by Jane R. Larsen, Allstate, agency owner 

What can send a kid to college, keep a roof over your family’s head or help you sleep better at night? Life insurance . Despite these potential benefits, almost half of Americans don’t have life insurance.

The birth of a child was among the life events that motivated 41 percent of adults surveyed to begin shopping for life insurance, according to LIMRA, a life insurance research group. Other life events included adopting a child, marriage, divorce, purchasing a house, retiring, inheriting substantial assets and the death of a relative or close friend.

Life insurance can help protect you and your family in many ways. Most obviously, the insurance’s death benefit can help fund college tuition, pay the mortgage, cover unpaid medical bills and funeral expenses or replace your income. Some life insurance products are employed as part of an estate plan, as a source of retirement income or to pay estate taxes. Life insurance coverage should be considered when you marry, divorce, have children or plan to start a business. And of course, you may want less coverage after your children leave home to live independently.

Life insurance has become more affordable over the years. In addition, different types of life insurance can be tailored to individual budgets and needs. Term life insurance lasts for a specified period (somewhat like a lease on an apartment) and allows you to pay premiums for a given number of years of protection. At the end of the term, you can choose to renew at a new rate, discontinue protection or select a new policy. Alternatively, permanent life insurance can be considered more like owning a home. It provides insurance throughout your life and accumulates cash value over time (like the equity in your home), assuming you make regular premium payments and avoid loans, withdrawals or surrenders.