Life insurance is one of those things—you don't want to learn how important it is once it's too late.
But that doesn't mean we know all the right things to do when it comes to getting a policy.
According to a nationwide study conducted by LearnVest and Guardian, over a third of respondents, if they had a life insurance policy, didn't know what kind of policy they had. And though 70% felt confident that their insurance companies would pay out if the need arose, only 34% felt sure that they would know how to collect a payout.
Do you fall into this confused category? If so, it's crucial to educate yourself about life insurance, especially if you have people who depend on you (like kids), or have a mortgage or significant amount of debt.
But don't just take our word for it. Here, three LearnVesters share their stories about life insurance, and how it could have—or did—make all the difference.
1. I Wish I'd Gotten Life Insurance Before I Got Pregnant
I knew that having our first child meant that getting life insurance should be a top priority for both me and my husband. We researched policies, got a quote for an affordable term life insurance policy and had our medical exams. Imagine my surprise when, a few weeks later, the agent called me back and told me my new "adjusted" rate.
The cost of my policy had gone from a reasonable monthly fee they'd quoted me—to nearly four times that amount. The reason, he said, was that my cholesterol levels were high. I called my doctor in a panic. "Cholesterol levels always spike during pregnancy," she reassured me, "and they probably won't be back to normal until a few months after you give birth."
After doing some research, I found that it's nearly always better to get a life insurance policy before you get pregnant to avoid potential price hikes brought on by temporary conditions during pregnancy. While some companies will account for the fact that you gained weight due to the pregnancy, factors like higher blood pressure or postpartum depression can also affect your ability to get the best rates.
Now my daughter is three months old, and I'm still waiting for my numbers to dip before starting again. I really wish I'd known to start this process when trying to conceive instead.
—Carrie, Editor in Chief
2. I Wanted to Put Off Getting Life Insurance—But My Husband Didn't
When I married James* in 1978, I was 21 years old. I never could have imagined then that I’d be a widow by 26, or that I’d have a 9-month-old baby to take care of on my own.
As soon as we became pregnant, James started talking about life insurance—but I was hesitant. I was 24, but James was already thinking like an adult. It’s not that I wasn’t an adult; the topic of life insurance was just scary. I was pregnant with our yet-to-be-born child, and the last thing I wanted to think about was one of us dying.
James passed away on a Tuesday in March. The weekend before, we’d had an especially good time together. That Monday evening, my neighbor came over to watch a show. James sat with us but left early and was already asleep when I joined him later.
The next morning, he left for work without me seeing him. Whether he kissed me goodbye while I slept, I’ll never know. I had a hair appointment with the woman across the street. I was sitting in a chair in her basement when I heard footsteps coming down the stairs. I turned to see my brother, Paul, who, like James, was a construction worker. He looked at me and said, “Cathy, we have to go.”
I remember him pulling me out of the chair, and driving to the hospital. My first words were, “How bad?”
He just squeezed my hand.
When we arrived at the ER, the other construction workers were there. It was hard for them to look at me—and that’s when I knew.
My story is a reminder that once you have a family—no matter your age—life insurance is absolutely essential.
I didn’t want to think about that at the time, but lucky for me, my husband had.
Read the rest of Cathy's* story here.
*Names have been changed.
3. Life Insurance Saved My Family
Life was good for my family in 1989. My father was the well-paid president of a marketing company, and made extra income from his side consulting business. My mother stayed at home raising my sister and me. She hadn’t worked since 1980, when my sister was born.
My mother set the budget, handled the mortgage paperwork on our new home and paid the bills. Around the time I was born, she took a look at my dad’s life insurance coverage through his job. Many basic policies from employers will pay only about $30,000—not enough to support a family our size for very long.
So she set about calculating how much we would need if something were to happen, taking into account things like our mortgage and living expenses. She took out an additional term life policy to cover him, and a whole life policy for herself that was also meant to finance my sister’s and my college educations.
She didn’t know at the time, but it would turn out to be the smartest financial decision she would ever make.
A few short years later, my mother was at my grandparents' house on a step ladder when she suddenly felt faint and needed to lie down. My grandmother sees this as proof of my mother and father’s tight bond, because at almost that exact time in New Jersey, my father radioed the airport, saying the right engine of his plane was on fire. A few minutes later, he radioed again, saying the engine had broken off and he was in a downward spiral. Those were his last words. The official report listed the damage to the plane as “destroyed.”
The thing is, life went on, and I have many happy memories. I remember my mother asking me a few months later what color I wanted my new bedroom to be. (“Pink!”) I remember Mrs. Stamp’s private pre-school, where I learned about cocoons and how to spell “cat.” I remember walking, my hand in my sister’s, on the way to our grandparents’ house for a delicious Southern dinner of chicken and dumplings. I also remember my mother tapping numbers into her desk calculator, and the “chit chit chit” of it printing the results on ticker tape. She never looked at the numbers on the tape with panic or worry.
None of this would have been possible without life insurance.
Read the rest of Alden's story here.
The information in this article is designed to be general in nature and for educational purposes only. LearnVest and Guardian, its subsidiaries, agents or employees do not give tax or legal advice. You should consult your tax or legal advisor regarding your individual situation.