Life insurance provides financial protection for your loved ones when you die. Essentially, in exchange for your premium payments, the insurance company will pay a lump sum known as a death benefit to your beneficiaries after your death. While this money can never replace you, it can help your loved one(s) live the kind of life you hoped to provide.
Life insurance coverage offers affordable financial protection and invaluable peace of mind. You can choose a legal entity, organization or anyone to be your life insurance beneficiary. You can name multiple beneficiaries and decide what percentage they each will receive when you die. Common choices include:
- Your spouse
- Family members
- A trust
- Charitable organizations
You can customize your policy to fit your family’s needs by choosing the type of policy you buy, the number of years you want it to last and your coverage amount. If you die while your life insurance policy is active, your beneficiaries can file a claim and the death benefit will be paid out to them.
There are two primary types of life insurance: term and permanent life. Permanent life insurance such as whole life insurance or universal life insurance can provide lifetime coverage, while term life insurance provides basic protection for a set period of time.
Term life Insurance:
- Term life insurance guarantees payment of a stated death benefit to the insured’s beneficiaries if the insured person dies during a specified term.
- These policies have no value other than the guaranteed death benefit and feature no savings component as found in a whole life insurance product.
- Term life premiums are based on a person’s age, health, and life expectancy.
- Simplest and most affordable type of life insurance.
Whole Life Insurance:
- Whole life insurance lasts for a policyholder’s lifetime, as opposed to term life insurance, which is for a specific number of years.
- Whole life insurance is paid out to a beneficiary or beneficiaries upon the policyholder’s death, provided that the premium payments were maintained.
- Whole life insurance pays a death benefit, but also has a savings component in which cash can build up.
- The savings component can be invested; additionally, the policyholder can access the cash while alive, by either withdrawing or borrowing against it, when needed.
Universal Life Insurance:
- Universal life (UL) insurance is a form of permanent life insurance with an investment savings element plus low premiums.
- The price tag on universal life (UL) insurance is the minimum amount of a premium payment required to keep the policy.
- Beneficiaries only receive the death benefit.
- Unlike term life insurance, a UL insurance policy can accumulate cash value.
How Do I Choose What is Right for Me?
It can be confusing to choose the right type of life insurance. When you compare some of the biggest differences in life insurance, it is easier to choose.
The biggest difference in term life vs. whole life or universal life insurance is coverage length. Term life insurance is good for people who want a financial safety net for a specific number of working years, such as the years of paying off a mortgage. Different term lengths are available such as 10, 15, 20 or 30 years. Term life insurance is much cheaper than whole life but if you outlive your term, there won’t be a life insurance payout. Term life is a simple, inexpensive way for you to proactively take care of your loved ones so they don’t have to worry when you’re gone.
Whole and universal life insurance give you coverage for the duration of your life. It also includes a cash value component. The biggest difference between whole life insurance and universal life insurance is the cost. Whole life insurance is generally the most expensive way to buy permanent life insurance because of the guarantees within the policy: premiums are guaranteed not to change, the death benefit is guaranteed and cash value has a minimum guaranteed rate of return. Whole life insurance is good for people who like predictability and want lifelong coverage to build cash value. Your beneficiary will get a guaranteed life insurance payout as long as you’ve paid the premiums to keep the policy current. This type of policy tends to cost more in the early years to support the guarantees it provides. But, as the cost of living goes up in the years ahead, your whole life insurance premium will remain identical every month and will never cost more.
Universal life insurance often offers more flexibility than a whole life insurance policy. These policies offer lifelong coverage, provide flexibility when it comes to paying premiums and choices for how the policy’s cash value is invested. A standard universal life insurance policy’s cash value grows according to the performance of the insurer’s portfolio and can be used to pay premiums. With a universal life insurance policy, the cash value will build depending on the policy type. If you want to build tax-deferred savings and don’t expect to tap into the funds for a long time, universal life may be a suitable option for you.
No one wants to talk about it, but we have to. You need life insurance. When you’re gone, those you love will be grieving. This is unavoidable. Leaving them to struggle financially, however, is avoidable. Talking to a professional when you choose your life insurance plan can help you to find ways to afford the right kind of coverage.
