Is Employer-sponsored Voluntary Term Life Insurance a Good Buy? – Case Study #6

I just finished a case with an officer of a large company who had most of his life insurance through his employer. They paid for an amount equal to 2X salary; he paid for another 5X. Like a convenience store, employer sponsored life insurance makes it easy to buy: proximity, no full blown physical, check the box, and payroll deduction. However just like a convenience store, it’s not cheap.

Often 2X or 3X salary are offered “guarantee issue”, meaning there is no health screening at all. This invites higher risks. Those who sign up first often have an insurability problem – diabetes, DUI’s, obesity, smoker, etc. Insurers call this adverse selection and to provide for the inevitable higher claims they must charge more.

Even higher levels of coverage require only an abbreviated health questionnaire, far less rigorous than for an individual policy with its paramedical exam, blood testing, requesting medical records, etc.

Therefore rates charged under voluntary plans at work are always higher than favorable rates for an individual policy. I don’t just mean higher than the best risks, but also higher than the mild-hypertensive, slightly-elevated-lipids, or two-speeding-ticket risks.

If you have a major health issue, employer-sponsored life insurance may be a good buy, but if you don’t you can probably do better.

Here are some other advantages of individual policies. Most employer sponsored term plans have five-year rate bands with rates increasing at age 35, 40, 45, 50, and so on; most individual term policies have level premiums for 10, 15 or 20 years. Term insurance through work usually ends at retirement or termination of service; an individual policy goes with you regardless of employment.

One touted advantage of group life insurance is that $50k or less can be paid with pretax dollars. This small tax advantage is usually more than offset by the higher premium rate.

The popularity of employer sponsored plans is understandable. A new employee dealing with an avalanche of paperwork finds it easiest to check the box without fully understanding alternatives. Because it’s then automatically deducted from their paycheck before even seeing it, this out-of-sight-out-of-mind but ill-conceived financial tool can roll on for decades.

Remember the step that precedes all this is choosing the appropriate amount. Though buying in multiples of salary is a reasonable way for an insurer to administer a group life plan, it’s not the way a consumer should choose an appropriate amount of life insurance.

Also remember the new policy should be approved and in force before discontinuing voluntary insurance at work. Many people think discontinuing group term can only be done once per year during open enrollment period, however this time restriction does not apply to group life insurance over 50k .

After an amount is determined, then the most competitive individual term policy should be chosen, considering the nuances of your health. A duration needs to be chosen. If you need help in the process, that’s what we do

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