No one likes to talk about insurance. It’s boring. It’s morbid. And it’s an expense that can often feel like a waste of money, since your real hope is that you never actually need the thing you’re paying for.
But for new parents, insurance is one of the best and most cost-effective ways to provide your family with the kind of financial security it deserves.
So here’s what I want to do: I want to give you a comprehensive resource that makes it as easy as possible to get the insurance you need and avoid the insurance you don’t.
That’s what this post is meant to be.
This post covers the four types of insurance that all new parents should have, with an explanation of the following for each one:
- What it protects
- Who needs it
- What to watch out for
- Where to get it
- Additional resources with even more detail to lead you through the entire process
What it protects: Health insurance primarily protects you against really big medical bills that would be difficult to handle on your own, such as a hospital stay or the ongoing costs associated with chronic conditions like cancer or diabetes.
Who needs it: Most people are probably always going to have the need for at least some kind of health insurance. Whether you’re single or married with children, old or young, the simple truth is that medical bills always have the potential to be incredibly high, and protecting yourself against those big bills is likely to be a good idea.
What to watch out for: Overpaying for coverage of routine care. Remember that the big risk you’re protecting against here is the cost of major medical issues, not the cost of routine care like annual checkups.
If you’re in relatively good health, it may make sense to look into a high-deductible plan that ONLY covers those big risks and allows you to pay for routine doctor visits out-of-pocket. When combined with something like a flex plan at work, or even better a health savings account on your own, that can add up to some huge savings.
Where you can get it: Hopefully your employer offers some kind of coverage, and if you’re married you should also check out your spouse’s options to make sure you choose the best plan for your family’s needs.
If you don’t have employer coverage, the new insurance exchanges are likely your best best.
Posts with more detail on health insurance:
- How I Choose Health Insurance for My Family
- 5 Steps to Take If You’re Losing Health Insurance
- The Extra Cost of Health Insurance Premiums on Maternity Leave
What it protects: Life insurance protects the people who are financially dependent upon you in the case that you passed away and could no longer provide for them. It would provide the financial resources for them to pay for their needs until they were old enough to support themselves.
Who needs it: There are a few different types of people who might have a need for life insurance.
The biggest is parents. For working parents, life insurance would replace the income that your spouse and children depend on to pay bills and save for the future. For stay-at-home parents, life insurance would pay for the cost of replacing the services you provide, like childcare, cooking, cleaning, driving, etc.
If you have debt that someone else would be responsible for if you died, that would be another good reason to consider life insurance. This could be something like a student loan that your parents co-signed, or a mortgage you took out with your spouse. The life insurance proceeds would help pay off the debt and remove that financial burden.
In those two cases, the need for life insurance is likely temporary. Your need no longer exists once your children are able to support themselves or once your debt is gone, which means that a term life insurance policy is likely to be the right kind of coverage.
But there are a few situations where permanent coverage could be useful.
The first is if you have a child with special needs who may need lifelong financial support. Permanent life insurance would ensure that your child would be left with the financial resources he or she needed no matter when you passed away.
The other is if you will be leaving a significant amount of money to your family (typically $10 million or more) and you want to help bear the cost of the associated estate taxes. Life insurance could be used to pay those taxes, leaving more of your money to your family.
What to watch out for: Many people are sold whole life insurance (a type of permanent coverage) that they have no need for. And while some kind of permanent coverage can be useful in the situations mentioned above, those are the exceptions rather than the rule.
Life insurance is usually not a good investment. It is also usually no longer needed once your children are done with school, or once you have enough money in savings to provide for their needs.
In the large majority of cases, term life insurance is all you will ever need.
Where you can get it: My favorite site for getting term life insurance quotes, and the one I used myself when my wife and I needed coverage, is term4sale.com. I’ve also written a guide to buying life insurance that shares a few different ways you can get a policy in place.
If you would like some additional help, I would suggest working with a fee-only financial planner whose incentive would be to find you the best coverage, not to sell you the policy with the highest commission.
Posts with more detail on life insurance:
Long-term disability insurance
What it protects: Long-term disability insurance would replace some or all of your income in the case that health issues kept you from working for an extended period of time. Basically, it would allow you to keep paying your bills and saving for the future even if you couldn’t work.
Who needs it: Anyone who relies on their income to pay their bills and save for the future has a need for long-term disability insurance.
Disability is more common than you might think, with WebMD estimating that 1 in 3 people will have an extended period of disability at some point. And the most common causes are things like arthritis, back pain and cancer, which aren’t what most people think of when they hear the word “disability”.
Unless you’re already fully financially independent, long-term disability insurance is likely a good idea.
What to watch out for: Disability insurance is a complicated product, and there are two things in particular you will want to pay attention to:
- The definition of disability – Different policies will have different standards for what qualifies, which in turn affects whether you would actually receive money.
- Exclusions – Some policies will exclude certain types of conditions from coverage.
Another common mistake is assuming that the coverage you have through your employer is enough. That may be the case, but it may also be that your employer coverage would replace a smaller chunk of your income than you think.
Where you can get it: In all honesty, disability insurance is a tough thing to search for on your own, simply because it’s such a complicated process that having a strong understanding of the various insurers and the policies they offer is a huge benefit.
In fact, when I work with clients, I actually have a separate company I rely on for disability insurance recommendations, simply because they are the experts.
So my best advice is to find a fee-only financial planner who can lead you through the process (FYI: this is something that I do for my clients), or an independent insurance agent you trust who has a strong knowledge of the disability insurance industry.
Posts with more detail on disability insurance:
What it protects: Liability insurance would pay the damages in case you accidentally injured someone or damaged their property. This is a particularly big risk when you’re driving, but it could also be as simple as someone slipping on ice in your driveway.
Liability insurance is part of both your auto policy and your homeowners or renters policy. You can also buy an umbrella policy for extra coverage on top of those.
Who needs it: People with a high income and/or significant savings are generally at a greater risk of lawsuit in these kinds of situations. But in general I think this is good coverage for most people to have, simply because it’s relatively inexpensive and protects against a big risk.
What to watch out for: Not too much to worry about here, but it’s worth noting that the minimum liability requirements on your auto policy are generally far too low. You will likely want to increase those in order to make sure you’re fully protected.
Where you can get it: As mentioned above, you already have some coverage as part of both your auto policy and your homeowners or renters policy, but it’s worth checking to make sure the coverage in both places is enough.
You can get an umbrella liability policy from the same company you have your auto/homeowners policies with.
Posts with more detail on liability insurance:
Are you insured?
Phew! That’s a lot of insurance!
It really is, but that’s simply because as a new parent you have a lot to protect.
And when it’s done right, insurance is a fantastic way to do it.