Many Canadians enjoy the benefits of life insurance through their jobs. But is your employer’s life insurance enough for you? Should you rely on the coverage you get from your work to protect your family’s financial stability?
In this article, we’ll focus on answering these questions. First, we’ll start by explaining what kind of life insurance your employer is providing you with. Then, we’ll go over some of the strengths and weaknesses of employer-provided life insurance. Finally, we’ll show what an individual life insurance plan does better, and how you could use an individual plan to supplement your job’s life insurance policy.
The kind of life insurance that an employer provides to its employees is called Group Life insurance. As the name implies, group life insurance is a policy that covers a group of people, in this case employees of a company.
With a group life plan, the policyholder is not the same as the insured party. The policyholder is the company, whereas the insured party is the group of employees like you. The big advantage of this is that the company is responsible for paying all or a majority of the policy’s premiums. This leaves you, the employee, with very little responsibility and all the benefits of your group life insurance!
There are two conventional ways for determining your group life insurance’s coverage amount. The first is a fixed amount that is identical for all insured persons under the policy. The second is a multiple of the insured employee’s salary, typically 2 or 3 years worth.
While we believe you shouldn’t rely too much on your employer’s life insurance, there are still great sides to it. It’s important to know what good comes from a Group Life plan to see where it falls short later on.
So let’s look at the upsides of a Group Life policy:
Accessibility: If your employer offers life insurance, you are guaranteed to be eligible for it upon being hired. And since it’s part of your benefits package, most of the administrative work will be done by your employer.
Cost: Your employer will either pay a majority or all of your policy’s premiums. Because of this, Group Life plans can be extremely cheap, if not free, for you.
Early coverage: If you’re still early in your career, you’re probably not thinking about life insurance. Or, you might not be able to afford it. Employer life insurance ignores these obstacles and just gives you coverage automatically.
Customizability: Despite being group policies, you will generally have some level of flexibility with what you get out of your life insurance package. This is especially true for employees who have spent a long time with a company and their life circumstances have changed.
Despite being a great (and guaranteed!) source of financial protection, there are some big issues with Group Life policies. It’s crucial to know exactly where your employer’s life insurance policy falls short.
Limited mobility & security: The thing about your job’s life insurance is that… it’s tied to your job. This means that your life insurance plan won’t be portable. If you are laid off, change jobs, retire, quit, or your employer goes out of business or sells, chances are, your current protection won’t carry over with you. Unlike a personal policy, life insurance that’s tied to a group policy has no guarantee of being in effect if and when you actually need it.
Not enough coverage: A Group Life policy will usually provide a coverage of around 2 or 3 times your salary. With the average Canadian salary floating around 50 and 60,000 dollars per year, that amounts to $100,000–$180,000 of coverage. While this is more than enough coverage for your 20 year old single coworker with no children, for example, it won’t be nearly enough if you have a family or dependants. If you have dependents, adequate coverage is generally considered to be a policy worth 10-15 times your annual income. Chances are, your group benefits aren’t nearly enough!
Personalization: An individual policy is made just for you. It’s not a general policy that is one-size-fits-all (which is in reality all too commonly one-size-fits-none). It’s a plan that you build together with your provider, going over the exact details so that it perfectly suits your needs. This is where nothing can beat having your own bespoke policy.
Take advantage of your age: No matter how old you are, now is the youngest you’ll ever be. Since life insurance premiums are dependent on age, locking in a personal policy today allows you to keep your rates lower than waiting. Don’t make the common mistake of waiting until your group plan lapses or until a health scare comes up to realize your coverage may not be enough.
Reliability: There’s no middleman with individual plans. It’s just you and your insurance provider. Your death benefit won’t be dependent on your job and employer, and you won’t lose it if you decide to move to another job or retire. As long as you pay your premiums, your coverage isn’t going anywhere, regardless of what happens with your career!
Coverage amount: An individual plan will allow you to get a much bigger coverage than most Group Life policies. According to Investopedia, it’s best to aim for a coverage of about 10 times your current salary. It’s very unlikely that your employer’s plan will be able to cover you for that amount.
Add-ons and riders: An individual plan allows you to take advantage of the variety of extra features, such as riders, that they offer. You can additionally cover specific cases such as accidental death or injury, or certain serious diseases. Due to employers wanting to keep overhead costs low, most group plans don’t offer additional coverage that would otherwise be beneficial.
Adaptability: Your individual plan can evolve with your situation. If you want to use your individual plan to simply supplement your employer’s life insurance and cover its weaknesses, that’s an option. Later on, if you lose your employer’s coverage, you can renegotiate your individual plan and expand it as needed.
If you’re looking into getting an individual plan, there are a few options to choose from. Here’s a quick rundown of the two most common types of life insurance plans that are available to you.
Term Life Insurance is the most basic and affordable type of life insurance. It provides coverage for a fixed period called “term”, usually ranging from 5 to 30 years. If you die during this period, your beneficiaries will receive your death benefit. But once your term ends, your policy expires. It’s a great choice for people looking to protect the financial stability of their families through a specific period at an affordable rate.
Permanent Life Insurance is the more sophisticated type of life insurance. It has no expiry date, so as long as you’re paying premiums, you’ll stay protected forever. Permanent Life Insurance has more advanced things you can do with your plan, like borrowing against it or using it for estate planning. The added usability and reliability of permanent life insurance comes with a higher price tag.
Want to learn more about Term Life and Permanent Life insurance? Check out our Life Insurance 101 blog for a more detailed explanation!
When a job offers life insurance as a benefit, it’s always a blessing. With little premiums to pay, it’s a great bonus for employees of a company. What we tried to show in this blog post is that it’s best to think of your Group Life policy as just that: a bonus.
Because of the nature of Group Life policies, they end up being too generalist in their approach and too rigid to be relied upon by individuals. While we believe everyone should take advantage of whatever benefits their job offers, we also think it can be risky to rely on these benefits too heavily.
If you have an employer-provided life insurance policy, the best thing you can do is to supplement it with an individual policy of your own. This way, you’ll cover up any weaknesses that your Group Life policy has, and you’ll have a financial safety net that won’t go away if your job does. (And, you’ll be surprised to learn how affordable insurance can actually be, potentially starting at just a dollar a day.)
A problem with employer-provided life insurance is that it makes people forget how important having your own plan is. And the earlier you start, the cheaper your premiums will be. So there’s no better time than now to get the best plan for your needs!
With our group of experienced advisors, we’ll be able to help you figure out what you need to supplement your work’s life insurance plan. We’ll help you get started today - it’s easier than you think!