusing on their own mortality.

"It isn't, 'Honey, I am concerned that we don't have enough insurance for you.'" she says. "'Let's talk about what would happen if something happened to me.' It is going to be easier to talk about what her game plan is if something happens to him if she first engages with what his game plan will be if something happens to her."

When discussing the need to have life insurance, it's important to exercise patience, she adds. "It takes some courage to face mortality."

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