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Benefits 2005, Part 2: Term Life Insurance

Contributed by mm | November 15, 2004 12:38 PM PST

After the quick walkthrough of 401(k), let me discuss the life insurance part of the benefit package. Being risk-averse, I consider insurance as a critical part of my personal finance world. You have known from PFBlog that on top of $500,000 liability coverage in my auto and home insurance policy, I also obtained $1,000,000 umbrella insurance. Life insurance is no exception and I am taking it seriously.

Here are the basic rules of the game:

Employee Life Insurance

- Microsoft pays for the cost of employee life insurance equal to two times of annual base pay.
- Employee can elect to purchase coverage up to six times of annual base pay. Insurance over two times of annual base pay can be purchased with pre-tax dollars.
- According to IRS rules, employer-paid life insurance coverage above $50,000 is considered taxable income to you. The effect on your Federal Income and Social Security taxes will depend on your age, tax situation and how much life insurance over $50,000 you choose.

Dependent Life Insurance

- Employee may elect coverage for spouse/same-sex partner and/or children using after-tax money, including:
* Spouse/same-sex domestic partner (from a minimum of $5,000 to a maximum of 50% of the amount you elect for yourself)
* Children’s insurance ($5,000, $10,000, or $15,000 in coverage for each child)

Now comes the decisions. As a starter, child insurance is definitely a no-go (and here is why). Between employee insurance and spouse insurance, apparently we can either purchase insurance for our own, or let the other purchase dependent insurance to server the same purpose.

The math is pretty interesting: for me to purchase every $100,000 coverage for my wife (under the dependent insurance benefits), it will cost $2.35 per pay period or $56.40 per year. For my wife to purchase her own employee insurance from the benefit package, every $100,000 coverage will cost $3.34 per pay period or $80.16 per year.

The other way around, for me to get into my wife's dependent policy, every $100,000 coverage will cost $96.48 per year; I can get the same $100,000 coverage from my employee insurance for $56.40 a year only.

So I can play a little bit arbitrage here: I will purchase both life insurance policies from my benefits package, and allow my wife to enrol for the minimal ($50,000 coverage) and take some money from Microsoft.

One final check will be whether the coverage is sufficient, and my judgment is it is. Even the coverage is not enough, having to pay $80-$90 a year for $100,000 coverage is a waste of money -- the last time I checked, I can get $500,000 coverage for about $200 a year with 10-year guaranteed rate.

Read The Complete Benefits 2005 Series:

Benefits 2005, Part 1: 401(k)
Benefits 2005, Part 2: Term Life Insurance
Benefits 2005, Part 3: Flexible Spending Accounts
Benefits 2005, Part 4: Accidental Death and Dismemberment
Benefits 2005, Part 5: Everything Else

This Post Has Received 29 Comments. Share Your Opinions Too.

Joe K Commented on February 8, 2005

I read your blog with enormous interest (P.S. I just voted your's as the best blog) and find your writings about your own choices (for example your analysis on college savings, insurance and asset allocation) the most interesting. Anyway, the reason for this comment is to solicit your view on the Survivorship Variable Universal Life (SVUL) insurance product. I find these products very intriguing. First the drawback that I read about them is that they have high costs when you add the mutual fund expenses + insurance fee (2.5%+). But the advantage purely lies in the fact that you can take loans out of this product. So here is what I think: invest a bunch of money into riskier / agressive funds within the SVUL. Wait 15-18 years and tap into this through loans for college / vacation home... you name it. You have complete flexibility and it has 0 tax consequences. You do leave enough in the SVUL to sustain itself. You might decide to put the balance (after loans) to say a fixed return investment within the SVUL, enough to cover the costs of the SVUL till you die. Whatever remains goes to your heirs. So one plans for this to be part of their estate. The way I see it - even paying the higher costs still beats the tax-free withdrawal for which you have completely flexibility and no penalty. Plus since it is an insurance product this does not get considered as part of ones assets in computing financial aid if you were to use withdrawal / loans for college. Your thoughts?

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