5 Stumbling Blocks to Getting Life Insurance—and How to Overcome Them

Learn ways to kick-start the conversation with your partner to get the protection your household needs.

a couple discusses life insurance with a financial planner

Medically reviewed in February 2022

Updated on May 19, 2022

Few couples relish the idea of discussing life insurance. Some just don’t want to think about it, while others may mistakenly assume they don’t need life insurance coverage. But having a conversation and taking steps to get adequate coverage for both partners is key to any family’s financial plan. If you don’t, your family’s financial stability could be in jeopardy should one of you die. Find out about common obstacles to getting life insurance, along with ways to overcome them. 

It can be a difficult topic to broach
That’s because of the negativity often surrounding it. For many households, it’s easier to back-burner the subject time and again.

Planning a vacation? Fun. Preparing for your own mortality? Not so much. 

It takes effort
Buying a pair of shoes is one thing. Shopping for life insurance can take research, time, and serious decision-making.

Along with deciding which type of life insurance is best for you, “you need to fill out an application, there may be a medical exam, you may need blood tests,” says Maria Ferrante-Schepis, president of Maddock Douglas and a veteran of the insurance industry. “It’s easy to give up in the middle of the process because of other things getting in the way, or it can be annoying.” 

You may not feel the urgency
If you’re young and healthy, it may seem that you have all the time in the world to buy life insurance.

“People know it’s important, but it’s easy to put off because it feels so far in the future,” says Ferrante-Schepis. “You’re focusing on things going on in life screaming at you right now.”

But as the saying goes, tomorrow is promised to no one, and an untimely death could create severe financial hardship for your family. On the other hand, the sense of urgency may emerge at a less than optimal time.

“Your health may change and it becomes more present,” says Ferrante-Schepis. “But that’s the worst time to apply. It will be much more expensive or impossible to get.” 

It seems unaffordable
It’s not out of the question for a young family to need a large policy for adequate coverage. Experts recommend taking your income and multiplying that by 10 to determine the amount. You may also want to add $100,000 more for each child to that base number. One possible roadblock is that the amount of coverage needed gives the false impression that it’s expensive.

Ferrante-Schepis points out that a healthy woman in her thirties could buy a $500,000, 20-year term life insurance policy for about $20 a month.

While $1,000,000 in coverage may seem like a lot, “it’s really not when you consider how long it would have to last, especially if you have young children,” Ferrante-Schepis says. Life insurance should help pay off debts, funeral costs, and replace the income of the person who dies.

“If one spouse dies, the other will be a single parent taking on all of the financial responsibilities of the household along with additional ones, like childcare and the cost of college. If the surviving parent has a money crisis on top the emotional one, that adds stress to an already stressful situation.” 

It can be emotionally charged
“One partner may not want to discuss getting life insurance because of the notion that they’ll be worth more dead than alive,” Ferrante-Schepis, says. “It’s not the majority, but if a partner feels that way, it’s embarrassing. They don’t want to voice it, which pushes the conversation under the rug.” 

To ease the anxiety this topic brings, it might be wise to begin by discussing how to secure a financial future through retirement planning or investing, and then move on to life insurance. You can reassure your partner that life insurance doesn’t mean a windfall upon their death and that no amount of money could make up for their absence.

Tips to get started 
Try a straightforward approach if you’ve been tiptoeing around the subject. Sometimes saying, “let’s just do it” is enough to get off the starting block. But if that doesn’t work try these strategies:

Play the “what if” game. This simply involves gently posing a few questions to get your partner thinking about the possibilities. Some examples to get you startedinclude:

  • What if something happened to one of us?
  • What if we had to pay the bills on one salary?
  • What if I had to manage on my own?

Put it on a third party or external source. You might mention that you were poking around online and came across an article on life insurance, or that you found an online calculator you want to share to test out various scenarios. Another strategy would be to meet with a financial advisor or your accountant to review your finances. These experts would likely recommend that you get life insurance once they know you don’t already have it.

Use positive life events. Buying a new home or having a baby can be great conversation starters. Negative events, on the other hand, such as attending a funeral, can also serve as a trigger. It may come to light that the survivors have the benefit of a life insurance policy to keep them afloat or, on the flip side, there was no policy and they now experience the consequences.

Lacking coverage can come with an additional cost as well: It can create a good deal of stress, especially for the partner who is more acutely aware of the need for it. While it may take a few tries, it’s well worth the effort of having the conversation and then taking the steps needed to ensure your family’s financial stability—and your own peace of mind.

Deborah Wilburn is the author of For Richer Not Poorer: The Newlywed's Financial Survival Guide.

Article sources open article sources

Andrew Beattie. How Much Life Insurance Should You Carry? Investopedia. Updated April 14, 2022.
Louis Wilson. Who needs a $500,000 life insurance policy? Haven Life. October 14, 2021.
Quentin Fottrell. I want to take a life-insurance policy out on my husband. He says ‘hell will freeze over’ before he’s worth more dead than alive. MarketWatch. Last Updated: June 21, 2021.

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