HIPPA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act)

With the growing use of paperless forms, electronic information transfers and storage has become the norm. This is true about our medical information as well. So, how do we know that our sensitive medical records are being kept private? Thanks to a federal law entitled Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), health plans, health care providers, and health care clearinghouses are required to abide by a set of standards to protect your data. While this law does offer protection for certain things, there are some companies that are not required to follow these standards. Keep reading to find out where the loopholes are and how you are being protected by this law. 

What is the HIPAA Law and Privacy Rule?

Although HIPAA and Privacy and Security Rules have been around since 1996, there have been many revisions and changes over the years so to keep up with evolving health information technology. HIPAA and the HIPAA Privacy Rule set the bar for standards that protect sensitive patient information by making the rules for electronic exchange as well as the privacy and confidentiality of medical records and information by health care providers, health care clearing houses, and health plans. In accordance with HIPPA, Administrative Simplification Rules were created to safeguard patient privacy. This allows for information that is medically necessary to be shared while also maintaining the patient’s privacy rights. The majority of professionals in the health care industry are required to be compliant with the HIPAA regulations and rules. 

Why do we have the HIPAA Act and Privacy Rule?

The original goal of HIPAA was to make it easier for patients to keep up with their health insurance coverage. This is ultimately why the Administrative Simplification Rules were created to simplify administrative procedures and keep costs at a decent rate. Because of all the exchanges of medical information between insurance companies and health care providers, the HIPAA Act aims to keep things simple when it comes to the healthcare industry’s handling of patient records and documents and places a high importance on maintain patients’ protected health information. 

HIPAA Titles

The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, a federal law which was designed to safeguard healthcare data from data breaches, has five titles. Here is a description of each title:

  • Title I: HIPAA Health Insurance Reform: The objective of Title I is to help individuals maintain health insurance coverage in the event that they lose or change jobs. It also prevents group health plans from rejecting applicants from being covered for having specific chronic illnesses or pre-existing conditions. 
  • Title II: HIPAA Administrative Simplification: Title II holds the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) responsible for setting national standards for processing electronic healthcare transactions. In accordance with this title, healthcare organizations must implement data security for health data transactions and maintain HIPPA compliance with the rules set by HHS. 
  • Title III: HIPPA Tax-Related Health Provisions: This title is all about the national standards regarding tax-related provisions as well as the general rules and principles in relation to medical care.  
  • Title IV: Application and Enforcement of Group Health Plan Requirements: Title IV elaborates further on issues related to health insurance coverage and reform, one key point being for patients with pre-existing conditions. 
  • Title V: Revenue Offsets:  This title has provisions regarding company-owned life insurance policies as well as how to handle situations in which individuals lose their citizenship due to issues with income taxes. 

In day to day conversations, when you hear someone bring up HIPAA compliance, they are most likely referring to Title II. To become compliant with HIPAA Title II, the health care industry must follow these provisions:

  • National Provider Identifier Standard: Every healthcare entity is required to have a 10-digit national provider identifier number that is unique to them, otherwise known as, an NPI. 
  • Transactions and Code Sets Standard: Healthcare organizations are required to follow a set of standards pertaining to electronic data interchange (EDI) to be able to submit and process insurance claims.  
  • HIPAA Privacy Rule: This rule sets national standards that help to protect patient health information.
  • HIPAA Security Rule: This rule establishes the standards for patient data security. 

What information is protected by HIPAA?

The HIPAA Privacy Rule safeguards all individually identifiable health information obtained or transferred by a covered entity or business associate. Sometimes this information is stored or transmitted electronically, digitally, on paper or orally. Individually identifiable health information can also be referred to under the Privacy Rule as PHI. 

Examples of PHI are:

  • Personal identifying information such as the name, address, birth date and Social Security number of the patient. 
  • The mental or physical health condition of a person.
  • Certain Information regarding the payment for treatments.

HIPAA penalties

Health industries and professionals should take extra caution to prevent HIPAA violations. If a data breach occurs or if there is a failure to give patients access to their PHI, it could result in a fine. 

There are several types of HIPAA violations and penalties including:

  • Accidental HIPAA violations could result in $100 for an isolated incident and an upward of $25,000 for repeat offenses.
  • Situations in which there is reasonable cause for the HIPAA violation could result in a $1,000 fine and an upward of $100,000 annually for repeat violations.
  • Willfully neglecting HIPAA can cost anywhere between $10,000-$50,000 and $250,000-$1.5 million depending on whether or not it was an isolated occurrence, If it was corrected within a specific timeframe. 

The largest penalty one could receive for a HIPAA violation is $50,000 per violation and $1.5 million per year for repeated offenses.

HIPPA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act) is a post from Pocket Your Dollars.

Source: pocketyourdollars.com

What Is a Nuncupative Will?

Elderly woman near deathMaking a last will and testament is an important part of your estate plan and there are different types of wills to choose from. A nuncupative will, meaning a will that’s oral rather than written, may be an option in certain circumstances. While state will laws typically require that a will be written, signed and witnessed to be considered legal, there are scenarios in which an oral will could be upheld as valid. Understanding how a nuncupative will works, as well as the pros and cons, can help with shaping your will-making plans if you have yet to create one.

A financial professional can offer advice on investing, retirement planning, financial planning and various other areas of finance. Find a financial advisor today. 

Nuncupative Will, Defined

A nuncupative will simply means a will that isn’t written. Instead, it’s delivered verbally by the person who intends to make the will.

Nuncupative wills are sometimes called deathbed wills since they’re often created in end-of-life situations where a person is too ill or injured to physically draft a will. The person making the will, known as a testator, expresses wishes about the distribution of property and other assets to witnesses.

How Does an Oral Will Work?

Ordinarily, when creating a will you’d draft a written document identifying yourself as the will maker and spelling out how you want your assets to be distributed after you pass away. You could also use a will to name legal guardians for minor children if necessary and name an executor for your estate.

An oral will sidesteps all that and simply involves the person making the will expressing his or her wishes verbally to witnesses. There would be no written document unless one of the witnesses or someone else who is present chooses to copy down what’s being said. The person making the will would have nothing to sign and neither would the witnesses.

There’s a reason oral wills are no longer used in most states: Without a written document that’s been signed by the person making the will and properly witnessed, it can be very difficult to prove the will maker’s intentions about how assets should be distributed or who should be beneficiaries.

