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Many people have a natural aversion to buying life insurance. In fact they hate the whole idea. After all, you only get something for your money if you die -- and then it doesn't do you much good anyway.

OK, OK -- it's peace of mind you're buying. The assurance that your spouse and children will not have to experience the hardship of losing your income -- or at least have a sum to carry them over for a period of time.

And that's good thinking, even if it feels like you're betting against yourself -- and that you only win if you lose.

Maybe it's best to look at life insurance as a necessary evil -- you know deep inside you just have to have some. And, once you decide you need to be covered, it's time to gain an understanding of the pros and cons of various policies, their costs and which is best for you.

With that in mind, Bankrate presents its 2004 Guide to Life Insurance.

7 top myths surrounding life insurance -- Many myths surround life insurance, such as only the family breadwinner needs life insurance, and you need life insurance totaling seven times your income. Here's the truth.

7 biggest buying mistakes -- Too many people buy the wrong insurance from the wrong companies for the wrong reasons.

Shopping online for life insurance -- Insurers have adapted to the Web, and this electronic convergence of policies, rates and carriers can save you money, as long as you shop as carefully online as you do in the offline world.

ABCs of insurance medical exams -- Your medical exam can have a dramatic effect on your premiums and even whether you get the coverage you want. Here's everything you need to know about the tests.

Getting life insurance -- even if you're unhealthy -- Contrary to widespread belief, you can buy life insurance if you've had a serious illness -- and it pays to shop.

Dangers of depending on group life -- Group life can be a valuable supplement to your own coverage, but putting all your eggs in that basket can make you scramble later on.

Special features

Is your policy self-destructing? -- If you haven't checked on your life insurance policy recently, you may have a lot less insurance than you think.

Term policies with money back -- Finally. In the ongoing debate over what kind of life insurance is best, term or permanent, a new policy has emerged that blends the best aspects of each. It's called Return of Premium Term and it's the hottest thing on the market.

"Free-look" laws give you an out -- If you develop a case of buyer's remorse after signing up for a new life insurance policy, most states' free-look laws provide an easy way out.

Term's up

Replace ART with long lock-in -- Annual renewable term (ART) policies eventually should be swapped for a longer term and locked-in premiums.

Don't lapse your policy -- sell it! -- Just because you don't need or want that old policy anymore doesn't mean it's worthless. How to get some of those premiums back.

When to dump term insurance -- Some people buy term policies for all the right reasons, but hold onto them too long for all the wrong reasons.

2004 Insurance Guide
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