Monday, April 24, 2023

Having Insurance When You Get Married

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That big day has finally arrived. You are marrying the love of your life and ready to pronounce those vows: to have and to hold each other in sickness and in health til death do us part.

Yet, how many couples think about having enough insurance while planning their wedding and including the right kind and the right amount of insurance that will help protect their finances from lawsuits and accidents?

Following are some steps to take as a married couple:

If you and your spouse count on each other’s earnings to support your standard of living, you both need life insurance that will keep the other financially afloat if something happens. A life insurance payment can pay for funeral costs, rent or mortgage, household bills, and debts. It can also help pay for childcare and college for children and can leave a legacy for those you love.

Your employer might offer supplemental life insurance as an employee benefit. However, the amount of coverage you get through a group insurance plan might not be enough. In addition, you may not keep that coverage if you leave the job. That is why you should get an individual life insurance policy.

There are two main types of life insurance: term and permanent. Term life insurance lasts for a certain number of years, such as 10, 15, 20, or 30. Permanent life insurance lasts for a lifetime and, therefore, is more expensive than term life.

A term life insurance policy can be ideal for a young couple because it is affordable, says Sharif Muhammad, a licensed insurance agent, Certified Financial Planner, and owner of Unlimited Financial Services. The policy’s term should be long enough to cover the needs of children—such as the years until they graduate college. Search for a policy that offers the option to convert to permanent coverage “so you have the option if you want to maintain the policy after the term runs its course,” states Muhammad.

You can shop for life insurance policies online, including options for getting instant life insurance. However, consider working with an independent insurance agent who can help you determine how much coverage you need and will shop around for you to find the best policy for your needs.

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How to Save on Life Insurance

Life insurance is a lot cheaper than you think. A survey by LIMRA and Life Happens found that half of the respondents thought a $250,000 term life policy for a healthy 30-year-old would cost $500 or more a year. However, the average cost of such a policy is only about $160 a year, or about $13 a month. Your age, health, policy type, and amount of coverage you want will affect the price you pay for life insurance.

“The younger and healthier you are when you get coverage, the more affordable it is,” says Amy Shepard, a Certified Financial Planner with Sensible Money. She suggests it can be worth it to pay a little more for a policy with a bigger benefit now in order to ensure the payout will be enough to cover any future expenses you might have, such as a house with a mortgage or children. You could also buy more life insurance in the future, but you will pay rates based on your older age and any health problems that develop in the interim.

Why You Need Disability Insurance

According to the Social Security Administration, over one in four of today’s 20-year-olds will become disabled before reaching age 67. If you become part of that statistic and cannot work because of a disability, you and your spouse would likely feel the financial pinch from the loss of your income.

Workers’ compensation insurance will pay only if the injury or illness is work-related. It may be challenging to qualify for Social Security disability benefits, and the average payout is just $1,236 a month. That is why it is important to have disability insurance to fill the gap. Think of it as a protection for your paycheck because it will replace a percentage of your income if an illness or injury leaves you unable to work, temporarily or permanently. You can use disability insurance to replace income during maternity leave, Shepard says.

How to Get Disability Insurance

If employed, you can get disability coverage through a group plan at work. A survey by the Society for Human Resource Management found that 71% of employers offer long-term disability insurance and 61% offer short-term disability insurance. Typically, group disability coverage will replace up to 60% of income, Shepard says. The drawback to relying on group coverage is that you cannot keep it if you leave your job. “I think it’s always a great idea to take advantage of group coverage if you have it and supplement it with a private policy,” Shepard says. That way, you will still have coverage regardless of your employment situation.

If you already have group disability insurance, the amount of individual coverage you can get is limited. Shepard recommends working with an independent insurance agent to coordinate individual coverage with any group coverage.

How to Save Money on Disability Insurance

Getting disability insurance through a group plan at work is usually the most affordable option and the easiest. If your employer has a group disability insurance plan offered to all employees at no cost, you will automatically qualify for coverage without having to answer questions about your health or having to take any medical tests, according to Life Happens.

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Individual disability insurance can be more expensive because your age and health can affect the cost. You can save money by getting disability insurance while you are young and healthy, Muhammad says. 

You also can keep down the cost of disability insurance by opting for long-term coverage rather than short-term coverage, Shepard says. It is more important to have a policy that will protect you for a significant period, and you can rely on an emergency fund (if you have one) to replace your income if you have a short-term disability.