Check out these great resources to better educate yourself on choosing life insurance:
Term vs. Whole Life Insurance: How to Choose
Life Insurance Basics
8 Smart Steps for Buying Life Insurance
WASHINGTON — The Internal Revenue Service today launched two new online tools designed to help families manage and monitor the advance monthly payments of Child Tax Credits under the American Rescue Plan. These two new tools are in addition to the Non-filer Sign-up Tool, announced last week, which helps families not normally required to file an income tax return to quickly register for the Child Tax Credit.
The new Child Tax Credit Eligibility Assistant allows families to answer a series of questions to quickly determine whether they qualify for the advance credit.
The Child Tax Credit Update Portal allows families to verify their eligibility for the payments and if they choose to, unenroll, or opt out from receiving the monthly payments so they can receive a lump sum when they file their tax return next year. This secure, password-protected tool is available to any eligible family with internet access and a smart phone or computer. Future versions of the tool planned in the summer and fall will allow people to view their payment history, adjust bank account information or mailing addresses and other features. A Spanish version is also planned.
Both the Child Tax Credit Eligibility Assistant and Child Tax Credit Update Portal are available now on IRS.gov.
The American Rescue plan increased the maximum Child Tax Credit amount in 2021 to $3,600 per child for children under the age of 6 and to $3,000 per child for children ages 6 through 17. The advance Child Tax Credit payments, which will generally be made on the 15th of each month, create financial certainty for families to plan their budgets. Eligible families will receive a payment of up to $300 per month for each child under age 6, and up to $250 per month for each child ages 6 through 17. The first monthly payment of the expanded and newly-advanceable Child Tax Credit will be made on July 15. Most families will begin receiving monthly payments automatically next month without any further action required.
“IRS employees continue to work hard to help people receive this important credit,” IRS Commissioner Chuck Rettig said. “The Update Portal is a key piece among the three new tools now available on IRS.gov to help families understand, register for and monitor these payments. We will be working across the nation with partner groups to share information and help eligible people receive the advance payments.”
More features coming to the Update Portal soon
Coming soon, families will be able to use the Child Tax Credit Update Portal to check the status of their payments. In late June, people will be able to update their bank account information for payments starting in August. In early August, a feature is planned that will allow people to update their mailing address. Then, in future updates planned for this summer and fall, they will be able to use this tool for things like updating family status and changes in income.
For more information see the FAQs, which will continue to be updated.
Update Portal allows people to unenroll
Instead of receiving these advance payments, some families may prefer to wait until the end of the year and receive the entire credit as a refund when they file their 2021 return. In this first release of the tool, the Child Tax Credit Update Portal now enables these families to quickly and easily unenroll from receiving monthly payments.
The unenroll feature can also be helpful to any family that no longer qualifies for the Child Tax Credit or believes they will not qualify when they file their 2021 return. This could happen if, for example:
- Their income in 2021 is too high to qualify them for the credit.
- Someone else (an ex-spouse or another family member, for example) qualifies to claim their child or children as dependents in 2021.
- Their main home was outside of the United States for more than half of 2021.
Accessing the Update Portal
To access the Child Tax Credit Update Portal, a person must first verify their identity. If a person has an existing IRS username or an ID.me account with a verified identity, they can use those accounts to easily sign in. People without an existing account will be asked to verify their identity with a form of photo identification using ID.me, a trusted third party for the IRS. Identity verification is an important safeguard and will protect your account from identity theft.
Anyone who lacks internet access or otherwise cannot use the online tool may unenroll by contacting the IRS at the phone number included in your outreach letter.
Who is getting a monthly payment
In general, monthly payments will go to eligible families who:
- Filed either a 2019 or 2020 federal income tax return.
- Used the Non-Filers tool on IRS.gov in 2020 to register for an Economic Impact Payment.
- Registered for the advance Child Tax Credit this year using the new Non-Filer Sign-up Tool on IRS.gov.
An eligible family who took any of these steps does not need to do anything else to get their payments.
Normally, the IRS will calculate the advance payment based on the 2020 income tax return. If that return is not available, either because it has not yet been filed or it has not yet been processed, the IRS is instead determining the payment using the 2019 tax return.
Eligible families will receive advance payments, either by direct deposit or check. Each payment will be up to $300 per month for each child under age 6 and up to $250 per month for each child ages 6 through 17. The IRS will issue advance Child Tax Credit payments on these dates: July 15, August 13, September 15, October 15, November 15 and December 15.
