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Through an Agent or Financial Advisor. Most people buy life insurance through agents or other financial advisors, and for good reason. Determining how much and what kind of insurance to buy is one of the most important financial decisions you'll ever make, but it's also one of the most complicated. A qualified agent will conduct a comprehensive financial needs analysis, and walk you through the multitude of questions you need to consider to determine how much and what kind of insurance is right for you. Of course, the quality of advice you get is dependent on how good your agent is. You'll obviously want to work with someone who has the right licensing, training and experience. But don't underestimate the importance of finding someone who's a good listener. A good agent will take the time to understand your objectives, help you construct a financial gameplan, and then work with you to find the right insurance products for your specific situation. Click here for more information about how to find the right agent.

At the Workplace. Obtaining life insurance through your employer is another option to consider. Your first step should be to make sure you understand how much coverage your employer provides at no cost to you. Many employers provide, at their own expense, a "basic" life insurance benefit, often equal to one to two times your base salary. While this is a nice benefit to have, insurance experts believe that most people need somewhere in the range of five to fifteen times their net income and sometimes even more than that.

If you feel you need more coverage than your employer provides, then you have two choices. You can either purchase additional coverage through work (most group plans will offer this option) or buy the extra coverage on your own. Determining whether it makes sense to buy through your employer usually depends on your age and health status. How so? With most group plans, employees are offered the same premium as others in their general age bracket (e.g., 25-34 year olds), regardless of their health status or actual age. So if you're healthy or near the lower end of your age bracket, this one-size-fits-all premium may be higher than what you would find if you shopped around on your own. On the other hand, if you're an older employee or perhaps suffer from a chronic health condition, increasing your coverage through work might be a great option because you might not be able to find a policy on the open market that's as affordable as what your employer is offering.

Via the Internet. Like most things nowadays, life insurance can be purchased online. You can get instant quotes, apply for, and even purchase policies. To make sure you get the right amount and type of insurance, the better sites won't allow you to complete the purchasing process until you've spoken with a qualified insurance agent. Some sites work like a brokerage agency. They'll have contractual relationships with, say, 10 or 20 companies and they'll broker your case with the company that offers the best product for your specific needs and circumstances. Other insurance e-commerce sites are more like insurance policy marketplaces. They promote the products of a large number of companies and function a lot like a search engine. Their main objective is to take the data you enter into their online quote engine and link you to a company that has a product that's compatible with your specifications. Some insurance company Web sites also offer the option of buying online, but most will typically try to direct you to an agent who can provide you with personalized service. Keep in mind, most Web sites only offer term insurance, not permanent. Also, if you buy online, the onus is often on you to figure out which policy is right for you. If you're about to buy a policy but you're not sure that you're making the right decision, it's never a bad idea to run the quotes by an agent in your community. He or she can assess the information you've gathered and may even be able to offer you the same types of policies at competitive prices. If not, you can always return to the Internet to complete your purchase and you'll have the peace of mind of knowing that you're buying the right product for your specific needs.

Over the Phone or By Mail. Internet purchases of life insurance is one form of direct buying, but certainly not the only one. There are a number of companies that advertise and market almost exclusively via toll-free numbers and/or direct mail solicitations. How might this benefit you? If you want to buy term insurance and you have a good sense of how much coverage you need, you may be able to get the right coverage you need by buying directly. Just be aware of the possible limitations of buying direct. Most direct sellers only offer term insurance, and you generally won't have the benefit of professional advice from a qualified life insurance professional.

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