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Colleen King - Blogs

Life Insurance

Is there such a thing as a deductible on life insurance? Doesn’t make sense.

05-03-2010 by Colleen King

I saw this article title and had to look at it a couple of times. Deductible on a life insurance policy? That brought up all sorts of morbid concepts for me so I decided to read it.

Thomas Jurek, an agent in the Midwest, had an interesting article published in the Agent Sales Journal on this last December, and what he was pointing out was a different way to assess your life insurance needs and planning. His definition was that it was the difference between what a family needs and the amount they will receive at the time of the breadwinner’s death.

Most agents recommend an annual or biannual review of insurance in place. That way you can make sure there’s enough, or equally as important, do you still need all that you have? When kids have left the nest and are financially independent, a couple nearing retirement might not need as much life insurance.

Basically, the way I read this, is rather than the deductible being what you pay before insurance kicks in, this is more like what are you going to be stuck paying for, or going without, based on how much life insurance there is when the primary earner dies. For younger families with kids you have to allow for college and weddings. What assets do you have that you need to protect? Rental property? what if you lose the tenant? What do you have in savings and are you willing to deplete that if someone dies and the life insurance isn’t enough to meet your mutual obligations?

Lots of questions, and multiple answers for most scenarios. Bottom line, call an agent you trust and see where you stand. It could keep your family from having to make some really tough decisions at a difficult time.

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Category: Life Insurance

September is Life Insurance Awareness Month–really!

09-02-2009 by Colleen King

Hey I couldn’t make this up. I’m assuming it’s the insurance industry that came up with this, not Hallmark or American Greeting since I haven’t seen any ‘Happy Life Insurance Awareness Month’ cards at the local retailers as yet in the card racks.

But as odd as it sounds, ‘Life Insurance Awareness Month,’ it is important for people to review what they have in the way of life insurance. Needs change over time, since there are times in your life when you need more coverage, and points where you can consider decreasing your coverage if you want to.

Agents are often taught that they should do annual reviews on what their clients have, but most of the time I think if you meet/talk with your agent every 2-3 years, that will work. You will need to contact them sooner if you have some life changes. Things like getting married, buying a home, having a baby, these are all times that increase your expenses so you don’t want to risk what you have by not have sufficient coverage in case the unthinkable happens. You need to consider the income of both spouses, multiply that anywhere from five to fifteen times depending on your liabilities and that will give you an idea of the amount of coverage you should consider. And if one spouse isn’t working, is the ‘stay at home’ partner, don’t assume you don’t need life insurance on them. If something happens to them, especially if you have kids, you may need to start paying for child care, need housekeeping help, and you aren’t necessarily going to be able to work as much. You may want to take time off for after school events.  You may need to change jobs if you do something that makes you travel often. Just stave off a financial mess by insuring the non-working spouse, whatever your situation.

As you get older, those are times you may be able to either decrease your coverage, or elect to convert your term policy to a permanent policy, either a whole or universal life policy. If your kids are grown AND have left the nest (being grown doesn’t necessarily mean they’ve moved out on their own these days) you may be able to get by with less coverage. If your home is paid off or the mortgage balance is very low, something that current savings could pay off, you may be able to decrease your coverage.

But before you cancel or decrease coverage, evaluate the overall worth of your estate. One reason to maybe buy MORE at this point in life is to facilitate a transfer of wealth. Life insurance proceeds are tax free to the beneficiaries; some people spend a couple hundred thousand dollars to buy a million dollar policy, thereby increasing what they leave to their heirs. Also having life insurance paid to your beneficiaries can help them pay off the inheritance taxes a large estate can incur.

So for a little extra help in figuring out what you need, check out this life insurance calculator in addition to talking with an agent or financial advisor.

So, Happy Life Insurance Awareness Month–Be well! more

Category: Life Insurance

Planning, wills and life insurance–Let the recent events be a hint!

07-06-2009 by Colleen King

In the past couple of weeks, there have been a lot of celebrity deaths reported, but none overpowering the news more than the death of Michael Jackson. I’m not going to debate his talent or lifestyle issues, but it got me thinking.

