I’m always amazed at how much stuff it takes to sustain a newborn. Consumer Reports found that the average American family will shell out close to $13,000 in their baby’s first year alone. From stroller to safety gate, bottles to bouncy seat, any new mom will tell you, get ready for a great big increase in spending.
But before you grab that scan gun and stock up your registry, there’s really only one item you actually need to buy before your last trimester: Life insurance.
I know, I know, here you are, picking out a crib and painting the nursery. The last thing you want to do is think about the unthinkable. But stop and ask yourself: Do you have enough saved now to send your kid to college and live comfortably for the next twenty years? If the answer is no, congratulations! You’re like most of us, and you need a life insurance policy to protect your family’s financial future.
Who should I insure?
Here’s the deal: Life insurance usually replaces lost income, so most parents only insure their primary earner. A family that relies on two incomes should have two policies. Some people do insure a “stay-at-home” spouse or part-time caregiver on the theory that if something happened, they’d have to pay for childcare, and to allow the surviving parent an extended (and potentially nonsalaried) leave from work.
When should I get it?
Here’s the rub: many companies still consider pregnancy a medical risk, so at best, they’ll put you in a lower rating class and charge you higher premiums. The time to get a new policy (or add to an existing one) is before you conceive or three to six months after you give birth.
A prospective father, on the other hand, should start the process as soon as he can (like right after reading this!). Life insurance is just one of those things that always seems to slip through right the cracks, especially after you bring your baby home.
But remember: it’s never too late to buy life insurance and protect your child’s future.
As I like say: something is always better than nothing, and some coverage is always better than no coverage for your family.
For how much?
Here’s the tricky part: there’s no “one size fits all.” The amount you need depends on how much you’ve put aside already, the standard of living you’d like to ensure for your child and spouse, and how much you can afford to spend on premiums. If you have a jumbo mortgage, then your policy should be larger than, say, someone who’s paid off their home or willing to sell it if something happened to one or both parents.
Whatever you do, don’t get stuck on the “perfect number.” For most parents, the major hurdle is that initial purchase. Buy something now, and you can always add more coverage if your family grows or circumstances change.
Where should I go?
Here’s the good news: it’s pretty easy, and most of the parents I interviewed were surprised how little it ended up costing every month. Many websites will give you an estimate online so you can compare policies right from home. Once you are ready to speak to an agent, they’ll ask you some personal health questions, set up a physical exam and then finalize your premium.
Rest assured, the interview really isn’t designed to catch you. In fact, you can find several sample questionnaires online if you want to see what’s in store or study for the test so to speak. Most importantly, relax and be as honest as possible. And feel good. You’ve made the most important parenting purchase there is.
Do you have a life insurance policy?
Jacoba Urist is a treasured guest writer here at MainstreamMom. Jacoba spent the last year researching (almost) every aspect of parenting and planning for the future for her book, The Happiest Parent. Jacoba is a lawyer, mother and Huffington Post Parents blogger in New York. She has a JD and LL.M in Taxation from New York University. Follow her on Twitter.