See if any professional organizations you might belong to offer a group policy for long-term disability insurance. As long as you maintain your membership, group coverage will probably be more affordable than individual coverage.

Health Insurance - Coordinate Coverage with Your Spouse

You can typically change your health insurance plan through work (for group coverage) or through the health insurance marketplace (for individual coverage) once a year during open enrollment. However, marriage is one of the life events that allow you to change your coverage outside of open enrollment.

If you or your spouse does not already have health insurance, you may get coverage now through one or the other’s plan. If you both have coverage, it’s a good time to review your plans to see if you should maintain separate policies or get joint coverage, says DeDe Jones, a Certified Financial Planner and managing director of Innovative Financial.

You might find that, for example, you can get better, more affordable coverage by switching to your spouse’s health insurance plan.

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How to Save on Health Insurance

A common way to lower the cost of health insurance is to opt for a plan with a high deductible. Premiums on high-deductible plans are lower because you have to pay more out of pocket until coverage kicks in. This type of plan can make sense for healthy, young adults who do not take many or any prescription drugs and do not require frequent trips to the doctor. However, you should not bet on your good health to help you avoid paying for the deductible. If your employer offers a health savings account along with a high-deductible health plan, set aside money in that account to cover your deductible and other out-of-pocket medical costs.

If you cannot afford to max out your health savings account or cover the cost of your deductible, a high-deductible plan might not be the best way for you to save money on health insurance, Muhammad says.

Alert Your Auto Insurer to Your New Status

Let your auto insurance agent know that you have gotten married. Other household members are required to be on your policy if they are licensed drivers, even if they do not drive your car regularly.

If you and your spouse each have a car and coverage through separate insurers, it usually makes sense to choose one company and buy one policy. You will get a discount for insuring more than one vehicle, plus additional savings if you also buy your homeowner’s or renter’s insurance from that company.

How to Save on Auto Insurance

Even if your insurer offers a discount for insuring two vehicles, it can pay to shop around for lower rates with other insurers. Muhammad says that he and his wife reshop their insurance every two years to ensure they get the best deal. If you are happy with your current insurer, ask about other auto insurance discounts that you might qualify for. For example, you might save money by paying your bill annually rather than monthly.

To soften the blow of making a lump-sum car insurance payment, Shepard recommends setting aside money each month in a savings account to have enough to pay the bill when it’s due. Also, ask about increasing your deductible to lower your premium.

Photo by Junior Karrick DJIKOUNOU 
Homeowners' or Renters' Insurance 

Make sure you have enough coverage. Now that you are married, you might have more belongings in your household. So make sure you have enough homeowners or renters coverage to replace those belongings in case of a major disaster like a fire, tornado, or hurricane.

To figure out how much coverage you need, start by doing a home inventory. Go room to room and make a list of your belongings and, if possible, their estimated cost. An easy way to do an inventory is to take photos or videos of your entire home, including the inside of closets, drawers, and storage spaces. There are also home inventory mobile apps such as MyStuff and Nest Egg.

If you have an “actual cash value” policy, the payout you would get would cover the cost of your belongings minus depreciation of their current value. It is better to get a policy with replacement cost coverage. This will cost more, but it will cover replacing your items.

If you have expensive items such as wedding rings, artwork, or collectibles, you might need to add a floater or rider to your policy to provide additional coverage for those items. Call your insurance agent to discuss your coverage needs now that you are married.

Photo by Wallace Araujo

How to Save on Homeowners Insurance

Shop around to find the best homeowners insurance by getting quotes from at least three insurers, or work with an independent agent who can do the shopping for you.

Ask about multi-policy discounts. You can save money if you have more than one type of policy, such as a homeowner and auto insurance, with an insurer. You can lower your premium by raising your deductible. Adding safety features such as an alarm system and smoke alarms can lead to discounts.

Keep in mind as you look for ways to save money on all of your insurance policies that it is important not to skimp on coverage just to save money.

“Shorting yourself on insurance is a fool’s endeavor,” Jones says. Paying for good insurance can seem unnecessary if you never make a claim. However, insurance is for the disasters in life, so you do not have to gut your savings or lose your home or vehicle without a financial safety net. 

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