Monday, November 26, 2007

How do I choose a company?

More than 2,000 companies in the United States sell life insurance. While some consumers prefer to buy policies directly from a company, most people buy life insurance through agents or brokers. Much of the information provided here will be helpful whichever way you decide to buy life insurance.

Before purchasing a policy, check the company's financial condition. You can do this by asking the agent or requesting information from your state's insurance department. A number of insurance rating services rate the financial strength of companies. These ratings can be found in large public or business libraries, or can be obtained directly from the rating service.
There may be a fee forthat information.

Also check with the state insurance department to be sure the company is licensed in your state.

Variable Life

This type of permanent policy provides death benefits and cash values that vary with the performance of an underlying portfolio of investments. You can choose to allocate your premiums among a variety of investments which offer varying degrees of risk and reward stocks, bonds, combinations of both, or accounts that provide for guarantees of interest and principal. You will receive a prospectus in conjunction with the sale of a variable product.

The cash value of a variable life policy is not guaranteed, and the policyholder bears that risk. However, by choosing among the available fund options, the policyholder can create an asset allocation that meets his or her objectives and risk tolerance. Good investment performance will lead to higher cash values and death benefits. On the other hand, poor investment performance
will lead to reduced cash values and death benefits.

Some policies guarantee that death benefits cannot fall below a minimum level. There are both universal life and whole life versions of variable life.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Term Insurance & permanent insurance

Term insurance provides protection for a specific period of time. It pays a benefit only if you die during the term. Some term insurance policies can be renewed when you reach the end of a specific period which can be from one to 20 years. The premium rates increase at each renewal date. Many policies require that evidence of insurability be furnished at renewal for you to
qualify for the lowest available rates.

Permanent insurance provides lifelong protection and is known by a variety of names, described later. As long as you pay the necessary premiums, the death benefit always will be there. These policies are designed and priced for you to keep over a long period of time. If you don't intend to keep the policy for the long term, it could be the wrong type of insurance for you.

Most permanent policies including whole, ordinary, universal, adjustable and variable life have a feature known as "cash value" or "cash surrender value". This feature, which is not found in most term insurance policies, provides you with some options:

You can cancel or "surrender" the policy "in total or in part" and receive the cash value as a lump sum of money. If you surrender your policy in the early years, there may be little or no cash value.l If you need to stop paying premiums, you can use the cash value to continue your current insurance protection for a specific period of time or to provide a lesser amount of
protection to cover you for as long as you live. Usually, you may borrow from the insurance company, using the cash value in your life insurance as collateral. Unlike loans from most financial institutions, the loan is not dependent on credit checks or other restrictions. You ultimately must repay any loan with interest or your beneficiaries will receive a reduced death benefit.

The cash values of many life insurance policies may be affected by your company's future experience, including mortality rates, expenses and investment earnings. Keep in mind that with all types of permanent policies, the cash value of a policy is different from the policy face amount. Cash value is the amount available when you surrender a policy before its maturity or your death. The face amount is the money that will be paid at death or at policy maturity.


Life insurance is an essential part of financial planning. One reason most people buy life insurance is to replace income that would be lost with the death of a wage earner. The cash provided by life insurance also can help ensure that your dependents are not burdened with significant debt when you die. Life insurance proceeds could mean your dependents won't have to sell assets to pay outstanding bills or taxes. An important feature of life insurance is that no income tax is payable on proceeds paid to beneficiaries.

How much life insurance do I need?
Before buying life insurance, you should assemble personal financial information and review your family's needs. There are a number of factors to consider when determining how much protection you should have.

These include: any immediate needs at the time of death, such as final illness expenses, burial costs and estate taxes;l funds for a readjustment period, to finance a move or to provide time for family members to find a job; and ongoing financial needs, such as monthly bills and expenses, day-care costs, college tuition or retirement. Although there is no substitute for a careful
evaluation of the amount of coverage needed to meet your needs, one rule of thumb is to buy life insurance that is equal to five to seven times your annual gross income