Life insurance is the cornerstone of sound financial planning. It provides financial security for your loved ones when you die, so picking the right life insurance company is an important decision, according to the Insurance Information Institute (I.I.I.).
“The goal is to find a financially stable company with a solid reputation for customer service,” says Jeanne M. Salvatore, vice president for consumer affairs at I.I.I. “With nearly 1,500 insurers offering policies, life insurance is a highly competitive business so consumers have a number of companies and policies to choose from.”
To begin shopping for a life insurance company, ask your friends, relatives and business associates for recommendations. You should also ask your auto and home insurance agent, along with your financial planner and accountant for their advice. When assembling your list of possible insurers, find out whether you qualify for a group policy, which may offer some savings. Ask your employer, professional association or alumni organization whether it offers life insurance.
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After compiling a list of insurance companies, I.I.I. suggests that consumers check the following:
Price: Premiums for life insurance vary among different companies. Compare prices before buying a policy to make sure you are getting the best value. Compare similar insurance plans based on:
- Your Age
- Type of Policy
- Amount of Insurance You Are Purchasing
Budget: Make sure that you can continue to pay premiums. Paying for life insurance is a long-term commitment. If you can’t afford to continue the premium, you may be forced to drop the coverage, which can be costly.
Insurer Stability: In addition to a fair price, the company you buy from should be financially stable so it will be around to pay claims. The following organizations rate insurance companies’ financial strength:
- A.M. Best Company, Inc.
- Fitch Ibca Inc.
- Moody’s Investor Services
- Standard & Poor’s Insurance Ratings Services
Service: The insurer you select should offer excellent service. Your agent or company representative should clearly explain all of your options, so you can make the best choice for your needs. If you have a claim or question, your insurer should handle it promptly. Your state insurance department may also be able to tell you if an insurance company has many consumer complaints about its service relative to the number of policies it sold.
If you already have life insurance, contact your current insurance company or agent before canceling your current policy and buying a new one. Sometimes switching to a new policy may be in your best interest. However, surrendering a policy to buy a new one may be very costly.
Also, if your health status has changed, you may no longer be insurable at the same rate. If you purchase a policy and decide you did not make the right decision, you can have your money refunded within the “free-look” period, usually 10 days from the date the policy is delivered for your review.
Lifestyle changes such as marriage, divorce, the birth or adoption of a child and even starting a business may alter your life insurance needs. Let your insurance agent or company representative know about these changes and make sure that it is properly reflected in your insurance.