7 Questions to Ask a Life Insurance Agent

  • Life Insurance

A life insurance agent can make the process of buying life insurance much easier. They can find you the best deals and ensure you’re completely covered. This is important, as close to a third of all Americans admit to lacking confidence about the insurance application process and can’t answer many basic questions about their needs and the coverage they seek.

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But what sort of questions should you be asking your life insurance agent and what answers can you expect in reply?

Who is Offering the Insurance?

Does your life insurance agent work on behalf of a single company or multiple companies? What are the names of those companies, and can you verify their legitimacy using a simple Google search?

No two insurance companies are the same. Many policyholders focus their attention solely on the price of the policy and the coverage it provides. But the company’s history of payouts and its reputation also comes into it. A cheap life insurance policy is pointless if the company has a reputation for not paying out.

Fortunately, it has never been easier to determine the legitimacy of an insurance company and a simple online search is all you need.

What Are the Guarantees?

The numbers you need to focus on the most are the guaranteed ones. This tells you how much a permanent policy will pay regardless of market changes. The projected figures are subject to change, but the guaranteed figures will provide you with some stability and assurances over the term of the policy.

Will It Adjust for Inflation?

It’s important to make sure the grant you receive will be paid after adjusting for inflation, because what seems like a lot of cash today may be worth much less in the future after years or decades of inflation.

$250,000 can seem like a huge sum of money today. If anything happens to your spouse and they are the breadwinner, this money can help to clear the mortgage and bolster your savings, securing you for years to come and allowing you to prepare for a future without them.

In forty years, however, $250,000 may count for very little. As an example, let’s imagine that you took out an insurance policy for your spouse in 1980 and they have just passed away. That policy was $100,000 at the time and this was a huge sum, enough to buy you two houses or 13 cars based on the national average rate.

Today, after accounting for inflation, that sum would be over $315,000, which is also a lot of money (although not quite enough for two houses). However, if the policy didn’t adjust for inflation, you’d get $100,000, which simply isn’t enough to cover an individual for life, especially if they have just lost most of their household income and still have a big mortgage to repay.

What Happens in the Future?

What happens to your policy as you age, can you switch your term policy to a permanent one, what options do you have, and can you save any more doing this? The older you are, the more you will pay, and by quite a considerable amount.

What costs you $100 a year when you’re in your forties could cost you $500 a month when you’re in your seventies. You’re a higher risk, and because life insurance is based on probability, you will be expected to pay a lot more.

Are You Covered if You Become Ill or Disabled?

Life insurance is designed to support your family in the event of your demise. However, you have your own wellbeing to think about as well. What happens if you become disabled or fall ill—what happens if you can no longer work and have growing medical bills to worry about?

This could place a big financial burden on your household and it’s something that you need to prepare for. Ask your life insurance agent if you will be covered in the event that you fall ill or become disabled. And, if so, what will that cover provide?

Many life insurance policies offer some kind of disability or illness cover, but this can vary greatly from policy to policy. More importantly, life insurance companies have their own definitions of what constitutes “disabled”. For some, it’s the inability to perform specific actions; for others, it’s about being unable to perform any actions at all.

What Happens if I Can’t Pay the Premium?

Life insurance providers are not as forgiving as banks and creditors when it comes to missed payments. They won’t chase you down, give you multiple chances, and then offer payment plans and other assistance programs to get those payments started again. In many ways, the ideal outcome for a life insurance company is if you meet the payments for twenty years and then stop. 

That way, they have secured a sizeable profit without the risk of a payout. And if you need to resign, you’re now much older and will, therefore, have higher premiums to repay. 

Discuss this potential issue with your life insurance agent in advance. Ask about grace periods and automatic premium loans; the former will give you a break to allow you to find your feet again, the latter will allow you to borrow against the policy.

What if Your Health Improves?

If your health gets gradually worse, your policy shouldn’t change and that’s a good thing, otherwise, life insurance would be pretty pointless. However, if you’re not in the best of health when you take out the policy, but this soon improves, there’s a chance you could get a discount.

Ask your life insurance agent what your options are in the future if your health or your situation changes. You could get a new underwriting if you lose weight, stop smoking, stop drinking or remove some other negative trait that initially increased your premiums.