Are Nuncupative Wills Valid?

Elderly man near death

This type of will is no longer considered valid in most states. Instead, you’ll need to draft a written will that follows your state’s will-making guidelines. For example, most states require that the person making a will be at least 18 and of sound mind. The will also has to be witnessed by the required number of people who don’t have a direct interest in the will’s contents. Depending on where you live, you may or may not need to have your will notarized.

There are a handful of states that still allow oral or verbal wills, however. But they’re only considered valid under certain circumstances.

In North Carolina, for example, oral wills are only recognized if:

  • The person making the will believes death is imminent
  • The witnesses are asked to testify to the will
  • Both witnesses are present with the testator when the will is dictated
  • The testator states that what he or she is saying is intended to be a will
  • An oral statement is made to at least two competent witnesses
  • The testator then passes away

Even if those conditions are met, the heirs to the will would still have to bring a legal action to have it admitted to probate court. The witnesses would have to testify to what was said and even then, North Carolina still doesn’t allow for the transfer of real estate through an oral will.

In New York, the guidelines are even narrower. New York State only allows nuncupative wills to be recognized as legal and valid when made by a member of the armed services during a time of war or armed conflict. The intentions of the person making the will has to be stated in front of two witnesses. State law automatically invalidates them one year after the person leaves military service if they don’t pass away at the time the will was made.

How to Prepare a Will

Having a written will in place can help your loved ones avoid problematic scenarios about how to divide your property after you pass away. If you don’t have a will in place yet, you risk dying intestate. There are a couple of ways you can create one.

The first is using an online will-making software. These programs can guide you through the will-making process and they’re designed to be easy enough for anyone to use, even if you’re not an attorney. If you have a fairly simple estate then using an online will-making software could help you create a will at a reasonable cost.

On the other hand, if you have a more complex estate then you may want to get help with making a will from an estate planning attorney. An attorney can help ensure that your will is valid and that you’re distributing assets the way you want to without running into any legal snags.

Generally, when making a will you should be prepared to:

  • Name an executor for your estate
  • Name a guardian for children if necessary
  • Specify who or which organizations you want to inherit your assets

When making a will, it’s important to remember that some assets can’t be included. For example, if you have any assets that already have a named beneficiary, such as a 401(k), individual retirement account or life insurance policy, those would go to the person you’ve named.

And it’s also important to note that a will is just one part of the estate planning puzzle. If you have a more complex estate then you may also need to consider setting up a living trust. A trust allows you to transfer assets to the control of a trustee, who manages them on behalf of the trust’s beneficiaries. Trusts can be useful for minimizing estate taxes and creating a legacy of giving or wealth if that’s part of your financial plan.

The Bottom Line

Dying person holds hands with a loved oneNuncupative wills are rare and while some states do recognize them, they generally aren’t valid in most circumstances. If you don’t have a will in place, then creating one is something you may want to add to your financial to-do list. Even if you don’t have a large estate or you’re unmarried with no children, having a will can still provide some reassurance about what will happen to your assets once you pass away.

Tips for Estate Planning

  • Consider talking to a financial advisor about will making and estate planning. If you don’t have a financial advisor yet, finding one doesn’t have to be complicated. SmartAsset’s financial advisor matching tool can help. By answering a few brief questions online you can get personalized recommendations for professional advisors in your local area. If you’re ready, get started now.
  • Along with a will and trust, there are other legal documents you might incorporate into your estate plan. An advance healthcare directive, for instance, can be used to spell out your wishes in case you become incapacitated. Power of attorney documents allow you to name someone who can make medical or financial decisions on your behalf when you’re unable to.

Photo credit: ©iStock.com/FatCamera, ©iStock.com/Sean_Warren, ©iStock.com/LPETTET

The post What Is a Nuncupative Will? appeared first on SmartAsset Blog.

Source: smartasset.com

Shelter Insurance Review: Car, Home, and More

Shelter Insurance is a mutual insurance company that was founded in 1946 and operates out of Columbia, Missouri. This highly-rated, award-winning insurance company offers a wealth of insurance products across the states of Colorado, Iowa, Arkansas, Kansas, Kentucky, Indiana, Illinois, Mississippi, Missouri, Nebraska, Ohio, Nevada, Oklahoma, Tennessee, and Louisiana.

In this Shelter Insurance review, we’ll look at insurance policies, coverage options, customer satisfaction, liability cover, and more, before seeing how Shelter compares to other leading insurance companies.

Shelter Car Insurance Coverage Options

Shelter is a leading auto insurance company in Missouri and other serviced states. It isn’t always the cheapest (more on that below) but it does provide a wealth of coverage options, including:

Liability Coverage

Liability coverage is the most basic, bare-bones insurance type and one that is required in most states. Liability insurance covers bodily insurance (per person and per accident) and property damage. It essentially covers you for the damage you do to another driver and their property during a car accident.

Collision Coverage

An optional form of auto insurance that covers you for damage done to your own vehicle, regardless of who was at fault. If you have collision coverage on your auto policy, you will get a payout when you hit a guardrail, wall, tree or building.

However, it’s one of the most expensive add-ons and a lot of the damage you do to your own vehicle may not be severe enough to warrant paying the deductible.

Comprehensive Coverage

With comprehensive coverage, you will be covered for many of the things that collision insurance doesn’t cover. For instance, it provides protection against vandalism and damage from extreme weather events. It also covers you in the event of an animal collision, which is surprisingly not covered by collision insurance.

Personal Injury Protection

With PIP insurance, you will be covered for some of the personal losses you incur due to an injury sustained in a car accident. For instance, if you’re hit by another driver and suffer severe injuries that cause you to miss work, PIP will pay for the money you lose. It will also cover the money needed to cover traveling for doctor and hospital appointments, as well as childcare costs.

Medical Payments

By adding medical payments cover onto your policy you will be protected against hefty medical bills resulting from a car accident. This option is required in just a few states but the coverage limits are often set very low.

Underinsured and Uninsured Motorist Coverage

Uninsured motorists are a growing problem on America’s roads. If you’re hit by one of these drivers and don’t have collision insurance, you could be left severely out of pocket. But not if you have underinsured/uninsured motorist insurance.

