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Life insurance can provide financial stability to those you leave behind. Life insurance policies are often used to make sure a spouse and children are provided for, and the benefit may be less clear if you're unmarried and don't have children. A policy can still provide a great benefit if you have dependents who rely on you financially (such as aging parents), don't have savings to cover your funeral costs or want to lock in a rate while you're young.
When Single People Should Get Life Insurance
Life insurance payouts help your family replace your income, cover funeral and burial costs, and pay any remaining debts and expenses. For someone with a spouse, a hefty life insurance policy could help with ongoing expenses such as paying the mortgage, child care costs or even college tuition.
But even if you're unmarried, there are certain situations where life insurance might be worth it if you can afford the premiums. These circumstances might be:
- You have dependents, such as children or elderly parents who rely on you financially.
- You don't have much savings and you don't want your funeral costs or other final expenses to fall on your loved ones. The median cost for a funeral with a viewing and burial was $7,848 in 2021, according to the National Funeral Directors Association.
- You're young and healthy, which allows you to qualify for lower rates than when you're older and viewed as more of a risk (especially smart if marriage or kids—or both—are in your future).
- You want to leave money to other relatives, friends or charities.
Which Type of Life Insurance Should You Get?
There are several types of life insurance, and the costs and length of coverage vary, so it's important to do some sleuthing and opt for a policy that works best for your needs and budget.
All forms of life insurance have the same overall structure: You sign up for a policy with a predetermined death benefit amount (such as $10,000 or $250,000) and a premium you can afford. If you die when the policy is active, your beneficiaries receive the death benefit. They may have the option to receive payment in a lump sum, or receive it in smaller amounts over time so it can earn interest and ultimately pay out more.
The most common types of life insurance are:
- Term life insurance: A term life insurance policy lasts for a set time period, such as 20 years, and it pays out the death benefit to your beneficiaries if you pass away during this time. If the term ends and you haven't passed away, your policy ends. These plans tend to be more affordable than other forms of life insurance.
- Whole life insurance: This is a permanent policy that lasts your entire life and has a fixed premium. It's viewed as an asset with cash value, so you can withdraw or borrow from it when you're alive, though this lowers the death benefit when you die.
- Universal life insurance: This policy is also permanent and offers lifetime coverage, though there's more flexibility, allowing you to adjust coverage and premiums. Its cash value earns interest at market rate, and once the balance grows to a certain amount, you can use it to cover the cost of premiums.
Just be aware that some life insurance policies have exclusions, meaning not all causes of death result in a payout. For example, some policies don't cover death when doing something illegal, or when taking part in certain risky activities such as skydiving. Some life insurance policies also don't cover death by suicide if it's within the first year or two of getting the policy. Certain insurers also require medical exams and may charge higher premiums for certain criteria. When comparing policies, make sure to carefully review exclusions so you know what is and isn't covered.
Consider Your Credit
While life insurance can be used as an investment vehicle if you opt for a permanent policy, it's most often used to help loved ones cover expenses left behind after death. Even if you're single, it may be worth it to have a policy that will cover your funeral experiences or support dependents should something happen to you—particularly if you don't have other assets to cover it.
Life insurance comes at a cost, however, and it's important to make sure you can afford the premiums before you take out a policy. It's also smart to make sure your credit is in great shape, since in some states, it's legal for insurers to factor your credit into your rates. Consider checking your credit and making steps to improve it before applying for a life insurance policy.