Summary: Keep the Questions Coming

Life insurance agents are there to answer questions and support you in whatever way they can. Obviously, they benefit more if you don’t take up too much of their time, agree with the first policy they offer you and quickly sign on the dotted line. But you’re not there to make their life easier, you’re there to make a commitment that will impact you for years to come, one that will continue to provide for your family after you’re gone.

It’s important, therefore, to take your time and get everything off your mind. Don’t worry about sounding stupid and asking a question you feel you should know the answer to. You’d be surprised at how little the general population knows about life insurance and how common the most basic of questions are.

The most important thing is that you get the answers you seek and the policy you need. If that means asking a string of questions and making a life insurance agent wish they’d never met you, so be it!

Source: pocketyourdollars.com

The Smart Way to Rebuild Credit

April 1, 2014 &• min read by Christine DiGangi Comments 0 Comments

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Even if you’re not the most organized person, you should have a plan for building a good credit score.  The good news is building credit isn’t complicated — you just need to know a few things to get started.

Know What You’re Dealing With

If you don’t know what’s broken, you’re going to struggle to fix it. If you want to improve your credit score, the first thing you need to do is look at your credit reports. You’re entitled to a free annual copy from each of the three major credit reporting agencies, and your scores will be based on the information in these reports.

Your credit report lists all sorts of information about you, from loans and credit accounts to report inquiries (when a third party requests your report) and collections accounts. It will show how much debt you have, your overall credit limit, the dates you opened accounts and if you’ve paid your bills on time — it’s a lot of information, which can be overwhelming, but everything is labeled pretty clearly.

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Identify Problems

Once you have your credit reports in hand, look for anything you don’t recognize. If you see an account listed that doesn’t belong to you, it could be a mix-up or a sign that someone is fraudulently using your personal information. Make sure your name is spelled correctly, that your address is right and all your payment history looks accurate. You should dispute anything that is incorrect by following the dispute directions on Experian, Equifax and TransUnion’s websites.

Assuming everything is accurate, look at what may be having a negative impact on your credit standing: Do you have late payments? Do you use a lot of your available credit? Did you apply for a lot of credit cards or loans within a 12-month period? These are all things that could lower your credit score. Your score may also be suffering if the average age of your credit accounts is less than seven years or if you only have one type of credit in your name, as opposed to a mix of loans and credit cards.

Set Goals and Track Progress

Once you’ve identified the issues, the path forward can be pretty simple: If you’re late on making payments, do whatever you can to set a streak of on-time ones. Automatic payments and calendar reminders are really helpful for that. If you notice you’re carrying a lot of debt in comparison to your available credit, try to pay it down and reduce your spending — keeping your credit utilization rate below 30% (or better yet, below 10%), will help raise your score.

The most effective strategy for improving your credit score is to watch it change over time. There are dozens of credit scoring models out there — some are used by lenders and others are educational — but they all give you an idea of where you stand. There are also tools available with a free Credit.com account that allow you to gauge your credit weaknesses in addition to comparing your score from month to month.

You’ll never know which score a lender will use to assess your credit risk ahead of when you apply, so the best thing you can do is pick a score or two that you can access regularly (ideally for free), and compare the same score periodically. Your Credit.com account will show you why your score improved or fell, but you can also get a pretty good idea of that by thinking back on what you’ve done since the last time you’ve checked your score.

Awareness makes a big difference in financial behavior. Watching your score drop if you’re late on a payment or seeing it spike after cutting your debt can be a great source of motivation as you go forward, and figuring it out requires minimal effort on your part, as long as you make a habit of checking your score.

More on Credit Reports and Credit Scores:

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How to Use Your Wanderlust to Build Credit

June 15, 2016 &• min read by Jill Krasny Comments 0 Comments

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Love to travel? Good news: There are ways to put that wanderlust to use with a travel rewards credit card.

Though travel rewards cards aren’t the easiest to get approved for as they require an excellent or good credit score, those who are able to snag one can use it to build better credit. (Just remember, before you apply it’s important to know where you stand so you don’t get turned down only to see your score suffer as a result of the inquiry.)

