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Sometime during the fog of an early morning feeding with my newborn, I remember reading an article in a parenting magazine reminding new mothers and fathers to have life insurance.

I didn't want to think about death while I had a new life snuggled on my lap. But moderate panic set in. My self-employed husband had no coverage and while on maternity leave, I was on a significantly diminished salary. If something happened to him, my daughter and I would be (among other things) in serious financial trouble.

As any financial adviser – and the insurance industry – will tell you, the magazine was right.

"When you have liabilities and you have a family, you want to make sure that you provide them with some protection should something happen to you," said Wendy Hope, of Canadian Life and Health Insurance Association Inc., which represents the industry.

According to a TD Insurance Risky Business Poll last year, 31 per cent of Canadians said they didn't have life insurance. Of those, 40 per cent said they didn't think it was necessary, 23 per cent confessed they probably should have coverage and 23 per cent said they didn't think they could afford it.

The survey of 1,500 adults also noted that another third of Canadians worried that they didn't have adequate protection under their existing insurance policies.

The solution seems straightforward enough; get sufficient coverage. But navigating the world of life insurance where dozens of providers are anxious to sell a variety of products – such as permanent versus term life insurance – is not so simple. And trying to find the money, when you are already struggling to pay down debt and save for retirement, is difficult. It's little wonder that many people don't bother.

Some financial advisers suggest a coverage rule-of-thumb of five to seven times your net income. But the amount of coverage should be based on individual needs that take into account such things as marital status, dependents, employment status and liabilities.

This country's three largest insurers are Great-West Life, Manulife Financial and Sun Life Financial, but there's a myriad of other providers, and many have online calculators that will tally items including mortgage, income and investments to spit out a total for suggested coverage.

But that's just a start.

Life insurance agents and brokers will help calculate coverage and narrow down the coverage options. And just because you finally settle on a policy, it doesn't mean your work is done. It should be reviewed periodically, especially when a milestone is reached, such has getting married, buying a house or having a baby.

The industry association has posted this online helpful step-by-step guide.

"Even though you're paying for a mortgage or you're paying for your children's education, you've got all these other outstanding liabilities, you would want to think about the fact that you need – if something should happen to you – to cover those liabilities for your family," Ms. Hope said.

The latest statistics show that at the end of 2010, almost 21 million Canadians had some form of life insurance. Among those, 56 per cent had individual insurance while 44 per cent had group insurance, which includes 61 per cent on groups of employees, 7 per cent was on members of unions and associations, and 32 per cent was on insured individuals who had borrowed from credit agencies such as banks and mortgage brokers.

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