Why Women Need Life Insurance

Today, women have more financial responsibilities than ever before. How will your family or loved ones manage financially if you die? Whether you are single, married, employed, or a stay-at-home mom, you probably need life insurance. At the very least, life insurance can help pay for the costs of funeral and burial services, estate administration, outstanding debts, estate taxes, and the uninsured expenses of a final illness.

Who needs life insurance?

Working women

Increasingly, families depend on the income of two working parents. If you’re a working mother, your income can have a significant impact on the quality of your family’s lifestyle. Your income helps cover the cost of ordinary living expenses such as food, clothing, and utilities, and it provides savings for your children’s college education, and for your retirement. Life insurance protects your family by providing proceeds that can be used to replace your lost income if you die prematurely.

Single women

Often, women, like men, think that it’s not necessary to buy life insurance because they have no dependents. What’s often overlooked is that life insurance can provide necessary funds to pay off car loans, education loans, debts, a mortgage, taxes, and funeral expenses that might otherwise be the responsibility of family members. Also, the cash value of permanent life insurance may be used to supplement retirement income.

Single moms

Whether you’re divorced, widowed, or simply a single mom, you’re most likely primarily responsible for your child’s support. If you die prematurely, life insurance can provide ongoing income to cover child-care costs, medical expenses, debts, and future college costs.

Stay-at-home moms

Maintaining a household is a full-time job, and you have many important roles and duties. The cost of the services performed by a stay-at-home mom could be quite significant if someone had to be hired to do them. If you die, your surviving spouse may have to pay for services such as child care, transportation for your children, and housekeeping. Taking over these added responsibilities could cause your spouse to shorten work hours, resulting in a reduction in income. Proceeds from your life insurance can help your spouse pay for services that keep the household running and allow your spouse to keep working.

Family caregiver

Many women find themselves providing care for both children and elderly family members. Caring for an aging parent or family member can include paying for the costs of adult day care, uninsured medical expenses, and extra transportation. Adding these expenses to the costs of maintaining a household, child care, and college tuition can be financially overwhelming. Unfortunately, these added financial responsibilities often continue after your death. Life insurance provides a source of funds that can be used to help pay for these expenses.

Business owner

You may be one of the increasing number of women business owners. If you die while owning your business, life insurance can be used to provide cash for company expenses such as payroll or operating costs while your estate is being settled. Also, life insurance can be a useful tool for business owners structuring buy-sell arrangements or providing benefits to key employees.

Life insurance types and options

Life insurance comes in many different sizes and shapes, and determining the policy that meets your needs may depend on a number of factors. Understanding the basic types of life insurance can help you find the policy that’s best for you.

Term life insurance

Term life insurance provides a simple death benefit for a specified period of time. If you die during the coverage period, the beneficiary you name in the policy receives the death benefit. If you live past the term period, your coverage ends, and you get nothing back. The cost, or premium, for the coverage can be fixed for the duration of the policy term (usually 1 to 30 years) or it can be “annually renewable” meaning that the premium can increase each year as you get older. However, the premium for term insurance usually costs less than the premium for permanent insurance when all factors are the same, including the death benefit.

Whole life insurance

Whole life is permanent or cash value insurance that provides insurance coverage for your entire life. With most whole life policies, part of your premium is added to the cash value account, which earns interest. Some whole life policies also pay a dividend, which represents a portion of the company’s profits made during the prior year.

The cash value grows tax deferred and can either be used as collateral to borrow from the insurance company or be directly accessed through a partial or complete surrender of the policy. It is important to note, however, that a policy loan or partial surrender will reduce the policy’s death benefit, and a complete surrender will terminate coverage altogether.

Note: Guarantees are subject to the claims-paying ability of the issuing insurance company.

Universal life insurance

Universal life is another type of permanent life insurance with a death benefit and a cash value account. A universal life insurance policy will generally provide very broad premium guidelines (i.e., minimum and maximum premium payments), but within these guidelines you can choose how much and when you pay premiums. You are also free to change the policy’s death benefit directly (again, within the limits set out by the policy) as your financial circumstances change. But if you want to raise the amount of coverage, you’ll need to go through the insurability process again, probably including a new medical exam, and your premiums will increase.