Travel Rewards Cards & Credit

A travel rewards credit card lets accountholders earn points or miles that can be put towards hotel stays, airfare and other travel expenses. These rewards can help travelers lower the cost of vacations, and the card itself can be a good tool for building credit.

If you make payments on time, eventually your score will begin to rise because this behavior creates a positive payment history, an important factor in credit scoring models. The card’s credit limit will also count toward your credit utilization rate, which is another big factor in scoring models. Your credit utilization rate is how much debt you carry versus your total available credit. For best credit scoring results, it’s recommended that you keep your debt below 10% and at least 30% of your credit limit(s). So if you charge a vacation and then pay most or all of the purchases off right away, your score could benefit.

You can keep track of how your usage and payments are affecting your credit by signing up for Credit.com’s free credit report summary. Beyond seeing your credit scores, you’ll be able to check how you’re doing in five key areas of your credit report that determine your credit score, including payment history, debt usage, inquiries, credit age and account mix.

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Since interest rates for travel rewards cards tend to vary depending on creditworthiness, you’ll want to be mindful about carrying a balance. Doing so could hamper your credit goals, and the interest you pay could exceed whatever you’ve managed to glean from rewards. Many travel rewards cards carry annual fees, too, so you’ll want to make sure your spending habits justify the potential cost. (You can read about the best travel credit cards in America here.) Of course, making purchases on your card and paying them off quickly (and on time) will generally boost your credit.

Remember, if your credit is looking a little lackluster and you’re having a hard time qualifying for any type of credit card, you may be able to improve your scores by disputing errors on your credit report, paying down high credit card balances and limiting new credit inquiries until your score bounces back.

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How to Start Building Credit Once You Turn 18

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Good credit is crucial to unlocking many financial opportunities in life. When you have a great credit score, you can get lower interest rates on car loans, credit cards and mortgages. Some employers and landlords even check credit reports before they make a job offer or approve a resident application. While developing a solid credit history takes time, follow some of these tips on how to establish credit once you turn 18 to get started as soon as possible.

1. Understand the Basics of Credit

Make sure you understand the basics of how credit works. Your credit reports are maintained by three major credit bureaus—Experian, TransUnion and Equifax. It contains data on your current and past debts, payment history, residential history and other facts. This data is supplied by lenders, creditors and businesses where you have accounts.

The information contained in your credit report determines your credit score. Higher credit scores are more attractive to lenders and creditors. The factors that influence your score include:

As a new adult, some of these factors may not currently apply to you. However, they can all negatively or positively affect your score, depending on your behavior as a consumer. Educating yourself on credit now helps you avoid costly mistakes in the future.

2. Monitor Your Credit Report and Credit Score

Now that you understand the basics of building credit, you need to start monitoring your report and credit score. Monitoring your credit is one of the best ways to learn what will positively or negatively impact your scores. It also helps you catch inaccuracies or signs of identity theft sooner.

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You can check your credit report for free annually with each major credit bureau. As you review your report, look for any negative or inaccurate information that could be screwing up your credit. You can also check your credit score, updated every 14 days, for free at Credit.com.

If you’re really serious about understanding your credit reports and scores, sign up for ExtraCredit. With Track It, you can see 28 of your FICO scores and credit reports from all three credit bureaus.

3. Sign Up for ExtraCredit

ExtraCredit does more than just show you your credit scores. Have you recently started paying rent or utilities? BuildIt will add them as new tradelines with all three credit bureaus. That means you’ll get credit for bills you’re already paying—building your credit profile each month.

4. Become an Authorized User

If you have a friend or family member willing to add you as an authorized user on their credit card, you can piggyback off their credit card activity to help establish your credit. Even if you don’t use the card, the account can still land on your credit report and potentially positively impact your score.

This method poses some risks to the primary cardholder and you, the authorized user. If you or the primary cardholder rack up too much debt or miss payments, that activity could end up damaging the credit of both parties.

You should also verify that the credit card company in question reports card activity to the credit file of authorized users. If they don’t, your credit won’t see any benefit.

5. Get a Starter Credit Card

Credit cards are one of the best tools around for building credit, but you might have trouble qualifying for one when you have no credit history. Luckily, there are a few credit card options for young people with little or no credit.

