Your life insurance can help cover some of life's biggest expenses if you pass away while the policy is in force. For instance, policy proceeds are often used for mortgage payments, debts, tuition, and everyday expenses. Ultimately, it's up to your beneficiaries to decide how to use the payout. Proceeds are paid in a lump sum and are generally tax-free.

A common and easy way to come up with a coverage estimate is to multiply your annual income by 10. Another way is to calculate your long-term financial obligations and then subtract your assets. The remainder is the gap that life insurance needs to fill.

Most people overestimate the cost of life insurance by 300% or more. The cost varies based on your unique situation. The biggest factors that can affect your premium include your coverage amount, term length, age, health status, and tobacco use. The sooner you buy, the sooner you’ll lock in your lowest premium—and save the most money in the long run.

Employer-sponsored policies typically offer coverage that is about 1-2X your annual salary, which is a fraction of what most families need. And if you leave your job, that coverage usually ends. A common rule of thumb is to have 10 times your salary in life insurance protection, which is why many people buy individual term policies to supplement their coverage through work.

Term life insurance uses premiums to cover you for the determined “term” of the policy. Coverage expires if there is no claim within that time frame. Term life can be a good match for someone seeking affordable coverage to replace lost income over a critical period, such as while raising children or paying off a mortgage. Whole-life insurance lasts your entire life if premiums remain current. Whole-life policies also have the potential to accrue cash value, depending on the policy. For these reasons, whole life insurance premiums are typically higher than term premiums for the same coverage amount.

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