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Individual Life Insurance

Buying life insurance is arguably one of the most important financial decisions you can make, and one of the most confusing. The number of policies to choose from, and the complexities of some forms of life insurance, can make comparison shopping difficult, if not impossible.

Below , please find a  step-by-step guide to help you cut through the confusion, and determine the type and amount of life insurance you need.

When Should You Buy?

Your need for life insurance changes with the stages of your life, starting with no need when you’re young, progressing to greater and greater need as you take on more and more responsibility, and finally beginning to diminish as you grow older.

How Much Do You Need?

Deciding whether you need life insurance is pretty easy. Figuring out how much you need is not easy at all.

Many people just pluck some figure out of the air that seems reasonable and settle on that. Some lean on an old rule of thumb that says you need four to five times your annual income.

The Life Insurance Menu

Life insurance companies are brilliant at devising new kinds of policies. But try to remember that whatever the name on the policy -- universal life, variable life, Irresistible Life, Irreplaceable Life, The Champion, The Solution -- all are in fact variations on the two basic kinds of coverage: term insurance and cash-value insurance (also called permanent or whole life).

The Best Policy at the Best Price

What to ask and request from your producer.

 Most states require agents to provide these numbers for cash-value policies if you ask for them. Interest-adjusted costs vary according to the type of policy and your age at purchase. Armed with these numbers, you can compare the costs of different policies within the same company and among different companies. What you'll discover is that the cost of whole-life insurance is all over the lot. Careful shopping can pay off big.

Ask the producer for the ten- and 20-year "interest-adjusted surrender costs" per $1,000 of face amount for the specific policy being recommended. Also ask for comparable data for the same kinds of policies issued by two other companies. The producer doesn't have to furnish information on competitors' policies but should be able to obtain approximate figures for some companies from manuals widely used in the insurance business.

Useful though they are, the interest-adjusted net-cost indexes are not an invariably accurate guide to what a policy will actually cost. They are based on the assumption that the cash values will earn a certain amount per year.

When interest rates are higher or lower than that, the relationships between premiums and cash values are thrown out of whack, especially in the later years. But the distortions affect all policies, so you can still use the indexes as a relative measure of comparative policy costs over the years, provided the issue dates and death benefits are the same.

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