Insurance is the equitable transfer of the risk of a loss, from one entity to another in exchange for money.
It is a form of risk management primarily used to hedge against the risk of a contingent, uncertain loss.
An insurer, or insurance carrier, is selling the insurance; the insured, or policyholder, is the person or entity buying
the insurance policy. The amount of money to be charged for a certain amount of insurance coverage is called the premium.
Risk management, the practice of appraising and controlling risk, has evolved as a discrete field of study and practice.
The transaction involves the insured assuming a guaranteed and known relatively small loss in the form of payment to the insurer in exchange for the insurer's promise to compensate (indemnity) the insured in the case of a financial (personal) loss. The insured receives a contract, called the insurance policy, which details the conditions and circumstances under which the insured will be financially compensated.
Insurance involves pooling funds from many insured entities (known as exposures) to pay for the losses that some may incur. The insured entities are therefore protected from risk for a fee, with the fee being dependent upon the frequency and severity of the event occurring. In order to be an insurable risk, the risk insured against must meet certain characteristics. Insurance as a financial intermediary is a commercial enterprise and a major part of the financial services industry, but individual entities can also self-insurethrough saving money for possible future losses.
Risk which can be insured by private companies typically shares seven common characteristics
1. Large number of similar exposure units: Since insurance operates through pooling resources, the majority of insurance policies are provided for individual members of large classes, allowing insurers to benefit from the law of large numbers in which predicted losses are similar to the actual losses. Exceptions include Lloyd's of London, which is famous for insuring the life or health of actors, sports figures, and other famous individuals. However, all exposures will have particular differences, which may lead to different premium rates.
2. Definite loss: The loss takes place at a known time, in a known place, and from a known cause. The classic example is death of an insured person on a life insurance policy. Fire, automobile accidents, and worker injuries may all easily meet this criterion. Other types of losses may only be definite in theory. Occupational disease, for instance, may involve prolonged exposure to injurious conditions where no specific time, place, or cause is identifiable. Ideally, the time, place, and cause of a loss should be clear enough that a reasonable person, with sufficient information, could objectively verify all three elements.
3. Accidental loss: The event that constitutes the trigger of a claim should be fortuitous, or at least outside the control of the beneficiary of the insurance. The loss should be pure, in the sense that it results from an event for which there is only the opportunity for cost. Events that contain speculative elements such as ordinary business risks or even purchasing a lottery ticket are generally not considered insurable.
4. Large loss: The size of the loss must be meaningful from the perspective of the insured. Insurance premiums need to cover both the expected cost of losses, plus the cost of issuing and administering the policy, adjusting losses, and supplying the capital needed to reasonably assure that the insurer will be able to pay claims. For small losses, these latter costs may be several times the size of the expected cost of losses. There is hardly any point in paying such costs unless the protection offered has real value to a buyer.
5. Affordable premium: If the likelihood of an insured event is so high, or the cost of the event so large, that the resulting premium is large relative to the amount of protection offered, then it is not likely that the insurance will be purchased, even if on offer. Furthermore, as the accounting profession formally recognizes in financial accounting standards, the premium cannot be so large that there is not a reasonable chance of a significant loss to the insurer. If there is no such chance of loss, then the transaction may have the form of insurance, but not the substance (see the U.S. Financial Accounting Standards Board pronouncement number 113: "Accounting and Reporting for Reinsurance of Short-Duration and Long-Duration Contracts").
6. Calculable loss: There are two elements that must be at least estimable, if not formally calculable: the probability of loss, and the attendant cost. Probability of loss is generally an empirical exercise, while cost has more to do with the ability of a reasonable person in possession of a copy of the insurance policy and a proof of loss associated with a claim presented under that policy to make a reasonably definite and objective evaluation of the amount of the loss recoverable as a result of the claim.
