Many Americans would face financial hardship if a wage earner died unexpectedly. Life Insurance Awareness Month – celebrated each September – is a reminder that life insurance can help protect your loved ones financially now and in the future.
The State Corporation Commission Bureau of Insurance reminds Virginians that there are many factors to consider when determining if life insurance is right for you and your family.
“When considering your family’s financial future, review your existing financial resources, debts and other liabilities, as well as your family’s needs and goals,” said Virginia Insurance Commissioner Scott White. “Understand the different types of life insurance and shop around to compare prices and coverage.”
White encourages Virginians who already have life insurance to review their policies regularly and update their policies and beneficiaries so their coverage keeps pace with their changing circumstances. Life events such as a birth, divorce, remarriage, or other changes affecting your finances (such as a new mortgage or a new job) may trigger a need to update your life insurance policy.
If you do not have life insurance, shop around and understand the different types of policies available and the costs.
“Think about your family situation if you died tomorrow,” White said. Review your existing resources and consider the following: Does your spouse work? Do you have any sources of income other than salary? Do you have life insurance through your job?
Also consider the financial obligations that may fall upon family members if you die, such as a mortgage, business expenses, medical expenses, car loans or student loans. Also consider short-term and long-term goals such as your spouse’s retirement, providing care for a loved one or your children’s education.
White encourages Virginians to understand the types of life insurance available – term life or permanent – and how benefits are paid when you die. Term life insurance offers death benefit protection for a specific period of time. Benefits are paid only if the policyholder dies within the policy term. Term policies typically have lower premiums, but premiums may increase as you age or at the end of a specific “term.” Term policies do not build cash value, but some permanent life insurance policies such as whole life, adjustable/universal life or variable life insurance do build cash value over time. Permanent policies cover the insured for their entire life as long as premiums are paid when due.
Life insurance can do more than protect your spouse and dependents after your death. Some policies contain benefits that are usable during your lifetime. For example, a policyholder might be able to use the cash value accumulated in a permanent life insurance policy to pay expenses for education, retirement or emergencies.
What you pay for life insurance depends largely on the type of policy chosen, your health status, age, gender, occupation, family health history and lifestyle. The following factors may impact your ability to obtain life insurance coverage or the premium you must pay: pre-existing conditions and chronic health problems such as diabetes, heart disease or cancer; poor health habits such as smoking or drinking; your driving record, and whether you engage in activities considered risky by the insurer such as rock climbing, motorcycle riding, sky diving, horseback riding or skiing.
Compare premiums, coverage and claims service when considering life insurance options. Contact the Bureau of Insurance in Richmond at 804-371-9741 or toll-free at 1-877-310-6560 for questions or to make sure the company or individual offering the coverage is licensed and in good standing. The Bureau offers a free Virginia Life Insurance Consumer Guide with answers to many life insurance questions on its website at scc.virginia.gov/pages/Tips,-Guides-Publications.
The National Association of Insurance Commissioners offers a free Life Insurance Policy Locator Service that can help consumers find lost life insurance policies and annuity contracts. From January 2017 through June 2021, the Locator Service matched 4,616 policies for Virginians with a total face value of $117,052,464. Nationwide, from November 2016 through June 2021, it matched 147,140 policies with a total face value of $3,775,837,551.
To learn more about the Locator Service, visit eapps.naic.org/life-policy-locator/#/welcome.