For 20-somethings without mortgages, spouses, or kids, life insurance may be the furthest thing from their minds. After all, most people start thinking about purchasing it when they reach one of three milestones: buying a home, getting married, or starting a family.
While data shows that many Millennials are now delaying homeownership, marriage, and parenthood, they may not want to also postpone buying life insurance. That’s because buying a life insurance policy when you’re young and healthy typically means lower premiums.
For instance, if you bought a 30-year level term life insurance policy at age 28, your premiums would be the same until you were 58. Additionally, if you develop a major health issue later in life, it could make you a less desirable candidate for life insurance companies.
“If you ‘love somebody’ or you ‘owe somebody’, you should have insurance to cover those situations,” says Marvin Feldman, president and CEO of Life Happens, a non-profit foundation that educates consumers about financial planning and insurance.
From a life insurance perspective, the phrase “love somebody” typically refers to a spouse or dependent child, but it could also mean a parent who might run out of money in retirement and need your financial support. It could also refer to a cohabitating significant other who couldn’t afford the rent or mortgage without your income.
The phrase “owe somebody” may mean may refer to a mortgage or a parent who has co-signed a private student loan for you. (Federal student loans don’t generally require a cosigner and can be discharged if the borrower dies—the deceased’s estate will not be responsible for repaying them—so these may not need to be covered by your life insurance policy. Talk to your insurance representative for more details.)
Amy Bach, executive director of United Policyholders, an independent non-profit that advises consumers on insurance topics, says it’s a good idea to begin considering life insurance “as soon as you have anybody in your life who is in any way depending on you for income or that you would like to be taken care of if you were to die suddenly.”
Once you’ve decided you need life insurance, the next important step is figuring out how much you need. Depending on your individual situation, you may want enough life insurance to pay off your mortgage balance or put your future children through college in the event that you’re not around to pay those costs yourself. It could also cover your end-of-life costs.
“No one likes to think about things like burial expenses and legal fees related to taking care of somebody’s affairs,” Bach says. “But those are real expenses that people face and that life insurance can cover.”
Many employers are cutting back on benefits, but some still offer life insurance to employees. If yours does, find out how much it covers and whether you can pick up the premiums yourself if you leave that job—or if you would lose the coverage.
“The main thing is to see what the benefits you’re getting through your employer-provided plan are,” Bach says. “If you see it lacking in any way, you can supplement it with an outside plan. Or, if you find out that you would not be able to keep that same policy, then you may want to think about picking up an extra policy that would not be affected by your employment relationship.”
Feldman suggests working with an agent or buying a life insurance policy online (the cost is the same). “If you’re in a financial position to buy the life insurance now knowing there will be a need later, do that,” he says. “The cost of buying life insurance for a young person is less than a soda a day—and substantially less than a latte a day.”
Susan Johnston is a Boston-based freelancer who has covered personal finance for numerous publications including Bankrate.com, the Boston Globe, Learnvest.com, Mint.com, and USNews.com. Find out more at www.susan-johnston.com.