7. Limited risk of catastrophically large losses: Insurable losses are ideally independent and non-catastrophic, meaning that the losses do not happen all at once and individual losses are not severe enough to bankrupt the insurer; insurers may prefer to limit their exposure to a loss from a single event to some small portion of their capital base. Capital constrains insurers' ability to sell earthquake insurance as well as wind insurance in hurricane zones. In the United States, flood risk is insured by the federal government. In commercial fire insurance, it is possible to find single properties whose total exposed value is well in excess of any individual insurer's capital constraint. Such properties are generally shared among several insurers, or are insured by a single insurer who syndicates the risk into the reinsurance market.
When a company insures an individual entity, there are basic legal requirements and regulations. Several commonly cited legal principles of insurance include1. Indemnity – the insurance company indemnifies, or compensates, the insured in the case of certain losses only up to the insured's interest.
Main article: Indemnity
To "indemnify" means to make whole again, or to be reinstated to the position that one was in, to the extent possible, prior to the happening of a specified event or peril. Accordingly, life insurance is generally not considered to be indemnity insurance, but rather "contingent" insurance (i.e., a claim arises on the occurrence of a specified event). There are generally three types of insurance contracts that seek to indemnify an insured:
1. A "reimbursement" policy
2. A "pay on behalf" or "on behalf of policy"
3. An "indemnification" policy
From an insured's standpoint, the result is usually the same: the insurer pays the loss and claims expenses.
If the Insured has a "reimbursement" policy, the insured can be required to pay for a loss and then be "reimbursed" by the insurance carrier for the loss and out of pocket costs including, with the permission of the insurer, claim expenses.
Under a "pay on behalf" policy, the insurance carrier would defend and pay a claim on behalf of the insured who would not be out of pocket for anything. Most modern liability insurance is written on the basis of "pay on behalf" language which enables the insurance carrier to manage and control the claim.
Under an "indemnification" policy, the insurance carrier can generally either "reimburse" or "pay on behalf of", whichever is more beneficial to it and the insured in the claim handling process.
An entity seeking to transfer risk (an individual, corporation, or association of any type, etc.) becomes the 'insured' party once risk is assumed by an 'insurer', the insuring party, by means of a contract, called an insurance policy. Generally, an insurance contract includes, at a minimum, the following elements: identification of participating parties (the insurer, the insured, the beneficiaries), the premium, the period of coverage, the particular loss event covered, the amount of coverage (i.e., the amount to be paid to the insured or beneficiary in the event of a loss), and exclusions (events not covered). An insured is thus said to be "indemnified" against the loss covered in the policy.
When insured parties experience a loss for a specified peril, the coverage entitles the policyholder to make a claim against the insurer for the covered amount of loss as specified by the policy. The fee paid by the insured to the insurer for assuming the risk is called the premium. Insurance premiums from many insureds are used to fund accounts reserved for later payment of claims – in theory for a relatively few claimants – and for overhead costs. So long as an insurer maintains adequate funds set aside for anticipated losses (called reserves), the remaining margin is an insurer's profit.
Insurance can have various effects on society through the way that it changes who bears the cost of losses and damage. On one hand it can increase fraud; on the other it can help societies and individuals prepare for catastrophes and mitigate the effects of catastrophes on both households and societies.
Insurance can influence the probability of losses through moral hazard, insurance fraud, and preventive steps by the insurance company. Insurance scholars have typically used moral hazard to refer to the increased loss due to unintentional carelessness and moral hazard to refer to increased risk due to intentional carelessness or indifference.Insurers attempt to address carelessness through inspections, policy provisions requiring certain types of maintenance, and possible discounts for loss mitigation efforts. While in theory insurers could encourage investment in loss reduction, some commentators have argued that in practice insurers had historically not aggressively pursued loss control measures—particularly to prevent disaster losses such as hurricanes—because of concerns over rate reductions and legal battles. However, since about 1996 insurers have begun to take a more active role in loss mitigation, such as through building codes
In accordance with study books of The Chartered Insurance Institute, there are the following methods:
1. Co-insurance – risks shared between insurers
2. Dual insurance – risks having two or more policies with same coverage
3. Self-insurance – situations where risk is not transferred to insurance companies and solely retained by the entities or individuals themselves
4. Reinsurance – situations when Insurer passes some part of or all risks to another Insurer called Reinsurer
Any risk that can be quantified can potentially be insured. Specific kinds of risk that may give rise to claims are known as perils. An insurance policy will set out in detail which perils are covered by the policy and which are not. Below are non-exhaustive lists of the many different types of insurance that exist. A single policy may cover risks in one or more of the categories set out below. For example, vehicle insurance would typically cover both the property risk (theft or damage to the vehicle) and the liability risk (legal claims arising from an accident). A home insurance policy in the United States typically includes coverage for damage to the home and the owner's belongings, certain legal claims against the owner, and even a small amount of coverage for medical expenses of guests who are injured on the owner's property.
