Advice for scandal-wary life insurance shoppers
By Jonah Freedman

(MONEY Magazine) – COMMISSIONS Buyer beware

As much as 90% of your first year's premium goes into your agent's pocket as a commission, so he's got a big incentive to sell you a new policy.

LIFE 101 Term vs. whole life

Term policies are for set periods, like 10 or 20 years. Whole life policies are for, well, your whole life and are more expensive; some of your premium is invested. You're usually better off buying term life and doing your own investing.

COVER ME How much do I need?

Think about how much money your family would need, absent your earnings, and what they'd need it for. Many experts recommend at least five to seven times your annual income. Check out the "Needs" calculators at the sites below.

THE TOOLS How to shop

Compare term rates at, and These are bargain-basement rates, and not everyone will qualify. Check out low-fee providers such as Ameritas Direct, USAA and TIAA-CREF.


Most group policies aren't very generous. If your job offers one free, take it. If you have to pay, consider opting out. Either way, you'll probably need more coverage. —JONAH FREEDMAN