The IRS urges any family who hasn’t yet filed their 2020 return – or 2019 return – to do so as soon as possible so they can receive any advance payment they’re eligible for. At the same time, the agency cautions that tax returns must be processed by June 28 to be reflected in the first batch of monthly payments scheduled for July 15, so eligible families filing now will likely receive payments in the following months. Even if monthly payments begin after July, the IRS will adjust the monthly amounts upward to ensure that people still receive half of their total eligible Child Tax Credit benefit by the end of the year.
Filing soon will also ensure that the IRS has their most current bank account information, as well as key details about qualifying family members. This includes people who don’t normally file a tax return, such as families experiencing homelessness and people in underserved groups.
For most people, the fastest and easiest way to file a return is by using IRS Free File, available only on IRS.gov. Besides qualifying them for these advance payments, using Free File will also enable them to claim other family-oriented tax benefits, if eligible, such as the Earned Income Tax Credit and the Recovery Rebate Credit/Economic Impact Payments.
New tool helps non-filers register
For families who don’t normally file an income tax return, another easy option is to register for these advance payments using the new Non-filer Sign-up Tool, introduced recently, and available only on IRS.gov. Among other things, the tool asks users to supply current bank information, along with key details about themselves and their qualifying children. The tool then automatically fills in a very basic 2020 federal income tax return that is electronically sent to the IRS. The new tool was developed in partnership with Intuit and the Free File Alliance.
Child Tax Credit Eligibility Assistant unveiled
Before filing a return or using the Non-filer Sign-up Tool, families unsure of whether they qualify for either the credit or the advance payments may want to check out another new tool — the Child Tax Credit Eligibility Assistant. By answering a series of questions, the tool helps people determine if they qualify for the credit and the payments.
The IRS emphasized that because the Child Tax Credit Eligibility Assistant requests no personalized information, it is not a registration tool, but merely an eligibility tool. Nevertheless, it can still help an eligible family determine whether they should take the next step and either file an income tax return or register using the Non-filer Sign-up Tool.
Personal help available
IRS and its partners are helping families register for the payments using the Non-filer Sign-up Tool. During late June and early July, free events will take place in Atlanta, Brooklyn, Detroit, Houston, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Miami, Milwaukee, Philadelphia, Phoenix, St. Louis and Washington, D.C. More details will be available soon on IRS.gov.
Child Tax Credit 2021
The IRS has created a special Advance Child Tax Credit 2021 page, designed to provide the most up-to-date information about the credit and the advance payments. It’s at IRS.gov/childtaxcredit2021.
Among other things, it provides direct links to the Non-Filer Sign Up Tool, the Child Tax Credit Update Portal, the Child Tax Credit Eligibility Assistant, a set of frequently asked questions and other useful resources.
Child Tax Credit changes
The American Rescue Plan raised the maximum Child Tax Credit in 2021 to $3,600 for children under the age of 6 and to $3,000 per child for children ages 6 through 17. Before 2021, the credit was worth up to $2,000 per eligible child.
The new maximum credit is available to taxpayers with a modified adjusted gross income (AGI) of:
- $75,000 or less for singles,
- $112,500 or less for heads of household and
- $150,000 or less for married couples filing a joint return and qualified widows and widowers.
For most people, modified AGI is the amount shown on Line 11 of their 2020 Form 1040 or 1040-SR. Above these income thresholds, the extra amount above the original $2,000 credit — either $1,000 or $1,600 per child — is reduced by $50 for every $1,000 in modified AGI. In addition, the credit is fully refundable for 2021. This means that eligible families can get it, even if they owe no federal income tax. Before this year, the refundable portion was limited to $1,400 per child.
Help spread the word
The IRS urges community groups, non-profits, associations, education organizations and anyone else with connections to people with children to share this critical information about the Child Tax Credit as well as other important benefits. Among other things, the IRS is already working closely with its community partners to ensure wide access to the Non-filer Sign-up Tool and the Child Tax Credit Update Portal. The agency is also providing additional materials and information that can be easily shared by social media, email and other methods.
For the most up-to-date information on the Child Tax Credit and advance payments, visit Advance Child Tax Credit Payments in 2021.
