Martin Lewis: I lost a parent before I grew up – why we can’t afford to ignore life insurance

Martin Lewis, founder of

Martin Lewis, founder of - Credit: Archant

All parents want to see their children grow up and flourish.

The thought of not being there, and the impact that would have on them, is almost too unpleasant to bear. Yet I want you to imagine it.

One in 29 children – a typical class size – lose a parent before they grow up.

I was one.

And on top of the horrendous destructive grief, as prosaic as it sounds, there are often serious financial considerations too.

When I meet a new parent, at my TV roadshows, they often ask me about saving for their children.

After congratulating them, and answering, I always ask if they've got life insurance. It is a crucial but often overlooked financial consideration. And we need to override the emotion and examine it clinically.

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There are three types of life insurance.

Life insurance is an insurance policy you take out that's designed to pay out a lump sum when you die – usually either to clear debts, or provide money to live off. There are three main types of policies (other than investment type life assurance plans):

• 1) Level term life insurance – this pays out a set amount if you die during a set time.

• 2) Mortgage decreasing-term life insurance – this aims to clear your mortgage. So as your mortgage debt drops with time, so does the amount it pays out.

• 3) Whole of life insurance – the policy is mainly about mitigating inheritance tax costs.

The cheapest, easy way to protect your family is level term life insurance.

With level term insurance you pay a monthly premium and it pays out a set amount if you die within a set period of time, for example £200,000 if you die within the next 20 years.

The more cover you get and the longer the term you want, the more you'll pay. Providing the company is reputable, it's usually just a case of the cheaper the better.

How much cover do I need?

A rule of thumb is cover 10 times the main breadwinner's income. The aim is to have enough cash to cover the lack of income if you're gone.

So if you have no partner or children who need the money, don't bother.

If you do need cover, it's important to consider the financial impact if you died.

Aim for a lump sum that's enough to repay any outstanding debt (including a mortgage if you don't have a separate policy), and provide for outgoings your dependants would have.

Shortening the term cuts the cost, though generally you'd want cover that lasts until children have finished full-time education.

Those who have had serious medical pre-existing conditions, and smokers, pay more for cover.

If you already have life insurance and have been nicotine free (including e-cigarettes and patches), it could be worth seeing if a new policy would be cheaper – provided you haven't had a serious medical condition meanwhile.

Slash £1,000s off the cost of level term insurance

Never think of life insurance as a monthly cost. You may be paying it for 20 years, so every £1 a month cheaper is a saving of £240.

For full help finding the cheapest policy see, but in brief…

• Beware going direct to an insurer. It's a competitive market and you need to ensure you're finding the cheapest.

• Even comparison sites can be over-expensive. They may find you the cheapest policy, but they usually also take a huge whack of commission from the insurer.

• If you don't need advice, use a discount broker. Here you pay a fee of £25ish, but they rebate all the commission into your policy so it can be £1,000s cheaper. Discount brokers include, and, who will all price match if you find it cheaper elsewhere.

• If you do need advice (and getting it right is important) use an advisory broker or independent financial advisor. While they take the commission, at least they're doing something for it. You can find an IFA at and, or big advisory brokers include and

Write it in trust to protect dependents from tax

A life insurance policy is yours, so if you die the payout forms part of your estate and would be liable for inheritance tax.

However if, when getting out a policy, you write it 'in trust' to your dependents, it is paid directly to them so inheritance tax isn't due, and the money is likely paid out more quickly.

Martin Lewis is the founder and chair of