Business insurance can take a number of different forms, such as the various kinds of professional liability insurance, also called professional indemnity (PI), which are discussed below under that name; and the business owner's policy (BOP), which packages into one policy many of the kinds of coverage that a business owner needs, in a way analogous to how homeowners' insurance packages the coverages that a homeowner needs
Auto insurance protects the policyholder against financial loss in the event of an incident involving
a vehicle they own, such as in a traffic collision.
Coverage typically includes:
• Property coverage, for damage to or theft of the car
• Liability coverage, for the legal responsibility to others for bodily injury or property damage
• Medical coverage, for the cost of treating injuries, rehabilitation and sometimes lost wages and funeral expenses
Health insurance is insurance against the risk of incurring medical expenses among individuals. By estimating the overall risk of health care and health system expenses, among a targeted group, an insurer can develop a routine finance structure, such as a monthly premium or payroll tax, to ensure that money is available to pay for the health care benefits specified in the insurance agreement. The benefit is administered by a central organization such as a government agency, private business, or not-for-profit entity. According to the Health Insurance Association of America, health insurance is defined as "coverage that provides for the payments of benefits as a result of sickness or injury. Includes insurance for losses from accident, medical expense, disability, or accidental death and dismemberment"
The individual insured person's obligations may take several forms
• Premium: The amount the policy-holder or their sponsor (e.g. an employer) pays to the health plan to purchase health coverage.
• Deductible: The amount that the insured must pay out-of-pocket before the health insurer pays its share. For example, policy-holders might have to pay a $500 deductible per year, before any of their health care is covered by the health insurer. It may take several doctor's visits or prescription refills before the insured person reaches the deductible and the insurance company starts to pay for care. Furthermore, most policies do not apply co-pays for doctor's visits or prescriptions against your deductible.
• Co-payment: The amount that the insured person must pay out of pocket before the health insurer pays for a particular visit or service. For example, an insured person might pay a $45 co-payment for a doctor's visit, or to obtain a prescription. A co-payment must be paid each time a particular service is obtained.
• Coinsurance: Instead of, or in addition to, paying a fixed amount up front (a co-payment), the co-insurance is a percentage of the total cost that insured person may also pay. For example, the member might have to pay 20% of the cost of a surgery over and above a co-payment, while the insurance company pays the other 80%. If there is an upper limit on coinsurance, the policy-holder could end up owing very little, or a great deal, depending on the actual costs of the services they obtain.
• Exclusions: Not all services are covered. The insured are generally expected to pay the full cost of non-covered services out of their own pockets.
• Coverage limits: Some health insurance policies only pay for health care up to a certain dollar amount. The insured person may be expected to pay any charges in excess of the health plan's maximum payment for a specific service. In addition, some insurance company schemes have annual or lifetime coverage maxima. In these cases, the health plan will stop payment when they reach the benefit maximum, and the policy-holder must pay all remaining costs.
• Out-of-pocket maxima: Similar to coverage limits, except that in this case, the insured person's payment obligation ends when they reach the out-of-pocket maximum, and health insurance pays all further covered costs. Out-of-pocket maxima can be limited to a specific benefit category (such as prescription drugs) or can apply to all coverage provided during a specific benefit year.
