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Is SGLI Enough For Military Families?

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Is SGLI enough for military families? SGLI stands for Servicemembers Group Life Insurance. One of the first things to remember about this program is that it’s for the servicemember only; spouses and dependents are insured under a program called Family Group Life Insurance or FGLI.

For this article, we’re looking only at SGLI and whether the coverage amounts for the servicemember. It may seem like a very old-fashioned approach to family finances–insurance for the “breadwinner” being the primary focus. There is also the related assumption that other family members aren’t contributing financially or aren’t able to do as much as the breadwinner. Especially in a military context.

Is the amount of insurance the servicemember carries enough to help the family deal with the financial hardship of losing a loved one?

Related: Calculate Your Insurance Needs

When SGLI was designed, “insure the breadwinner” thinking was very much in line with the culture at the time, and a lot of the advice for insurance assumes the departed spouse wanted to fully financially cover the family for things like a mortgage, student loans, and existing credit card debt.

Relieving your loved ones of financial burdens in the wake of your death is a good motivation for carrying the maximum amount of life insurance possible, regardless of your age, gender, or family status, and that’s the thinking which informs our article.


>> Getting affordable life insurance coverage with no medical exam or labs required is easy.  Get a no-obligation, free consultation to determine your eligibility.

Is SGLI Enough for Military Families?

There are three basic things to remember about SGLI. One is that it does NOT continue once you leave the service, and the 120-day “grace period” expires.

You may be able to convert to Veterans Group Life Insurance, but as we will explore below, the maximum coverage amount of SGLI and related government life insurance programs might not be enough to meet the needs of a family who has lost a veteran loved one.

Take Stock of Your Finances

$500 thousand as a policy settlement sounds like a lot of money. It’s half a million dollars, after all. But imagine how fast that sum disappears once you have paid off a mortgage, student loans, and all credit card debt with the payout.

Imagine paying off a $150 thousand home, a $20 thousand debt for a vehicle, $60k in student loans, credit card debt, medical bills, and we haven’t even discussed funeral expenses. Is $500k enough?

Is $500K Enough Life Insurance?

Many financial blogs say no. One cites a publication called the Guide to Financial Readiness for Military Families, which notes a general rule of thumb used in the life insurance industry: insurance coverage should represent as much as 10 times your yearly pay.

Your coverage should anticipate paying off:

    • Your mortgage
    • All credit card debt
    • Current student loans for the parents
    • Future college costs for dependents
    • Outstanding debt such as tax liens, auto loans, etc.
    • Funeral costs

Read more: Your life will change, so the way you should protect your loved ones should, too.

How SGLI Works

SGLI is a life insurance program the servicemember is automatically enrolled in when entering basic training.

This insurance coverage, once capped at $400 thousand but since increased to $500 thousand, is available in $50,000 increments up to the $500 thousand coverage limit. Troops can also opt out of SGLI completely, but it’s not advisable.

Why? Because SGLI is one of the least expensive forms of life insurance available. SGLI does not have an upcharge for risky career fields, hazardous duty, or other issues.

That’s unlike some civilian life insurance providers who may charge more depending on your age, the nature of your employment, your overall health, etc.

Coverage Starts In Basic Training

The service member is automatically enrolled when shipping out to basic training, but any qualifying family members (they must be listed in DEERS) may also have coverage under the Family Group Life Insurance program.

SGLI and FGLI are both term life insurance policies. Typically your coverage begins on entry into the service and ends 120 days after you leave the military.

Can I Carry Both SGLI and Private Life Insurance?

Some may mistakenly believe you can only carry SGLI or protect your family with FGLI. This may be due to a bad-but-understandable assumption.

When you become a military member, you are also enrolled in TRICARE. Active duty service members must carry TRICARE health insurance and cannot use any other health insurance program. Family members are free to get other health insurance. Is the same thing true of SGLI?

No, but you can understand why one might assume it is true. However, troops can pay for additional life insurance from a private provider anytime.


>> Getting affordable life insurance coverage with no medical exam or labs required is easy.  Get a no-obligation, free consultation to determine your eligibility.



About the author


Editor-in-Chief Joe Wallace is a 13-year veteran of the United States Air Force and a former reporter/editor for Air Force Television News and the Pentagon Channel. His freelance work includes contract work for Motorola, VALoans.com, and Credit Karma. He is co-founder of Dim Art House in Springfield, Illinois, and spends his non-writing time as an abstract painter, independent publisher, and occasional filmmaker.