Variable life insurance

Variable life insurance is a type of cash value coverage that allows you to choose how your cash value account is invested. A variable life policy generally contains several investment options, or subaccounts, that are professionally managed to pursue a stated investment objective. Choices can range from a fixed interest subaccount to an international growth subaccount. Variable life insurance policies require a fixed annual premium for the life of the policy and may provide a minimum guaranteed death benefit. If the cash value exceeds a certain amount, the death benefit will increase.

Variable universal life insurance

Variable universal life combines all of the options and flexibility of universal life with the investment choices of a variable policy. You decide how often and how much your premium payments are to be, within policy guidelines. With most variable universal life policies, you get no guaranteed minimum cash value or death benefit, but you can direct how your premium payments are invested among policy subaccounts.

Note: Variable life and variable universal life insurance policies are offered by prospectus, which you can obtain from your financial professional or the insurance company. The prospectus contains detailed information about investment objectives, risks, charges, and expenses. You should read the prospectus and consider this information carefully before purchasing a variable life or variable universal life insurance policy.

Joint and survivor life insurance

You and your spouse may choose to buy a single policy of permanent insurance that covers both of your lives. With first-to-die, the death benefit is paid at the death of the spouse who dies first. With second-to-die, no death benefit is paid until both spouses are deceased. Second-to-die policies are commonly used in estate planning to pay estate taxes and other expenses due at the death of the second spouse. Other than the fact that two people are insured by one policy, the policy characteristics remain the same.

Bottom line

Life insurance protection for women is equally as important as it is for men. However, women’s life insurance coverage is often inadequate. It may be time to consult an insurance professional who can help you assess your life insurance needs, and offer information about the various types of policies available.

IMPORTANT DISCLOSURES The information presented here is not specific to any individual’s personal circumstances.To the extent that this material concerns tax matters, it is not intended or written to be used, and cannot be used, by a taxpayer for the purpose of avoiding penalties that may be imposed by law. Each taxpayer should seek independent advice from a tax professional based on his or her individual circumstances.These materials are provided for general information and educational purposes based upon publicly available information from sources believed to be reliable–we cannot assure the accuracy or completeness of these materials. The information in these materials may change at any time and without notice.

Adjusting to Life after a Divorce – Financially

There’s no doubt about it–going through a divorce can be an emotionally trying time. Ironing out a divorce settlement, attending various court hearings, and dealing with competing attorneys can all weigh heavily on the parties involved. In addition to the emotional impact a divorce can have, it’s important to be aware of how your financial position will be impacted. Now, more than ever, you need to make sure that your finances are on the right track. You will then be able to put the past behind you and set in place the building blocks that can be the foundation for your new financial future.

Assess your current financial situation

Following a divorce, you’ll need to get a handle on your finances and assess your current financial situation, taking into account the likely loss of your former spouse’s income. In addition, you may now be responsible for paying for expenses that you were once able to share with your former spouse, such as housing, utilities, and car loans. Ultimately, you may come to the realization that you’re no longer able to live the lifestyle you were accustomed to before your divorce.

Establish a budget

A good place to start is to establish a budget that reflects your current monthly income and expenses. In addition to your regular salary and wages, be sure to include other types of income, such as dividends and interest. If you will be receiving alimony and/or child support, you’ll want to include those payments as well.

As for expenses, you’ll want to focus on dividing them into two categories: fixed and discretionary. Fixed expenses include things like housing, food, and transportation. Discretionary expenses include things like entertainment, vacations, etc. Keep in mind that you may need to cut back on some of your discretionary expenses until you adjust to living on less income. However, it’s important not to deprive yourself entirely of any enjoyment. You’ll want to build the occasional reward (for example, yoga class, dinner with friends) into your budget.

Reevaluate/re-prioritize your financial goals

Your next step should be to reevaluate your financial goals. While you were married, you may have set certain financial goals with your spouse. Now that you are on your own, these goals may have changed. Start out by making a list of the things that you now would like to achieve. Do you need to put more money towards retirement? Are you interested in going back to school? Would you like to save for a new home?

You’ll want to be sure to reprioritize your financial goals as well. You and your spouse may have planned on buying a vacation home at the beach. After your divorce, however, you may find that other goals may become more important (for example, making sure your cash reserve is adequately funded).