• Capitation: An amount paid by an insurer to a health care provider, for which the provider agrees to treat all members of the insurer.
• In-Network Provider: (U.S. term) A health care provider on a list of providers preselected by the insurer. The insurer will offer discounted coinsurance or co-payments, or additional benefits, to a plan member to see an in-network provider. Generally, providers in network are providers who have a contract with the insurer to accept rates further discounted from the "usual and customary" charges the insurer pays to out-of-network providers.
• Prior Authorization: A certification or authorization that an insurer provides prior to medical service occurring. Obtaining an authorization means that the insurer is obligated to pay for the service, assuming it matches what was authorized. Many smaller, routine services do not require authorization.
• Explanation of Benefits: A document that may be sent by an insurer to a patient explaining what was covered for a medical service, and how payment amount and patient responsibility amount were determined
Life insurance provides a monetary benefit to a decedent's family or other designated beneficiary, and may specifically provide for income to an insured person's family, burial, funeral and other final expenses. Life insurance policies often allow the option of having the proceeds paid to the beneficiary either in a lump sum cash payment or an annuity. In most states, a person cannot purchase a policy on another person without their knowledge.
Annuities provide a stream of payments and are generally classified as insurance because they are issued by insurance companies, are regulated as insurance, and require the same kinds of actuarial and investment management expertise that life insurance requires. Annuities andpensions that pay a benefit for life are sometimes regarded as insurance against the possibility that a retiree will outlive his or her financial resources. In that sense, they are the complement of life insurance and, from an underwriting perspective, are the mirror image of life insurance.
Certain life insurance contracts accumulate cash values, which may be taken by the insured if the policy is surrendered or which may be borrowed against. Some policies, such as annuities and endowment policies, are financial instruments to accumulate or liquidate wealth when it is needed.
In many countries, such as the United States and the UK, the tax law provides that the interest on this cash value is not taxable under certain circumstances. This leads to widespread use of life insurance as a tax-efficient method of saving as well as protection in the event of early death.
In the United States, the tax on interest income on life insurance policies and annuities is generally deferred. However, in some cases the benefit derived from tax deferral may be offset by a low return. This depends upon the insuring company, the type of policy and other variables (mortality, market return, etc.). Moreover, other income tax saving vehicles (e.g., IRAs, 401(k) plans, Roth IRAs) may be better alternatives for value accumulation.
• Disability insurance policies provide financial support in the event of the policyholder becoming unable to work because of disabling illness or injury. It provides monthly support to help pay such obligations as mortgage loans and credit cards. Short-term and long-term disability policies are available to individuals, but considering the expense, long-term policies are generally obtained only by those with at least six-figure incomes, such as doctors, lawyers, etc. Short-term disability insurance covers a person for a period typically up to six months, paying a stipend each month to cover medical bills and other necessities.
• Long-term disability insurance covers an individual's expenses for the long term, up until such time as they are considered permanently disabled and thereafter. Insurance companies will often try to encourage the person back into employment in preference to and before declaring them unable to work at all and therefore totally disabled.
• Disability overhead insurance allows business owners to cover the overhead expenses of their business while they are unable to work.
• Total permanent disability insurance provides benefits when a person is permanently disabled and can no longer work in their profession, often taken as an adjunct to life insurance.
• Workers' compensation insurance replaces all or part of a worker's wages lost and accompanying medical expenses incurred because of a job-related injury.
Property insurance provides protection against risks to property, such as fire, theft or weather damage.
This may include specialized forms of insurance such as fire insurance, flood insurance, earthquake insurance, home insurance, inland marine insurance or boiler insurance. The term property insurance may,
like casualty insurance, be used as a broad category of various subtypes of insurance, some of which are listed below:
• Aviation insurance protects aircraft hulls and spares, and associated liability risks, such as passenger and third-party liability. Airportsmay also appear under this subcategory, including air traffic control and refuelling operations for international airports through to smaller domestic exposures.
