Sharon Epperson's guide to 4 key groups who need life insurance

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By Sharon Epperson

Today there are more single mothers, female breadwinners and stay-at-home dads than there were even a decade ago. Many couples are buying homes later — and having to make mortgage payments into their 50s and 60s. Many parents are having children later. So moms and dads may be facing surging college tuition bills at the same time that they're helping to care for their own aging parents.

Changing family needs impact not only day-to-day money matters but also plans for how to protect your loved ones' financial futures. Being properly insured is essential. Here are four groups that probably need life insurance the most:

Breadwinners: “If anyone in your life depends on you financially, you need life insurance,” says Marvin Feldman, CEO of consumer advocacy group Increasingly, women are becoming the primary breadwinners in their households, so wives will need to have more coverage than their husbands. The number of women who are their families' sole or primary breadwinner has soared to 40 percent today from 11 percent in 1960, according to Pew Research Center. You may get life insurance policies through your employer, but the coverage is usually lower than individual policies and is only in place while you're employed.

Stay-at-home parents: If you have children, both parents should have life insurance, including the mom or dad who stays at home. Calculate the cost of services that a stay-at-home parent provides — childcare, caring for the home, transportation — in determining the amount of coverage needed. Financial adviser Carolyn McClanahan of Life Planning Partners says she advises working parents to also consider loss of income if they were to take time away from their job after the death of a stay-at-home spouse. "If someone dies who is the center of the household and the center of your world, it makes it difficult to work,” she says. "Do you have resources to take time off and decompress while you readjust?"

Sharon answered viewer's life insurance questions in a live Twitter chat using #GetAPlan.





Older couples:
Does it make sense to pay life insurance premiums in your 50s and 60s? If you have kids in college or adult children living at home, you may want to make sure they'll have some financial support if you're gone. Empty nesters who may have a mortgage and don't want to burden their spouse with this expense if they die will need life insurance too. "You should consider making sure you get enough life insurance to cover paying off the mortgage, continuing to pay for college, and potentially invest in life insurance that would allow your spouse to get a steady stream of income in the future," says Byron Udell, CEO of

Single moms: More than 40 percent of babies in the U.S. are born to women who are unmarried — that's a 10-percentage-point increase in the past decade, according to the National Center for Health Statistics. Most of these women are in their 20s and 30s. Millennial moms may think they’re too young to buy life insurance, but financial advisers say new parents often need life insurance the most.

Sharon Epperson is CNBC's senior personal finance correspondent.