Unsecured Credit Cards: If you don’t have the money to make a security deposit, consider an unsecured credit card such as the Avant Credit Card. This card offers a process that presents you with a credit line based on your creditworthiness before you apply. It also has no penalty or hidden fees—a perfect fit for any young adult’s starter card. You do need at least some fair credit history to be approved, though.

Avant Credit Card

Card Details
Intro Apr:

Ongoing Apr:
25.99% (variable)

Balance Transfer:

Annual Fee:

Credit Needed:

Snapshot of Card Features
  • No deposit required
  • No penalty APR
  • No hidden fees
  • Fast and easy application process
  • Help strengthen your credit history with responsible use
  • Disclosure: If you are charged interest, the charge will be no less than $1.00. Cash Advance Fee: The greater of $10 or 3% of the amount of the cash advance
  • Avant branded credit products are issued by WebBank, member FDIC

Card Details +

Secured Credit Cards: A secured credit card requires an upfront security deposit to open. Your deposit will typically equal your initial credit limit. For example, a $500 security deposit would get you a $500 credit limit. These cards are easier to qualify for, and you can use them to make purchases, just like traditional credit cards, while also establishing some credit history.

OpenSky® Secured Visa® Credit Card

Card Details
Intro Apr:

Ongoing Apr:
17.39% (variable)

Balance Transfer:

Annual Fee:

Credit Needed:
Fair-Poor-Bad-No Credit

Snapshot of Card Features
  • No credit check necessary to apply. OpenSky believes in giving an opportunity to everyone.
  • The refundable* deposit you provide becomes your credit line limit on your Visa card. Choose it yourself, from as low as $200.
  • Build credit quickly. OpenSky reports to all 3 major credit bureaus.
  • 99% of our customers who started without a credit score earned a credit score record with the credit bureaus in as little as 6 months.
  • We have a Facebook community of people just like you; there is a forum for shared experiences, and insights from others on our Facebook Fan page. (Search “OpenSky Card” in Facebook.)
  • OpenSky provides credit tips and a dedicated credit education page on our website to support you along the way.
  • *View our Cardholder Agreement located at the bottom of the application page for details of the card

Card Details +

6. Make Payments on Time

Making timely payments is the most important thing you can do to build credit, as payment history makes up 35% of your credit score. This applies to credit cards, loans, utilities such as cell phone services and any other account that requires a monthly payment. No matter the account type, a late or missed payment that lands on your credit report can do significant damage to your credit score.

7. Maintain a Low Credit Card Balance

Your credit utilization ratio, or the amount of available credit you have tied up in debt, is another major contributor to your credit score. Most experts recommend keeping your credit card balances below 30% of the available credit limit. Ideally, you should pay your balance off in full each month to avoid interest and keep your utilization low.

8. Get a Loan

Getting a loan just to build credit is generally not a good idea, as you shouldn’t take on debt only for the sake of your credit score. But if you have a valid reason, such as needing a car or money for college, a small loan in your name can help you build credit.

As with credit cards, loans only build a good credit history if you pay them on time every month. You also want to ensure your creditor reports payments to the credit bureau. If you also have a credit card, getting a loan can help improve your account mix, which makes up around 10% of your credit score.

9. Keep It Simple for Now

The more credit cards and loans you open, the higher your chances are of falling into debt. When you’re just starting out, you should probably play it safe and manage one basic credit card and/or small loan until you get the hang of things. Trying to manage too many debts at once could get you in over your head.

Over time, you can start to add other credit cards or loans to the mix, diversifying your credit profile and adding more opportunities to build credit. And because the age of your accounts affects your credit score, just keeping accounts open will help you build credit history in the long run. When you’re starting to figure out how to build your credit, do it slowly, carefully and with a constant eye on your statements and credit reports.

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Source: credit.com

How to Use Your Cable Bill to Build Credit

June 2, 2016 &• min read by Jeanine Skowronski Comments 0 Comments

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Disclaimer

Cable companies aren’t in the habit of reporting your payments to the credit bureaus, at least when it comes to your traditional credit reports. But if that’s something you want, there is a way to get those monthly bills to help your credit score.

Simply put, consider paying for cable with your credit card.

