Even though it might be hard sometimes to picture your young children as independent adults, you hope to live long enough to see that day.

Life insurance provides a financial safety net in case you don’t. It’s an important financial tool for virtually all parents, both married and single, of young children. But a study turned up a misconception.

Basic math

While 82% of respondents to a survey said married people with a young child or children need life insurance, only 60% said single people with a young child or children need coverage.

The finding was among the most surprising in the 2017 Insurance Barometer Study by Life Happens, a nonprofit supported by insurance companies and brokerages, and LIMRA, a global life insurance research and development organization.

“There doesn’t seem to be any obvious logic to it,” says Todd Silverhart, corporate vice president at LIMRA. “There’s no question that the actual need for life insurance by single parents is, at a minimum, equal to married parents, if not greater.…Single parents are vulnerable.”

In another survey by LIMRA, 55% of single-mother households said their families would be in immediate financial trouble if the primary wage earner died, compared with 35% of all U.S. households.

How life insurance works

If anyone would be hurt financially by your death, then you need life insurance. This is the case even if you don’t earn income. The services stay-at-home parents provide without financial compensation, such as child care and transportation, would have to be replaced, and those costs would add up.

Life insurance pays out if the person insured under the policy dies. The money goes to the policy’s beneficiary, who is named by the person who buys the coverage. There can be more than one beneficiary.

There are two main types of life insurance — term and permanent, such as whole life. Term life covers you for a certain period, such as 10, 20 or 30 years. It pays out if you die within the term. Term life is sufficient for most families, and it’s cheap. A healthy 30-year-old can buy $250,000 of coverage for 20 years for about $160 a year, according to LIMRA and Life Happens.

Whole life insurance and other types of permanent policies cover you for your entire life. They also include a savings component known as “cash value,” which grows slowly tax-deferred. After years of growth, the policy owner can borrow against the cash value or give up the policy for the cash value. Permanent life insurance is more expensive and complicated than term life. It’s best to work with a financial adviser if you’re interested in permanent coverage.


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