Take control of your debt

While you’re adjusting to your new budget, be sure that you take control of your debt and credit. You should try to avoid the temptation to rely on credit cards to provide extras. And if you do have debt, try to put a plan in place to pay it off as quickly as possible. The following are some tips to help you pay off your debt:

  • Keep track of balances and interest rates
  • Develop a plan to manage payments and avoid late fees
  • Pay off high-interest debt first
  • Take advantage of debt consolidation/refinancing options

Protect/establish credit

Since divorce can have a negative impact on your credit rating, consider taking steps to try to protect your credit record and/or establish credit in your own name. A positive credit history is important since it will allow you to obtain credit when you need it, and at a lower interest rate. Good credit is even sometimes viewed by employers as a prerequisite for employment.

Review your credit report and check it for any inaccuracies. Are there joint accounts that have been closed or refinanced? Are there any names on the report that need to be changed? You’re entitled to a free copy of your credit report once a year from each of the three major credit reporting agencies. You can go to www.annualcreditreport.com for more information.

To establish a good track record with creditors, be sure to make your monthly bill payments on time and try to avoid having too many credit inquiries on your report. Such inquiries are made every time you apply for new credit cards.

Review your insurance needs

Typically, insurance coverage for one or both spouses is negotiated as part of a divorce settlement. However, you may have additional insurance needs that go beyond that which you were able to obtain through your divorce settlement.

When it comes to health insurance, make having adequate coverage a priority. Unless your divorce settlement requires your spouse to provide you with health coverage, one option is to obtain temporary health insurance coverage (up to 36 months) through the Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act (COBRA). You can also look into purchasing individual coverage or, if you’re employed, coverage through your employer.

Now that you’re on your own, you’ll also want to make sure that your disability and life insurance coverage matches your current needs. This is especially true if you are reentering the workforce or if you’re the custodial parent of your children.

Finally, make sure that your property insurance coverage is updated. Any applicable property insurance policies may need to be modified or rewritten in order to reflect property ownership changes that may have resulted from your divorce.

Change your beneficiary designations

After a divorce, you’ll want to change the beneficiary designations on any life insurance policies, retirement accounts, and bank or credit union accounts you may have in place. Keep in mind that a divorce settlement may require you to keep a former spouse as a beneficiary on a policy, in which case you cannot change the beneficiary designation.

This is also a good time to make a will or update your existing one to reflect your new status. Make sure that your former spouse isn’t still named as a personal representative, successor trustee, beneficiary, or holder of a power of attorney in any of your estate planning documents.

Consider tax implications

You’ll also need to consider the tax implications of your divorce. Your sources of income, filing status, and the credits and/or deductions for which you qualify may all be affected.

In addition to your regular salary and wages, you may have new sources of income after your divorce, such as alimony and/or child support. If you are receiving alimony, it will be considered taxable income to you. Child support, on the other hand, will not be considered taxable income.

Your tax filing status will also change. Filing status is determined as of the last day of the tax year (December 31). This means that even if you were divorced on December 31, you would, for tax purposes, be considered divorced for that entire year.

Finally, if you have children, and depending on whether you are the custodial parent, you may be eligible to claim certain credits and deductions. These could include dependency exemptions, the child tax credit, and the credit for child and dependent care expenses, along with student loan interest and tuition deductions.

Consult a financial professional

Although it can certainly be done on your own, you may want to consider consulting a financial professional to assist you in adjusting to your new financial life. In addition to helping you assess your needs, a financial professional can work with you to develop a plan designed to help you address your financial goals, make recommendations about specific products and services, and monitor and adjust your plan as needed.

IMPORTANT DISCLOSURES The information presented here is not specific to any individual’s personal circumstances.To the extent that this material concerns tax matters, it is not intended or written to be used, and cannot be used, by a taxpayer for the purpose of avoiding penalties that may be imposed by law. Each taxpayer should seek independent advice from a tax professional based on his or her individual circumstances.These materials are provided for general information and educational purposes based upon publicly available information from sources believed to be reliable–we cannot assure the accuracy or completeness of these materials. The information in these materials may change at any time and without notice.