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10 times when you should reassess your life insurance needs

If you think that buying life insurance is a one and done event -- think again. 

It's important to think about your family’s needs if you were to die, even if you don’t like to think about your mortality. 

Your life changes as you age. You get a job, you get a raise, you get married, you buy a house, you have children, your children move out. These are all times to think about your life insurance. 

Whatever the change, don't let it fall through the cracks until it's too late.

Here are 10 times when you should reassess your life insurance policy. 

As you approach the end of your policy

If you have a term life insurance policy, you’ll want to review your situation before your term ends. 

Term life policies can last from five to 30 years. The more years, the more you’ll pay annually. 

When that term is up, you have a few options: 

  • Extend the term if your policy allows it. 
  • Convert the policy to permanent life, such as a whole life policy.
  • Purchase a new term life policy. 
  • Drop life insurance. 

"If you have a term policy that's about to reach its end date and you still need coverage, you'll want to make sure you evaluate your options," said Stafford Thompson Jr., senior vice president for Life Product Management at Lincoln Financial Group.

 

When you get married and/or have kids or buy a home

The whole point of life insurance is so that your loved ones are cared for financially. That can include wiping out debt like mortgages. 

You also don't want them to be financially burdened with only one income or none. 

So when you take the plunge of marriage, parenthood or homeownership, it's vital to find out how much you spend monthly and how much money your loved ones would need. 

Consider how much your children cost. Think about schooling and future college costs. 

How much will it cost to keep up your home? Make sure it's covered. 

Life milestones such as these also mean you need to consider changing your beneficiaries.

 

When you get divorced

Divorce is not pretty. You're breaking up a household, one where expenses were shared. 

If you and your partner have children, you're going to need to reevaluate your life insurance policy. On the flip side, if there are no children involved, you may be able to save money by dropping life insurance. Before you cut the policy, make sure the divorce settlement doesn’t make that impossible.

Either way, the divorce will impact the need for life insurance and the amount you carry.

"Major life events, such as purchasing a home, a change in marital status or the birth of a child or grandchild, are always important times to review your policy, as these events could create the need for additional coverage, or potentially lead to beneficiary changes," Thompson said.

 

When your spouse or partner dies

Give thought about the situation if your spouse dies -- as uncomfortable as that may feel. 

"While together, couples jointly manage the responsibilities and needs of running a family. But when one partner passes away, those responsibilities shift to the surviving partner, changing the coverage needed to support the financial security of the family into the future," said ShirleyAnn Robertson, a financial advisor with Prudential in Schaumburg, IL.

On the other hand, if you have no children and your spouse dies, you may be able to drop your life insurance policy and save money.

 

When you start a new job

Starting a new job can be exciting. Turning over a new leaf, meeting new coworkers and hopefully earning a promotion with a higher salary. 

With a salary jump, most people increase their expenses monthly. This is where assessing your life insurance policy comes into play. Does your current policy cover your new lifestyle? If not, time to increase your policy. 

 

When you start or invest in a business

Starting a company is one time to reassess your policy. 

Even if you just invested in another business, you still spend your own money and need to make sure that your investment is covered should anything happen to you.

Thompson said business owners often forget to reassess their life insurance needs. 

"If you're a business owner, you'll want to make sure that what you've worked so hard for is sufficiently protected, whether you're starting the business, already own it or selling it," he said.

 

When you're getting close to retirement

Approaching retirement is going to be one of the biggest changes in your life. As your life changes, so too might the need for a certain kind of policy. Initial life insurance might have been to cover your family’s basic needs, outstanding debt or maintaining a certain standard of living, but as you get older your financial needs change.

Thompson gave two examples of how life policies can help during retirement: 

  • You may want to add living benefits to your policy, such as supplemental retirement income or long-term care coverage. 
  • You may want to consider dipping into cash value if you have a permanent life policy. 

 

When your health improves or you stop smoking

Smokers pay a much higher amount for life insurance than non-smokers. If you quit the habit, you may be eligible for lower premiums after a year.

The same holds true for your health. Those who are less healthy tend to pay higher premiums. So, if you have improved your health, make sure you talk to your life insurance advisor so that the policy can be adjusted appropriately.

"If your health has improved, you may qualify for lower premiums or even plans that you could not access before," according to Thompson.

 

If you only have a group life insurance policy from work

Often, group life is the starting point for life insurance. Maybe you’re young and just out of college with your first job and it's a perk at your company. Perhaps you don't know how to get an individual policy or are confused by the terms and possibilities.

Two downsides of group life are:

  • It’s often connected to a job, so you lose coverage if you leave that company. 
  • It has low death benefits -- usually, it’s your salary times one, two or three. 

Depending on your lifestyle, group life won’t be enough to leave your loved ones after your death. 

"Often, someone's first life insurance policy is through their employer, which is an extremely important workplace benefit. However, individuals may also want to consider supplemental coverage that they purchase on their own outside of the workplace," says Thompson.

 

At the start of every new year

Put it in your calendar now on repeat. Every Dec. 31 before celebrating the new year, sit down and evaluate changes that have happened over the last year. Do those changes warrant more life insurance? What about other insurance?

Did you improve your house and you need to increase your home insurance? Did you buy a new car and should increase auto coverage

"As a general rule of thumb, it's a good idea to review your life insurance policy annually to ensure it continues to meet your needs," says Thompson.

Though Thompson said an annual review is essential, that doesn’t mean you should make changes each year. 

"Reviewing your life insurance policy doesn't necessarily mean changing it -- it just means reevaluating it, based on what's best for you and those you care for. Depending on the outcome, you may decide to keep it as is, make some adjustments or switch to a different policy altogether," he said.

If you're still uncertain about whether you need to make changes, check out insure.com's Life Insurance Advisor. It will guide you through the coverage you need after just a few questions.

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