Melissa Brock

Melissa Brock

Writer & Blogger

My name is Melissa and I’m a longtime admission professional, personal finance writer, editor  and parent of two (very!) busy kiddos. I couldn’t make it all happen without my husband, Steve.

I hatched my site because I’ve heard so many head-scratching questions from parents. I’ve journeyed in the footsteps of hundreds of families, trekked to dozens of college fairs and even weighed the (billions?) of college savings options for my own two kiddos.

Why You Need to Be Brave and Get Life Insurance for College

by | Jun 5, 2020 | Ask the admission office | 0 comments

This post may contain affiliate links.

I did a very scary thing yesterday.

I signed up to be part of a study: The Mayo Clinic GENERATE (GENetic Education, Risk Assessment, and TEsting) Study. Here’s a snippet of the cheery email that appeared in my inbox:

We are very excited to share that the study is now open to anyone who has a first-degree relative who has been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, regardless of genetic testing status. You can read more about our updated eligibility criteria at https://generatestudy.org/participation/.

Basically, if I get accepted, I’ll undergo genetic testing which will tell me whether I have the markers for pancreatic cancer.

Yippee.

My mom developed pancreatic cancer at 55 — the same year my daughter was born. I remember thinking, “I refuse to raise my daughter without my mom around. I can’t do it!” But the odds were stacked against us.

Despite the fact that everyone told me to stay off the internet, I’d Googled the statistics anyway: For all stages of pancreatic cancer combined, the one-year relative survival rate is 20% and the five-year rate is 7%, according to the American Cancer Society.

Fast forward seven years: My daughter still has her grammy. My mom beat all the odds, and she’s a nurse now fighting COVID-19. (Ask me how I feel about that.)

Anyway, as you can imagine, it’s a bit terrifying to think about what the tests will find. And oh, geez, the implications: Will I be around for my kids? If not, what will happen to my husband (emotionally and financially)?

Life insurance for college savings (and more reasons!) is so important. Here's what you need to know and how to get it.
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I Realized I Need Life Insurance

Signing up for this study was the club to the head I needed. Nothing like signing up for a cancer study to assist you in realizing your own mortality. Gah. I’d gotten a sizable policy through my old job at the college and I have one through my current full-time job, but it’s not worth much.  

The point of getting life insurance is this: What if I die early and can’t help my husband pay for college for my kids? What if I die before our house is paid off? It might not be from cancer, either. I could get in a car accident or fall off a ladder. 

How Does Life Insurance Work? 

Life insurance is pretty easy to understand. You pay a recurring amount of money, called a premium, to an insurance company. The insurer pays out a tax-free sum of money to your beneficiary or beneficiaries if you die while the policy is active. This is called a death benefit.

Life insurance helps with expenses upon your death, such as: 

  • Replacing your income
  • Paying off a mortgage
  • College costs
  • Funeral and other end-of-life costs
  • Day-to-day bills
  • Cosigned debt
  • Child care or dependent expenses
  • Medical expenses or long-term care (Certain life insurance policies offer an accelerated death benefit rider which means you can access a portion of your death benefit if you’re diagnosed with a terminal illness. Doing so while you’re still alive could help with medical or other expenses when you can’t work.)

You can choose from different types of life insurance: 

  • Term life insurance lasts for a set number of years before it expires.
  • Whole life insurance is a permanent life insurance policy. It offers a death benefit and a cash value — a tax-deferred cash value account that accrues interest at a predetermined fixed rate. A certain portion of the premium you pay goes into the cash value of the policy, which offers a guaranteed rate of return.
  • Universal life insurance is also a permanent life insurance policy. It also has a cash value, but you can use the cash value to pay the premium, or let your accrued interest pay your premium each month.
  • Variable life insurance has a cash value and is similar to investing. Money that you pay in goes into a series of accounts like mutual fund accounts. You can gain or lose money, depending on the markets.
  • Variable universal life insurance lets you adjust the premium and death benefit amount while investing the cash value in the policy’s cash value.
  • Final expense insurance covers the cost of anything associated with your death, which could include medical costs, a funeral or cremation.
  • Group life insurance is exactly how it sounds. You purchase it through your employer. 
  • Simplified issue life insurance allows you to get insurance without a medical exam, but you do have to fill out a questionnaire.
  • Guaranteed issue life insurance allows you to get insurance without a medical exam or a questionnaire. 

I Chose Simplified Issue/Term Life Insurance

In my opinion, I firmly believe that term life insurance is the best option for most people. First of all, the point of term life insurance is to cover you while you still have dependents, a mortgage, etc. Eventually, our kids will be grown and the house will be paid off. My husband and I may not need life insurance after that. Plus, because term life insurance expires, it’s cheaper than whole life insurance and the rate and payout never change. I liked the idea that we’ll pay the same amount every month and my death benefit won’t change.

I also didn’t want to go through a medical exam — particularly during COVID-19. 

I Chose Bestow

One of the reasons I chose Bestow is because I fell prey to the mere-exposure effect. Have you ever heard of that powerful psychological term? It’s when you develop a preference for things merely because you’re familiar with them. It’s also called the familiarity principle in social psychology. (If you’re good at marketing or sales, you know the power of this psychological phenomenon.)

Bestow is one of a million insurance agencies — you don’t have to choose the same one I did. 

Bestow offers policies provided by North American Company for Life and Health Insurance®. Bestow only offers 10-year and 20-year term policies and the 20-year term is only available if you’re under 45 years old. 

Anyway, I wrote about Bestow for a not serious article close to Valentine’s Day and remembered the name.

However, I also chose Bestow because there’s no medical exam, Both plans allow you to cancel any time, without paying any fees. You can apply for a plan in a matter of minutes online and get approved quickly. Dust off your hands. You’re done.

Plus — no blood draw? Sign me right up.

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Here’s How I Signed Up

The process couldn’t have been easier. First, I filled out some basic information. 

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I chose 20 years because of my kids’ ages — they are seven and four, so 10 years wouldn’t be quite enough.

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Then, I added my address and email address. And created a password:

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It took me to this screen: 

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I needed to answer a few questions about my health, such as whether I have high blood pressure, cancer, etc. I also needed to check the boxes on whether I SCUBA dive, skydive or other types of high-risk activities.

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A popup did ask whether a parent of mine had died of cancer or heart disease before age 65. I was able to say “No!”

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I added my beneficiaries and my credit card payment. I monkeyed with the coverage a bit, then hit “Enter Your Payment” and I was set. Covered for 20 years!

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Peace of Mind for the College Years

Is your child heading to college this fall? In that case, it’s still a good idea to get life insurance if you plan to use a tuition installment plan for college — you may not quite have saved all the money you need for college and plan to do it per month. 

Bestow in particular only insures people ages 21 to 55, so look into different life insurance options. Life insurance is more expensive as you get older. Also, the more health problems you have, the higher your rate will be — or you could be denied altogether.

Think about this, though — I’m going to be really straightforward here. It’s totally possible to contract a disease and die within a four-year period, while your child is in college. My reality is that for all stages of pancreatic cancer combined, the one-year relative survival rate is 20 percent and the five-year rate is seven percent.

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Protect Your Family

These days, it doesn’t require a whole lot of effort to get life insurance. And really, if you prefer to find the cheapest option possible, you might want to undergo the medical exam. It could save you some money in the long run. 

Getting life insurance is a great way to say, “I love you!” to your family members. It’s one way to care for them the way they deserve — and it’s also a great way to help your spouse or kids do any number of things after your death, including go to college.

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