• Boiler insurance (also known as boiler and machinery insurance, or equipment breakdown insurance) insures against accidental physical damage to boilers, equipment or machinery.
• Builder's risk insurance insures against the risk of physical loss or damage to property during construction. Builder's risk insurance is typically written on an "all risk" basis covering damage arising from any cause (including the negligence of the insured) not otherwise expressly excluded. Builder's risk insurance is coverage that protects a person's or organization's insurable interest in materials, fixtures and/or equipment being used in the construction or renovation of a building or structure should those items sustain physical loss or damage from an insured peril.
• Crop insurance may be purchased by farmers to reduce or manage various risks associated with growing crops. Such risks include crop loss or damage caused by weather, hail, drought, frost damage, insects, or disease.
• Earthquake insurance is a form of property insurance that pays the policyholder in the event of an earthquake that causes damage to the property. Most ordinary home insurance policies do not cover earthquake damage. Earthquake insurance policies generally feature a high deductible. Rates depend on location and hence the likelihood of an earthquake, as well as the construction of the home.
• Fidelity bond is a form of casualty insurance that covers policyholders for losses incurred as a result of fraudulent acts by specified individuals. It usually insures a business for losses caused by the dishonest acts of its employees.
• Flood insurance protects against property loss due to flooding. Many U.S. insurers do not provide flood insurance in some parts of the country. In response to this, the federal government created the National Flood Insurance Program which serves as the insurer of last resort.
• Home insurance, also commonly called hazard insurance or homeowners insurance (often abbreviated in the real estate industry as HOI), provides coverage for damage or destruction of the policyholder's home. In some geographical areas, the policy may exclude certain types of risks, such as flood or earthquake, that require additional coverage. Maintenance-related issues are typically the homeowner's responsibility. The policy may include inventory, or this can be bought as a separate policy, especially for people who rent housing. In some countries, insurers offer a package which may include liability and legal responsibility for injuries and property damage caused by members of the household, including pets.
• Landlord insurance covers residential and commercial properties which are rented to others. Most homeowners' insurance covers only owner-occupied homes.
• Marine insurance and marine cargo insurance cover the loss or damage of vessels at sea or on inland waterways, and of cargo in transit, regardless of the method of transit. When the owner of the cargo and the carrier are separate corporations, marine cargo insurance typically compensates the owner of cargo for losses sustained from fire, shipwreck, etc., but excludes losses that can be recovered from the carrier or the carrier's insurance. Many marine insurance underwriters will include "time element" coverage in such policies, which extends the indemnity to cover loss of profit and other business expenses attributable to the delay caused by a covered loss.
• Supplemental natural disaster insurance covers specified expenses after a natural disaster renders the policyholder's home uninhabitable. Periodic payments are made directly to the insured until the home is rebuilt or a specified time period has elapsed.
• Surety bond insurance is a three-party insurance guaranteeing the performance of the principal.
• Volcano insurance is a specialized insurance protecting against damage arising specifically from volcanic eruptions.
• Windstorm insurance is an insurance covering the damage that can be caused by wind events such as hurricanes.
Liability insurance is a very broad superset that covers legal claims against the insured. Many types of insurance include an aspect of liability coverage.
For example, a homeowner's insurance policy will normally include liability coverage which protects the insured in the event of a claim brought by someone who slips and falls on the property;
automobile insurance also includes an aspect of liability insurance that indemnifies against the harm that a crashing car can cause to others' lives, health, or property. The protection offered by a liability insurance policy is twofold: a legal defense in the event of a lawsuit commenced against the policyholder and indemnification (payment on behalf of the insured) with respect to a settlement or court verdict. Liability policies typically cover only the negligence of the insured, and will not apply to results of wilful or intentional acts by the insured.
• Public liability insurance covers a business or organization against claims should its operations injure a member of the public or damage their property in some way.
• Directors and officers liability insurance (D&O) protects an organization (usually a corporation) from costs associated with litigation resulting from errors made by directors and officers for which they are liable.