Here is a guy that in one way or another had significant assets; homes, rights to the Beatles catalog, investments who know where. And three children. And for how many days was there a question as to whether or not there was a will, what was to become of his fortune, if there was one, and who was going to raise his children?

Well now there appears to be a will, but is that the only one? Are there others? And ultimately, who has the most recent will? Most of us don’t have estates quite this complex, at least I don’t, but take a ‘time out’ and make sure you have a few things in order.

If you have minor children and something happens to you, who do you want to raise them? If you made that decision a few years ago, and either the person you designated ‘predeceased’ you or for some other reason you don’t want them raising your kids, change your will.

Do you have assets that you want to go to specific people? They may end up with a relative you didn’t want to get a dime if you don’t spell your preferences out. If you have an expensive home to leave your kids, will they be able to afford the estate taxes on it, or will it be a financial disaster? That’s where sufficient life insurance can come in handy. Life insurance isn’t meant as just something to make your heirs rich. Since it is received tax free by the beneficiary, it is often set up to be used as a source of cash to pay inheritance taxes that otherwise might really devastate what you thought you had left. IRAs may have tax consequences, properties too, and if they can’t pay the estate taxes they will lose a large part of what you left.

The LAST important thing after you do all of this is to make sure someone knows where to find your documents! In a shoebox under your bed is only good if someone knows about it.

So in between Access Hollywood updates and the 11:00 news, make sure to review your plans and coverage, or be sure to at least get a will and trust in place if you don’t have one. Your insurance agent can help you figure out what will keep the wolves from the door.

Be well! more

Category: Life Insurance

Life Insurance–What’s the Difference between Term Life Insurance and Whole Life Insurance?

04-13-2009 by Colleen King

Once of the best things about getting my insurance license was learning the difference between the two basic types of insurance, which had eluded me for years. Basically there are two types of life insurance and they break down to temporary and permanent.

Love this, this should be our ‘real’ security

An easy way to remember the difference, is ‘term is temporary’—Term life insurance is something you buy for a specific period of time, 10, 20, 30 years for example, and for a specific amount. At the end of that time period, if you are still around, that’s it; it’s gone. One ‘add on’ option is to buy what’s called a return of premium rider, so that and the end of the term, if you are still alive, all the premium you have paid is returned. Term is generally what you buy when you are younger, because financial demands are greater when raising your family, and term life insurance is more affordable.

“Permanent” types of life insurance basically are whole or universal life. Once you buy these policies, they are in force until you pass away or cancel them. People tend these days to lean more toward universal life versus whole life because the premiums are flexible; you aren’t always locked into a specific amount per month. The downside with permanent types of insurance is that these policies are more expensive, because they have to be in place for an unknown length of time. These policies also build a ‘cash value’ which can be used in a number of ways, including supplementing retirement income.

Most term policies are able to be converted to a permanent policy without proof of insurability, which helps out later in life. You can make it for a lower face value, so you can still take care of your loved ones needs without having to qualify for on a health basis. The main reason to have life insurance is to buy your surviving spouse time to grieve and deal with life without facing losing the home. It gives them time to figure out what they are going to do, and not having to make huge financial decisions at a time when they can’t think straight. And that’s what matters.

Be well! more

Category: Life Insurance

Insurance, insurance everywhere–why do I have to deal with so many companies?

02-12-2009 by Colleen King

Health insurance, life insurance, business liability, homeowners, auto, rental property coverage, umbrella policies, long term care insurance–Wow! And of course, there are more types.

A lovely woman named Rose recently posed that question to me. There are a lot of detailed reasons, but I’ll try and make it brief. First, you have to differentiate between insurance companies and insurance agencies. Insurance companies are the entity with the really big buildings in most downtown areas and they write the checks. Insurance agencies can have big buildings too, but agencies represent insurance companies and sell to the public. Insurance companies usually choose to focus on a few areas rather than all areas.  Life and health carriers also may offer Medicare related coverage, disability, long term care insurance, more ‘people’ oriented coverage. Other carriers focus on the property and casualty types of coverage; auto, homeowners, boat, umbrella policies, business liability, basically more along the lines of ‘stuff.’

