When should I get life insurance?

Getting term life insurance is simple enough: plug in some numbers, decide how much coverage you need, and you’re on your way. The timing, though, is a little trickier. Getting a life insurance policy is one of the most responsible, grown-up things you can do, and that can be scary. But it doesn’t need to be. In fact, it’s one of the most worry-removing purchases you can make.

Like many other decisions in life, figuring out when to buy life insurance is a lot less daunting when you break it into bite-size pieces. So we’ve put together this list of questions you can ask yourself to help figure out what the right time is for you.

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Question #1: Got little ones?

It’s pretty clichéd to point this out, but it bears repeating: Kids are expensive. From the diapers and daycare and food and clothes and birthday parties and the please-please-take-me vacations to every parent’s bête noire, college, children can be costly.

Since there’s little to no chance they can support themselves on their own, they’re often the #1 reason to get life insurance. And that’s not to mention that even when they’re screaming and fighting over toys, the last thing you want is for them to go without. So regardless of your answers to any of the other questions here, if you’ve got kids, this may be a good time to get life insurance.

Question #2: Seeing anyone?

Whether you’re married or merely living together, romantic relationships are much more than just romance. You share responsibilities—making dinner, walking the dog, watering the plants—and you share expenses. Depending on how much of those expenses are shared, losing one person’s income could cause a financial hardship.

Question #3: Are you house rich?

It’s not for nothing that the word mortgage has its roots in an Old French term that translates to “dead pledge.” Your mortgage can live on long after you, and that’s just the beginning. Real estate taxes, property insurance, maintenance, utilities—we don’t have to tell you that owning a home is expensive.

According to the US Census Bureau's 2019 report, the median housing cost for mortgage holders was $1,609 a month in 2019. Whoever those expenses fall on after you’re gone, it could be a heavy responsibility to carry without you.

Question #4: Do you have debt?

That responsibility doesn’t stop there, though. You don’t want credit card balances, college loans, and the aforementioned mortgage to be your legacy. But like it or not, they won’t be magically erased after you die. Your survivors will probably be taking on whatever debt you hadn’t paid off.

In this sense, debt is the first order of business for life insurance. While creditors may give your survivors some leeway in paying off your debt, the compassion of collection agencies will only get them so far. Regardless, the hassle and stress that come with handling debt isn’t something you’ll want on their plates.

If you answered yes to any of these questions, the time to think about life insurance may be now. Any of these four factors on their own likely means significant expenses for your survivors. Even if you’ve got a sizable chunk of assets to pass along to them, they’ll still be missing out on your normal income. Besides, having the money they need means they won’t have to make financial decisions in the short term that may harm them in the long term.

None of the above? Earlier is still better

So what if you answered no to all of the questions? You still might want to get life insurance, and it’s all about two factors that go hand in hand: your youth and your health.

The not-so-secret secret about life insurance is that all other things being equal, the younger you are, the lower your premiums may be. After all, it makes sense. A 25-year-old will likely outlive a 20-year term policy. A 65-year-old? Not quite as likely. You can expect life insurance to be priced accordingly.

But you aren’t throwing money away by getting a life insurance policy at 25. You’re locking in a significantly lower premium that will come in handy as the need for that policy grows. As anyone who’s lived past their mid-20s will tell you, life changes can come at you fast and furious.

Marriage, kids, and a mortgage might not be in the cards for everyone, but if you wait until they appear, you’ll pay more for life insurance. That’s all the more reason to get life insurance sooner rather than later. Think of it as insurance against the rising cost of insurance.

Then there’s your health. As your health risks rise with your age, so too will your premiums. Again, it’s a straightforward risk/reward measurement for the policy writer.

Say you’re a healthy female non-smoker, 5’ 6”, 130 lbs., with a preferred plus rating, and looking for $1,000,000 of coverage for 20 years. According to our life insurance coverage calculator, you’ll pay $34.50 per month if you start a policy when you’re 25. Wait until you’re 45, and you pay $91.80 per month, 166% more. In other words, starting a life insurance policy earlier is one of the few things in life you’ll find that has the potential to protect you from the effects of aging.

If, on the other hand, you feel like there are too many unknowns to commit to life insurance right now, there’s another approach. Instead of using your age as a guideline, you can always decide when you hit a milestone. In other words, evaluate your life insurance needs when you buy a house, get married, or start having kids. Nothing helps put your long-term needs into focus like these kinds of life-altering changes. And for the already insured, they’re a great time to reassess your coverage—something Ladder helps you do easily thanks to our flexible coverage, which allows you to automatically decrease or apply to increase your coverage whenever you want, as many times as you want, with no fees to do so. Your premiums will decrease or increase accordingly.

So is now the right time for you? Start your life insurance application with Ladder today to get the personalized, flexible coverage you need.

Ladder offers term policies in New York (policy form # MN-26) that are issued by Allianz Life Insurance Company of New York, New York, NY. Term policies are issued in all other states and DC by Fidelity Security Life Insurance Company®,  Kansas City, MO (policy form No. ICC17-M-1069, M-1069 and Policy No. TL-146). Ladder California license number OK22568.

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