Need for life insurance for young people depends on circumstances

·3 min read

Des Carter made the decision to buy life insurance five years ago when he and his partner were looking to buy their first home together after learning a hard lesson when his mother died without insurance.

"That really taught me the importance of protecting yourself and your loved ones, so I knew life insurance was a non-negotiable," said Carter, who is a Canadian living in London.

The 36-year-old program director in digital health wanted the assurance that his partner wouldn’t be left with the burden of debt if something happened.

"Life insurance isn’t necessarily for you, it’s for the people you leave behind," said Millie Gormely, a financial consultant and certified financial planner at IG Wealth Management in Thunder Bay, Ont.

Gormely said there isn’t a one-size-fits-all answer for when young Canadians, like millennials and generation Z, should buy life insurance and that it depends on the circumstances.

"Life insurance is more about whether or not you have anybody to protect or if there is a reason to protect your wealth in the long-term for estate purposes," Gormely said.

For instance, if you have a spouse or children, the question to ask is, how would they be financially affected if you were no longer there, she said.

With insurance, you’d likely want to make sure you can pay down debts and funeral expenses, as well as replace your income for a period of time.

"Let’s say there’s a scenario where a baby is in the picture," Gormely said. "If you were no longer there, how much insurance would you need to replace your income until that child is 18?"

Younger, single Canadians with no kids, debt, or mortgage don’t typically need life insurance unless they plan to leave a certain amount to charity, Gormely said.

"Can it be useful?" Gormely added. "Absolutely. But it’s not necessary unless you’re trying to protect a risk."

Iftikhar Mahmood, a certified financial planner at CreateWealth Planning in Markham, Ont., said an advantage to getting life insurance earlier is that it’s usually cheaper because you’re less likely to have developed any serious health conditions.

Mahmood, for example, got his two children $1 million 20-year term policies costing $600 each per year when they were 22 and 19.

"Getting it younger ensures that you qualify for coverage before serious illnesses kick in, which can lead to a [lower] rating or an outright decline for a fully underwritten policy down the road," he said.

Mahmood and Gormely were both careful to note that depending on a person’s circumstances, disability and critical illness insurance may be even more of a priority than life insurance.

"The odds of (a young person dying) in a car accident is not impossible, but it’s not likely. What’s far more likely is the odds of becoming disabled and not able to work," Gormely said.

"Sometimes we think that the coverage we’ll get through the Workplace Safety and Insurance Board or our employers is going to be adequate but it’s not. If you’re younger, and especially if you’re working a bit more of a physical job, looking at disability insurance is pretty important, whether or not you end up getting it."

Carter knew that getting life insurance was important for financial reasons and for peace-of-mind.

"I don’t think about it too often, but it’s nice to know it’s in place."

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Sept. 21, 2021.

Leah Golob, The Canadian Press

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