• Environmental liability insurance protects the insured from bodily injury, property damage and cleanup costs as a result of the dispersal, release or escape of pollutants.
• Errors and omissions insurance (E&O) is business liability insurance for professionals such as insurance agents, real estate agents and brokers, architects, third-party administrators (TPAs) and other business professionals.
• Prize indemnity insurance protects the insured from giving away a large prize at a specific event. Examples would include offering prizes to contestants who can make a half-court shot at a basketball game, or a hole-in-one at a golf tournament.
• Professional liability insurance, also called professional indemnity insurance (PI), protects insured professionals such as architectural corporations and medical practitioners against potential negligence claims made by their patients/clients. Professional liability insurance may take on different names depending on the profession. For example, professional liability insurance in reference to the medical profession may be called medical malpractice insurance.
Looking at the way health insurance companies have mushroomed over the years, we would think most people in India would have medical insurance commonly known as mediclaim. But as per official data collected by Insurance Regulatory and Development Authority (IRDA) for the year 2013-14, only 17% of India’s population have health insurance, a shocking but true fact which needs to be addressed at the earliest.
Medical insurance guarantees financial wellness and moreover promotes personal well-being too. Individuals who have sufficient health cover enjoy the following advantages:
1. Provides security plus monetary support:
The main aim of medical insurance is to cover your healthcare costs which can be huge in case of a fatal disease or a serious accident. If you already have a proper mediclaim in place, you can use it to pay for various expenses incurred in the course of your treatment. You don’t have to break your fixed deposits or use up your savings thereby keeping your financial status intact. Apart from individual health plans, you can go for family floater scheme which provides medical insurance for 2 adults and 2 kids.
2. Obtain finest healthcare facilities:
Most health insurance firms have tie-ups with top-class hospitals across the country so that you get treated under the supervision of experts. They even offer ‘cashless hospitalisation’ which is extremely beneficial in case of emergencies. As the name implies, this benefit allows you to get admitted and receive immediate treatment even if you don’t have cash at hand. Just make sure that the hospital is registered on the panel of the health insurance company and take your health card along.
3. Allows you to lead a stress-free existence:
We are aware of the damaging effects stress has on our physical and mental well-being. Having a suitable health cover ensures that you don’t have to pay from your savings or depend on others for finances. Even if you fall sick, you don’t have to worry about paying medical bills, doctor fees, hospital stays etc.
4. Tax benefit:
This factor will certainly push you one step further towards buying medical insurance. As per Section 80D of the IT Act, health insurance premiums are entitled for tax deductions. The budget which was announced in February 2015 granted deductions of Rs.25,000 for people below 65 years of age and Rs.30,000 for senior citizens.
We work hard to earn money and fulfil our dreams. Being diagnosed with a major illness or meeting with a serious accident can change your life drastically. Having adequate medical cover will ensure that all your healthcare expenses are taken care of till you are recovered fully. Most importantly, it eases financial burden on your family. If you haven’t opted for mediclaim yet, do it right now as premiums increase with age.
I Frequently hear client’s saying that “I don’t need to take Health Insurance separately as I am getting covered by my Company”.
Well, we strongly recommend you to consider a secondary health insurance for below reasons:
1. The amount of the Company Cover may not be sufficient
2. Your Company can change the Medical scheme in future
3. As you grow, you may develop medical problems and may not get a new health policy
4. If you change the Job, the new Company may not have an equally good scheme or may not have a scheme at all, if you join say a start-up
5. Not all Companies cover your parents
Now, if you decide to go in for a secondary health cover, then here are few smart tips for you to determine what kind of cover and amount you should opt for:
Current insurance cost: First, please review your current cost of insurance as a % of your total income. As a broad guidance, we suggest that your total yearly cost of insurance should be around 10% of your yearly take home income.
Keep in mind your Age & Medical History: If you are in your 40’s, it’s a good idea to start investing in a solid secondary health cover. Based on your present health condition and family history, you can decide the type of cover and amount of the coverage. In addition to the normal health cover, now there are specific policies for Sugar & Heart patients.
