It’s tough to nail the timing for certain conversations. Especially if the last few years have been a wild ride of school closures, risk calculation and more “new normals” than you’d care to count. Easier to push the life insurance conversation away as a heavy talk to have later, no?
But a life insurance conversation can be more upbeat than you’d expect.
The whole point of getting life insurance is to financially protect all the good plans you have in store for your family, after all. If you’ve been putting off talking to your partner about life insurance, let this be the nudge you need. From getting on the same page to setting next steps, here’s how to avoid awkwardness and make a plan you both feel good about.
Life insurance can be a much simpler (and cheaper) project to tackle than you might expect. That said, there are a few details to cover to make sure you’re on the same page.
First off, do you need life insurance at all? If either of you can think of people in your lives who depend on you financially, it’s smart to consider getting a life insurance policy. Your coverage could help provide for people you support if you were to pass away. Consider questions like, would you have to find a more affordable home if you lost your spouse? If you have life insurance through an employer, is it enough to cover goals years in the future, or only funeral expenses and a few months of income?
Talking about life insurance naturally involves talking about money, both in terms of policy premiums you can afford and coverage you think you’ll need. Discuss whether it makes sense to figure this out on your own or meet with a financial advisor to crunch numbers. Researching quotes at a few companies can help show that life insurance doesn’t need to be a budget-breaker. For example, a quote with Fabric for a 30-year-old female nonsmoker in excellent health would only be $19.01 per month for a 20-year, $250,000 policy.
You should also talk about who are the right life insurance beneficiaries, or people who would receive the death benefit of a life insurance policy. For many couples, the answer is each other. You might want to talk about choosing contingent beneficiaries. If either of you have other loved ones to support (e.g., children from a previous marriage), you may want to split the death benefit between multiple beneficiaries.
We may talk about money in terms of numbers, but many financial conversations are more about aligning emotions than just making the math add up.
“Money is a sensitive issue among couples,” says Ahren Tiller, founder and supervising attorney at Bankruptcy Law Center. “Firstly, a couple consists of two different people, so there’s the factor of different personalities and habits when it comes to money matters. It’s possible that one partner may think there are other, more pressing expenses to spend money on [than insurance]. Finally, a partner may have financial secrets they don’t want to divulge, like debt or expenses, so a conversation about their finances may be challenging to have.”
Each person in a couple brings their own financial knowledge and history into the conversation. You may both want similar things, like security, but have different methods in mind to reach those goals. Your conversation might be about how to balance paying for life insurance with building your emergency fund, for example.
(Concerned about the cost of life insurance? One tip is to shop for a policy in your younger years, when policy premiums are lower.)
A financial talk can unearth sensitive topics, like debt struggles or lingering fears from an unstable childhood. A partner earning lower income may fear they’ll be “less valuable” in an insurer’s eyes. Have a supportive conversation with these ideas:
Make a commitment to take on finances as a team, solving problems together and valuing both of your contributions.
Talk life insurance in a comfortable setting, like relaxing on the couch.
Listen to the other person’s reasoning and respect their priorities. Look for ways to find a common goal rather than trying to convince each other to your own way of thinking.
Anyone juggling family, work commitments, health and eight hours of sleep (ha) knows free time doesn’t tend to fall into your lap. If you want to get something done, you need to plan ahead.
Pull up your calendar and plan an “appointment” to talk about finances and insurance as a couple. Use these strategies to have a more productive conversation:
Pick a day and time when you won’t be exhausted. If you’re fried by Friday, plan for a Wednesday evening or Saturday morning discussion instead.
Block off about an hour. Allow yourself time to talk, but plan an end time so you don’t exhaust yourselves or talk in circles.
Plan out childcare if you have kids. If someone can watch the kids, great! Otherwise, Disney movies to the rescue.
End your meeting with a plan for next steps. Choose a few items to do next, agree which person will handle them and set a date for a next conversation.
When you buy car insurance, you’re not focused on the likelihood of a crash. You don’t buy homeowners insurance because you expect your home to burn down. Life insurance can stay similarly focused on what you do have, not what you might lose.
Alex Williams, a Certified Financial Planner and CFO of FindThisBest, says, “Couples can think of talking about life insurance as a form of security for the other partner. It doesn’t have to be a conversation about death but more about how you want to secure your future.”
Imagine everything you want to do as a family as line items in a “dream life” budget. The mortgage on your home, higher education degrees, getting debt free, planning a family Everest hike. Plan A, of course, is that your earned income funds all these family dreams. Life insurance isn’t a windfall, but a form of financial protection if life doesn’t go according to plan. Focusing on the positive—that you’re taking steps to protect your partner’s cherished goals—can make planning life insurance a more pleasant task.
Once you’ve discussed coverage estimates and beneficiary options, you and your partner hopefully have a much clearer sense of how life insurance could help you and what you each see as most important when shopping for a policy. The next thing to do is make a plan to move forward.
Williams recommends creating a to-do list. “It can help reduce procrastination, as you can put a date next to each item and meet the deadline.”
Giving each partner specific tasks with a deadline makes your part of the process clear, so you have a concrete goal instead of a vague, “figure out life insurance” task hanging overhead. Use your conversation to guide next steps. For instance, if your partner is reluctant to move forward because of concerns about cost, their task could be “get a quote from three companies” so they can see how life insurance fits into your current budget.
Good next steps to consider include:
Set up an additional conversation date if necessary to go over other financial topics like debt, savings and your household budget. This can help you refine your target coverage and resolve lingering worries about how life insurance fits in with your bills.
Get a quote from several life insurance companies
Schedule a time to complete a life insurance application
Make an appointment with the insurer to do your medical exams (or check whether you could get life insurance without a medical exam)
Framing a life insurance conversation as a chance to talk about best-case plans for your life can make the experience more positive for both you and your partner. You’re taking steps to protect important family goals, no matter what happens.
Fabric exists to help young families master their money. Our articles abide by strict editorial standards.
Fabric by Gerber Life exists to help young families master their money. Our articles abide by strict editorial standards.
Information provided is general and educational in nature and is not intended to be, and should not be construed as, financial, legal, or tax advice. Laws of a specific state or laws relevant to a particular situation may affect the applicability, accuracy, or completeness of this information. Federal and state laws and regulations are complex and are subject to change. We make no warranties with regard to the information or results obtained by its use, and disclaim any liability arising out of your use of, or reliance on, the information.
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