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2006: A look back - A look ahead  
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Kids gone? 20 insurance tips for empty nesters

15. Proceed with caution when it comes to health insurance discount cards.
"Make sure you're getting into a legitimate program," Sevigny says. One way to find out: Call your state's insurance department, office of consumer affairs or attorney general's office. "Most states regulate or license insurance products," he says.

Life, disability and long-term care insurance
You're older, and your kids no longer depend on you. That can change your insurance needs and can offer the possibility of real savings.
Tips to save on your insurance
16. Calculate your life insurance coverage.
17. Check your disability coverage.
18. Look at the type of insurance you carry.
19. Consider long-term care insurance.
20. Strategize your spending.

16. Calculate how much life insurance you need.
If the kids are through college, the mortgage is paid, and one or both of you is retired, you might not need to carry as much life insurance.

It is usually meant to replace lost income. When you retire and start tapping your assets, there is no income to replace.

"It's one of the quick areas we look at to reduce expenses," says Benjamin Tobias, CFP, CPA, with Tobias Financial Advisors in Plantation, Fla.

If at least one of you is retired, also look at the other side. Is there money coming in now that would stop or be reduced if one of you died? Would the money that is available be enough for the survivor to live comfortably? Are there special needs to consider, such as supporting an elderly parent or disabled child, or paying off a home or second mortgage? 

"Don't just assume that because the kids are gone, you can drop the life insurance," says Lankford.

17. Check your disability coverage.
"Most disability polices require you to be disabled from work," says Sevigny. If you're retired and not working, do you need it?

18. Look at the type of life insurance you carry.
If you want to keep term insurance and you're fairly healthy, shop around. Term life is one area of insurance where rates have actually gone down, says Lankford. "You may be able to get a new policy at a better rate or lock in a longer time period at the same rate," she says.

If you carry permanent life (not term), you don't want to just stop paying. Find out if you can cash it out, turn it into an annuity or convert it to a self-sustaining policy where the income it produces will cover the premiums, says Thomas Posey, CFP and attorney, president of Posey Capital Management Inc. in Houston.

19. Consider long-term care coverage.
Typically, 50 to the mid-50s is the time to start thinking about long-term care," says Posey. "There's nothing magic about that age, but that's kind of when people start to get worried about it."

The important thing with long-term care is to understand exactly what a policy will (and won't) provide so that you can get one that includes the options you want. For instance, some people buy the policies to give them access to home care after a medical problem. But not every policy will provide that.

"In the world of insurance, this is a relatively new product," says Sevigny. What you want is an agent who is well versed in the nuances of long-term care policies and what each will (and will not) do for you.

20. Strategize your spending.
Do you want to take cash you're not spending on life insurance and buy a good long-term-care policy? Or can you use some of it to beef up your retirement accounts?

It's also a good time to deal with people you trust, and evaluate decisions over both the long and short term. Says Sevigny, "Take it slow, be careful, do your research and get references."

Dana Dratch is a freelance writer based in Atlanta.

-- Posted: Nov. 1, 2006
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