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  • Luckily I don’t have to worry about that. I have ExtraCredit, so I get $1,000,000 ID protection and dark web scans.
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  • It’s basically everything my credit needs. I get 28 FICO® scores, rent and utility reporting, cash rewards and even a discount to one of the leaders in credit repair.
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Unlike cable providers, credit card issuers do generally report to the major credit reporting agencies, so using your plastic to pay for a bill that you’re already in the habit of covering from month to month can help you build a payment history, the single biggest factor in establishing credit scores.

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Of course, for this strategy to work, you have to pay that credit card off on time and, ideally, in full. Otherwise, it will have the opposite effect on your score and you’ll wind up paying interest just to watch your favorite television shows.

To make sure you don’t miss a payment, sign up for alerts or, even, set your credit card bill to auto-pay. You could also pay the charge off via a linked debit card account as soon as it’s processed if you’re worried about winding up with a big balance (which could affect your credit utilization, another major factor of credit scores) at the end of the month.

A Few More Tips & Tricks

There’s a chance that your provider will charge a fee for paying by credit card, so be sure to check that there’s no extra charge before using this method. And, if you do set that credit card to auto-pay, monitor your monthly cable statements. You don’t want to miss a new fee or billing error and wind up paying more than you owe or intended.

Rewards credit cards can earn you some points, miles or cash back, so if you have one in your wallet, you might want to use that particular piece of plastic to pay your cable bill. If your credit is on the brink and you don’t have any credit cards, you can consider applying for (and then using) a secured credit card, which is designed specifically to help people build credit. (You can learn more about the best secured credit cards in America here.)

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A Quick Reminder

Unpaid cable bills can damage your credit, even when they’re not being covered by a credit card. Accounts that go unpaid long enough can wind up in collections, which will hurt your scores. (You can see how any collections accounts may be affecting your credit by viewing your free credit score, updated every 14 days, on Credit.com.)

If your credit is in rough shape, due to an collection account or other payment history troubles, you may be able to improve your scores by paying delinquent accounts, addressing high credit card balances and disputing any errors that may be weighing them down. And remember, you can build good credit in the long term by making all loan payments on time, keeping debt levels low and adding to the mix of accounts you have, as your score and wallet can handle it.

More on Credit Reports & Credit Scores:

Image: Ivanko_Brnjakovic

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Source: credit.com

The Best Things to Charge on Your Credit Card When You’re Rebuilding Credit

June 12, 2017 &• 2 min read by Brian Acton Comments 0 Comments

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Disclaimer

If your credit needs rehabilitation due to late payments, accounts in collections or other negative items, it might be time to rebuild. Rebuilding your credit requires an understanding of your current situation, identifying past mistakes and implementing the right strategies going forward.

Wise use of a credit card is one way to start. Surprising, right? But if you use that plastic correctly, it really can help you. Good credit card strategies include keeping a low balance, making payments on time and paying your balance in full each month. To do that, it’s best to start small and only charge things that won’t kill your credit building project before it takes off. (You can check on your progress with a free credit report snapshot on Credit.com.)

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  • …we live in Oklahoma.

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Here are a few things you can charge on your credit card to help you boost that score.

Gas

The cost of gas can add up, but if you already have room for gas in your monthly budget, you can charge your gas expenses and pay them off in full using the funds in your bank account. Some credit cards offer special cash back rates on gas purchases so you can earn a little money back in your wallet (although getting a new unsecured credit card might not be the best move for you at this stage as the inquiry will cause your score to take even more of a hit).

Groceries

Groceries are another staple you likely already have built into your budget. Instead of handing over cash or a check when you pick up the necessities for the week, charge your groceries to your credit card and pay those purchases off in full each month. There are several credit cards on the market that offer special cash-back rates on groceries, as well.

Streaming Services

Monthly streaming services usually cost less than $20 a month. You could conceivably set up your credit card to pay for a streaming service, pay it off in full each month and never use it for anything else.

Balance Transfers

If you have a large balance on a high-interest credit card, it could be damaging your credit score and affecting your ability to make your payment. If you have a lower interest credit card, you can transfer the balance and reduce the interest. If you can qualify, a card with a long 0% intro APR period can help you pay your balance off interest-free.

