They say the two things that are certainties in life are death and taxes. The passing of a loved one is always a very emotional time in one’s life. Unfortunately, no one can soften the hurt death brings, but have you ever considered the financial obligations that also come with your passing? In case you haven’t, death is not cheap. Having life insurance can help those you leave behind with no financial burden after you are gone.
What is Life Insurance?
You pay monthly payments with interest on top, and then when a claim is approved, the insurance company pays out a lump sum. The insurance company decides the monthly premiums you pay based on the risk you present. A healthy lifestyle, combined with a good family medical history, will secure you the lowest premiums. Smoking, on the other hand, can substantially increase the premium you pay.
What Can Life Insurance Cover?
- Final Costs: Funeral costs, cremation costs, medical bills not covered by health insurance, and the associated administration fees can all add up. The last thing your family wants to think about is how to afford these costs; life insurance can relieve that stress.
- Outstanding Debts: An outstanding mortgage, college fees, and other outstanding debts can cripple a family when they lose a primary income. Life insurance may not be a permanent solution to losing a salary, but it can provide some breathing room.
- Inheritance: When taking out life insurance, you can set a beneficiary on some policies. The money from the insurance company will be passed on to your named beneficiary, just as you would with other inheritance money.
- Tax: When the inheritance mentioned above is distributed, tax can apply to the amount. Your life insurance can cover these charges to ensure your benefactors receive the amount you intended.
- Charitable Donations: If you are feeling philanthropic, you can set a charity as your beneficiary. Your life insurance will be paid out to your charity of choice, leaving one last good deed for people to remember you by.
Which Life Insurance is Right For Me?
Your life insurance plan should be chosen based on your needs, as well as the needs of your family or beneficiary. Here are some of the more common types of life insurance available.
Term Life Insurance
You would opt for term life insurance if you wanted to ensure financial protection for a set period — 10 or 20 years, for example. You make your payments per those terms at the agreed premium. If you then die during that term, the insurance company will pay out the agreed amount.
If you live past the agreed period, you can continue to make payments, but the premium may increase (this will depend on your life insurance company’s terms). You can also choose not to reinsure, but you then forfeit all of the premiums you have paid.
Term life insurance is usually cheaper than the two options below since it only covers a specific amount of time. You can use term life insurance as a replacement for a possibly lost income. Doing so can ensure your family won’t struggle financially if the worst happens. Paying off the mortgage, keeping a business running, and sending the kids off for college can still be possible thanks to term life insurance. The amount from the life insurance will be paid out in one lump sum, so your chosen beneficiary requires financial responsibility.
Term life insurance is more suitable for younger couples starting a family who want a safety net for the next 20 or 30 years. Term life insurance can help with debt management, but you can be on top of debt before the need for life insurance is needed.
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Whole Life Insurance
Whole life insurance is a type of permanent life insurance that provides lifetime protection.
Due to the extended protection offered over a term life insurance policy, the premiums are usually higher. Those higher payments at least are fixed, meaning the agreed rate won’t change.
The higher premium payments also provide cash value. What this means is that a whole life insurance policy comes with not just standard life insurance, but also an interest-bearing savings account. You can use those additional savings as you see fit. It is even possible to use them for your actual life insurance premiums.
The insurance company can also use that cash value to offset the risk in case the policyholder dies. For example, say you accumulated savings of $9,000. If you then pass, the insurance company will have to pay out on your insurance. If the insurance company had to pay out $20,000, they would only lose $11,000 due to the savings. Whole life insurance is a long-term plan, so it is best for those looking to have protection from middle-age. Between 1940 and 1970, whole life insurance was the most popular insurance plan in the United States.
Universal Life Insurance
Universal life insurance is also a permanent life insurance policy. Unlike whole life insurance, universal insurance policies do come with some flexibility. You can choose to adjust the premium amount you pay, which then changes the death benefit payout. Universal life insurance can be known as variable life insurance and is known for the flexible premium option. However, there are life insurance companies that offer the policy without flexibility.
Like whole life insurance, universal life insurance policies come in two parts: the cost of the insurance and a savings account. The premium payments are again higher because it is a permanent policy. A universal life insurance policy is suitable for those looking for whole life insurance but want flexible premium amounts. This policy can be used as an income replacement or as a way of supplying an inheritance to your beneficiary.
