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Life insurance can be worth having for many reasons. Maybe you have young children or a partner who will need financial support if you aren’t around. Or perhaps you wish to leave a legacy with a favored charity. Whatever your reasons, your personal circumstances will greatly affect your life insurance rates.
While life insurance rates will not vary much between companies for the same policy type and coverage limit like auto and home insurance rates do, you may find that the available coverage types and available policy limits or riders offered by some companies better fit your financial plans than others. That’s why it might be a good idea to gather quotes from more than one life insurance company. Many companies offer free online quotes to help you get an idea of how much you would pay for a certain type of policy. Our quote comparison tool can help you find available providers in your region to get started.
What You Need to Know About Life Insurance
What is life insurance? Life insurance coverage is designed to financially protect your loved ones if you pass away. When you purchase a policy, you pay your premium, and your insurer promises to give a payout, or death benefit (based on the coverage limits and exclusions laid out in your policy), to a person, persons, or organization that you designate as your beneficiary.
Life insurance premiums are personal. When determining your rate, your insurer looks at factors such as your age and overall health, lifestyle, and the type of coverage you need. Because of these factors and more, the rate you pay is highly specific to your own circumstances, which is why it’s a good idea to gather quotes before you make your final decision.
How Much Life Insurance Coverage You Need
Determining how much life insurance you need is a very personal decision and will largely depend on your chosen beneficiary and the purpose of your life insurance policy. Do you have young children who might need living expenses covered for several years followed by help getting through college? Or perhaps you have grown children and want to ensure that your loved ones are not burdened by any debts you may leave behind. Some people simply want to ensure that their final expenses are covered.
Ultimately, the best way for you to determine how much life insurance you need might be to consult with a financial advisor or licensed insurance agent. A qualified financial expert can help you make sense of your finances and help you determine what you can afford and what you need to help you meet your financial goals for your beneficiary.
Factors That Affect Life Insurance Prices
Your insurer uses mathematical algorithms to determine the risk they will undertake if they sell you a life insurance policy.
Policy type is the single biggest factor that will impact life insurance prices. A term life insurance policy is the most common type, and it’s generally the most affordable type of policy. The other main type, permanent or whole life insurance policies, usually cost more, but last as long as you live and pay your premium (in most circumstances). Permanent insurance also includes more functionality, because most of these policy types include a cash value savings component that compounds over time and can be accessed while you are still living. Here is a summary of some of the most common types of life insurance:
- Term life insurance: As we mentioned above, this is an inexpensive, simple type of policy that pays a death benefit to your beneficiaries if you pass away during the term of the policy, which typically encompasses a period between 10-30 years. After that, the policy ends and there is no death benefit, unless you have purchased a term policy that can be converted into a whole policy before the policy ends.
- Whole life insurance: Typically the most popular type of permanent insurance, whole life policies last your entire life, as long as you pay the premium (in most circumstances; there can be exceptions). There is also usually a savings component, called the cash value, that allows a portion of your premiums to earn interest. You can usually borrow against this money if you need a loan.
- Universal life insurance: This type of permanent insurance differs from whole life in one important way: instead of your money building up interest in a savings account, it is invested in funds that offer a varying rate of return. It also offers flexibility, allowing you to change the death benefit and premiums.
- Guaranteed universal life insurance: Similar to universal life, this type of policy ties your premium’s interest-earning portion to market indexes. If the portfoliodoes well, so will your life insurance policy. Your premium will stay the same, regardless of the market fluctuations.
- Variable life insurance: Another permanent policy type, variable insurance has a cash value that can be invested in high-risk financial opportunities, including stocks. These policies can be volatile, and are often purchased by those looking for a way to add variety to their financial portfolio.
- Final expense insurance: Often called burial insurance, these low-payout policies are often purchased by older individuals to pay for the costs of their funeral and any debts remaining when they die. They usually have a maximum payout of $30-50K, and can be costly.
Age and Gender
Age is a primary determining factor for your life insurance premium. Generally speaking, the younger you are, the lower your costs will be. Of course there are other factors that impact your cost, but since younger people tend to have fewer health issues than older people, your insurer will take that into consideration when quoting your policy.
Another important consideration is your gender. Why? Statistically, women live longer than men. The current average lifespan for a woman in the U.S. is 81.9 years. For men, it’s only 77.1. That translates into increased risk for the insurer when writing a policy for a man, which typically means higher prices.
Health and Family Health History
It probably won’t surprise you that your health and your family’s health play primary roles in determining your premium. If there is a history of illness in your family, premiums will probably be higher. Your personal health is also taken into account, including any health conditions, diseases, or risk for health problems.
A medical exam is not mandatory in all cases, and those who don’t have any serious conditions may be able to purchase term life insurance without an exam. However, many companies do require a medical exam or will simply charge a higher premium if none is required. Based on that exam, your insurer will place you in a category, of which the highest level is called preferred select, followed by standard plus, standard, preferred smoker, and smoker. The category you’re in will help determine your premium, with the higher levels earning lower premiums.
Your lifestyle choices, such as smoking, excessive alcohol use, weight issues, or high-risk hobbies, will impact your rate. Smokers will pay more for life insurance than non-smokers due to the many health problems linked to smoking. Alcohol use can also lead to higher life insurance premiums. Being overweight is an easy red flag for insurance companies, because it is associated with illnesses including diabetes and heart problems. And if you have a high-risk hobby — such as sky-diving or motocross racing — you may pay more.
One of the lesser-known factors that can raise a life insurance premium is where someone works. Certain jobs are deemed riskier than others, which translates into a higher premium. A company might provide higher life insurance quotes for people who work in construction or with toxic substances compared to those who work in an office everyday. Other high-risk industries include fishing, lumbering, and police work.
Ultimately, like all forms of insurance, life insurance is a financial product that is designed to protect your and your loved ones’ finances. As you begin your search for a life insurance policy, you may want to consider speaking with a financial advisor to determine what’s right for you and your family.