Go for smart features: As you are likely to continue using your Company’s policy as a primary health cover, we suggest you opt for a high no claim bonus policy. Private sector leads with lot of innovative features like high amount of no claim bonus, combination of Individual + Family Floater cover and no sub limits for the claim purpose.
Take the right amount: You can decide the amount of the coverage based on your current lifestyle, medical situation, your location (i.e. Tier 1, Tier 2 or Tier 3 town) and available budget. As a broad guidance, I generally recommend my clients to take Rs. 10 Lakhs family floater health cover. Based on the specific situation this can be far higher or even lower.
Very few people enjoy thinking about the inevitability of death. Fewer yet take pleasure in the possibility of an accidental death. If there are people who depend on you and your income, however, it is one of those unpleasant things that you have to consider. In this article, we'll approach the topic of life insurance in two ways: first, we will point out some of the misconceptions about life insurance and then we'll look at how to evaluate how much and what type of life insurance you need.
Does Everyone Need Life Insurance?
Buying life insurance doesn't make sense for everyone. If you have no dependents and enough assets to cover your debts and the cost of dying (funeral, estate lawyer's fees, etc.), then insurance is an unnecessary cost for you. If you do have dependents and you have enough assets to provide for them after your death (investments, trusts, etc.), then you do not need life insurance.
However, if you have dependents (especially if you are the primary provider) or significant debts that outweigh your assets, then you likely will need insurance to ensure that your dependents are looked after if something happens to you.(To learn about insurance basics, see Understand Your Insurance Contract and Exploring Advanced Insurance Contract Fundamentals.)
Insurance and Age
One of the biggest myths that aggressive life insurance agents perpetuate is that, "insurance is harder to qualify for as you age, so you better get it while you are young." To put it bluntly, insurance companies make money by betting on how long you will live. When you are young, your premiums will be relatively cheap. If you die suddenly and the company has to pay out, you were a bad bet. Fortunately, many young people survive to old age, paying higher and higher premiums as they age (the increased risk of them dying makes the odds less attractive).
Insurance is cheaper when you are young, but it is no easier to qualify for. The simple fact is that insurance companies will want higher premiums to cover the odds on older people - it is a very rare that an insurance company will refuse coverage to someone who is willing to pay the premiums for their risk category. That said, get insurance if you need it and when you need it. Do not get insurance because you are scared of not qualifying later in life.
Is Life Insurance an Investment?
Many people see life insurance as an investment, but when compared to other investment vehicles, referring to insurance as an investment simply doesn't make sense. Certain types of life insurance are touted as vehicles for saving or investing money for retirement, commonly called cash-value policies. These are insurance policies in which you build up a pool of capital that gains interest. This interest accrues because the insurance company is investing that money for their benefit, much like banks, and are paying you a percentage for the use of your money.
However, if you were to take the money from the forced savings program and invest it in an index fund, you would likely see much better returns. For people who lack the discipline to invest regularly, a cash-value insurance policy may be beneficial. A disciplined investor, on the other hand, has no need for scraps from an insurance company's table.
Cash Value vs. Term
Insurance companies love cash-value policies and promote them heavily by giving commissions to agents who sell these policies. If you try to surrender the policy (demand your savings portion back and cancel the insurance), an insurance company will often suggest that you take a loan from your own savings to continue paying the premiums. Although this may seem like a simple solution, this loan will cost you, as you will have to pay interest to the insurance company for borrowing your own money.
Term insurance is insurance pure and simple. You buy a policy that pays out a set amount if you die during the period to which the policy applies. If you don't die, you get nothing (don't be disappointed, you are alive after all). The purpose of this insurance is to hold you over until you can become self-insured by your assets. Unfortunately, not all term insurance is equally desirable. Regardless of the specifics of a person's situation (lifestyle, income, debts), most people are best served by renewable and convertible term insurance policies. They offer just as much coverage and are cheaper than cash-value, and, with the advent of internet comparisons driving down premiums for comparable policies, you can purchase them at competitive rates.