Even if a company offers things from both sides of the table, there may be subsidiaries that handle it so you still aren’t going to get ‘one bill.’ From there, you have agents and agencies. There are two main licenses insurance agents hold in California, a Life Agent license or a Property and Casualty license. As a Life Agent, I can’t sell homeowners, and a P&C agent can sell homeowners but not usually health insurance. Interestingly, they can sell life insurance, but that doesn’t mean they will. Some P&C agents focus on the personal lines, but don’t do business liability and workers compensation.

If you want to narrow down who you are dealing with, it helps to find agents that handle more than one line of insurance. There are agents that carry both licenses, but that is a LOT to learn and keep up with.

Personally, I feel there is often an advantage of going to an independent agent or agency over going directly to a specific company. You select one insurance company, they generally will only be able to show you their product line. With an independent you can get a variety of options with just one person to deal with. You can still do multiple policies with one agent, and if they can bundle most or all of what you want with one carrier, you can often get multiple policy discounts.

So find a good multiple line agent, or one good Life Agent coupled with a good P&C Agent, that that should help narrow down some of your hassles. Hopefully! You could go to one doctor for all your needs, but do you really want your gynecologist performing your brain surgery? They won’t be thrilled with doing it.

Be well! more

Category: Life Insurance

Life Insurance–I’m getting married, do I need to make any changes?

02-07-2009 by Colleen King

Last weekend I was at a seminar and met a lovely woman named Lisa, who owns a PR firm and is getting married soon. We were talking about our businesses, I told her about my blog and that I was looking for questions. She had a question about Life Insurance.

She wanted to know what changes she might need to make on her existing life insurance policy. Here are some things you need to consider:

Changing the beneficiary. Depending on what you had the policy for before, you will probably want to change the beneficiary to your new spouse. If you had kids from a prior marriage/relationship, and the policy was intended to take care of them, you need to either keep them as beneficiary (depending on their age) or whomever would be the guardian if something happened to you.

Do you need more coverage? If your policy was intended to take care of you and your assets, reassess where you stand now financially. If you are buying a bigger house, or moving into theirs and the expenses are going up, you might need more coverage. Depending on cost and your health situation, you might do a whole new policy or just add a second to what you already have.

If your needs have decreased, lots of people forget to re-evaluate their life insurance coverage. You might be able to lower your costs with a new policy for a lower face value.

If your policy was covering business needs, and those have changed, you might be able to make the business and your spouse co-beneficiaries and eliminate the need for buying new coverage.

So in short, add up the annual cost of keeping your honey’s life style at the same level it is now, figure out what your financial contribution to that is, and look into the cost of a new policy. Life insurance in general is for income replacement, so see what is affordable without making you “insurance poor.” For help, call your friendly local insurance agent.

Be Well! more

Category: Life Insurance

Insurance? Not today

12-31-2008 by Colleen King

Health Insurance, life insurance, annuities, long term care insurance–okay, my usual topics are in. But today’s article is not to talk about insurance, I just want to wish everyone a Happy New Year.

2008 was a lousy year for many people, so kick it to the curb and get ready for 2009. As far as insurance, we’ll see what actually changes in the health care arena. It won’t be fast or ‘all curing’ but I hope there will be some positive action. 

Especially if it doesn’t mean me losing my source of income! 

So, I wish you all a Happy NYE, and we’ll be ringing it in from the Caribbean. Hope that bodes well for smoother sailing in 2009! I look forward to answering your questions again…..

Be well! more

Category: Life Insurance

I refuse to participate in the recession.

10-09-2008 by Colleen King

I recently heard this statement at a sales training session, and it’s become my new mantra. Health insurance and most other types of insurance for that matter, can be really expensive and now’s not the time to be absorbing rate increases.

