When Is the Right Time to Buy Life Insurance?

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Quick Answer:

There are certain financial milestones that we all reach in our lives. One of them, of course, is when we buy our first life insurance policy. But how do you know when is the right time to sign on the dotted line for coverage? The answer may vary depending on your financial and family situation, but there are a few good rules of thumb.

For instance, if you are married or own a home, you probably want to consider coverage. If you have kids or other loved ones who rely on you for financial support, a policy provides much-needed peace of mind for their care. You can even use life insurance to leave behind a legacy based on your biggest passions.

Let's take a look at the milestones you’ll encounter, where life insurance should probably be a serious consideration.

Buying life insurance is one of those important financial decisions that most people consider as they grow older. Each of us hits this point at a different time, though. You may have considered picking your first policy over the years, but how do you really know when it’s the right time to buy coverage?

The answer to this question depends on your income, financial priorities, your family, and even the legacy you wish you leave behind. While there’s no particular age at which coverage is a must-have, there are a few reasons why life insurance is probably a good idea for you.

Here are our top six:

If You Have Transferable Debt

Regardless of your age, whether you’re single and childless, or how much money you make, you should consider buying life insurance coverage if you have any sort of transferable debt. This policy can serve to protect your loved ones from the financial burden that your unpaid bills would leave behind.

Consumer debt can be one type, depending on the situation. While credit card debt in and of itself doesn’t directly transfer to your loved ones, the impact it can have depends on the nature of the account. For instance, let’s say you are the only person on your credit card account and you don’t leave many assets behind. In that case, your creditors will come and take what they can from your estate – if that’s not enough, they’re essentially out of luck with the remaining balance.

However, if you added on your spouse or even a parent as a joint account holder, the debt will be transferred to them. This can even happen automatically in communal property estates, as debts incurred during marriage are considered joint property.

You should also take note of any private student loans for which your parents or spouse may have co-signed. While outstanding federal loans are discharged upon the death – as well as some Parent PLUS loans – private loans are not usually extended this same courtesy. Instead, co-signers are often left on the hook for the entire balance. Not to mention, the death of either party can actually trigger a “default,” accelerating the debt’s repayment.

Even if you don’t need a life insurance policy to replace lost income for dependents or loved ones left behind, it’s smart to buy a policy that at least covers any transferrable debts you may be carrying around.

When You Buy a Home

If you own a home or are considering a new mortgage, life insurance should be next up on the to-do list. This will protect your estate and your family’s security, were you to pass away.

The last thing your family needs to worry about in a time of loss is whether they will keep the roof over their head. Buying a life insurance policy that would sufficiently cover monthly expenses for a number of years – or even pay off the remaining mortgage balance in full – is a good idea.

Even if you are a single homeowner, you should still buy life insurance to protect your mortgage. That way, those left behind aren’t forced to rush and sell your home (or even face the risk of foreclosure), if they can’t afford to take over the monthly mortgage payments.

Regardless of who would receive the home in your absence, life insurance allows your investment to be passed on to those you love, protecting the asset you worked hard to build from foreclosure or short sale. If you leave behind a spouse or children, a policy means that they don’t have to worry about how they will keep the roof over their head, both during their immediate grief and in the years to come.

When You Get Married

If you are married and have a spouse who depends on your income for their financial well-being, you should think about life insurance. Even if your spouse is financially secure,or you don’t yet have children, a life insurance policy may still be  a wise consideration.

If your spouse relies on your income for a mortgage payment or monthly expenses, you may consider purchasing life insurance coverage. Not only will this payout cover your final expenses, but it will also give your spouse the financial security they need.

You can choose a policy that covers expenses for any number of years. Perhaps you want them to be able to grieve, pay for your funeral, and take care of any student loan or credit card debt they may be carrying around. Or maybe you want them to be worry-free for the next decade, and decide to purchase a policy that provides them with many years of financial security.

Some people even choose to buy life insurance policies that will establish wealth and an improved quality of life for those left behind. If you and your spouse have struggled to save for years, you may want to buy a policy big enough to change their lifestyle entirely. This would give them the security to change career paths, become the philanthropist they always dreamed of being, or have the means to travel the world.