This coverage option will protect you against bodily injury and property damage resulting from an accident with an uninsured or underinsured driver.

Roadside Assistance

Shelter car insurance policies offer optional roadside assistance cover, which gives you up to $100 per claim and covers you for expenses accrued when you are stranded by the roadside.

Roadside assistance is an emergency service designed to help you get back on the road or to tow your car to a nearby garage. It includes everything from lost key replacement to fuel delivery and tire changes.

Rental Car Reimbursement

If your car is stolen or damaged so badly that it needs to spend several days or weeks in a repair shop, rental car reimbursement can help you to stay on the road. It will cover you for the money you spend on rental cars, which means you won’t miss a single important car journey.

Your coverage will be limited to a specific time period and you will not be covered for rentals that extend beyond this period.

Accidental Death

A form of life insurance that covers you for accidental deaths, such as car accidents. If you die in an accident, for example, your spouse or family members will receive a payout. There are many more restrictions than you get with term life insurance policies, but the premiums are also much lower.

Disability Income Coverage

PIP can cover you if you suffer serious bodily injuries and miss work as a result, but what happens if you’re forced to miss up to a year of work? That’s where Disability Income Coverage comes in. With Shelter, you will be paid a sum of money every week for up to a year.

GAP Insurance

If you bought your car on finance and wreck it soon after, the insurance payout may not be enough to cover the losses due to the interest payments and the rapid deprecation that new cars experience. With GAP insurance, you will be covered for that extra amount. As a result, this type of car insurance is often required by auto loan companies.

New Car Replacement

If you have a car that is less than a year old and has fewer than 15,000 miles on the clock, you can apply for the new car replacement program, which gives you a like-for-like replacement. This is an essential addition for anyone driving an expensive new vehicle as the losses could be catastrophic without it.

Other Shelter Insurance Options

Shelter offers multiple additional insurance options, many of which can be bought along with your car insurance, allowing you to save money with a multi-policy discount.

As with Shelter car insurance, we recommend comparing rates to other insurance companies, making sure you’re getting the best coverage for the lowest rates. There are a huge number of insurance companies in the United States offering the same coverage options found at Shelter, and many of them are cheaper:

Homeowners Insurance

A homeowners policy from Shelter will protect your property and everything in it. You can get cover for the dwelling, personal property, medical payments, personal liability, living expenses, and more.

Shelter also offers additional coverage options pertaining to electronics, sewer damage, earthquake damage, loss of farming equipment, and more.

Renters Insurance

If you rent your home, you won’t need property insurance, but you still need to protect your personal property and that’s where renter’s insurance comes. If your flat/house is burgled and you lose expensive items, including heirlooms, jewelry, artwork, and electronics, you will be covered.

Umbrella Insurance

With a minimum liability of $1 million, umbrella insurance will step in and provide cover above and beyond what you are offered elsewhere. If you have a lot of personal assets and are worried about being sued above what your liability insurance can pay, this is the policy for you.

Business Insurance

A business insurance policy from Shelter will protect your business against property loss, equipment damage, liability claims, and more. This is essential for all businesses and at Shelter you can choose a range of customization options to make sure the policy is perfectly suited to your needs.

Flood Insurance

Your home insurance policy doesn’t cover you for flood damage and this is true whether you’re with Shelter or not. However, you can add flood insurance to your Shelter insurance policy, with the rates dependent on where you live and how common floods are in your area.

Life Insurance

In addition to accidental death cover, Shelter also has term life and whole life insurance policies. These provide payouts to your loved ones in the event of your death.

Your age, activity, medical history, and health will dictate the size of your insurance premiums and your death benefit.

Shelter Car Insurance Cost

We ran some car insurance quotes and found that Shelter was consistently more expensive than providers like GEICO, Allstate, State Farm, and Progressive. In fact, when comparing quotes for young drivers, Shelter car insurance premiums were more than double those offered by GEICO and were also substantially higher than other major carriers.

In many states, including Kentucky and Louisiana, Shelter ranked as one of the most expensive providers. The rates were a little more promising in Missouri, but you’ll probably still get better offers elsewhere.

Regardless of what you think about Shelter Insurance and whether or not you have had good experiences with them in the past, we recommend getting quotes from other providers first.

Of course, it isn’t all about price, but it takes some incredibly impressive customer support and benefits for a $3,000 policy to take precedent over one that costs $1,500 or less, and we’re not convinced Shelter has that level of support or those benefits.

Bottom Line: Shelter Insurance Review

Shelter is a dedicated, capable, and financially strong insurance provider that offers extensive coverage for both drivers and homeowners. It has good reviews from policyholders, has high ratings from AM Best, JD Power and the Better Business Bureau (BBB), and there are very few complaints when compared to other providers.

Shelter serves a number of states and if you reside in one of these, it’s worth getting a quote. Just don’t forget to check other providers and don’t assume Shelter will offer the best rates. In our experience, it’s more likely to be one of the most expensive providers in your state, but you won’t know until you check.

Visit www.ShelterInsurance.com to learn more and to discuss an auto policy and/or home insurance policy with one of their representatives.

Shelter Insurance Review: Car, Home, and More is a post from Pocket Your Dollars.

Source: pocketyourdollars.com

Final Expense Life Insurance: What You Need to Know

Also known as burial or funeral insurance, final expense life insurance is a variant of whole life insurance designed to cover a single expense after the policyholder passes away. Often aimed at seniors, these insurance policies have reasonable monthly premiums but generally pay much smaller death benefits than term life insurance policies.

What is Final Expense Life Insurance?

Final expense life insurance is a whole life insurance policy that releases a lump sum when the policyholder dies. It charges a fixed monthly premium and generally offers a simplified sign up process, with few complications, fast decisions, and no medical exams.

Policyholders use final expense life insurance to protect their loved ones after their death. It’s often taken in lieu of a traditional whole life policy or term like policy, with the former not available to seniors and the latter proving very costly and limited. 

Policyholders can add a beneficiary to their final expense life insurance policy to ensure that the money goes to this individual when they die. They can also arrange for the money to be paid in monthly or yearly installments, although considering the purpose of this policy is to cover “final” expenses that may arise or remain after death, it’s often best to release it as a lump sum.

Who Can Benefit from Final Expense Life Insurance?

