Life Insurance at Work

One of the most common objections insurance agents hear from clients regarding life insurance is, “I have it at work.” Indeed, many people are part of a group life policy offered by their employer, however it feeds a common misconception that group life alone adequately covers one’s life insurance need. Group life insurance is a good start, but the truth is in virtually all cases group life insurance alone is grossly inadequate.

The number one problem with group life insurance is that because your employer owns it, you as an employee have absolutely no control over it. In the vast majority of cases, that policy will be terminated by circumstances beyond your control. If you leave that place of employment for any reason, voluntarily or otherwise, that policy is most likely gone, and with no guarantee that the next employer will replace it. Even if you stay, your employer may decide at any time to not offer group life anymore, and that can terminate your policy as well.

Also, group life generally doesn’t carry over to retirement, Even if you devote your entire working career to the same company and have a group life policy throughout, if you die after you retire (which is what most people plan on), that coverage will most likely not be there for your family. In most cases, a claim on a group life policy offered by an employer will only be paid in the event you die while you are still actively employed in good standing.

Secondly, most group life policies carry a small face value, usually $50,000 or less. While this may sound like a lot of money, remember that death is expensive. Final expenses can easily run in excess of $10,000, even if you have little or no debt. After those final expenses are addressed, the remainder of the death benefit is unlikely to last much longer. Monthly expenses don’t end at your death, and your surviving family will still be responsible for them even though you’re no longer around to help out. This is especially true for families with small children. As a result, many experts recommend carrying life insurance amounts at least seven to 10 times your annual income, and perhaps more while there are still children at home.

Even if your employer provides an adequate amount of coverage, keep in mind you still don’t own it, and it can and probably will go out of force before you need it.

Finally, most group life is entirely term life insurance. While term insurance does provide low-cost life insurance coverage, by definition it expires after a certain time period, and if it renews it renews at progressively higher rates based on your age. The vast majority of term life insurance policies – group or otherwise – cancel or otherwise lapse before death. Well over 90 percent of term life policies issued will never pay a death benefit.

Permanent life insurance plans, however, provide lifetime coverage for a fixed amount. After all, in order for it to serve its purpose life insurance needs to be in force when you die. For many people, a blend of term life insurance and permanent life insurance – in the form of a universal, variable universal and/or whole life policy – is an ideal choice. Life insurance needs do change over time, and generally speaking the need tends to be less as one ages. The permanent insurance provides a minimum death benefit that is projected to be needed throughout life, while the term insurance provides a cost-effective means for an additional benefit if one dies while the need is greater. Your local life insurance agent can help you determine the need specific to you.

Also remember permanent life insurance also provides the additional benefit of a cash value you can access. Term life insurance has no such benefit.

In short if you have an individual life insurance policy that you own and control, you’ll never have to worry about losing it just because you change employers, retire or if a board meeting in your company doesn’t go well. You can’t say the same about life insurance at work.

None of this is to say group life isn’t worthwhile. It does partially address your life insurance needs, and it’s certainly better to have it than to not have it. Just remember the operative term here is “partially.” To make sure you’re covered appropriately, you need to purchase some form of individual life insurance to fill in the gaps.