The exact types of insurance you need in your 20s, 30s, and 40s
- You need to buy insurance to protect yourself, your family, and your wealth.
- An insurance policy could save you thousands of dollars in the event of an accident, illness, or disaster.
- As you hit certain life milestones, some policies, including health insurance and auto insurance, are virtually required, while others like life insurance and disability insurance are strongly encouraged.
Insurance isn't the most thrilling to think about, but it's necessary for protecting yourself, your family and your wealth.
Accidents, illness and disasters happen all the time. At worst, events like these can plunge you into deep financial ruin if you don't have insurance to fall back on. Some insurance policies are unavoidable (think: car insurance in most US states), while others are simply a smart financial decision (think: life insurance).
Insurance is largely personal, though, and the type of policy or amount of coverage that's right for you and your financial situation usually won't match your friend's or relative's. Plus, as your life changes (say, you get a new job or have a baby) so should your coverage.
Below, we've explained briefly which insurance coverage you should strongly consider buying at every stage of life. Note that while the policies below are arranged by age, of course they aren't all set in stone. If you become a homeowner in your 40s instead of your 30s, for example, that's when the need for homeowners insurance will kick in.
Here's a brief overview of the policies you need and when you need them:
Insurance You Need in Your 20s
Most Americans need insurance to afford healthcare. Choosing the plan that's right for you may take some research, but it serves as your first line of defense against medical debt, one of biggest sources of debt among consumers in the US.
Some 158 million Americans get health insurance through their employer or a spouse's employer, according to the Commonwealth Fund. Employees who are eligible for coverage through work usually don't need supplemental health insurance.
If you don't have health insurance through your job, you can shop the Health Insurance Marketplace for private insurance options or compare rates through a third-party broker. Remember that you can stay on your parents' health insurance coverage until age 26.
You'll stop needing it: Never.
In 49 of the 50 US states, drivers are required to have auto insurance to cover any potential property damage and bodily harm that may result from an accident.
Car insurance rates are largely based on age, credit, car make and model, driving record and location. Some states even consider gender. The average cost of car insurance premiums nationwide is $125 a month and can fluctuate based on the number of claims and traffic violations a driver obtains.
You'll stop needing it: When you stop driving a car.
Renters insurance is the epitome of the umbrella theory: While it may feel burdensome to carry around, you'll sure be glad it's there when it rains.
If you're living on your own — i.e. not with your parents or on a college campus — you probably need renters insurance. Policies differ depending on location, type of home, and coverage amount, but they're generally low cost — most people pay between $15 and $20 a month — and cover the replacement of your personal property as well as a temporary living situation should you be unable to occupy your rented home.
You'll stop needing it: When you stop renting.
Disability insurance is meant to provide income should you be disabled and unable to work. It's estimated by the Social Security Administration that over 25% of today's 20-year-olds will be disabled before retirement.
If you're relying on a steady paycheck to support yourself or your family, you should have disability insurance. Most people who are traditionally employed should be able to secure a policy through their employer, while people who are self-employed will have to take out an individual policy. Some people may prefer the increased coverage provided by buying private policies to supplement those from their employers, specifically for long-term disability insurance.
Disability insurance can replace income not only in the event of an on-the-job accident, but also during lapses in work due to chronic illnesses.
You'll stop needing it: Once you exit the working world around age 65, which is often the end of the longest policy you can buy.
Insurance You Need in Your 30s
If someone else — children, a spouse, aging parents or anyone else who could be considered some level of dependent — relies on your income for their financial well-being, then you probably need life insurance.
Most experts recommend term life insurance for cheap and straightforward coverage, but the right policy for you will depend on your overall financial situation. Term life insurance, unlike permanent life insurance, provides coverage for a fixed amount of time, usually 10, 20 or 30 years. Buying a term life insurance policy when you're young can help lock in an inexpensive rate for the duration of your coverage. It will only increase incrementally each year you age.
How much you pay depends on how much coverage you want, the type of policy you get, and how much risk you pose. The average person can expect to pay between $300 to $400 a year for life insurance.
You'll stop needing it: When your dependents are no longer relying on you for financial support.
Most mortgage lenders require homeowners insurance, which should cover everything from the structure itself to your belongings to liability should someone be injured on your property.
An insurer will consider your home's location, as well as the size, age and build of the home to determine your insurance premium. Houses in wildfire-, tornado- or hurricane-prone areas will almost always command higher premiums.
You'll stop needing it: If you sell your home and go back to renting, or make other living arrangements.
It may not be considered a must-have, but if you're the type to shell out $8,000 for your dog's surgery, it might be worth considering. Some plans even cover routine vet visits and vaccinations, and most will reimburse up to 90% of your vet bills.
Insurance policies for dogs are typically more expensive than policies to insure cats, ranging from $330 to $530 a year, on average, for accident and illness coverage.
You'll stop needing it: When you no longer own a pet.
Insurance You Need in Your 40s
Long-Term Care Insurance
Long-term care isn't covered by Medicare, the government-run health insurance program for Americans over 65. For people who are aging or disabled and need help with daily living, whether in a nursing home or through hospice, long-term care insurance can help shoulder the exorbitant costs.
This is the sort of thing people don't think about until they get older and realize this might be a reality for them, but of course, as you get older you get more expensive to insure. That's why it's a good idea to start looking at long-term care insurance well before you need it. Still, many long-term care policies incrementally increase premiums as you age.
You'll stop needing it: Never.