Q. I’ve heard that I should get life insurance for my son, who starts college in September. This would be to cover his college loans — he will need many — should something ever happen to him. Does that make sense?
— Mom

A. The question of buying life insurance for children is a common one.

Life insurance is often used as an income replacement tool, so unless your child is a breadwinner, insurance is often unnecessary.

But buying a policy when a person is young does have advantages. You’d have the benefit of very low premiums, and it gives coverage that might not be available, or might be very expensive, if the young person develops health problems down the road.

You’re talking about a policy to cover a very specific goal: paying off student loans.

So yes, an insurance policy could be a great idea.

You’d need to decide what kind of policy is right for your son.

There’s term insurance, which is the least expensive kind of policy.

As the name suggests, the policy would be in force for a certain number of years as long aspremiums are paid. You could select a policy term that would last for the time period until the loans are paid off. There are also term insurance policies that have a decreasing benefit over time.

Then there are permanent policies. While these are more expensive, they’d last for your son’s lifetime — longer than student loan debt will be around — as long as he pays the premiums.

These policies have living benefits, too.

A pure whole life policy, preferably from a mutual life insurance company, can be a great idea for a college student, said Ed Gaelick, a Chartered Life Underwriter and Chartered Financial Consultant with PSI Consultants in Glen Rock.

He said policies can be designed to lock in premiums at a young age for life, would share in the insurance company’s profits in the form of dividends and build cash value that is not subject to market risk. They’d also have guarantees, tax advantages, values are protected from some creditors and can supplement retirement benefits.

The death benefit will also increase over time, keeping pace with inflation, he said.

“Your child will have a policy in place when life insurance becomes important to them at some point in the future,” Gaelick said. “They will also then own a financial product that has already accumulated cash value.”

He noted how much you allocate towards a policy will determine the future values.

Gaelick said one of the best features of whole life is that current values are not market risk sensitive, meaning a downturn in the stock market will not impact the values already in the policy.

“An option that I find very important is `waiver of premium,” he said. “This rider will waive the premium deposits in the event of a total disability.”

With this benefit, the insurance company will make the deposits for you, protecting the benefits and cash accumulation — and you don’t owe that money back.

He recommends you consult with an unbiased advisor who has vast experience in whole life to properly explain all the advantages of owning whole life and which carriers to consider.

Karin Price Mueller writes the Bamboozled column for The Star-Ledger and she’s the founder of NJMoneyHelp.com. Click here to sign up for the NJMoneyHelp.com weekly e-newsletter. Like NJMoneyHelp.com on Facebook and follow it on Twitter.

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