You can benefit from a final expense life insurance if you:

  • Have dependents
  • Don’t have a whole life or term-life policy
  • Have sizeable debts
  • Are worried about funeral costs

Think about what will happen when you die. It’s a morbid thought to have, but it’s important to see things from your family’s perspective.

Can they afford to provide you with an honorable send-off; can they afford to clear your debts? Will your death impact them financially or will you leave them with enough cash and assets to cover necessary expenses?

Your loved ones need time to grieve, to mourn your loss. They shouldn’t have to worry about financial issues, as that will just make a bad situation worse.

What is Final Expense Life Insurance Used For?

You can use final expense life insurance to cover any costs that your loved ones would otherwise be required to pay. The most common uses for this type of life insurance include:

Funerals

The average funeral costs close to $10,000, and those costs are rising. It’s one of the five biggest expenses that the average American will incur during their lifetime, and unlike a wedding, car or home, it’s not something you can simply avoid by going without, nor is it something you can delay until you have more money.

If you die, your loved ones will need to cover these costs quickly and completely, and while you might want them to cut costs and avoid spending too much, they will want to ensure that you have the best possible send-off. 

The only way to guarantee that you have a good funeral and they don’t bankrupt themselves is to cover the costs before you die.

Final expense life insurance can be paid directly to your loved ones or to the funeral home. In the case of the latter, you can plan your funeral yourself, choosing products and services based on the value of the death benefit that will eventually be paid to the home.

Of course, you can’t be sure that the funeral home will honor all of your requests or even still be operating by the time you pass, so unless you don’t have anyone who can arrange your funeral, we recommend paying the death benefit directly to your beneficiaries.

Medical Bills 

You are predicted to spend over a quarter of a million dollars on healthcare during your lifetime, most of which will occur in the final decade of your life. That’s a huge sum of money to spend on anything, and it’s a terrifying prospect to think that this money could be passed onto your loved ones.

In most instances, your loved ones won’t be responsible for your debt, but there are exceptions. What’s more, all medical debt charged during the final months of your life will be at the head of the queue to take money from your estate when you die. If that debt strips your assets bare, it means your loved ones won’t get anything and may struggle to cover their own debts and expenses.

With final expense life insurance, you can use a death benefit to repay those medical bills and remove the burden of responsibility from your loved ones.

Debt

Unsecured debt is often at the back of the queue when it comes to taking money from your estate. However, if you live in a community property state or your partner cosigned on the debt, they will be responsible for it.

You also have to think about mortgage and auto debt. These loans can pass onto your heirs, who will then be tasked with continuing the repayments if they want to keep the assets. If they don’t have the money, they could lose those assets, and this is where a final expense life insurance benefit can help. 

Frequently Asked Questions about Final Expense Life Insurance

Still got a few questions about final expense life insurance and its many nuances? We have answered some of the most frequently asked questions below to lend a helping hand.

How Much Does It Cost?

Final expense life insurance varies depending on your age, sex, weight, smoking status, and whether or not you have any preexisting medical conditions. Generally speaking, a woman between the age of 50 and 55 can expect to pay between $30 and $40, while a man of the same age will be charged between $40 and $50.

This cost increases as you age and while you can still apply when you hit 80, you can expect premiums as high as $200 a month, or $2,400 a year. 

Why Does it Cost So Much?

The costs are higher than term-life insurance because the risks are greater. Unlike term-life insurance, the term will not expire, which means the odds of the recipient receiving the death benefit are higher. 

Of course, there is still a chance that they will fail to meet their payment obligations, at which point the policy will void, but such instances are rare for this particular type of insurance.

Does it Expire?

Your final expense life insurance policy will remain active for as long as you make your insurance premiums. It will not expire like a term-life insurance policy, but you will lose it if you stop making payments while you are still alive.

Does the Money Have to be Used for Funeral Costs?

Not at all. The insurance company doesn’t care what the money is used for as it doesn’t impact their bottom line. There is also nothing preventing your loved ones from pocketing the cash and burning your body in the garden, if that’s what they choose to do.

We don’t mean to sound bleak, but the point is, there are no restrictions or limits and your loved ones are only bound by your word and their promise, so if you want the money to be used for a specific purpose, make sure you get everything in writing lest they forget.

How Much is the Death Benefit?

Final expense life insurance typically pays around $20,000 and is always less than $50,000. It’s a small sum when compared to many term-life insurance policies, but that’s because it serves a specific purpose and is not designed to clear mortgages or cover one or more family members for the rest of their life.

Is There a Medical Exam?

Because the payout is less than $50,000, a medical exam is rarely required. You will be asked some basic health questions and you need to be honest during this process, but in most cases, you will not be required to undergo a medical exam.

Final Expense Life Insurance: What You Need to Know is a post from Pocket Your Dollars.

Source: pocketyourdollars.com

How Does Coronavirus Affect Life Insurance?

Coronavirus hasn’t entirely ended life as we knew it, but it’s certainly caused changes, some of which are likely to be with us for a very long time.

For some the coronavirus is literally a matter of life and death, and it raises an important question: how does coronavirus affect life insurance?

No one likes to think about the possibility of losing their life, or that of a loved one to this virus, but for over 150,000 families here in the US, it has turned out to be a reality.

Let’s examine the impact it may have on your existing policies, and perhaps more importantly, how it may affect applications for new life insurance coverage.

How Does Coronavirus Affect Life Insurance You Already Have?

There’s good news if you already have a life insurance policy in place. Generally speaking, the insurance company will pay a death benefit even if you die from the coronavirus. With few exceptions, life insurance policies will pay for any cause of death once the policy is in force. There are very few exceptions to this rule, such as acts of war or terrorism. Pandemics are not a known exception.

If you’re feeling at all uncomfortable about how the coronavirus might impact your existing life insurance policies, contact the company for clarification. Alternatively, review your life insurance policy paying particular attention to the exclusions. If there’s nothing that looks like death due to a pandemic, you should be good to go.

