Everyone is unique. People come in different shapes and sizes and skin tones. We have different family heritages and different religions, or no religion, and we have different opinions and different senses of humor. But we all have one thing in common: Eventually our lives come to an end.

Most of us need life insurance to make sure our families and loved ones and our final expenses are covered. Not many of us have enough savings for young spouses and children to have everything they need when we are gone without life insurance. Making sure we have the right life insurance for our families' future financial needs requires choosing the right policy by ignoring the following three common misconceptions about how life insurance works.

Common misconception #1. Your life insurance through your employer is enough.

There is a glaringly obvious problem with life insurance provided as an employee benefit: Your employer owns the policy. You don't.

Although some executive compensation plans use life insurance as part of employee compensation, for most of us, if you quit your job, you lose your life insurance. Or, if your company lets you go, you lose your life insurance coverage.

If you are still young and healthy, it's always best to get your own life insurance policy and pay your own premiums for life insurance that no change in employment can take away from you.

Common misconception #2. It's always better to get a less expensive term life insurance policy and invest the difference in premiums.

There is a very obvious problem with this misconception about life insurance, too. Most people wind up spending most or all of the money they should invest, and even when individuals have the discipline to save and invest, they usually don't get the guaranteed returns they can get with whole life insurance.

The one situation in which buying term life insurance and investing the difference in premiums is financially safe is when you need more coverage while you are paying down a mortgage or saving for your children's coverage. If your family's financial need decreases, then it's OK to have less insurance. But it's not necessarily a good idea, because of common misconception #3.

Common misconception #3. Whole life insurance is a good investment.

It's possible to buy whole life coverage that builds value tied to the value of the stock market. This is often a good idea, especially since these kinds of policies have a guaranteed rate of return (and if they don't, you shouldn't buy them). Just don't suppose that the growing value of a life insurance policy is a guaranteed thing. It's not. Your coverage is guaranteed, but high rates of return are not.

With whole life policies, you can be sure of getting your money back if you stay alive, usually with a stated rate of return. The best way to regard life insurance is as protection for those you leave behind. There is one great thing about making life insurance payments: While you are paying for life insurance, you're still alive.

Even though the investment returns from whole life insurance are modest, you don't have to die to realize financial benefits from life insurance. Setting aside these three common misconceptions about how life insurance works will help you choose the right kind of life insurance at the optimal cost for your investment portfolio and your family's financial security.