Originally posted on IRS.gov
There have been important changes to the Child Tax Credit that will help many families receive advance payments starting this summer. The American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) of 2021 expands the Child Tax Credit (CTC) for tax year 2021 only.
The expanded credit means:
- The credit amounts will increase for many taxpayers.
- The credit for qualifying children is fully refundable, which means that taxpayers can benefit from the credit even if they don’t have earned income or don’t owe any income taxes.
- The credit will include children who turn age 17 in 2021.
- Taxpayers may receive part of their credit in 2021 before filing their 2021 tax return.
For tax year 2021, families claiming the CTC will receive up to $3,000 per qualifying child between the ages of 6 and 17 at the end of 2021. They will receive $3,600 per qualifying child under age 6 at the end of 2021. Under the prior law, the amount of the CTC was up to $2,000 per qualifying child under the age of 17 at the end of the year.
The increased amounts are reduced (phased out), for incomes over $150,000 for married taxpayers filing a joint return and qualifying widows or widowers, $112,500 for heads of household, and $75,000 for all other taxpayers.
Advance payments of the 2021 Child Tax Credit will be made regularly from July through December to eligible taxpayers who have a main home in the United States for more than half the year. The total of the advance payments will be up to 50 percent of the Child Tax Credit. Advance payments will be estimated from information included in eligible taxpayers’ 2020 tax returns (or their 2019 returns if the 2020 returns are not filed and processed yet).
The IRS urges people with children to file their 2020 tax returns as soon as possible to make sure they’re eligible for the appropriate amount of the CTC as well as any other tax credits they’re eligible for, including the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC). Filing electronically with direct deposit also can speed refunds and future advance CTC payments.
Eligible taxpayers do not need to take any action now other than to file their 2020 tax return if they have not done so.
Eligible taxpayers who do not want to receive advance payment of the 2021 Child Tax Credit will have the opportunity to decline receiving advance payments. Taxpayers will also have the opportunity to update information about changes in their income, filing status or the number of qualifying children. More details on how to take these steps will be announced soon.
The IRS also urges community groups, non-profits, associations, education groups and anyone else with connections to people with children to share this critical information about the CTC. The IRS will be providing additional materials and information that can be easily shared by social media, email and other methods.
The IRS will provide more information about advance payments soon.
Additional information can be found at IRS.gov/childtaxcredit2021
About half of all Americans make New Year’s resolutions. Along with exercising more and eating better, many people aim to get a better handle on their finances.
If you’re in that camp, we’re here to help. Here are some surefire steps to create a more financially secure future for you and your loved ones.
- Create a budget.
The first step toward getting financially fit is to create a budget. Everyone needs an understanding of how much they’re earning, how much they’re spending, and how they’re going to meet their current and future financial goals. The Federal Trade Commission has information on how to create a budget. Once you outline your budget, make sure to stick to it. Also make sure to regularly revisit it and adjust it as needed.
- Control and minimize debt.
Your budget will help you keep track of where your money is going. It will also help you identify areas where you’re overspending. It’s critical to cut out any excess spending. Also work to minimize your debt load. So long as you have debt, you’ll be responsible for paying interest. (So definitely make an effort to pay more than the minimum on your credit card each month!) Set goals to pay off your debt and track your progress.
3. Automate an emergency fund.
An emergency fund is money you set aside for unforeseen expenses. They could be an unexpected home or car repair or a job loss. Most financial professionals recommend having three to six months of basic living expenses in an emergency fund. However, it takes time to build those funds. Automate the process by having part of your paycheck deposited into a special emergency fund account. You can also have your bank automatically transfer funds to a savings account earmarked for emergency expenses. Even a small amount each week can help you get there.
- Get life insurance to protect your loved ones and review it annually.
Life insurance provides your loved ones with money to maintain their lifestyle if you die. This money is known as the death benefit and it can replace your income, pay off debts like a mortgage, and cover funeral costs. It can also help with future expenses like college tuition, retirement, and much more. Experts recommend having life insurance that equals between 10 to 15 times your gross income. For a working idea of how much you need, use an online calculator like the Life Insurance Needs Calculator. Then work with an insurance professional to explore your options and get the right coverage. Make sure to review your life insurance annually or after a big life change like buying a new house, having a baby, or changing jobs.