(Cheap) Dining & Recreation

It’s probably not a good idea to use your credit cards at the club or restaurants, as it’s easy for costs to spiral out of control. But if you’re on a date at the movies or taking the kids out for mini golf and milkshakes, low-cost dining and recreation purchases might be a safe bet.

Small Everyday Expenses

Sometimes you have to run into a local store for a roll of duct tape or some socks. Small everyday purchases can be fairly easy to pay off in full.

Using Your Credit Card Wisely to Build Credit

For the most part, small purchases you can afford to pay off each time the statement arrives are the best things to put on your credit card, as payment history is the biggest influencer of your credit scores. Plus, carrying a balance means you’ll be hit with interest and it will take you longer to pay down your balance.

But even relatively small purchases can threaten your credit if they pile up too quickly. (Credit experts recommend keeping your credit utilization ratio — that is, your amount of debt in relation to your credit limit — at 30%, ideally 10%.) So, a good practice is to treat your credit card like cash and only purchase things you can cover with available funds.

Have any questions about improving your credit? Ask us in the comments below and one of our credit experts will do their best to help.

Image: bowdenimages

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Source: credit.com

Final Expense Life Insurance: What You Need to Know

  • Life Insurance

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.

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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.

Source: pocketyourdollars.com

How do Life Insurance Companies Make Money?

  • Life Insurance

Life insurance seems like a pretty good deal. You pay $30 a month for 20 or 30 years and in the event of your death, your family gets a sizeable cash sum, often in excess of $250,000. Every 12 seconds someone dies in the United States and these deaths occur across all demographics (although the majority are over 70) and from a myriad of causes.

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If a life insurance company can afford to pay a $500,000 sum on a policy that’s collected less than $20,000, how can it afford to stay in business when life is so fragile, death is always a certainty, and they’re in it for the profit?

Contrary to what you might think, insurance companies don’t rely entirely on luck or underhanded tactics to stay in the black. There are actually three ways that an insurance company makes money and ensures those profits remain stable.

Underwriting

Underwriting is the process of taking a calculated financial risk in exchange for a fee. The word was coined as the underwriter, the “risk-taker”, would sign their name underneath a detailed outline of all risks they were willing to take.

Underwriting is performed by all life insurance companies and it’s a careful, considered process through which they can balance their profit and loss. There is no guarantee with the underwriting process and it’s not uncommon for them to lose money over the course of a financial year. However, what they lose one year may be offset by what they earn in another year.

How Insurance Companies Profit from Underwriting

Insurance is based on statistical analysis and probability. If you’re a healthy 20-year old with no preexisting medical conditions and no genetic issues, you’re considered to be very low risk. 

An insurance company may offer you a $500,000 payout on a 30-year term in exchange for a policy that costs less than $1,000 a year. They’re only making $30,000 over the term, but they know there’s a good chance you’ll live well beyond your 50th year, which means all of that $30,000 is profit.

In fact, statistically speaking, a 20-year old has a less than 6% chance of dying within 30 years and this applies to the general population. Once you account for medical issues, family health problems, smoking, drug use, dangerous jobs, and a plethora of other high-risk conditions, that figure drops to an infinitesimal sum.

The insurance company knows that if they have 50 healthy 20-year-olds on 30-year $500,000 policies, there’s a good chance that between 0 and 2 will collect. This means they will collect $1.5 million and payout between $0 and $1 million. 

The odds of a 20-year-old dying within that term increase if they have abused drugs/alcohol in the past, have a preexisting medical condition or their parents died of genetic disorders before they turned 50. In such cases, the underwriters will calculate the risks and create a policy that allows them to cover their costs.

By the same token, a life insurance company may refuse to provide a 30-year term to a 52-year-old, because according to the statistics, one out of every two will die within that term and they simply couldn’t offer realistic premiums.

Of course, these are just rough estimates, but it gives you a general idea of how life insurance companies operate. It’s also the reason why your premiums increase significantly if you are a smoker (smokers live 10 years less on average) are obese (obesity is considered to be as much of a mortality risk as smoking) or have a problematic medical history.

Canceled and Lapsed Coverage

Your life insurance policy can stop or be canceled at any time. Let’s return to the example of the 20-year-old paying premiums worth $1,000 a year. They may have taken out the life insurance policy because they just got married or they experienced a bout of paranoia after learning about a friend who died young.

