Dear Harry: I am 65 and retiring soon. My question involves survivor benefits and whole life insurance. I have been advised that it makes sense not to choose survivor benefits, but to use the larger single-life pension to buy life insurance to protect my wife if she survives me. Doing this would mean that I will get about $6,000 more a year. It would mean buying life insurance with a $20,000 premium for 10 years to get $500,000 to my wife if I die first. If she dies first, I will still have the pension plus the cash value of the insurance. What's your judgment on this?
What Harry says: I am not happy with the calculations you were given. Here's how to evaluate the proposal to see if it makes sense. First of all, make certain you are insurable. Then determine how much whole life insurance the extra $6,000 a year will buy. (Don't even think about a premium of $20,000.) Will the proceeds be enough to give your wife at least the amount of her survivor's benefit for her lifetime? If it will be too little, stay with the survivorship arrangement. This substitution of insurance for a survivor's benefit can go either way, so do your computation carefully, and have your insurance salesman get it done independent of your figures. Another factor is your wife's health. Poor health on her part will usually work in favor of going for the insurance. It will benefit her and her heirs over the survivorship option.