But once the policy is in place, there are only a few reasons why the insurance company can deny a claim:

  • Non-payment of premiums – if you exceed the grace period for the payment, which is generally 30 or 31 days, your policy will lapse. But even if it does, you may still be able to apply for reinstatement. However, after a lapse, you won’t be covered until payment is made.
  • Providing false information on an application – if you fail to disclose certain health conditions that result in your death, the company can deny payment for insurance fraud. For example, if you’re a smoker, but check non-smoker on the application, payment of the death benefit can be denied if smoking is determined to be a contributing cause of death.
  • Death within the first two years the policy is in force – often referred to as the period of contestability, the insurance company can investigate the specific causes of death for any reason within the first two years. If it’s determined that death was caused by a pre-existing condition, the claim can be denied.

None of these are a serious factor when it comes to the coronavirus, unless you tested positive for the virus prior to application, and didn’t disclose it. But since the coronavirus can strike suddenly, it shouldn’t interfere with your death benefits if it occurs once your policy is already in force.

How Does Coronavirus Affect Life Insurance You’re Applying For?

This is just a guess on my part, but I think people may be giving more thought to buying life insurance now they may have at any time in the past. The coronavirus has turned out to be a real threat to both life and health, which makes it natural to consider the worst.

But whatever you do, don’t let your fear of the unknown keep you from applying for coverage. Though you may be wishing you bought a policy, or taken additional coverage, before the virus hit, now is still the very best time to apply. And that’s not a sales pitch!

No matter what’s going on in the world, the best time to apply for life insurance is always now. That’s because you’re younger and likely healthier right now than you’ll ever be again. Both conditions are major advantages when it comes to buying life insurance. If you delay applying, you’ll pay a higher premium by applying later when you’re a little bit older. But if you develop a serious health condition between now and then, not only will your premium be higher, but you may even be denied for coverage completely.

Don’t let fears of the coronavirus get in your way. If you believe you need life insurance, or more of it, apply now.

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That said, the impact of the coronavirus on new applications for life insurance is more significant than it is for existing policies.

The deaths of more than 100,000 people in the US is naturally having an effect on claims being paid by life insurance companies. While there’s been no significant across-the-board change in how most life insurance companies evaluate new applications, the situation is evolving rapidly. Exactly how that will play out going forward is anyone’s guess at the moment.

What to Expect When Applying for Life Insurance in the Age of the Coronavirus

If you’re under 60 and in good or excellent health, and not currently showing signs of the virus, the likelihood of being approved for life insurance is as good as it’s ever been. You can make an application, and not concern yourself with the virus.

That said, it may be more difficult to get life insurance if you have any conditions determined to put you at risk for the coronavirus, as determined by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC).

These include:

  • Ages 65 and older.
  • Obesity, defined as a body mass index of 40 or greater.
  • Certain health conditions, including asthma, chronic kidney disease and being treated by dialysis, lung disease, diabetes, hemoglobin disorders, immunocompromised, liver disease, and serious heart conditions.
  • People in nursing homes or long-term care facilities.

Now to be fair, each of the above conditions would require special consideration even apart from the coronavirus. But since they’re known coronavirus risk factors, the impact of each has become more important in the life insurance application process.

If any of these conditions apply to you, the best strategy is to work with insurance companies that already specialize in those categories.

There are insurance companies that take a more favorable view of people with any of the following conditions:

  • Over 65
  • Kidney disease
  • Certain lung diseases, including Asthma
  • Liver disease
  • Certain heart conditions

More Specific Application Factors

But even with insurance companies that specialize in providing coverage for people with certain health conditions, some have introduced new restrictions in light of the coronavirus.

For example, if you have a significant health condition and you’re over 65, you may find fewer companies willing to provide coverage.

The insurance company may also check your records for previous coronavirus episodes or exposures. Expect additional testing to determine if you’re currently infected. Most likely, the application process will be delayed until the condition clears, unless it has resulted in long-term complications.

Travel is another factor being closely examined. The CDC maintains an updated list of travel recommendations by country. If you’ve recently traveled to a high-risk country, or you plan to do so in the near future, you may be considered at higher risk for the coronavirus. How each insurance company handles this situation will vary. But your application may be delayed until you’ve completed a recommended quarantine period.

Other Financial Areas to Consider that May be Affected

Since the coronavirus is still very much active in the US and around the world, financial considerations are in a constant state of flux. If you’re concerned at all about the impact of the virus on other insurance types, you should contact your providers for more information.

Other insurance policies that my warrant special consideration are:

  • Employer-sponsored life insurance. There’s not much to worry about here, since these are group plans. Your acceptance is guaranteed upon employment. The policy will almost certainly pay the death benefit, even if your cause of death is related to the virus.
  • Health insurance. There’s been no media coverage of health insurance companies refusing to pay medical claims resulting from the coronavirus. But if you’re concerned, contact your health insurance company for clarification.

Action Steps to Take in the Age of the Coronavirus

Many have been gripped by fear in the face of the coronavirus, which is mostly a fear of the unknown. But the best way to overcome fear is through positive action.

I recommend the following:

1. Be proactive about your health.

Since there is a connection between poor health and the virus, commit to improving your health. Maintain a proper diet, get regular exercise, and follow the CDC coronavirus guidelines on how to protect yourself.

2. If you need life insurance, buy it now.

Don’t wait for a bout with the virus to take this step. It’s important for a number of reasons and the consequences of not having it can be severe. Compare the best life insurance companies to get started.

3. Consider no medical exam life insurance.

If you don’t have the virus, and you want to do a policy as quickly as possible, no medical exam life insurance will be a way to get coverage almost immediately.

4. Look for the lowest cost life insurance providers.

Low cost means you can buy a larger policy. With the uncertainty caused by the coronavirus, having enough life insurance is almost as important as having a policy at all. Look into cheap term life insurance to learn more about what you can afford.

5. Keep a healthy credit score.

Did you know that your credit score is a factor in setting the premium on your life insurance policy? If so, you have one more reason to maintain a healthy credit score. One of the best ways to do it is by regularly monitoring your credit and credit score. There are plenty of services available to help you monitor your credit.

6. Make paying your life insurance premiums a priority

This action step rates a special discussion. When times get tough, and money is in short supply, people often cancel or reduce their insurance coverage. That includes life insurance. But that can be a major mistake in the middle of a pandemic. The coronavirus means that maintaining your current life insurance policies must be a high priority.

The virus and the uncertainty it’s generating in the economy and the job market are making finances less stable than they’ve been in years. You’ll need to be intentional about maintaining financial buffers.