- Protect your paycheck with disability insurance and review it annually.
Disability insurance is one of the best ways to protect your most important asset: your paycheck. Disability insurance typically replaces 50% to 70% of your earnings if you’re unable to work due to a disabling illness or injury. An easy way to calculate how much you might need is to use an online calculator like the Disability Insurance Needs Calculator. Make sure to review your coverage with your HR department or insurance professional as your salary increases.
- Keep beneficiaries up to date.
It’s important to update the beneficiaries on your financial accounts like your life insurance or 401(k). This is especially true after major life events such as a marriage, divorce, birth, or death. Not having the right beneficiary can lead to money going to the wrong person or delays in disbursing money.
- Put a will in place.
A will is a document that allows you to specify certain things after you die. They can include how your assets will be distributed, who will make sure your wishes are carried out, and who will take care of any minor children. Without a will, the state could decide who gets your children and more. Fortunately, the process of creating a will is not as complicated as many people believe. And it’s well worth it since it spares your loved ones from all kinds of headaches. A lawyer can help you create a will and discuss other issues like power of attorney.
8. Save for retirement.
Tap into any available resources to help grow your retirement nest egg. That includes enrolling in your company’s 401(k) plan or looking into other retirement savings options like an IRA. Definitely take advantage of any “matching funds” your company makes to your 401(k) contributions. Matching funds are like “free money.” What’s more, the contributions you make to your 401(k) reduce your taxable income.
Make 2021 the year you become financially fit by following these steps. Each one will create a better, more protected future for you and your loved ones.
By Marvin Feldman
Originally posted on lifehappens.org
The COVID-19 pandemic has changed so much of our world, from day-to-day activities to long-range plans. But one thing hasn’t changed: the need for life insurance. If you have put off getting it—or more of it—here are three reasons to take a closer look now.
1. Life insurance offers financial protection.
And it can be your family’s financial bedrock, providing protection against unforeseen events. Unfortunately, many Americans are uninsured or underinsured: Just 50% of Americans own a policy, according to the 2020 Lincoln Financial Group Life Insurance Awareness Month Survey.
The COVID-19 pandemic, however, has put the value of life insurance back into the spotlight. More than a third of those surveyed said they think life insurance is more important to own now due to the pandemic, while a third also said they have or are planning to purchase new or additional life insurance.
Of those surveyed, that intent to buy life insurance was even greater among younger Americans, particularly Millennials. That’s great news, as they are often reaching new milestones in life such as starting a family or buying their first home.
2. There’s more to life insurance than you may think, including living benefits.
The top reasons people cited in the survey for purchasing life insurance were to cover funeral related expenses and to replace lost income to their family.
That make’s perfect sense. In its purest form, as a source of income replacement when someone dies, the tax-free death benefits of life insurance ensures your loved ones are taken care of financially so they can payoff final expenses and debt.
But there are also policies that also provide “living benefits” that can address holistic financial needs such as:
- Providing supplemental retirement income
- Paying for long-term care expenses
- Protecting a business
And these living benefits really appeal to people: 45% of those surveyed said they would be more likely to purchase life insurance if it provided more than just death-benefit protection, and you could use it for future needs or emergencies while you’re alive. The good news is these types of policies already exist!
3. Applying for life insurance may be easier and less expensive than you think.
The top two obstacles people cited for not having life insurance were the cost and competing financial priorities, according to the survey. But in reality, life insurance can be pretty affordable. In fact, if you’re healthy, you may be able to get term life insurance coverage for less than your monthly utility bill or the amount you spend each week on your daily morning coffee. The wide range of options available mean there is a policy to fit different budgets.
Technology innovations are also transforming how we buy life insurance, from a long and cumbersome process to one that’s simpler, faster and friendlier. And 40% of Millennials surveyed said they would be more likely to purchase life insurance if they could do so completely electronically. This is actually already possible! You can receive a quote and apply for a policy online, and then have the policy signed and delivered electronically. Many insurance companies even offer the opportunity for healthy individuals to bypass underwriting labs. Today, policies can potentially be issued in as little as 24 hours.
While the global pandemic has increased awareness around the need for life insurance, life insurance should always be viewed as an important financial planning tool that can help families build, manage, protect and pass on their assets and legacy. I’d encourage you to speak with a financial or insurance professional or your workplace benefits specialist to help you determine where life insurance fits into your financial plan, ensure the coverage you have continues to meet your needs, or explore your options if you need coverage or more of it.
