Why is life insurance important?


Life insurance supports your family’s current and future financial needs by paying out a lump-sum cash benefit when you die.

Amanda Shih author photo


Amanda Shih

Amanda Shih

Licensed Insurance Expert

Amanda Shih is an insurance editor and licensed Life, Health, and Disability agent at Policygenius in New York City. Her work has appeared in Slate, Lifehacker, Jetty, and J.D. Power.

Published May 17, 2021|2 min read

Policygenius content follows strict guidelines for editorial accuracy and integrity. Learn about our

editorial standards

and how we make money.

If anyone depends on you for financial support, you should own a life insurance policy for their protection. A policy will provide for the people you love if the worst should happen and you pass away.

Every person’s life insurance needs are different. Here’s why life insurance should be part of your financial plan, who can benefit from your policy, and how to find the right protection for your family.

Key Takeaways

  • A life insurance policy pays a tax-free benefit to your loved ones if you die while your policy is active

  • It’s important to have life insurance if you have dependents or shared debts

  • Insurance proceeds can be used for anything, including childcare and medical expenses

Why is it important to have life insurance?

A life insurance policy provides a tax-free, lump-sum cash payment called the death benefit to your loved ones when you die, which can be put toward shared debts and living expenses. It ensures that when you pass away, your family can still meet their needs.

There are no restrictions on spending the death benefit, so your beneficiaries can use the payout for short- or long-term obligations. Common uses include:

  • Child or dependent care: The estimated cost of raising a child through age 17 is nearly $233,610, [1] and nursing home care can be as much as $105,850 per year. [2]

  • End-of-life medical costs: Out-of-pocket expenses can be up to $9,000 in the final year of life. [3]

  • Everyday expenses: Including bills, food, house cleaning, and other everyday needs.

  • Funeral expenses: Burial or cremation services cost $8,000-10,000 on average.

  • Future education expenses: Including private school or college tuition, which averages $16,040 per year for private high school [4] and $37,650 per year for a private, four-year university. [5]

  • Investing: Funds can go toward your partner’s retirement, an inheritance for your children, or a tax-advantaged education account, like a 529 plan.

  • Outstanding debts: Including a mortgage, business loans, or student loans.

→ Learn more about how life insurance works

Who does your life insurance policy protect?

Your policy proceeds can support anyone whose finances will be impacted if you pass away and no longer provide an income. That includes your:

  • Spouse

  • Children

  • Aging parents

  • Other family members

  • Business partner

Even if someone doesn’t rely on you to fulfill their everyday needs, the loss of your income could affect them in other ways. Parents who cosigned private college loans would become responsible for the unpaid amount, for example.   

Life insurance pays out due to any cause of death, with a few exceptions, like if you lie on your application or die while carrying out a crime.

Ready to shop for life insurance?

Start calculator

Which type of life insurance should you buy?

When it comes time to buy a policy, most people choose between term and whole life insurance. 

  • Term life insurance pays a death benefit if you die during a set coverage period (usually 10-30 years).

  • Whole life insurance pays out no matter when you die and comes with a savings-like component called the cash value that you can access while you’re alive.

Term life insurance is the best choice for most people because it’s five to 15 times cheaper and you’ll likely have few financial obligations by the time your term policy expires. 

→ Learn about the different types of life insurance

How much does life insurance cost?

The cost of a life insurance policy depends on the type of policy you buy, the coverage period and coverage amount, and personal factors like your medical history and age.

Based on policies offered by Policygenius in May 2021, a 35-year-old non-smoker without complex health conditions would pay $25-30 per month for a $500,000, 20-year term life insurance policy or $430-520 per month for a whole life insurance policy with lifetime coverage.

→ Use our life insurance cost calculator for a more personalized estimate

Ready to shop for life insurance?

Start calculator

If you share financial responsibilities with a partner or help care for your loved ones, life insurance is a simple and affordable way to secure your family’s financial future. Speak to an independent insurance agent to find the right policy for your needs. 

Why life insurance is important FAQ:

Is it necessary to have life insurance coverage?

If anyone relies on you financially, you should have life insurance to cover shared debts and financial needs.

Why is life insurance an important part of financial planning?

Life insurance is a safety net for your long-term financial plans. If you pass away while you still have financial obligations, a policy protects your loved ones from the loss of your income.

When is it less important to have a life insurance policy?

If you have no debts or dependents, buying a policy is less urgent. But, buying when you’re young can save you money and prepare you for future life events.

More about

Life Insurance

Who needs life insurance and why?

Anyone who has shared debts or someone who relies on their income should consider getting life insurance coverage.

Read more

Do you need life insurance?

Not sure whether you need life insurance or not? Here are some easy ways to tell if it's right for you.

Read more

Is life insurance worth it?

For anyone with financial obligations, the benefits of life insurance coverage far outweigh the costs.

Read more