Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Disaster Proof Your Family

Disaster Proof Your Family - John Jessup

Life throws you a curveball sometimes: cutbacks on the job, a roof that needs to be replaced. You can't completely insulate yourself from such shocks, but three straightforward steps will protect you against 90% of problems.

Step 1: Build an emergency fund Put aside at least three months' worth of living expenses in cash so you can get through a rough patch without having to borrow or dip into retirement savings (make that six months if your family relies on one wage earner).

Step 2: Buy life insurance With insurance, the simplest choice is also the best. In almost every case, term insurance gives you the biggest death benefit for your premium. All you need to decide is how much and for how long. Buy life insurance equal to five to 10 times your annual salary. The more children you have, the more debt you carry and the longer your family will need help (until your kids are out of college, say), the closer you should be to the top end of that range. You can lock in your payment for 10 to 35 years, but for most new insurance buyers 20 years is about right. If you need a quote from me, just let me know.

You also need disability insurance, which typically pays up to 60% of your salary if you can't work. But this policy virtually defies simplification. If you don't get adequate coverage on the job, you'll have to confer with an agent.

Step 3: Write a will You should have a will that, at minimum, appoints a guardian for your minor children, outlines how you want to divvy up your assets and names an executor. If you have an estate worth less than $2 million and you're leaving almost everything to your spouse and kids, you can write it yourself by using off-the-shelf software like Quicken's WillMaker Plus. If your situation is complicated, spend about $1,000 on a lawyer.

John Jessup

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