What is life insurance?
Life insurance is a legally binding contract between you and your insurance company. In exchange for monthly or annual premiums, your insurance company gives your designated beneficiaries a lump-sum payment, also known as a death benefit, upon your passing. You can get life insurance online or through an agent. Keep in mind your financial situation and long-term needs when choosing the amount and length of coverage on your policy.
Note that there are two major types of life insurance policies: term and permanent. Term life insurance typically provides coverage for 10, 20, or 30 years, whereas a permanent policy lasts for your entire lifetime. Term life insurance is the more affordable option, but if you pass away after your term is up, your beneficiary will not receive a payout.
When should I get life insurance?
Many people choose to buy life insurance when they have kids or take out a mortgage. But any time your financial needs change, it's best to consider taking out a life policy.
Consider these scenarios:
- Mortgage payoff: Think about how many years of mortgage payments you have left. It's best to get a policy for at least that number of years and the amount left on your mortgage.
- Children at home: How long will it be before your kids will be on their own? Consider the total cost to support them.
- Children's college costs: Think about how long it will be until your last child completes public or private school and college — and determine what you think the total cost will be.
- Partner who relies on your income: You may want a policy that offers a financial means for your loved one to maintain your current, or comparable, lifestyle. Think about what their total expenses will be until they retire.
- Inheritance: If you're considering leaving an inheritance, you may want a policy that lasts for the remainder of your life (a permanent life insurance policy).
- Funeral expenses: If you only need to cover funeral and burial costs, you can simply get a final expense life policy. Final expense is usually more affordable than other types of life insurance and can last for a set number of years or your lifetime.
Can you get life insurance with a pre-existing condition?
You're not automatically disqualified from getting life insurance if you have a pre-existing condition. For example, if you have diabetes, elevated cholesterol, or blood pressure issues, an insurance company may simply evaluate these conditions differently when assessing your overall health risk. Here are a few common questions an insurer might ask to help determine the type and amount of life insurance they'll offer:
- Is your condition under control?
- Do you take medication to manage your condition?
- Do you see your doctor regularly?
- Have you had a recent health issue that caused you to see a doctor, get additional testing, or receive treatment?
Why it's important to disclose pre-existing conditions
It's understandable to have concerns about sharing your medical history. However, sharing this information is the best way to secure and maintain the appropriate coverage. Also, if you don't honestly share your pre-existing conditions, you could be at risk of having your insurer cancel your policy due to inaccurate data in your application.
What impacts your life insurance price
Age and sex are two of the biggest factors that affect the cost of life insurance, but there are several other things insurers consider when determining your rate. For instance, if you have a job or hobby that's considered risky, you may pay more to offset the risk of insuring you. Other common factors include your overall health, financial history, and whether you use tobacco products. Learn more about the cost of life insurance.
Different types of life insurance policies
Term life is the most affordable option and only lasts for a set number of years — typically from 10 to 30 years, though there's a one-year short-term life insurance option too. If you pass away after the term length, your beneficiaries will not receive a payout. Many people choose term life to help pay off a specific expense, such as a mortgage or college tuition.
See more on term life insurance.
Permanent life lasts your entire lifetime and pays out no matter what age you are when you pass away, if you keep paying your premium. There are a few different types of permanent life that may allow you to withdraw funds early or change your payout amount over time. Many people choose permanent life if they plan to leave an inheritance to loved ones.
See more on permanent life insurance.
Final expense insurance is more affordable than permanent life. It's designed for end-of-life expenses, such as funeral and burial costs, medical bills, credit card debt, and other expenses. Those whose finances are in order, but who worry about burdening family members with outstanding bills or funeral costs, often select this type of coverage.
See more on final expense life insurance.
Not sure which policy type is right for you? Check out our breakdown of the different types of life insurance.