When you need life insurance in your 20s and 30s
Sharon Epperson | Kelli B. Grant
Tuesday, 20 Dec 2016 | 8:30 AM ETCNBC.com
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When you're just starting out, life insurance may not be your first concern. But it's worth planning for the unexpected.
Half of millennials have life insurance — whether their own policy, one through an employer, or both, according to the LIMRA and Life Happens 2016 Insurance Barometer report.
"The reason you have insurance is to provide protection for the people you're going to leave behind," said Carolyn McClanahan, a certified financial planner and the director of financial planning for Life Planning Partners in Jacksonville, Florida.
When you're young and single, you might not need a lot of life insurance — if any. But there are a few situations where you might want to secure a policy in your 20s or 30s:
"If anybody counts on you for your income, then you want to have life insurance," McClanahan said.
Many people start to think about life insurance when they get married or have a child, she said. But they aren't the only people who might benefit from a policy replacing your lost income. One in 5 millennials financially supports a parent, with an average outlay of $12,000 a year, according to a 2015 TD Ameritrade analysis.
If a friend or relative has co-signed on a debt for you — private student loans, for example, or a car loan or mortgage — they could be on the hook for the amount outstanding if you were to die. (Couples living in a community property state may both be liable for debts incurred during their marriage, even if they don't co-sign.)
In those cases, a term life insurance policy can cover that debt should you die before it's zeroed out, she said.
Factors like pre-existing medical conditions, risky hobbies or a dangerous job influence rates and availability of life insurance. Term insurance can be cheap protection to put in place now so that you have needed coverage later, McClanahan said.
"Everybody has the risk of becoming uninsurable," she said. "If you know you're on the fast track … it's a good idea to go ahead and get insurance in place."
If you're already risky, don't lie on your application. Misrepresentation could be grounds for an insurer to void your policy — leaving you and your loved ones unprotected.