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What couples need to know about buying life insurance

Feb 12, 2019 6 Minute Read

You talk about everything with your partner – your career goals, your next vacation, and which Netflix show to binge-watch this weekend. But have you had the life insurance talk yet?

For most couples, life insurance is something that should be on the radar. Whether you’re happily married with children or happily living together kid-free, sharing financial responsibilities means it’s time to have the coverage conversation. Life insurance is designed to provide a financial cushion to your family if you die unexpectedly, so your partner isn’t devastated financially as well as emotionally.

Chances are, if you’re thinking about getting covered, your partner is, too. Nine in 10 people think that a household’s breadwinner needs to have life insurance, and two in five millennials wish their spouse would buy more life insurance. Before you and your honey have the talk, learn who needs life insurance and how to balance coverage between partners effectively.

Why couples need life insurance

Building a life together means there’s more than just you to worry about now – so it’s best to make sure your partner is protected. Getting covered with life insurance can help you:

  • Cover growing expenses. As the saying goes, first comes love, then comes marriage… followed by a mortgage and daycare costs. If you own a house or have children together, life insurance is a must. If something happens to you, your partner most likely can’t keep up with the bills on one income. Half of people say they would face financial challenges within six months after their household’s breadwinner died, and 35 percent would feel the squeeze within just one month. Life insurance can help protect the life you and your partner have worked to create together. Once you’re covered, it’s a good idea to review your policy anytime you have a child, move into a new house, or have other big life changes.
  • Protect your partner from debt. In the eyes of the law, what’s mine is yours when it comes to debt. If you have co-signed loans, like a car or mortgage, your spouse could be solely responsible for those if something happens to you. Some states also have community property laws, where your partner may be responsible for any personal debts you took on after you got married, like credit card debt or some types of student loans. Don’t leave them on the hook – make sure your life insurance covers them.
  • Lock in lower rates. Earlier is better when it comes to buying life insurance. On average, your premiums go up between 8 and 10 percent a year. Even if kids aren’t in the picture yet, buying life insurance now can mean more cost-effective coverage when you need it.

What’s the best type of life insurance for couples?

As a couple, consider how much you would need to cover all your family’s costs should something happen to you. It’s important to consider current and future expenses you’d need to cover if one of you wasn’t around. Those can include saving for college, replacing income, caring for your kids or other dependents, paying off debt like credit cards or student loans, or paying for a funeral. eFinancial’s term life insurance calculator can help you come up with an initial number.

Once you’re ready to buy, most couples buy two individual policies. Generally, you’ll be able to choose between a few different kinds of life insurance policies from different life insurance companies:

  • Term life insurance is the most flexible and affordable option. With term life policies, you can choose coverage amount and coverage length (ranging from about 10-30 years). And, with term life insurance, you can tailor coverage for both you and your partner, like customizing the coverage amount based on your earnings and individual health.
  • Permanent life insurance is more expensive, but can be the right fit if you have lifelong financial needs, like caring for a disabled family member or the desire to leave a financial legacy for your kids and grandkids.

In some cases, couples buy a joint life insurance policy, which is another type of permanent life insurance. These policies offer first-to-die and second-to-die options. Second-to-die only pays out after both partners have gone, and are generally used to leave a legacy for your family. First-to-die is a better option if you’re looking to take care of a spouse financially after you’ve died. These types of policies can get messy if you end up separating later, so make sure to talk to your life insurance agent about the specifics.

Remember that the best policy for the two of you can differ depending on your age, health history, and other relevant factors. A licensed agent who works with multiple companies can help you shop and compare policies, so you can each find the right fit.

Having the life insurance talk

Like many of life’s decisions, buying life insurance is something you’ll need to tackle together. You can’t buy a life insurance policy for your spouse, so if you want your partner to consider getting covered, try these tips:

  • Time it right. Big life events like buying a house, having a baby, or even a milestone birthday can make your partner more open to a chat about life insurance. No matter when the topic comes up, set some time to discuss when you’re both relaxed and not rushed.
  • Show them the costs. Many people say they haven’t bought life insurance because it’s too expensive – but it turns out a lot of those same people are wildly overestimating the cost. One survey shows half of millennials think life insurance is five times more expensive than it actually is. Try crunching the numbers with eFinancial’s quote engine first to see real prices from multiple carriers.

You’d do anything to protect your partner. As romantic gestures go, it’s tough to beat protection that lasts beyond your own lifetime. Need help getting started? We’re here for you.


At eFinancial, our goal is to make life insurance simple, affordable, and understandable for everyday families. This content is intended for educational purposes only. Each post is carefully fact-checked, reviewed and updated regularly to ensure the information is as relevant as possible.