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What Are the Alternatives to Life Insurance?
There is no alternative to the security that life insurance provides. Here are, however, similar plans:
Insurance and annuity are similar, and it is possible to confuse the two. However, the two are not the same thing. Life insurance pays out once the policyholder dies. An annuity is used to ensure financial security in case the policyholders live longer than they expected. You can also use it as a way to provide a source of income past retirement. An annuity plan, for example, can payout once the policyholder reaches the age of 80 years. These plans can payout death benefits, but if that is done, they are not tax-exempt. If you are looking for financial security for your benefactor, then life insurance is the way to go.
Modified Endowment Contract
A modified endowment contract is not strictly an alternative. Your life insurance will turn into a MEC when the total amount of premiums paid into a life insurance policy exceeds federal tax limits. This contract was implemented by the IRS to avoid the use of life insurance as a way to avoid taxes. A MEC acts similarly to the annuity mentioned above.
What Are the Qualities of a Good Life Insurance Company?
There are hundreds of life insurance companies available to you, but each one comes with their own unique terms. Your primary focus will be on the quotes, but you shouldn’t accept the cheapest quote that comes your way. The most competitive quote is an essential factor in your decision, but there are other aspects to be considered. Some companies may even offer a prepaid gift card for choosing their policy. Don’t be enticed by this, as there are more important factors to consider.
You are paying money to a life insurance company every month without seeing a return until the end. For that reason, it is only fair that you should expect excellent customer service. With any insurance company, life, or otherwise, customer service should be at the forefront of their business. As a customer, you should be able to reach your insurance company via email, phone, or online chat. Their response should be fast and efficient. If you find yourself on hold for 15 minutes each time, you should take caution. A significant delay is a sign that they are understaffed and not able to meet their customer’s needs. If this is the kind of service you receive while you are alive, then you can only imagine what your family will have to deal with if you pass away. Additionally, they have to try and procure the money that’s owed to them.
Experience in the Industry
Imagine you are the owner of a business, and two possible applicants for an available position in your company come in for an interview. One has experience in the field; the other has none. In most cases, you would pick an experienced applicant. You should take this approach when choosing an insurance company. Experience doesn’t have a deciding factor, but an older company with a proven track record will usually be better suited to your needs.
If there are significant differences that make the lesser-experienced company better, then, by all means, go for them. If the differences are minor, then you may be better off going for a company that is a bit more well-established. There are insurance companies that have been around for over 150 years. One example is AXA Equitable. They are not featured on our list below, but any company with a similar length of time in business will come with experience you can benefit from.
Experience means nothing if your chosen insurance company is not licensed. A license ensures that the life insurance company is safe to deal with. A good reputation and excellent customer reviews should also factor into your decision. If other customers have had bad experiences, then don’t assume you will have better luck. Another good indicator of a solid reputation is the company’s financial strength rating, which is calculated by the four rating agencies. This rating confirms your chosen insurance provider’s ability to pay off your claim when needed. A higher score indicates a more significant collection of premiums, which are then used to pay your insurance. One such rating is the A.M Best Financial rating. A++ is the highest rating and classes a company’s financial standing as superior.
Upfront Transparency and Honesty
An insurance company with a license means they meet government requirements. It does not mean that they are entirely trustworthy, though. All terms and conditions need to come to you upfront. Even if this is the case, they should be written in easy to understand terms. Any questions you might have should come with quick and truthful answers. A life insurance company’s reputation can be an indicator of their honesty, but you should still check the fine print.
Processing of a Claim
Insurance policies come with lots of fine print. This fine print can serve as a way to avoid paying out on a claim. Life insurance policies are no exception to this tactic. You want a company that will process a claim quickly while being upfront about what can cause a claim to be rejected. To avoid complications, you want to set a beneficiary for your insurance death benefit payout. A good indicator of how well an insurance company processes a claim is their reviews from other customers. As stated above, a bad reputation means the life insurance company is likely not to be trusted.
All of the above points are important. Once you have considered them, you can assess the insurance rate. A cheap insurance rate is excellent. A higher death benefit payout for a lower premium is the perfect result. However, you will be better off looking for a company with a reasonable insurance rate that excels at the things we brought up above.