Even though I sell insurance for a living I don’t like to see people pay more than they need to. That doesn’t mean the least expensive coverage is the best way to go either. But there is a happy medium often times.

Life insurance rates overall have come down over the past few years so if you purchased life insurance more than 4-5 years ago, it might be time to see if there is something less expensive for you. Why not? You also have to see if what you have is sufficient. If you’ve had another child or two since you last bought a policy, it’s time to make sure that is still okay.

Long Term Care insurance–well, none of us are getting any younger, so if you are in your late 40s and up, you might consider at least learning about it. Maybe get a quote too. The old thinking was that this is something you buy in your late 60s, early 70s. By then, rates can be at least double what they would be in your 50s. Plus there’s the risk of developing a health condition that could either keep you from getting a 10% preferred health discount or rendering you uninsurable in general.

Annuities–see my September 30th post on annuities. They can be a great move in this economy if you don’t need the money right away and there aren’t enough antacids in your house to withstand the stock market volatility.

So don’t participate in the recession. If you are a business owner, you still need to market. Those that stop, their businesses don’t grow. You might not grow as much, but growth of any kind is good right now.

Be Well! more

Category: Life Insurance

Life Insurance as ‘Mortgage Protection’ insurance–a so-so way and a much better way to do this

09-10-2008 by Colleen King

Life insurance is life insurance, right? Many times yes, but with the right type of life insurance your mortgage will be protected in a way that affords your survivors more options.

Have you gotten a mortgage or refinanced a loan lately? About 20 minutes after the close, you started getting things in the mail offering crucial, vital protection that was absolutely essential to your existence and the existence of your family as well the continuation of liberty and freedom in America. Geez, when you put it that way……..

Often is it offered by an affiliate of the company you did your loan through, but also insurance agencies that do this type of coverage buy information and seek out public records when a new loan or re-fi closes. The idea is that you fill out the card, mail it then get a call to set an appointment. You can do that and meet with the agent, but there are some definite questions you need to know to ask.

Generally what is being offered is called ‘decreasing term’ life insurance. What you are buying is a term policy that is meant expressly to pay off your mortgage, it’s not a fixed, static amount.  So, as your mortgage balance decreases, so does the amount the policy will pay if you pass away. If you are buying with a spouse or partner and you both apply, you are really paying two premiums and getting one policy, with a death benefit that decreases over time. AND, if you sell your house, usually the policy is attached to the house so you end up starting over if you are buying another home.

What about this scenario–one of you is working, the other isn’t. The working spouse dies.  You have other bills, and now a loss of income. What do you do? Well, the decreasing term life policy will pay off your mortgage, but what about other expenses?

By using a regular term life insurance policy, either 20 or 30 years, you control what happens to the money. You can now address other bills and have a financial cushion. Maybe you do want to pay off the house, and you can, but what if you are now going back to work and would like the mortgage interest expense as a deduction? This is one of the things I mean by having control over your situation. If  two people are insured, you have two level premium death benefits (meaning the value doesn’t drop over time). And if you move, the policy goes with you.

Optimally, you look at an amount that will pay off the mortgage, put all kids through a four year college program and take care of a majority of the remaining partner’s living expenses. That can end up being expensive, and you don’t want to buy insurance that breaks you. Once we look at rates, then we go ‘backwards’ and see what death benefit amount is affordable. After all, having something is better than nothing, because it will give your survivors time to grieve and deal with things. And not have to make difficult financial decisions at a terrible time.

Some people if they are younger will opt to add on a ‘return of premium’ rider. If you are alive at the end of the term of the policy, they will return 100% of the premium to you. No interest of course, but at least you get it back. Agents are divided on whether this is a good thing to recommend or not. I suggest it, but don’t push it, because ultimately my clients are calling the shots.

So basically, when you have people depending on you financially, whether you want to call this mortgage protection, life insurance or just good old peace of mind, seriously consider looking at it. Be well! more

Category: Life Insurance

Life Insurance–do I need it and if so, how much?

