Should I get life insurance in my 20s?

My guide to adulting and financial protection.

Last year I was crossing the street, and I was stupidly looking at my phone – I didn’t see the car coming and it missed me by INCHES. I was shaken for a while. 

This got me thinking, what would happen if I died in that accident? And do I need life insurance? Of course, I went through all the morbid things to think about – like who would call my job and tell them I died? Would they send an email out? A meeting in the conference room? Would Lori cry? Also, who would pay off my debt? So many questions.

But after that, I started thinking about all the other things that would happen. The financial things I never really thought about before. Again, things like the importance of life insurance for young people.

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Like, would my parents hire movers to get my things from my apartment? And they’re guarantors on my lease – which means they are on the hook for my rent payments until someone moves in. They also co-signed my student loans, so they are going to be stuck with those payments too. I’ve got some credit card debts on my mom’s credit card also, which I pay off as best I can. Who will take care of covering those debts?

Sheesh, for an independent young adult, I didn’t know how dependent I was on my parents to take care of things if I died. 

So I asked the most horrifyingly adult question I’ve ever asked myself – Do I need life insurance?

Wait. Am I being crazy here? Why would a young, full-of-life individual such as myself be thinking about death and the finances of it all? I’m under 30, in good health, I don’t have kids, I don’t have a mortgage, no baggage. So – no worries, right? 

Apparently wrong. 

So, I set out to see what someone like me should do to protect my family from having to bear all the responsibility for my finances if something bad happened to me.

I wanted to figure out, should I get life insurance in my 20’s?

First thing I learned: Life insurance is a snoozefest 💤. Even life insurance for millennials. 

Basically, you pay a life insurance company a little each month, and if you die they pay your loved ones a lot.

And that payment will cover all the things I was worried about: outstanding rent, medical debt, credit card debt, student loans, and even my sister’s wedding (if I’m feeling generous).

But every website and app looks pretty much the same, and they all have the same calculator for determining how much insurance you need, and for how long you want that insurance to cover you for. 

There are two main kinds of life insurance: whole life insurance and term life insurance. 

With term life, you just pick the amount you want your family to get, then pick the length of time you want your coverage for (10, 20, 30 years, etc.). The monthly bill is usually low and stays the same, AND a payout amount is almost always guaranteed. 

A whole life insurance policy lasts your entire life and is usually more expensive—like REALLY expensive – like half my RENT per month. To me, that’s a serious commitment and not really something I want to concern myself with at this age.

I decided I wanted my family to get a $150,000 payment if I die within the next 20 years. That should cover all my loans, rent, and funeral costs. 

Most of the estimates I saw were about $10 a month. Which actually were cheaper than I thought it would be and I think it’s totally worth the peace of mind. 

BUT – here is the thing. Because I’m young and in good health, I could get $600,000 for 30 years for just $30 a month. This could be good because when I’m older and may have kids and a house, I’ll have the coverage I need to keep my family protected too. 

If I try to get that same $600K in life insurance when I’m 40, that could cost me $70 a month, instead of the $30 I would pay now. So do I save now or pay later? 

LIFE INSURANCE THROUGH THE AGES
An infographic that shows how the cost of life insurance changes as you get older.
Profile of a female in good health with a $500k coverage amount.

*Life insurance tends to be cheaper the younger you are when you buy it. Plus, with a term life policy, your rates won’t go up while you’re covered. 

I decided to play it safe and just get $200K in coverage for 20 years for $13. I may regret it – but for right now I’m TRYING to do the right thing and protect my family – I shouldn’t feel bad about not spending more for coverage I don’t need yet. 

Plus, there’s always the option to add to my policy as I get older and have new responsibilities. 

Finally, I had to go through a LOT of questions about my health – I guess they don’t want me to die tomorrow from some weird disease. But overall it was pretty simple and I looked for life insurance that didn’t require me to see a doctor first, which seemed like a hassle. 

So now I have my insurance, and I don’t know who is prouder, me or my parents. 

For anyone like me in their 20’s who was interested in Life Insurance, take a second and think about what expenses there would be if you died today. Who’s paying that rent, those bills, those debts, those loans? If it makes you even a little worried – it might be time to start adulting a bit more and get covered with term life insurance for just a couple bucks a month.

The “Sparknotes” 

  • Life insurance covers outstanding debt if you pass away so your family doesn’t have to pay it. 
  • If you buy life insurance at a younger age, anticipating you will have larger debts you want to be covered in the future, your monthly premiums (payments) are often cheaper. 
  • There are two types of life insurance, term life, and whole life.  
Ask yourself these 3 questions to decide if you need life insurance in your 20’s?
  • Do I have debt?
  • Did someone cosign my loans? 
  • Do I plan on having a family, or buying a house within the next 30 years?
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