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Shawn Wall, Edward JonesValentine's Day is almost upon us. To celebrate, you may want to present your loved ones with chocolates, flowers or any number of other traditional gifts. But if your valentine also happens to be your spouse or your life partner, you also might want to show your love in another way — by making sure you have adequate insurance.

Just consider some of the things that life insurance can do for you and your family:

•Pay off your mortgage — With sufficient life insurance, your family can remain in their home should anything happen to you.

•Educate your children — College is expensive, and it seems to get more costly every year. If you were to die prematurely, your life insurance proceeds could help pay for your children's education.

•Help fund retirement — Term insurance consists of just a death benefit. But "permanent" insurance policies, such as whole life or universal life, a tax-advantaged savings component that could help pay for your retirement and help keep you financially independent — which means you won't have to worry about being a "burden" to your grown children. Furthermore, proceeds from your life insurance policy could help your surviving spouse retire more comfortably.

•Help protect your business — If you're involved in a family-owned business enterprise, you can structure a life insurance policy to help preserve the business or transfer it to the next generation.

•Pay for estate taxes — If your estate is sizable, it could generate estate taxes. Life insurance proceeds can help your heirs pay these taxes.

Clearly, life insurance offers a variety of benefits. But how much do you need? And what type do you need? You might hear that your coverage should be worth around seven or eight times your annual salary. But there's really no one-size-fits-all formula. In determining how much life insurance you require, you should consider your age, your income, the size of your family, the amount of your mortgage, whether your spouse has a retirement account, your financial goals and other factors. Your financial advisor can help you assess these variables to determine the appropriate level of coverage.

One final word on life insurance: Don't wait too long before purchasing a policy or upgrading your existing one. Your life insurance premium is based, in part, on your age, so the sooner you act, the better. Also, the time to buy life insurance is while you are healthy, because poor health could prevent you from obtaining coverage.

As important as it is, life insurance isn't the only protection you and your loved ones may need. During your working years, you are actually more likely to become temporarily disabled, due to injury or illness, than you are to die. If you weren't able to work for a while, you could help your family maintain its lifestyle if you had an adequate disability income insurance policy. Your employer might offer you some coverage as a benefit, but it might not be sufficient, either in terms of income or the length of the disability covered. Consequently, you may want to explore an individual disability insurance policy.

When you think of romantic Valentine's Day presents, "insurance" probably doesn't pop up right away. Yet, by making sure you've got all the coverage you need, you may actually be giving your loved ones the greatest gift they'll ever receive.


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