07-24-2008 by Colleen King

Life insurance is one of those things that you don’t want to spend money on, right? If you’re like me, if you can’t eat it or wear it, I don’t really want to spend money on it. But do you really need it?

Keep in mind what life insurance is for. Growing up, I thought it was something your parents and grandparents bought in order to have something to leave to the remaining family. WRONG! View life insurance as ‘income replacement’–when you have people financially dependent on you, what happens to them if something dire happens to you? Whether it’s a spouse and children, elderly parents, a disabled sibling, what happens to their existence if they are fully or partially relying on your income?

Who doesn’t need it? Well, that’s debatable because even if you don’t have someone relying on you for some kind of financial support, should you pass away and leave large debts the proceeds from life insurance would be helpful. If you have family or friends that you would be leaving something large to, and the value exceeded the estate tax maximum, people often use term life insurance to pay for the tax liability.

A lot of times young people in their 20s with no assets, no house, no dependents will be sold a term policy. Do they need it? The industry is divided; most see life insurance as something you buy after you have something to protect. Others argue you should do it, because being younger, rates are lower and you are insurable. And you’ll probably get married, have kids and accumulate assets at some point, so you’ll need it anyway. Personally, I’ll do it when asked but I don’t actively pursue that market.

How much life insurance do you need? In your younger years, you tend to have more liabilities (like kids) so you need more. Basically, regardless of your situation there are a couple of ways to figure out the ‘how much’ question and you come close to the same amount. Depending on your income level, you can take your annual income and multiply it 5-15 times. OR, you can figure out your expenses on an annual basis, plus how much it would take to pay off the mortgage, $100,000+ per child for college, etc.

Here’s where your trusted agent comes in. A good agent will help you figure out the amount to shoot for then get quotes to see what the ‘ultimate’ amount is going to cost. If it comes back too high, then you adjust until you end up with a cost that is tolerable for your budget.

A little pre-planning can save your heirs a lot of heartache and keep them from having to make certain decisions when they are grieving. Be well! more

Category: Life Insurance

Life Insurance–talk about a morbid discussion!

07-12-2008 by Colleen King

Life Insurance is always an odd discussion to embark on, and I try to get that out right off when I speak with clients for the first time. Basically, when couples are shopping for life insurance for the first time, what you are trying to figure out how much money one would need if their spouse/partner were to die in order to maintain the current standard of living.

There’s a happy discussion! But realistically, when you have a family, what would happen if one of you were to die? These days, most couples are both working because if you live in California, you’ve had to either take out a mortgage the size of a small nation’s GDP. Or if you are renting, you know, rents here are pretty ridiculous too.

Optimally, when figuring out how much coverage you need, we look at your expenses on a monthly or annual basis to see what it would take if the income from one of the partners were to go away. This can be done in multiples of annual salary, or look at what it would take to pay off the mortgage, cover utilities, food, schooling for the kids and eventually college. As well as any other incurred debts. Either method usually gets you pretty close to the same number.

Then the type of insurance you need–term or permanent, either whole or universal. That will be covered in another post. Let’s say we’re looking at term rates, because that’s usually the less expensive. Doesn’t always mean cheap though–again, your health history, smoker status and a few other things get in to play. Please try to be of a normal weight, nonsmoker, not have a hazardous occupation and be pretty healthy. That way we can get the best rates. But if you’re not in ‘super hero’ status, don’t let that keep you from checking into rates.

If you need a $1,000,000, 20 year term policy let’s say, and the monthly premium is NOT going to fit into your budget, don’t do it. We start ratcheting back the amount until the cost isn’t a strain. Even if the final amount won’t cover everything that you want it to, you need to have some coverage rather than none. That will buy your surviving spouse time to grieve and deal with life without facing losing the home. It gives them time to figure out what they are going to do, and not having to make huge financial decisions at a time when they can’t think straight.

So, even though you aren’t going to die, talk to a good agent about your needs and look into the cost of something that will provide financial peace of mind. Life insurance–a morbid, but crucial discussion. Don’t make a bad situation worse. Be well! more

Category: Life Insurance