Life insurance is one of those topics people really don’t like to think about. But, as it’s national Life Insurance Awareness Month (did I really need to tell you?), now seems a good time to ponder its value.

Not addressing this cornerstone of planning can leave your heirs with big financial problems. According to the 2017 Insurance Barometer Study, conducted by Life Happens and LIMRA, two industry-supported nonprofits, 84 percent of respondents agreed that most people need life insurance, but only 70 percent said that that applied in their case. As it turns out, even if people recognize the need for life insurance, many are not buying coverage: 41 percent of Americans do not.

If you aren’t sure about your own circumstances, ask yourself this question: If I were to die right now, would anyone endure financial hardship? If the answer is yes, it’s time to figure out how much coverage you need and what type of insurance is best for you. Forget about the old-time rules of thumb for insurance — it’s easy to calculate your needs with online calculators, like the one from the American Institute of CPAs (

To start, you will need some information. First, determine your current living expenses; without that number, you won’t be able to input your survivors’ needs. If you are the primary caretaker for your kids or adult parents, factor in the additional cost of care for them. If you are a single parent or the primary wage earner, you may want to leave your heirs cash to pay off debts such as student loans or the mortgage; and if you have young kids and you want to pre-fund college, you will need to increase your insurance amount to cover those costs. Finally, you may want to provide for the future retirement needs of your surviving spouse.

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