Every time my husband got ready to leave for more than a few days, whether on a deployment or for training, we would have the same conversation.
“So,” I would ask uncomfortably, “are you sure your affairs are in order?”
The first time I asked, he was confused. “What do you mean?” he asked.
“You, know – the important stuff – if something happens to you while you are gone, how will I be able to take care of our kids?”
“Oh, you mean life insurance?” he asked.
Yes, I couldn’t say the words without a lump forming in my throat. Life insurance.
No one wants to talk about life insurance, or spend any time thinking about why you might need it, but it’s an important conversation to have. Service members and their families need to think about what they would do if the worst were to happen. As the mom of two young children, I had to be sure I would be able to take care of them, no matter what.
Military members are automatically enrolled in the Servicemembers’ Group Life Insurance (SGLI) for the maximum amount of coverage of $400,000. Premiums are deducted from the service member’s base pay. A service member is automatically insured under full-time SGLI if he or she meets one of the following requirements:
- Active duty member of the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, or Coast Guard
- Commissioned member of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) or the U.S. Public Health Service (USPHS)
- Cadet or midshipman of the U.S. military academies
- Member, cadet, or midshipman of the Reserve Officers Training Corps (ROTC) engaged in authorized training and practice cruises
- Member of the Ready Reserve or National Guard and are scheduled to perform at least 12 periods of inactive training per year
- Service member who volunteers for a mobilization category in the Individual Ready Reserve (IRR)
If a service member would like to designate a beneficiary, reduce, or decline SGLI coverage, then a SGLV 8286 form (Servicemembers’ Group Life Insurance Election and Certificate) must be completed. SGLI coverage may be converted after active duty to Veterans’ Group Life Insurance, or to a commercial life insurance policy.
What about family members?
Military families also have access to Family Servicemembers’ Group Life Insurance (FSGLI). FSGLI is a program providing term life insurance to a spouse and dependent children of an insured service member under SGLI. The service member pays a premium for spouse coverage in $10,000 increments up to $100,000. Dependent children are insured at no cost for $10,000. FSGLI coverage is automatic for $100,000, not exceeding the service member’s SGLI coverage, unless the spouse is a dual-service couple. FSGLI spouse coverage is not automatic for service members who married other service members on or after January 2, 2013. Service members in this category will have to apply for coverage using form SGLV 8286A. Spouse SGLI premiums are also deducted from the service member’s pay and the premium rate is based on age category of the spouse. Post-military service conversion options are available for spouse SGLI, but not for dependent children.
How much life insurance do you need?
This can be different for each family. Generally, financial planners recommend short-term needs to cover immediate expenses such as outstanding debts, and long-term needs of future income to sustain the household. Take some time to talk to your spouse about your short-term and long-term needs, and learn more about life insurance options available for service members and their families. It may be helpful to consider your life insurance needs after your service member transitions out of the military, as well. A financial counselor can help you plan for your needs, and counselors are available at your local installation, military banks, or credit unions, or via Military OneSource.
Posted by Katie Savant, Government Relations Issue Strategist