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What Do I Need to Do Before Applying For a Life Insurance Policy?
This list will help you in your search for the best life insurance policy. However, before you begin that search, you should know how to prepare for the application process. Being prepared will leave you in a position to get the best deal you possibly can. When filling out the application, you will need to consider the following factors.
Your Coverage Amount
Before even applying for life insurance quotes, you need to consider your needs. The amount you would like to receive upon your death will depend on your situation. If you are young and looking to cover debts that may be left behind, the amount would be higher when compared to insurance to provide inheritance. The amount you expect to receive will also affect the premium you pay. You will need to consider how much you can afford. Balancing what you can afford against how much you want to receive will ensure you get a deal that is best suited for you.
Your Personal Information
Life insurance companies need to know who they are lending to. The details they need are a bit more personal than those you would give when applying for other types of insurance. Of course, the provider will need to know your name, address, employer, and financial information. Information like this is standard.
However, they will also need to know more about your lifestyle. Some examples of things they need to know are:
- Your weight.
- Your age.
- How much exercise you do.
- Your smoking habits.
- Your family’s medical history.
You may be tempted to lie to get the best deal, but lying is ill-advised. If you lie and are caught, it can cause your premium to increase, cancel your policy, or deny your payout altogether.
To avoid receiving incorrect information, most life insurance companies will opt to give you a physical exam. During the medical exam, they will ask you about your lifestyle habits and family medical history. They will also take your blood pressure, listen to your heart, and take blood and urine samples.
What Happens Next
The insurance company will then examine your medical exam results to assess the risk of issuing your insurance. If necessary, they can also request more medical information from your physician. If at any point in the process of the application, it becomes apparent that you have lied, you will be issued a “red flag.” Not only can you suffer the consequences mentioned above, but other insurance providers will be able to see that you have been rejected for lying. Such a mark against you will deter other insurers from taking you on as a customer.
Once your medical exam goes through the review process, your request will either be accepted or denied. This process can take up to a few weeks because the insurer has to wait for lab tests to come back.
How to Get the Best Deal
Both your age and family medical history are out of your control. The other main factor that affects your insurance premium is your lifestyle, and this is certainly something you can take control of. The process of assessing your risk as a policyholder is called underwriting. Each company’s underwriting policies are different though there are things you can do to improve your chances of a better premium.
A non-smoker is more likely to live longer. For life insurance companies, this means they have longer to collect premiums before they have to payout. A longer payment term generally means lower premiums, which equals less monthly expense for you.
Consider Losing Weight
It is often easier said than done, but less weight means lower cholesterol levels, lower blood pressure, and a lower chance of developing conditions like diabetes. Improvements with your weight can lead to lower premium costs.
Reduce Alcohol Consumption
Alcohol can come with potential health risks. Life insurance companies know this, so they will check your records to ensure you are not causing harm with your drinking habits. Removing alcohol from your life is the best way to ensure the best premium amount for you. Lowering your alcohol consumption can still provide a discount.
Be a Better Driver
If you already have multiple traffic violations, then it is too late to avoid high premiums. However, if you are a good driver with no violations against you, then you can expect lower premiums.
Maintain a Good Credit Score
Your chosen life insurance company wants to ensure you can pay your premiums on time. The best indicator to show that you can do this is your credit score. If you are suffering from a low credit score, then there are credit cards that can help raise it back up.
You also want to eliminate additional extras on your policy because a life insurance company will try to do just that. Coverage for accidental death is just one example. Check the terms of your policy, and if you can live without these extras, then opt-out of them. A lack of extras will save money on your premium.
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The Best Life Insurance Providers
As we discussed, a great life insurance provider should offer excellent customer service, competitive premium rates, and a solid reputation. There are hundreds of life insurance companies that claim to do this, but only some do. As with any substantial financial investment, you should shop around for the best deal. Here are some good companies to start your search with.
Northwestern Mutual is considered by many to be one of the best life insurance providers. That reputation is for a good reason, as they successfully meet the financial service needs of over 4.5 million people. The company holds a high financial strength rating of A++. As a policyholder, this is important for you, as it ensures they have financial stability and will have the money to pay out on your claim when the time comes. They also hold a listing on the Fortune 500 list. This ranking tells the consumer that they are a successful company. This insurance company also claims that its success over 160 years in business comes from its customer-focused approach.
