Life insurance of one type or another is a key element in your financial security. It's also important to those who survive you, whether you have a family, are single, or are older and living alone. What life insurance you have, or should have, depends on your situation and on your plans for the future.
- Two basic types
- Whole Life
- Universal Life
- Variable Insurance
- Term to 100
Two Basic Types
There are two basic types of life insurance: permanent insurance that provides protection for life; and term insurance that provides insurance coverage for a specific number of years. Both types pay a death benefit if you should die with the policy still in force.
Whole life is a common permanent policy that provides a guaranteed death benefit, expressed as the face amount, for premiums that are usually guaranteed to remain level regardless of age or health changes throughout your life. Whole life policies often pay dividends. These policies accumulate a cash value that may be borrowed against, used to continue coverage if premiums are missed, or withdrawn.
Universal life is a permanent interest-sensitive policy that is more flexible and is divided into basic insurance and an investment account. You can decide how much goes into each and increase or decrease your premiums and the death benefits within some limitations. Premiums and benefits can be readjusted at specified times, depending on your insurance needs and on what choices you make in the investment side of the policy.
Variable insurance contracts are another variation of permanent life insurance. Premiums are usually guaranteed in these policies; however, the cash values vary based on the performance of an investment fund or other index. The death benefit consists of one part that is guaranteed and a second part that varies, depending on the fund's performance, subject to a guaranteed minimum.
Basic term insurance policies are generally for a specified period, such as one, five, 10 or more years, or to a specified age. These contracts tend to have lower premiums while the life insured is young, but when renewed for an additional term period, the premiums can rise significantly. Term policies are ideal to cover large obligations over a short period when funds available for insurance are small. Most term policies can be converted to a permanent policy under certain conditions.
Term-to-100 policies are often seen as permanent insurance but their main characteristics are similar to other term insurance policies. Most term-to-100 plans don't build cash values or pay dividends. They provide a death benefit to age 100, if the policy is kept in force, and have level premiums, regardless of changes in age or health.
Because of the many options available in life insurance policies, a knowledgeable, trained life insurance advisor is invaluable in finding the right policy to meet your present and future needs most effectively.