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Three steps to assessing your life insurance to prepare for when life happens

We all know that life happens. It can happen in small ways, like locking your keys in your car, or life can happen in bigger ways, like a fender bender...

We all know that life happens. It can happen in small ways, like locking your keys in your car, or life can happen in bigger ways, like a fender bender on your way to work. While it's true that you can't always prepare for the unpredictable turns life can take, in some cases, you actually can. That's why you buy life insurance; it provides protection for your family in case the worst were to happen to you.

The conversation about life insurance can be a difficult one to have, but it's essential. In the event of your death, your family's life will change radically, and having a life insurance policy in place can help ease their fears and stress, if not their grief. By preparing now, you'll be leaving a legacy that protects their future.

A study by the LIFE Foundation, a nonprofit organization dedicated to helping consumers make smart insurance decisions, indicates that nearly a third of all consumers believe they need more life insurance, including 20 percent of current policyholders and about half of those who do not have any coverage. The study also found that 28 percent of couples wish their spouse or partner had more life insurance.

For many consumers, however, the prospect of buying a life insurance policy can be an intimidating one, simply because they often don't know where to start. According to the LIFE Foundation, the first step is assessing your need.

If you are unsure of how to get started, follow these three steps:

1. Find a figure. Using an online life insurance calculator (which can be found at www.lifehappens.org/howmuch) can help you get an initial idea of how much life insurance you need. The figure should take into account financial needs immediately following a death, as well as the amount needed to sustain your household in the future. Keep in mind that it's not just breadwinners who should consider policies. Work done by stay-at-home parents can be extremely costly when compared with hired professionals, and a life insurance policy can cover those costs.

2. Determine what kind of insurance you need (www.lifehappens.org/whatkind). Term and permanent life insurance are the two major choices. Term insurance provides protection for a specific period of time, with 20 years being the most common term length. Permanent insurance provides lifelong protection, and will remain in force for as long as you continue to pay your premiums. Permanent policies also have the ability to accumulate cash value on a tax-deferred basis.

3. Get professional help. Buying life insurance can be confusing, but there are plenty of professionals who can help guide you through the terminology and technical details. There are many resources available on the Web to help you learn more about the process, but you can also meet with a professional agent to get personalized assistance. If you are looking for an agent or advisor, you can start with the agent locator at www.lifehappens.org/agent-locator.

Once you have a policy, it's also important to keep it updated, as life changes can alter the amount of coverage you need.

Making the effort to research and buy life insurance today will ensure that your family is cared for after you're gone and well into the future. For additional information, visit www.lifehappens.org.

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