(Lincoln Financial Group is the marketing name for Lincoln National Corporation and its affiliates. Lincoln Financial Group survey conducted by ENGINE INSIGHTS July 17-19, 2020. The views expressed are those of the authors as of the date specified. LCN: 3246616-091720)
By Stafford Thompson, Jr.
Originally posted on Life Happens
COVID-19 has upended life as we know it for millions of people around the world. Many of us—including the young and healthy—are seriously contemplating our mortality for the first time.
As the parent of a toddler, with a baby on the way, I’m definitely in this camp. It’s deeply unsettling to ponder how this virus has cut short so many lives in the span of just a few months.
I can’t escape the reality that I’m not invincible and never really have been. Whether it’s an accident, a terminal illness or an infectious disease, untimely deaths happen and none of us are assured a long, healthy life.
That thought paralyzed me before I decided to take a proactive approach to things. The good news is that there are concrete actions you can take today to protect the ones you love and get some peace of mind during these challenging times. Here are four definitely worth doing.
1. Prepare your will. Not even half of Americans have a will, which is a legal document that spells out your wishes for where your assets go and who cares for any minor children in the event you pass away. If you die without a will, your individual state’s laws will decide where your money and belongings go and who takes care of your kids. As if that isn’t bad enough, dying without a will generally delays the process of resolving your estate and can subject it to additional taxes.
Spare your loved ones from this experience with a will. Many people use a lawyer to draw up a will, especially if they have large or complicated estates. These days, many lawyers can help you via email, phone and teleconference, so don’t let social distancing stop you from getting a will.
Another option is to create a will online. This is a fast and inexpensive option for anyone on a budget or with uncomplicated needs. A few popular resources include LegalZoom, Quicken WillMaker & Trust and Do Your Own Will. (The final option is free!)
2. Create an advanced directive. An advanced directive is another legal document you’ll want to lock down. It explains what kind of medical care you’d want in the event you can’t speak for yourself.
The most common types of advanced directives are the living will and the durable power of attorney. A living will spells out your health care wishes in the event you’re terminally ill and unable to express your wishes or permanently unconscious. Meanwhile, a durable power of attorney is a document in which you name a trusted person to make health care decisions for you in the event you’re unable to do so.
An attorney can help you create an advanced directive or you can create one for free online using a form from your state. (Check your state’s website for its individual form.) If you go the latter route, make sure to check your state’s laws about advanced directives. Some require you to sign them in the presence of a witness, while others require them to be notarized. (And yes, you can now get documents notarized online through services like notarize.com.)
3. Look into life insurance. If anyone depends on your earnings or unpaid labor (I’m looking at you, stay-at-home parents and caregivers), it’s absolutely essential to have at least some life insurance in place. From funeral costs to the mortgage to everyday living expenses, life insurance steps in to smooth things over financially if you aren’t in the picture.
I know the last thing many of us want right now is an added expense. But this is one well worth having—and it’s probably a lot less than you think. A healthy 30-year-old can get a $250,000 20-year level term policy for just $13 a month.
Any amount of life insurance is better than none at all, so contact an agent today to get a policy that works for your life and budget. (Like lawyers and notaries, many of them can work with you over phone, email and teleconferencing tools!)
4. Consider disability insurance. Illnesses and injuries curtail many people’s careers and lifetime earnings unexpectedly every year. With respect to the current crisis, those hospitalized for COVID-19 often have long roads to recovery as well as lifelong complications. Whether the health challenge leads to short-term or permanent consequences, it’s hard to stay on top of bills when your paycheck stops.
This is where disability insurance can be a lifesaver. This “insurance for your paycheck” protects your income until you’re able to return to work. Like life insurance, there are policies for every situation and budget. Learn about the three main ways to get disability coverage.
I’m the first to admit that contemplating these realities isn’t a fun way to pass the time. But something far worse is knowing that the people I love the most would be in a bind if the unthinkable happened. Plus, tackling these to-do’s gave me a much-needed sense of control during these unpredictable times—I hope it does the same for you, too.
By Amanda Austin
Originally posted on lifehappens.org