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Life insurance under the Christmas tree?

Of the millions of possible gifts you might consider putting under the Christmas tree this season, life insurance just might be the most unexpected and unwanted. It's neither fun nor exciting. You can't plug it in. You can't drive it around the block. You can't wear it for an evening out.

So why even consider giving your spouse and children a gift guaranteed not to elicit squeals of delight? Because this gift, more than others, provides your loved ones a measure of security and stability when everything else in their life is being shaken.

The concept is fairly basic. You take out life insurance on your life, and, in the unfortunate event of your death, your beneficiary (typically your spouse or kids) receives the death benefit.

"Life insurance isn't glamorous, it's just needed" says Julie Halgren, director of protection products for Thrivent Financial for Lutherans. "Not only can it assist families in paying for final expenses, but with an appropriate amount purchased it can help pay off debt from credit cards, car loans or even one's mortgage. Equally important, it can replace lost income and fund long-term goals like retirement or the children's college education. People often under-estimate the extent to which a premature death affects a family's income and assets."

Unfortunately, roughly 70 million American adults have no life insurance coverage at all and many who do have life insurance have less than is recommended, according to LIMRA, a life insurance and financial services trade association.

"If someone depends on you financially, you likely need life insurance," says Halgren. "It's that simple."

The amount of life insurance you need depends on many factors. Financial services professionals can assist you in addressing "how much" and "what kind" of insurance is appropriate for your needs. A wide range of product types and features make the product a potential option for most consumers.

Should you really purchase an insurance policy, wrap it and put it under the Christmas tree?

"Life insurance is one of the most thoughtful, loving gifts that people can give their loved ones," notes Halgren. "Still, I wouldn't encourage people to have life insurance as the only gift under the tree this year."