7. Start an emergency fund.

If you don’t already have one place, start building one today. If you already have one up and running, make a plan to increase it regularly.

You should also do what you can to maximize the interest you’re earning on your emergency fund. You should park your fund in a high-interest savings account, some of which are paying interest that’s more than 20 times the national bank average.

8. Get Better Control of Your Debts

In another direction, be purposeful about paying down your debt. Lower debt levels translate into lower monthly payments, and that improves your cash flow.

If you don’t have the funds to pay down your debts, there are ways you can make them more manageable.

For example, if you have high-interest credit card debt, there are balance transfer credit cards that provide a 0% introductory APR for up to 21 months. By eliminating the interest for that length of time, you’ll be able to dedicate more of each payment toward principal reduction.

Still another strategy for lowering your debts is to do a debt consolidation using a low interest personal loan. Personal loans are unsecured loans that have a fixed interest rate and monthly payment, as well as a specific loan term. You can consolidate several loans and credit cards into a single personal loan for up to $40,000, with interest rates starting as low as 5.99%.

Final Thoughts

We’ve covered a lot of ground in this article. But that’s because the coronavirus comes close to being an all-encompassing crisis. It’s been said the coronavirus is both a health crisis and an economic crisis at the same time. It requires strategies on multiple fronts, including protecting your health, your finances, and your family’s finances when you’re no longer around to provide for them.

That’s where life insurance comes into the picture. The basic process hasn’t changed much from the coronavirus, at least not up to this point. But that’s why it’s so important to apply for coverage now, before major changes are put into effect.

The post How Does Coronavirus Affect Life Insurance? appeared first on Good Financial Cents®.

Source: goodfinancialcents.com

20 Money-Saving Auto Insurance Discounts

If you own a car or truck, you know it can be expensive. Your loan payment, ongoing maintenance, fuel, taxes, and auto insurance can take a big chunk of your budget. According to a 2019 AAA study, the average cost to own and operate a new vehicle was $9,282 per year.

When you consider just auto insurance, the most recent data from the Insurance Information Institute shows that the average cost is $936 per year nationwide. However, where you live significantly affects your rate. New Jersey drivers pay the most, $1,309, and Iowa drivers pay the least, $628 per year.

Many personal attributes get factored into your base car insurance rates that you can't change. They include where you live, if you’re a homeowner, your age, gender, marital status, and credit rating.

Insurance savings are available, but many policyholders don’t know what discounts exist or that they need to ask for them.

However, when it comes to getting auto insurance discounts, you have more control. Insurance savings are available, but many policyholders don’t know what discounts exist or that they need to ask for them.

In this post, we’ll review 20 auto insurance discounts that can easily save you money. What’s available depends on your insurer and the state where you live.

But even if you only qualify for a few insurance discounts, they can add up. Then you can put your savings toward something more rewarding, such as taking a vacation or boosting your emergency fund.

20 Money-Saving Auto Insurance Discounts

See how many of the following discounts you qualify for.

1. Safe Driver Discount

Your driving history plays a significant role in how much you pay for car insurance. It makes sense that auto insurers love safe drivers and are willing to reward them for being claim-free.

If you have a clean record with no moving violations or at-fault accidents over the past three to five years, most insurers typically give you a nice discount.

Potential savings: 10% to 20%.

2. Educated Driver Discount

But what if you don’t have a squeaky-clean driving record? You may be able to redeem yourself by passing an in person or online defensive driving course. Insurers know that boosting your education and skills can make you a better driver.

Potential savings: 5% to 15%.

3. Affiliation Discount

Did you know that belonging to a particular group can qualify you for a car insurance discount? Depending on your insurer, it’s likely that they have hundreds of different partner organizations that allow members to get a break on the cost of car insurance.

They may include alumni associations, education organizations, certain fraternities or sororities, honor organizations, and recreational groups.

Potential savings: 5% to 10%.

4. Occupation Discount

There are also auto insurance discounts if you work in specific industries or occupations, such as being in the military, a teacher, medical professional, or government employee. Also, members of professional associations, such as unions and state bar associations, often qualify for reduced rates.

Potential savings: 5% to 15%.

5. Good Student Discount

An often-overlooked car insurance discount is for students who make good grades. You typically qualify if you’re in high school, college, or graduate school (up to age 26) and have at least a “B” average.

Insurers consider good students less of a risk when they’re behind the wheel. So, parents shouldn’t miss the opportunity to make it more affordable to insure their young drivers.

Potential savings: 10% to 25%.

6. Distant Student Discount

Another way to cut the cost of insurance for students who live away from home, no matter their grades, is to request a distant student discount. It applies if a student lives at least 100 miles away from home and doesn’t have an insured vehicle with them on campus. They’ll be covered when they come home for breaks, but at a reduced rate.

Potential savings: 5% to 25%.

7. Low Mileage Discount

Maybe you’re driving less for a new job or keeping a car in the garage more often. If your driving patterns change, be sure to let your car insurance company know. Vehicles that are on the road less have fewer claims, and that earns you a substantial insurance discount.

Potential savings: 5% to 15%.

8. Usage-Based Discount

Many insurers offer usage-based insurance or UBI, which adjusts your rate based on how you drive. Data may be collected using a device that you keep in your vehicle or that gets reported from a smartphone app.

UBI programs evaluate different driving behaviors such as the time of day you drive, your average speed, how hard you brake and corner, and your mileage. If you’re considered a safe driver, your discount gets applied at renewal.

Potential savings: 5% to 40%.

9. Loyalty Discount

Every auto insurer wants to retain existing customers and give you every reason not to switch. Being loyal to one company for at least a few years often results in substantial savings.

Potential savings: 10% to 25%.

10. Multi-Car Discount

If you have more than one vehicle in your household, insuring all of them with the same company usually gives you a multi-car discount. Insurers offer incentives to make sure they get as much of your business as possible.

Potential savings: 10% to 25%.

11. Bundling Discount

In addition to insuring more than one vehicle, getting different types of coverage with the same insurer is known as bundling or a multi-line discount. Many insurers cover more than just cars. You could get auto and homeowner, renters, or life insurance with the same company and score savings.

Potential savings: 5% to 15%.

12. Paperless Discount

Some insurers offer a discount if they don’t have to mail paper documents, such as your policy description and bills. Merely electing to be a paperless customer can qualify you for a small discount. You can get your information by email or an online account.

