4. Verify the company is sound With financial misdealings and banking scandals making headlines seemingly every week, one good practice when shopping around for life insurance options is to make sure you are only buying from a sound company.
One way to do that is to rely on the ratings of companies like A.M. Best, Standard & Poor's, Weiss Research, Duff & Phelps, or Moody's Investors Service.
These companies check the financial books of the different insurance carriers and make sure the companies will be around if you ever have to cash in that policy.
"These things are tough to judge on your own," Weisbart says. "But you can get some help."
Weisbart suggests you check the ratings of your company against at least two of these services to make sure the first one you picked wasn't skewed in some way.
5. Get some professional help If shopping for an insurance policy still seems daunting, you aren't alone -- at least you don't have to be. That's because in every state, life insurance rates are set by regulators. That means, whether you buy your insurance with the help of a broker, or if you go it alone, the price is the same.
"Since it doesn't cost extra, why not get help from an expert?" Udell says.
But Weisbart says you don't have to start the process in an agent's office.
"It is not a bad idea to go on the Internet and get quotes from sites like Accuquote and Insure.com before talking to a professional," he says. Another good site to get information and quotes is InsureMe.com, a Bankrate company
With a rate in hand, you can be more confident that the broker is being forthright with you.
Where the agent really excels, Udell says, is by steering you toward a policy that fits your specific needs.
"People are bad about knowing what rate class they will qualify for," he says. "If you have risky hobbies or ailments, knowing which company won't charge more for that can end up saving you a lot of money. Brokers know which companies offer what and which companies are your best fits."
6. Ask for a payment plan Assuming you already have the lowest rate available, there is still one more step you can take to ease the burden of your life insurance bill -- ask for a payment plan.
Nearly every insurance company will let you split your premium into monthly installments, and many won't even charge more as long as you agree to have the premium automatically deducted from your account.
The bottom line is that you want to make sure you have enough coverage to pay your expenses if you die, without paying more than you need to.
Michael Giusti is a freelance writer and teaches journalism at Loyola University New Orleans.