Regardless of the intentions behind your life insurance policy, you should start considering coverage once you say “I do.”

When You Have Children

The moment you discover your first child is on his or her way, your life changes forever. You know that from that day forward, there’s someone else relying on you for their emotional and physical needs. That need continues even if you were to pass away, making life insurance an important consideration once you have children.

There are many ways to calculate the amount of life insurance necessary, in order to provide for your family left behind. Some people choose to buy policies that will provide for their spouse and children’s expenses for the next 5-10 years. This includes things like rent or mortgage payments, monthly bills, and health insurance.

Others take this a step further, also considering their childrens’ future needs. This may account for things like college tuition, the down payment on a home, or even weddings. Some parents want to leave a legacy behind for their children, buying higher amounts of life insurance and establishing trust funds. That way, they can continue to provide for their children, and even future grandchildren, long after they are gone.

The thought of not being around to support your kids is a difficult one. However, by purchasing life insurance, you ensure that if something were to happen to you, at least your children will have their needs met. You can make this as simple or as involved as you’d like. Either way, though, if you have minors relying on your income in any capacity, life insurance can play an important role.

If Someone Depends on Your Support

Perhaps you don’t have children or a spouse, but there are others in your life who rely – or will one day rely – on your support. This could include aging parents, nieces and nephews, or other loved ones whom you’d want to care for down the line. If this is the case for you, you should consider purchasing life insurance coverage.

If you have a parent who is likely to need your support in their old age, you may want to buy a life insurance policy that will cover their care. This might mean a bulk sum that they can use for all of their expenses, or perhaps a calculated sum that will cover things like long-term care insurance coverage.

Maybe your parents are not in a secure place financially, and you want for your life insurance coverage to pay off their home, replenish an exhausted retirement account, or provide an annuity for their monthly expenses.

You can also use life insurance to benefit other loved ones you may have, like siblings, nieces and nephews, or godchildren. You could use coverage to provide for things like their college tuition or even a down payment on their first home.

If there is anyone in your life who depends on you for support – whether financial, emotional, or medical – you may want to consider a life insurance policy that can provide for their needs in your absence. Think about how their life and well-being would be impacted if you were unexpectedly gone (and unable to care for them), then establish coverage accordingly.

If You Want to Leave a Legacy

If you reach a point in your life where you feel drawn to leave a legacy long after you’re gone, life insurance might be the right financial product for you. This is the case whether you have a family or not, whether you would leave behind debt or paid-in-full assets, and whether or not there is anyone depending on you for support.

A legacy can be established in any way you desire. You may wish to utilize a life insurance policy in support of a charity or cause that is dear to your heart. If you are passionate about a specific group of individuals, your life insurance benefits could be used to establish a scholarship fund in support of them or in their honor. You could even use a life insurance policy to build a neighborhood park or otherwise support your community.

The options for your life insurance benefits are endless. If you have a passion and desire to leave behind a legacy in support, or in honor, of anyone or anything in particular, a policy can help you achieve this goal.

Deciding to Buy Life Insurance

The decision to buy your first life insurance policy can be tricky. Is it really time to buy coverage and, if so, for whom should it provide financial benefits?

There are many times in your life where life insurance should be a consideration. Whether you have a spouse or family, bought a home, or want to leave a lasting legacy for others, a life insurance policy can help you get there. In the end, life insurance is for the living. Who do you want to take care of after you’re gone?

Want to learn more about your life insurance options or get a free quote? Contact us today – our licensed life insurance coaches can walk you through the policies available and even help you calculate the coverage that best suits your needs.

Peace of mind starts at $14/month*

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*Sample quote is based on 35-year-old healthy male in California receiving a $250,000 10-year Term Life policy (Policy Form # I L1702) underwritten by Assurity Life Insurance Company.
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Stephanie Colestock is a freelance editor and personal finance writer, who is passionate about financial planning and getting out of debt. Her writing has appeared on authoritative sites such as Forbes, USNews, Daily Finance, and Dough Roller, among others. She graduated from Baylor University, but now lives in Washington, D.C. with her two young sons (who are learning how to wisely manage their own money).

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