Potential savings: 3% to 5%.

13. Full Payment Discount

Instead of making monthly or semi-annual auto insurance payments, paying your entire annual premium upfront may qualify for savings.

Potential savings: 5% to 10%.

14. Automatic Payment Discount

Also, signing up for automatic premium payments using automatic withdrawals from your bank account can help you save a small amount.

Potential savings: 3% to 5%.

15. Online Quote Discount

Some auto insurers offer a discount if you sign up for a policy after getting an online quote. You could shop directly on a carrier’s website or an aggregator site, such as Bankrate.com.

Potential savings: 5% to 10%.

16. Switching Discount

Just like your existing auto insurer wants to keep you, others want to entice you. A switch or transfer discount is a promotional offer that cuts your rate for a time after you sign up with a new carrier.

Potential savings: 5% to 15%.

17. New Car Discount

If you purchase a new vehicle or one that’s less than three years old, many auto insurers offer a discount. Newer cars typically have modern safety features that reduce the likelihood that you’ll make a claim.

Potential savings: 5% to 10%.

18. Anti-Theft Discount

Car insurance companies want to help you prevent car theft, so most offer discounts for having any device, feature, or system that helps keep criminals away from your car. They could be factory-installed or an after-market product that you install.

Examples of systems that may lower your insurance rate include a GPS-based location system, such as OnStar, or a theft recovery system, such as LoJack. VIN etching, which is a permanent engraving of your vehicle’s identification number on the windshield and windows, may also qualify you for a discount.

Potential savings: 5% to 20%.

19. Safety Features Discount

Cars with modern safety features, such as anti-lock brakes, airbags, and rear-view cameras, are less likely to get in an accident and cost an insurer. So be sure to let them know every on-board safety device in your vehicle.

Potential savings: 5% to 30%.

20. Mature Driver Discount

If you’re at least age 55 and pass an in-person or online defensive driving course, you can qualify for a discount. Insurers know that maintaining good driving skills reduces your risk and makes you less likely to file a claim. Most insurers offer a mature driver discount in many states.

Potential savings: 5% to 30%.

Understanding Auto Insurance Discounts

The savings you get from auto insurance discounts are typically capped. For example, an insurer may only allow a total discount of 40% off your base premium, even if you qualify for multiple discounts.

You don't have to wait until your auto insurance policy is up for renewal to compare quotes.

Also, it’s important to remember that not all discounts are applied to your rate automatically. You may have to ask for discounts that an insurer wouldn’t know you qualify for, such as getting a new job or having a driver in your family who qualifies for a good student discount. And not every insurer may offer all of the discounts we’ve covered.

Auto insurance prices vary from company to company, and they can even change from month to month. You don't have to wait until your auto insurance policy is up for renewal to compare quotes. So, if you haven’t reviewed your car insurance lately or it’s been a while since you’ve shopped policies, you may be leaving money on the table.

Source: quickanddirtytips.com

Term Life vs. Whole Life Insurance: Which Is Best for You?

A smiling mother lays on her bed with two smiling young children. They are looking at a tablet together.

Taking out a life insurance policy is a great
way to protect your family’s financial future. A policy can also be a useful
financial planning tool. But life insurance is a notoriously tricky subject to
tackle.

One of the hardest challenges is deciding
whether term life or whole life insurance is a better fit for you.

Not sure what separates term life from whole
life in the first place? You’re not alone. Insurance industry jargon can be
thick, but we’re here to clear up the picture and make sure you have all the
information you need to make the best decision for you and your family.

Life Insurance = Financial
Protection for Your Family

Families have all sorts of expenses: mortgage payments, utility bills, school tuition, credit card payments and car loan payments, to name a few. If something were to happen and your household unexpectedly lost your income or your spouse’s income, your surviving family might have a difficult time meeting those costs. Funeral expenses and other final arrangements could further stress your family’s financial stability.

That’s where life insurance comes in. Essentially, a policy acts as a financial safety net for your family by providing a death benefit. Most forms of natural death are covered by life insurance, but many exceptions exist, so be sure to do your research. Death attributable to suicide, motor accidents while intoxicated and high-risk activity are often explicitly not covered by term or whole life policies.

If you die while covered by your life
insurance policy, your family receives a payout, either a lump sum or in
installments. This is money that’s often tax-free and can be used to meet
things like funeral costs, financial obligations and other personal expenses.
You get coverage in exchange for paying a monthly premium, which is often
decided by your age, health status and the amount of coverage you purchase.

Don’t
know how much to buy? A good rule of thumb is to multiply your yearly income by
10-15, and that’s the number you should target. Companies may have different
minimum and maximum amounts of coverage, but you can generally find a
customized policy that meets your coverage needs.

In addition to the base death benefit, you can enhance your coverage through optional riders. These are additions or modifications that can be made to your policy—whether term or whole life—often for a fee. Riders can do things like:

  • Add coverage for disability or deaths not commonly
    covered in base policies, like those due to public transportation accidents.
  • Waive future premiums if you cannot earn an income.
  • Accelerate your death benefit to pay for medical bills
    your family incurs while you’re still alive.

Other
riders may offer access to membership perks. For a fee, you might be able to
get discounts on goods and services, such as financial planning or health and
wellness clubs.

One
final note before we get into the differences between term and life: We’re just
covering individual insurance here. Group insurance is another avenue for
getting life insurance, wherein one policy covers a group of people. But that’s
a complex story for a different day.

Term Life Policies Are Flexible

The “term” in “term life” refers to
the period of time during which your life insurance policy is active. Often,
term life policies are available for 10, 20, 25 or 30 years. If you die during
the term covered, your family will be paid a death benefit and not be charged any future
premiums, as your policy is no longer active. So, if you were to die in year 10
of a 30-year policy, your family would not be on the hook for paying for the
other 20 years.

Typically, your insurance cannot be canceled
as long as you pay your premium. Of course, if you don’t make payments, your coverage will lapse, which typically
will end your policy. If you want to exit a policy you can cancel during an
introductory period. Generally speaking, nonpayment of premiums will not affect your credit score, as
your insurance provider is not a creditor. Given that, making payments on your
life policy won’t raise your credit score either.

