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Six tips for first-time life insurance buyers

Looking to buy life insurance for the first time? If so, you're probably asking yourself questions such as "How much do I need?", "What kind of policy is best?" and "Which company should I buy from?" There's no question buying life insurance for the first time, like any other new experience, can be more than a bit daunting. Below are six important tips that we hope will make the process smoother, eliminating frustrating false starts and unnecessary bumps in the road.

  • Understand why you need it

    While most people may need life insurance at some point in their life, don't buy a policy just because you heard it was a good idea.

    Life insurance is designed to provide families with financial security in the event of the death of a spouse or parent. Life insurance protection can help pay for mortgages, a college education, help to fund retirement, provide charitable bequests and of course is a key element in estate planning. In short, if others depend on your income for support, you should strongly consider life insurance.

    Even if you don't have any of these needs immediately, you still may want to consider purchasing a small "starter" policy, if you anticipate you will have them in the future. The reason: the younger you are, the less expensive life insurance will be.

  • Determine the amount of coverage you need

    The amount of money your family or heirs will receive after your death is called a death benefit. To determine the proper amount of life insurance an online calculator, like the one available at this site, can be helpful. You can also get a ballpark figure using any number of formulas. The easiest way is to simply take your annual salary and multiply by 8.

    A more detailed method is to add up the monthly expense your family will incur after your death. Remember to include the one-time expenses at death and the ongoing expenses such as a mortgage or school bills. Take the ongoing expenses and divide by .07. That indicates you'll want a lump sum of money earning approximately 7% each year to pay those ongoing expenses. Add to that amount any money you'll need to cover one-time expenses and you'll have a rough estimate of the amount of life insurance you need.

    As useful as calculators and rough estimates are, there are some things they don't do.

    They cannot provide you with any final answers. Calculators only allow you to perform "hypotheticals," recalculating and generating new results as you make and input new assumptions. Using these tools and educating yourself on the workings of life insurance and other financial products, however, can help you feel more comfortable when discussing your needs with such professionals as a New York Life agent.

    You can use any number of tools to get an idea of the amount of coverage you’ll need for your policy. Use our online calculator, for example, or use a formula to figure out how much you need. An easy place to start is by multiplying your annual income by the number of years left before your retirement benefits kick in.

  • Find the right type of policy

    Once you figure out how much coverage you'll need, you can think about the best kind of policy to meet your needs.

    You have two main options: Term Life, for a more affordable premium, or Whole Life, for more comprehensive coverage that can add cash value. But you have a lot of options to explore.

  • Look at the quality of the provider

    An insurance policy is only as good as the company that backs it.

    You want to make sure you choose a company you can rely on to be around for as long as you'll need your coverage, and that makes wise and stable investments.

  • Consult a financial professional

    A financial professional can help you factor in financial considerations, your needs, and your family's needs.

  • Increase your vocabulary

    Life insurance can be confusing, with terms like "premium," "dividend," "beneficiary," and many more.

    We've put together a glossary of these terms to help you understand this whole process better.