But what happens when that relationship ends and that paranoia fades away; what happens if they go from being comfortably employed, to unemployed and desperate? They’re not the ones who will benefit from that payout, so they may decide that they’re just wasting their money, in which case they stop making the payments and the policy lapses. If this happens, the life insurance company gets all of the premiums and none of the liability.

Whole life insurance policies can also be cashed out. They build money through dividends and this entices the owner to give it all up for a big payday. If they’re struggling financially and realize they have a big balance waiting for them on their life insurance policy, they may be tempted to cash the check, close the account, and walk away with the windfall, thus removing all liability from the insurance company.

Refusing to Pay Out

Life insurance companies can also make money by refusing to pay out and pointing to a discrepancy. This is not part of their business strategy, and they don’t actively seek to scam their customers because, quite simply, they don’t need to. Thanks to underwriting, cash outs, lapse policies and investing, life insurance is a profitable enterprise without needing to resort to underhanded tactics.

However, they can and will refuse payouts if they determine that the contract was somehow breached. This can happen in any number of ways and for a myriad of reasons:

The Cause of Death Wasn’t Covered

Most causes of death are covered by most life insurance policies. However, there are some exceptions, including suicide. Many policies refuse to cover suicide at all, while others refuse to cover it if it occurs within the first 2 years of the policy.

More than 40,000 people take their own lives every year in the United States and it’s a common issue across all demographics. It’s also on the increase and is now the 10th biggest killer in the United States. 

As heartless as it might seem for an insurance company to refuse a payout for someone who took their own life, it’s important to remember that their underwriting is based purely on probability, and because suicide is one of the biggest killers in young men, it’s something that has to be considered.

The policy should state clearly which causes of death are covered and which ones are not. It’s also something you can discuss with the insurance company when you take out your policy.

Important Information was Not Disclosed

This is the most common reason for a payout to be refused. In some cases, the applicant is looking for cheaper premiums and knows that a few seemingly innocent lies will shave tens of dollars off their premiums. 

The policyholder may also assume that certain information isn’t relevant or be too ashamed to disclose it. For instance, if they were cautioned for driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol it may not seem relevant to the underwriting process, but if they die in a road traffic accident it could prevent a payout.

In the majority of cases, however, they simply forget. A life insurance policy is something you fill out in one sitting and something that requires you to list all previous medical conditions, hospital visits, and health complaints. It’s easy to forget a few things here and there.

There is No Beneficiary

A life insurance policy can only be paid directly to an heir when they are named as a beneficiary. If there is no beneficiary, it will be paid to the policyholder’s estate, from which their heirs can make their claim.

This becomes problematic if the policyholder has a lot of debt, as the debtors will then line up to take their share from the estate. It can also make life difficult for loved ones trying to make a claim on that estate. It’s always recommended, therefore, to name beneficiaries on the life insurance policy and to back this up by writing a will.

The Contestability Period

The above issues become more prevalent during something known as the contestability period. This begins as soon as the policy goes into effect and it can last for 1 or 2 years, depending on the policyholder’s state of residence.

If the policyholder dies during this period, the life insurance company will seek to contest it by looking at all of the details and ensuring they match. They will check the cause of death against previously filed medical reports and will make sure the correct information was supplied at the time the policy was filed and that there are no discrepancies.

Once this period passes, it’s unlikely there will be any issues, but they can still occur. The insurance company may, for instance, investigate the claim if they believe it was purchased for the sole benefit of the beneficiaries (for example, the policyholder purchases it knowing they were going to commit suicide or were about to die).

Summary: Payouts are Rare

Studies suggest that as few as 2% of all term policies pay out, and the most common reason for non-payment is that the policyholder survives the term. This is a statistic that detractors like to quote and it’s often followed by a claim that life insurance is just institutionalized gambling. 

To an extent, they’re right. You’re essentially gambling against a house that always wins and, like a casino, it always wins because, for every player that wins, 10 others will lose. The difference is that life insurance provides some much-needed peace of mind while you’re alive and ensures your loved ones are covered in the event that anything happens to you.

Source: pocketyourdollars.com