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Life Insurance

Your need for life insurance will change with changes in your life. For example, the arrival of children usually triggers a sharp increase in the amount you need. As children grow older and leave the nest, you will probably need less protection.

Term life insurance policies are the least costly. They pay death benefits but have no cash value if you decide to stop making payments. As the word "term" suggests, these policies are in effect for a specific period of time-one year or until you reach a certain age are common. You can compare life insurance policies online.

Whole life, universal life, and other cash value policies combine a long-term savings and investment product with life insurance. Canceling these policies after only a few years can more than double your life insurance costs.

If you have misplaced a life insurance policy, your state’s insurance commission may be able to help you locate it. Or you can search for it at the Policy Locator. If the insurance company knows that an insured person has died, but cannot locate the beneficiaries, the company must turn the benefits over to the state’s unclaimed property office. Check with that office if you believe that you are due a benefit. You can avoid losing your life insurance policy by alerting the policy beneficiaries and filing a copy with your will.

Disability Insurance

Disability can be more disastrous financially than death. If you are disabled, you lose your earning power, but you still have living expenses and often huge expenses for medical care. Disability insurance helps you replace lost income. Many employers offer some type of disability insurance coverage for employees, or you can get an individual disability insurance policy. There are two types of disability policies: short-term disability (STD) and long-term disability (LTD). Short-term disability policies have a maximum benefit of two years, while long-term disability policies have benefits that can last the rest of your life. When purchasing disability insurance, ask:

  • How is disability defined? Some policies consider you disabled if you are unable to perform the duties of any job. Better plans pay benefits if you are unable to do the usual duties of your own occupation.
  • When do benefits begin? Most plans have a waiting period after an illness before payments begin.
  • How long do benefits last? After the waiting period, payments are usually available till you reach age 65, though shorter or longer terms are also available.
  • What dollar amount is promised? Can benefits be reduced by Social Security disability and workers' compensation payments? Are the benefits adjusted for inflation? Will the policy provider continue making contributions to your pension plan so you have retirement benefits when the disability coverage ends?

For more information on disability insurance, visit Insurance Information Institute or America's Health Insurance Plans.