The major downside of term life is that your
coverage ceases once the term expires. Ultimately, once your term expires, you need to reassess
your options for renewing, buying new coverage or upgrading. If you were to die
a month after your term expires, and you haven’t taken out a new policy, your
family won’t be covered. That’s why some people opt for another term policy to
cover changing needs. Others may choose to convert their term life into a
permanent life policy or go without coverage because the same financial
obligations—e.g., mortgage payments and college costs—no longer exist. This
might be the case in your retirement.

The Pros and Cons of Term Life

Even though term life insurance lasts for a
predetermined length of time, there are still advantages to taking out such a
policy:

  • Comparably lower cost: Term life is usually the more affordable type of life insurance, making it the easiest way to get budget-friendly protection for your family. A woman who’s 34 years old can buy $1 million in coverage through a 10-year term life policy for less than $50 a month, according to U.S. News and World Report. A man who’s 42 can purchase $1 million in coverage through a 30-year term for just over $126 a month.
  • Good choice for mid-term financial planning: Lots of families take out a term life policy to coincide with major financial responsibilities or until their children are financially independent. For example, if you have 20 years left on your mortgage, a term policy of the same length could provide extra financial protection for your family.
  • Upgrade if you want to: If you take out a term life policy, you’ll likely also get the option to convert to a permanent form of life insurance once the term ends if your needs change. Just remember to weigh your options, as your rates will increase the older you get. Buying another term life policy at 50 years old may not represent the same value as a whole life policy at 30.

There are some drawbacks to term life:

  • Coverage is temporary: The biggest downside to
    term life insurance is that policies are active for only so long. That means
    your family won’t be covered if something unexpected happens after your insurance
    expires.
  • Rising premiums: Premiums for term life
    policies are often fixed, meaning they stay constant over the duration of the
    policy. However, some
    policies may be structured in a way that seems less costly upfront but feature
    steadily increasing premiums as your term progresses.

Young Families Often Opt for Term Life

The rate you pay for term life insurance is
largely determined by your age and health. Factors outside your control may influence the rates you
see, like demand for life insurance. During a pandemic, you might be paying
more if you take a policy out amid an outbreak.

Most consumers seeking term life fall into
younger and healthier demographics, making term life rates among the most
affordable. This is because
such populations present less risk than a 70-year-old with multiple chronic
conditions. In the end, your rate depends on individual factors. So if
you’re looking for affordable protection for your family, term life might be
the best choice for you.

Term life is also a great option if you want a
policy that:

  • Grants you some flexibility for
    future planning, as you’re
    not locked into a lifetime policy.
  • Can replace your or your spouse’s
    income on a temporary basis.
  • Will cover your children until
    they are financially stable on their own.
  • Is active for the same length as
    certain financial responsibilities—e.g., a car loan or remaining years on a
    mortgage.

Whole Life Insurance Offers
Lifetime Coverage

Like with term life policies, whole life
policies award a death benefit when you pass. This benefit is decided by the
amount of coverage you purchase, but you can also add riders that accelerate
your benefit or expand coverage for covered types of death.

The biggest difference between term life and
whole life insurance is that the latter is a type of permanent life insurance.
Your policy has no expiration date. That means you and your family benefit from
a lifetime of protection without having to worry about an unexpected event
occurring after your term has ended.

The Pros and Cons of Whole Life

As if a lifetime of coverage wasn’t enough of
advantage, whole life insurance can also be a highly useful financial planning
tool:

  • Cash value: When you make a premium payment on
    your whole life policy, a portion of that goes toward an account that builds
    cash up over time. Your
    family gets this amount in addition to the death benefit when their claim is
    approved, or you can access it while living. You pay taxes only when the money
    is withdrawn, allowing for tax-deferred growth of cash value. You can
    often access it at any time, invest it, or take a loan out against it. However, be aware that anything
    you take out and don’t repay will eventually be subtracted from what your
    family receives in the end.
  • Dividend payments: Many life insurance
    companies offer whole life policyholders the opportunity to accrue dividends
    through a whole life policy. This works much like how stocks make dividend
    payments to shareholders from corporate profits. The amount you see through a dividend payment is
    determined by company earnings and your provider’s target payout ratio—which is
    the percentage of earnings paid to policyholders. Some life insurance
    companies will make an annual dividend payment to whole life policyholders that
    adds to their cash value.

Some potential downsides to consider include:

  • Higher cost: Whole life is more expensive than
    term life, largely because of the lifetime of coverage. This means monthly
    premiums that might not fit every household budget.
  • Interest rates on cash value loans: If you need emergency extra
    money, a cash value loan may be more appealing than a standard bank loan, as
    you don’t have to go through the typical application process. You can also get
    lower interest rates on cash value loans than you would with private loans or
    credit cards. Plus, you don’t have to pay the balance back, as you’re basically
    borrowing from your own stash. But if you don’t pay the loan back, it will be
    money lost to your family.

Whole Life Is Great for Estate Planning

Who stands to benefit most from a whole life
policy?

  • Young adults and families who can
    net big savings by buying a whole life policy earlier.
  • Older families looking to lock in
    coverage for life.
  • Those who want to use their policy
    as a tool for savings or estate planning.

To that last point, whole life policies are particularly advantageous in overall financial and estate planning compared to term life. Cash value is the biggest and clearest benefit, as it can allow you to build savings to access at any time and with little red tape.

Also,
you can gift a whole life policy to a grandchild, niece or nephew to help
provide for them. This works by you opening the policy and paying premiums for
a set number of years—like until the child turns 18. Upon that time, ownership
of the policy is transferred to them and they can access the cash value that’s
been built up over time.

If you’re looking for another low-touch way to leave a legacy, consider opening a high-yield savings account that doesn’t come with monthly premium payments, or a normal investment account.

What to Do Before You Buy a
Policy

Make sure you take the right steps to finding
the best policy for you. That means:

  • Researching different life insurance companies and their policies, cost and riders. (You can start by reading our review of Bestow.)
  • Balancing your current and long-term needs to best protect your family.
  • Buying the right amount of coverage.

If you’re interested in taking next steps, talk to your financial advisor about your specific financial situation and personal needs.

Infographic explaining the difference between term and whole life insurance policies.

The post Term Life vs. Whole Life Insurance: Which Is Best for You? appeared first on Credit.com.

Source: credit.com