These days, it seems like every other television commercial is for yet another insurance product. While consumer choice can be a good thing, not all insurance is as essential as the ads make it seem. “There’s a lot of sales and marketing based on fear that especially targets retirees,” says Jonathan Howard, a certified financial planner with SeaCure Advisors in Lexington, Ky., as well as a former insurance salesman. “People end up buying because they’re terrified of a loss rather than to cover an actual insurance need.”
Although Howard believes insurance plays an important role in anyone’s financial plan, some products are more about protecting the insurance company’s bottom line rather than yours. Insurance decisions shouldn’t be made in a vacuum. They should consider your entire financial picture. That way, you can identify the gaps and figure out the coverage you truly need, along with any you could do without. Above all, never buy insurance hastily based on fear, especially if it involves the products on this list.
If you’re still working but nearing retirement, consider whether your long-term disability coverage is worth keeping. The premium for an employer group plan typically increases with age, says Greg Klingler, director of wealth management at the Government Employees’ Benefit Association in Fort Meade, Md.
The policy also will limit the payout period until a particular age, such as 65. As this age nears, your maximum possible benefit shrinks. This is especially true for someone who could have retired earlier but is still working. “You’re no longer dependent on your salary, so weigh the value of protecting this extra income versus the high insurance cost,” says Klingler.
When you buy merchandise like computers, televisions, smartphones, and home appliances, chances are the vendor will try to sell you an additional warranty to replace or repair the item after you buy it. Ask yourself whether you have enough savings to replace the product yourself.
By design, insurance must collect more in premiums than it pays out, making it a net negative for the average policyholder. Most policyholders collect nothing.
For major assets like a house or vehicle, most people would find it difficult, if not impossible, to replace them out-of-pocket, so insuring these assets with a home or auto policy makes sense. But for smaller things that you could easily replace yourself, like a $700 laptop, skip the warranty and self-insure instead.
Critical Illness Insurance
A stroke, heart attack, life-threatening cancer and an organ transplant are just some of the serious health issues that critical illness insurance covers. If you develop one of these conditions, the insurer sends you a lump sum cash payment, ranging between $10,000 and $50,000, that can be spent however you want.
Despite this flexibility, Howard isn’t crazy about this type of insurance, “where unless a specific situation happens, you don’t get anything back.” He suggests reviewing your potential out-of-pocket costs for health insurance to see whether you need critical illness insurance or if you could manage the bills with savings.
Social Security Insurance
All the dysfunction and uncertainty in Washington has led to a new product: Social Security insurance. It’s a type of annuity, an insurance contract that turns part of your savings into future income. When you add this insurance to an annuity, the insurer promises your annuity payment will increase to cover any government shortfall that results in a smaller Social Security benefit.
Howard doesn’t think this is a good return on your money. “Retirees vote, and they predominantly live in swing states,” he says. “If the government ever reduced Social Security for people already claiming it, they’d never hear the end of it.”
Perhaps benefits will be cut for future generations, but Howard doesn’t expect those already collecting benefits to have a problem.
Individual Dental and Vision Policies
Travis Price, a Medicare insurance agent in Traverse City, Mich., does not think individual dental and vision policies are worth buying in retirement. “When people are working and get group dental/vision, the insurance coverage is heavily subsidized in the group and by their employer. When they get into the individual marketplace, the coverage costs can increase 10-fold for less coverage.”
Not only are premiums…
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