Northwestern offers each type of policy: term, universal, and whole life insurance. With it being a mutual company, the owners also consist of its policyholders. For this reason, it is possible to earn dividends when using Northwestern Mutual as your insurance provider. The company expects to pay out $5.6 billion in dividends to its customers this year.
Massachusetts Mutual Life Insurance Company is another mutual company that has been in business for more than 160 years. Just like Northwestern, since they are a mutual company, they also pay out dividends to their policyholders. Most of their policies do require an application to be submitted over the phone, though they do offer the MassMutual Direct Term policy that can be applied for online. Younger applicants can also skip the medical exam.
The company comes with a strong financial rating of A++. MassMutual offers a wide range of services, so all of your financial planning can be done in one place. These services include investment planning and retirement funds. The wide range of services combined with the sparkling financial rating makes MassMutual a great place to take out your insurance. If you visit their website, they do provide a simple calculator for you to work out your needs before you apply.
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Guardian Life Insurance is another mutual insurance company. Their superior A++ rating for financial strength is an excellent indicator of their longevity and ability to pay out on claims. Because they are a mutual company, Guardian Life insurance pays dividends out to policyholders. Dividends are a nice bonus. However, what stands out is that Guardian Life Insurance has paid dividends for every year for 150 years. If you think back through that time, there have been some financially pressing times, including two world wars and the Great Depression. Despite such trying events, Guardian has still kept up with their promise, which shows their commitment to their customers. You can calculate an estimated quote via their website, but the actual application must come through one of their representatives.
A standout point for Guardian Life is their Survivorship life insurance policy. The policy is called Guardian EstateGuard and can be taken out by a couple who then share the responsibility of the premiums. Both people must pass away before the policy is paid out, but the cash value increases upon the death of one policyholder. Another unique feature with Guardian Life Insurance is that it can offer policies to an otherwise healthy individual who has HIV. Specific terms must be met through underwriting. These terms include individual age requirements, and that the person is free of any actual illnesses that come with HIV.
Haven Life is a very young insurance company, with it coming onto the scene in 2015. However, they have made life insurance easy for the consumer. Applications are made online, and there is no need for a medical exam. Online-only may be a downside to some as customers. Many people prefer a more personal touch from a life insurance agent who is available over the phone. But the ability to gain instant life insurance coverage can dramatically outweigh the loss of a human on the other end of the phone.
Haven Life offers some of the cheapest premiums. One reason for this is because of their no medical exam policy. If you qualify for no medical exam, then you can expect low premiums. Another reason for low premiums, which may come as a downside, is that the company only offers term life insurance. In terms of financial strength, they have an A++ rating (the highest possible). Another clear point of financial strength is that they are backed by MassMutual, which is on this list and is an already well-established insurance provider.
Pacific Life was founded in 1868, so it’s slightly younger than Northwestern. As well as being more youthful, they also come with a lower — but still reasonably high — financial strength rating of A+. They offer a large variety of policies, including three universal life insurance policies. Their term life insurance policies come with term lengths of 10, 15, 20, 25, and 30 years. Some of their policies can even be applied to without the need for a medical exam. A lack of a medical exam allows you, the customer, to pick the best term that is suited for your needs without having to compromise.
One downside to Pacific Life is that their website does not allow you to submit your application online. Lack of online support means you have to do it over the phone, which is not ideal if you are tight on time. They do have a tremendous ethical background with numerous charitable contributions, and they are also the founder of the Alliance for Lifetime Income program. The mission of this program is to educate Americans on the necessity of lifetime income solutions.
Mutual of Omaha
Mutual of Omaha is one of the younger life insurance companies on this list, as the company was founded in 1909. Despite this, they still have a strong financial strength rating of A+. Applications for a lot of the policies can be made via their website, which is a rarity so far on this list. There is a policy for everyone with Mutual of Omaha. They offer cancer insurance, accidental death insurance, and children’s life insurance — along with standard life insurance policies.
