Being cat­a­pult­ed into the adult world is a shock to the sys­tem, regard­less of how pre­pared you think you are. And these days, it’s more com­pli­cat­ed than ever, with inter­net access and mobile devices being must-have util­i­ties and nav­i­gat­ing tax forms when they aren’t as “EZ” as they used to be.

Maybe you’re still liv­ing with your folks while you get estab­lished. Or maybe you’re look­ing for­ward to mov­ing out of a rental and into a house or to tie the knot. Life insur­ance might be the last thing on your list of things to deal with or even think about. (You’re not alone.) But here are five things you might not know about life insurance—that you prob­a­bly should.

1. Life insur­ance is a form of pro­tec­tion. If you Google “life insur­ance” you’ll get a slew of ads telling you how cheap life insur­ance can be, with­out near­ly enough infor­ma­tion about what you need it for. That’s prob­a­bly because it’s not ter­ri­bly pleas­ant to think about: this idea that we could die and some­one we care about might suf­fer finan­cial­ly as a result. Life insur­ance pro­vides a finan­cial buffer for the peo­ple you care about in the event some­thing hap­pens to you. Think just because you’re sin­gle, nobody would be left in the lurch? Read the next point.

2. Col­lege debt may not go away. Did someone—like your parents—co-sign your stu­dent loans through the bank? If so, the bank won’t dis­charge that debt upon your death the way that the fed­er­al gov­ern­ment would with fed­er­al stu­dent loans. That means your par­ents, or oth­ers who signed the paper­work, would be respon­si­ble for pay­ing the full balance—sometimes imme­di­ate­ly. Don’t sad­dle them with the bill!

3. If you don’t know any­thing about life insur­ance, it’s prob­a­bly bet­ter if you don’t buy it off the inter­net. It’s what we’re used to: You find the thing you need or love on Ama­zon or Ebay or Etsy, click a few but­tons, and POOF. It arrives at your door. But life insur­ance is a finan­cial plan­ning prod­uct, and while it can be as sim­ple as a 20-year term pol­i­cy for less than a cup of cof­fee each day (for real!), going through your options with an insur­ance pro­fes­sion­al can ensure that you get the right amount for the right amount of time and at a price that fits into your bud­get. And many peo­ple don’t know that an agent will sit down and help you out at no cost.

4. Social fundrais­ing only goes so far. This rel­a­tive­ly recent phe­nom­e­non has every­one think­ing that they’ll just turn to GoFundMe if things go awry in their lives. But does any griev­ing per­son want to spend time admin­is­ter­ing a social fundrais­ing site? The chances of going viral are marked­ly slim, and social fundrais­ing sites will take their cut, as will the IRS. And there is absolute­ly no guar­an­tee about how much—if any—money will be raised.

5. The best time is now. You’ll def­i­nite­ly nev­er be younger than you are today, and for most of us, the younger we are the health­i­er we are. Those are two of the most impor­tant fac­tors for get­ting afford­able life insur­ance cov­er­age. So don’t delay.

By Helen Mosher
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