The renewable clause in a term life insurance policy means that the insuring company will allow you to renew your policy at a set rate without undergoing a medical. This means that if an insured person is diagnosed with a fatal disease just as the term runs out, he or she will be able to renew the policy at a competitive rate despite the fact that the insurance company is certain to have to pay out.
The convertible insurance policy provides the option to change the face value of the policy into a cash-value policy offered by the insurer in case you reach 65 years of age and are not financially secure enough to go without insurance. Even though you will be planning in the hope of not having to use this option, it is better to be safe and the premium is usually quite inexpensive. (To learn more about life insurance types, see Buying Life Insurance: Term Versus Permanent, A Look At Single-Premium Life Insurance and What is the difference between term and universal life insurance?)
Evaluating Your Insurance Needs
A large part of choosing a life insurance policy is determining how much money your dependents will need. Choosing the face value (the amount your policy pays if you die) depends on:
• How much debt you have: All of your debts must be paid off in full, including car loans, mortgages, credit cards, loans, etc. If you have a $200,000 mortgage and a $4,000 car loan, you need at least $204,000 in your policy to cover you debts (and possibly a little more to take care of the interest as well).
• Income Replacement: One of the biggest factors for life insurance is for income replacement, which will be a major determinant of the size of your policy. If you are the only provider for your dependents and you bring in $40,000 a year, you will need a policy payout that is large enough to replace your income plus a little extra to guard against inflation. To err on the safe side, assume that the lump sum payout of your policy is invested at 8% (if you do not trust your dependents to invest, you can appoint trustees or chose a financial planner and calculate his or her cost as part of the payout). Just to replace your income, you will need a $500,000 policy. This is not a set rule, but adding your yearly income back into the policy (500,000 + 40,000 = 540,000 in this case) is a fairly good guard against inflation. Remember, you have to add this $540,000 to whatever your total debts add up to.
• Future Obligations: If you want to pay for your child's college tuition or have your spouse move to Hawaii when you are gone, you will have to estimate the costs of those obligations and add them to the amount of coverage you want. So, if a person has a yearly income of $40,000, a mortgage of $200,000, and wants to send his or her child to university (let's say this will cost $80,000), this person would probably want an $820,000 policy ($540,000 to replace yearly income + $200,000 for the mortgage expense + $80,000 university expense). Once you determine the required face value of your insurance company, you can start shopping around for the right policy (and a good deal). There are many online insurance estimators that can help you determine how much insurance you will need.
• Insuring Others: Obviously there are other people in your life who are important to you and you may wonder if you should insure them. As a rule, you should only insure people whose death would mean a financial loss to you. The death of a child, while emotionally devastating, does not constitute a financial loss because children cost money to raise. The death of an income-earning spouse, however, does create a situation with both emotional and financial losses. In that case, follow the income replacement trick we went through earlier (your spouse's income/8% + inflation = how much you'll need to insure your spouse for). This also goes for any business partners with which you have a financial relationship (for example, shared responsibility for mortgage payments on a co-owned property).
Alternatives to Life Insurance
If you are getting life insurance purely to cover debts and have no dependents, there is another way to go about it. Lending institutions have seen the profits of insurance companies and are getting in to the act. Credit card companies and banks offer insurance deductibles on your outstanding balances. Often this amounts to a few dollars a month and in the case of your death, the policy will pay that particular debt in full. If you opt for this coverage from a lending institution, make sure to subtract that debt from any calculations you are making for life insurance - being doubly insured is a needless cost.
If you need life insurance, it is important to know how much and what kind you need. Although generally renewable term insurance is sufficient for most people, you have to look at your own situation. If you choose to buy insurance through an agent, decide on what you'll need beforehand to avoid getting stuck with inadequate coverage or expensive coverage that you don't need. As with investing, educating yourself is essential to making the right choice.
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