Their term policy can even be renewed each year up until the age of 94. However, all customer support is offered over the phone, meaning accessibility to your policy is limited to when customer service representatives are available. A solid financial rating, along with being listed in the Fortune 500, means they are not going anywhere. Mutual of Omaha is an excellent option for those who need multiple options for their insurance but aren’t concerned about dealing with the policy once it is in place.
Prudential Finance was founded in 1875 and is now one of the biggest life insurance companies in the U.S., with the company managing over $1 trillion of their customers’ assets. It offers a wide variety of both term and universal life insurance policies, while also allowing you to add-on extras of your choosing. The most straightforward package they offer is the affordable Term Essential policy. You can customize this straightforward policy with the extras mentioned above.
An alternative is the Simply Term policy. This term policy can be taken out online without a medical exam and offers coverage of up to $500,000 over 10, 20, or 30 years. Their financial strength rating comes in at a secure A+ rating. A bonus with Prudential is that they offer to release your death benefit to you if you become terminally ill. Such terms can help with any crippling medical expenses but are subject to the policy you take out.
Banner Life Insurance Company has been operating since 1949. They are one of the younger life insurance companies on this list but hold a financial strength rating of A+. This strong rating comes from the fact that they hold over $680 billion in paid premiums. If you need more evidence of Banner Life’s longevity, they are backed by the Legal and General group, which was founded in 1836. The policies they offer are some of the cheapest term policies on the market. Special rates are available to younger or more health-conscious individuals. You can add additional extras to these policies to best suit your needs. Banner Life is among the most affordable life insurance providers, which is why they have made this list.
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New York Life
New York Life opened over 170 years ago, so it is one of the oldest insurance companies in the country. Their experience comes with the highest available financial strength rating of A++.
They are a mutual life insurance company, so they offer dividends to holders of specific policies. New York Life offers a full selection of insurance policies, but the range of each is limited. For example, there are only two types of term life insurance, compared to the five offered by Prudential:
- The yearly convertible term life insurance policy comes with guaranteed renewability without providing medical information. Each year, the premium will increase at a fixed rate until the 10-year term has been reached. You can renew your policy, but the price is not fixed. It is possible to change over to a permanent life insurance plan, but you should expect the premium to increase.
- The level-premium term life policy comes with much simpler terms. You can pick between 10 and 20-year terms, and the premium stays the same over that time. This policy is again able to be converted to a permanent life insurance policy with a higher premium.
New York Life’s whole life options are much more varied, including an option that lets you set the payment schedule.
Principal Financial Group offers a wide range of financial services. Along with life insurance, they offer disability insurance, retirement plans, dental insurance, mutual funds, and more. Their vast number of financial products and services is convenient, but their standout point is the high dollar amounts of coverage they offer. Their no-exam life insurance comes with a coverage amount of up to $1,000,000 on any of their policies. They were one of the first companies to offer this amount.
Principal holds a financial strength rating of A+, which is not the best rating on this list but is still high enough to indicate confidence in the company. The durations available for the term life insurance are the standard amounts of 10, 15, 20, and 30 years. Principal is a good option if you are looking for high coverage. Their premiums are priced in the average range, and the life insurance options are also average. If you can live with less financial coverage, then there are better options available.
Metropolitan Life Insurance Company is well-known in the insurance industry and offers a large number of financial services under one roof. The downside is that their application process is more selective, meaning not everyone can gain access to their products. All of their insurance products require a medical exam. Therefore, the application process can take a while.
If you can meet their requirements, then you can select your insurance from a range of term, universal, and whole life insurance policies. These policies come from a company that holds an A+ financial strength rating. A bonus to MetLife is its MetLife Advantages program. Their insurance policies can come with access to grief counseling and a funeral advantage program (subject to the policy). It is also possible to request assistance in ensuring the claims process is as easy as it can be at such a difficult time.
Protective Life Insurance
You may not have heard of Protective Life Insurance, but they have been around for over 100 years. This time, combined with the currently held A+ financial strength rating, does point to a track record of financial security that you can rely on. You may have encountered them without realizing it under one of their five subsidiary companies. The use of subsidiaries allows them to offer services that meet many different requirements.
