A Parent's Guide to Life Insurance

If you are a new parent, you may never have even considered the possibility of life insurance before. This is pretty typical for young people. People in their 20’s and 30’s can easily feel invincible. There’s so much life yet to live, and so much youthful health and vitality with which to do it. Then you have a child and it’s like a light switch gets flipped. Suddenly, there is a person whose entire life and future depends on you.

While a life insurance policy may not have the cute factor found in other baby items, making sure that you and your family are covered with adequate insurance coverage is a critical step in making sure your child truly will have everything they need, in case the unexpected were to happen. Because, there are some things a ducky blanket just can’t cover.

If a child, a spouse, a life partner, or a parent depends on you and your income, you need life insurance.
— Suze Orman

Why new parents need to think about insurance

We know, we know: The advice to get a bunch of policies might start to sound like a broken record to you, but you need to resist the temptation to put it on mute.

Reevaluating your insurance needs should be part of the process of starting a family because your policies and coverage are no longer just for you. Getting the right insurance helps protect your growing family’s financial stability.

No one wants to spend a lot of time thinking about worst-case scenarios (especially when something so exciting and joyous is in the near future.) If that’s how you feel — and it’s making you want to avoid the topic altogether — it might help to understand the vital importance of proper insurance.

It’s something that protects your growing family and helps ensure that the children you love so much will be provided for. So with the goal of peace of mind at the forefront, let’s take a look at what types of insurance new parents should consider to help achieve the goal of protecting and providing for your new addition to the family.

How life insurance works

Life insurance pays money to a beneficiary — a spouse, for example — when the insured person dies. The payout is called a death benefit. You list the beneficiary on the policy when you buy coverage.

Here’s an example of how it could work: You buy a $1 million policy insuring your own life and name your spouse as a beneficiary. If you die while the insurance is in effect, your spouse receives the $1 million payout. The money can support the family in your absence, such as paying the mortgage and funding your child’s college education.

Types of life insurance

There are two main types of life insurance: term life and permanent life.

Term life is temporary. Term life is the most affordable kind of life insurance. You can buy a lot of coverage for a low price. You buy a policy to cover a time period, such as 10, 20 or 30 years. If you die during the term, the policy pays the beneficiary. The coverage stops at the end of the term, and the policy pays nothing if you’re still alive.

Permanent life insurance lasts your entire life. It pays out whether you die next year or in 50 years. Whole life, universal life, variable universal life and indexed universal life are types of permanent life insurance.

These policies are more complex than term life because they include an investment component known as cash value. The cash value account grows slowly, tax-deferred.

Once the cash value is substantial — after, say, 15 to 20 years — you can borrow against it, use it to pay premiums or use it to buy additional coverage. Any outstanding loans against the cash value at the time of death will decrease the payout to the beneficiary.

You can even surrender the policy for the cash value, minus a surrender fee. But that ends the coverage, so the beneficiary would receive no payout upon your death.

Which type of policy to buy

Buy term life if:

  • You want the simplest, most straightforward policy.

  • You want the most affordable coverage.

  • You need coverage for a fixed period. For example: You want to cover the years of raising children or repayment of debts, such as a mortgage.

Buy permanent life if:

  • Someone will count on you financially for the rest of your life.

  • You want a policy that builds cash value.

  • You have a large estate that would be subject to estate taxes when you die.

Term life insurance is sufficient for most families. It’s cheap, so most people who need coverage can buy enough to create a strong safety net. You can compare term life insurance quotes online. Buy a term long enough to cover the years when you’re building savings, paying off debts and have the costs of raising a child.

Ideally, at the end of the term, you won’t need life insurance anymore because the kids are grown and financially independent, your mortgage and other debts are paid off, and you’ve accumulated enough savings for your spouse to live comfortably in retirement.

Permanent life insurance is useful if you have a lifelong financial dependent, such as a child with special needs. If you’re wealthy, you can also use permanent life insurance as an estate planning tool. Your heirs could use the payout to cover federal or state estate taxes, if any will apply.

Think you might need permanent life insurance, but can’t afford it? Most term life policies are convertible to permanent life insurance. You can buy a term life policy and convert portions of it to permanent coverage over time.

Why both parents need life insurance

It’s not just the breadwinner who needs life insurance. Stay-at-home parents should have coverage too, even if they don’t earn income.

A stay-at-home parent provides valuable services, such as child care, that the surviving parent would have to pay to replace. A life insurance payout could also enable the surviving breadwinner to take a few years off work while the family regains footing.

How much life insurance to buy

To figure out how much life insurance to buy, think about your family’s financial needs if you weren’t there to support them. Here are four steps:

  1. Decide how many years of income you’d like a life insurance policy to replace, and multiply your income by that number.

  2. Add other financial obligations, such as debts and college costs for your children.

  3. Include the cost of services you provide that would have to be replaced

  4. Subtract savings and any other life insurance coverage you already have.

Click here for a life insurance calculator takes you through the process and can help you estimate an amount to buy.

Naming beneficiaries

When you buy a policy, you name a beneficiary, such as your spouse, to receive the life insurance money. Don’t name your young children, though, even if you want the money to benefit them. If the beneficiary is a minor when you die, the life insurance company can’t pay the benefit until the court appoints a guardian.

Instead, one option is to set up a life insurance trust to hold money and property for your children and name the trust as the beneficiary. You appoint a trustee, such as your spouse or another adult, to manage the trust according to your instructions. An attorney can help you set up a trust, and the life insurance company can tell you how to word the beneficiary designation.

How life insurance is priced

The annual price depends on the type of policy, the amount of coverage and, if it’s a term life policy, the length of the term. Other factors include:

  • Age: The younger you are the less you pay.

  • Sex: Women generally pay less than men.

  • Health: The healthier you are the less you pay.

  • Smoking habits: Smokers pay more than nonsmokers.

  • Hobbies: People with risky hobbies, such as scuba diving, pay more for coverage.

Life insurance prices vary among companies. You can get term life insurance quotes online, but you’ll want to work with a financial advisor if you’re choosing a permanent life insurance policy.

With life insurance, you’ll know your family will be on solid financial ground if you can’t be there. That might even help you sleep better at night — at least when the baby’s not up.


If you have any questions on how to protect your little ones, feel free to get in contact with me for a free consultation by filling out the form below.

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