Protective Life Insurance offers both term and universal insurance. What makes Protective stand out is that one of the universal insurance policies comes with premiums that can be compared to a term insurance policy. Quotes can be gathered online, though they do not offer any instant coverage packages. With the term insurance, you can expect policies ranging from 10 to 30 years, with coverage up to $10 million. Their universal insurance policies also come with benefits. One benefit offered by the variable universal life policy is that you can tie your cash value account to stock investments. Additionally, the universal life policy comes with the flexibility of being able to change the premium amount you pay. Doing this changes the coverage amount but can be useful if you find yourself with low finances but still want to receive protection.
Many consider AIG (or American General) to be one of the largest insurance companies, with their services reaching over 80 countries. Their comprehensive coverage, combined with an A financial strength rating, confirms that they are here to stay. AIG started offering insurance in 1919.
They offer five different insurance policies, and three can be applied for online. AIG’s term insurance comes with more flexibility than its competitors. The standard 10-year duration is available, along with a 35-year plan. The flexibility comes from the term that offers an allowance of 15 to 30 years. Your death benefit will be paid out if passing takes place during that time.
Along with flexibility, AIG also offers competitive prices. Their term life insurance offers coverage of $250,000 and is available for as little as $14.99 a month. Adding even further to their flexibility is the possibility to apply with no medical exam. Your acceptance is guaranteed if you are between 50 and 85 years old, and the coverage amount for this policy ranges from $5,000 to $25,000. AIG is an excellent option for you if you are looking to tailor an insurance policy to meet your needs.
One notable thing about Transamerica is their logo. If you are wondering where you have seen the picturesque building before, look to the San Francisco skyline. They are no longer based out of the Transamerica pyramid but still use the iconic building as their logo. Transamerica Life Insurance has been around for over 110 years and holds a financial strength rating of A+. Transamerica offers two types of term life policies, with both policies coming with possible durations of 10, 15, 20, 25, and 30 years.
The Trendsetter Super policy can offer up to $10 million in coverage, though depending on your circumstance, can offer even more. The alternative policy is Trendsetter LB. This policy provides up to $2 million, but it is unique as it can offer some of the money to you before death if you are diagnosed with a critical illness.
Both of these policies are great for those with a low budget but are looking for solid protection.
They also offer several permanent insurance options, so there is a policy for everyone. Their online plan explorer can help you find the plan that is best for you.
Selectquote Insurance Services
Selectquote is not an insurance provider, but they are on this list due to the ease they can bring to the process. They do the hard work for you by gathering the information you provide to them: age, health issues, financial status, etc. They then take that information and search over 70 policies to find the best provider for you. As Selectquote Insurance does not offer actual insurance, there are no clear set terms. A policy can be offered that doesn’t require a medical exam.
The coverage amount minimum may also be lower than if you were to search for insurance companies yourself. The service is free to use and can save you time and money. A disadvantage with Selectquote is that any policy you take through them must be done over the phone. Additionally, though they check over 70 policies, they only have a small selection of policy providers. Each provider has a strength rating of A or higher, but the 12 insurance providers are just a small example of what is available.
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The Best Life Insurance Company is the One With the Best Option for You
Dealing with life insurance can be a very personal thing. It is not easy to think about how your loved ones will cope once you have passed on. For this reason, you want life insurance you can trust, and we believe the best overall option would be Northwestern Mutual. They are a well-established company with an ever-growing customer base. A strong financial score of A++ only backs up their reliability. The potential for dividends is a bonus.
Of course, your pick will depend on your personal needs. If your needs are expected to change over time, then flexibility is vital; for this, AIG would be the best choice.
If you are looking for a simple life insurance plan that comes with no fuss and an easy application process, Haven Life would be the pick for you.
Life Insurance can make a difficult time much easier; 84 percent of Americans agree with this statement, yet only 59 percent own some form of protection. This discrepancy may be because the information was not as accessible. Alternatively, it could be that people don’t want to face the grim topic of death that comes with life insurance. Or, it could just be that finding an affordable option is too much work. With the above list, the remaining 41 percent now have no excuse to find the best deal, and neither do you.
What About You?
It will be awesome to hear what your opinion about life insurance is. Do you have life insurance already? Is it something that you have been putting off, and, if so, why?