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What is life insurance?
Life insurance is a contract in which you make regular payments — also known as premiums — to an insurance company. In return, the insurance company pays a lump sum of money to your beneficiaries if you die while your policy is active.
A life insurance policy can last for a predetermined period of time (as it does with term life insurance) or until you die (as whole life insurance policies do).
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Types of life insuranceWho needs life insurance?Life insurance ratesThe best life insurance companiesFrequently asked questions
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What type of life insurance policy do you need?
The type of life insurance you need depends on the kind of financial protection you’re looking for, as well as your budget. Term life and whole life are the most popular types of life insurance.
|Builds cash value||No|
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*Average for a 20-year, $500,000 policy for a healthy 35-year-old.
Term life insurance
Term life insurance typically has a coverage length between 10 years and 30 years. It's the most popular type of life insurance coverage because it's affordable and provides financial protection when you need it the most, such as when your children are younger or while you have a mortgage to pay off. It also doesn’t have any complex tax implications or restrictions.
On average, a term life insurance policy costs $28 per month for a healthy 35-year-old buying a policy with a term of 20 years and a coverage amount of $500,000.
→ See term life rates for May 2023
Whole life insurance
Whole life insurance is a type of permanent life insurance, meaning it lasts your entire life. It's significantly more expensive than term life, but comes with a cash value component in addition to the lump-sum payout. The cash value grows at a low interest rate set by your insurer, and is funded in part by the premiums you pay. High-net-worth individuals, in particular, can benefit from this cash value as an additional investment vehicle, or as a buffer against estate tax.
On average, whole life insurance costs $526 per month for a healthy non-smoking 35-year-old buying a policy with a $500,000 coverage amount.
→ See whole life rates for May 2023
Universal life insurance
Universal life insurance is a flexible type of permanent life insurance that allows you to increase or decrease how much you pay toward premiums. If you decrease how much you spend, the difference is withdrawn from your policy’s cash value. Universal life policies are best for high earners trying to build a nest egg without entering a higher income bracket.
No-medical-exam life insurance
No-medical-exam life insurance refers to policies that don’t require a medical exam for approval. If eligible for this type of policy, you would complete a health interview online or over the phone instead. Most no-medical-exam life insurance options are term policies that offer a faster application process for people with no health issues or minor health conditions.
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Do you need life insurance?
Anyone whose financial obligations would become the responsibility of their dependents in the event of their death should consider buying life insurance. Many people buy life insurance plans after a major life event like getting married, having children, or buying a house in order to protect their loved ones from financial hardship.
Here are some common examples of the kind of people who benefit most from life insurance.
Families and parents
- Cover mortgage payments
- Provide care for an aging family member
- Replace stay-at-home parent household contributions
- Lock in cheap rates
- Cover your income during prime earning years
Anyone over the age of 60
- Pay for final expenses
- Complement estate planning strategy
- Pay for estate taxes
- Buy out a partner
- Hire a replacement if you die
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How much does life insurance cost?
On average, term life insurance costs $28 per month for a healthy 35-year-old buying a policy with a term of 20 years and a death benefit coverage amount of $500,000. Your life insurance rates will depend on several factors, including your age, gender, health conditions, and lifestyle habits.
Average monthly rates for life insurance May 2023
|Age and gender||$250,000 coverage amount||$500,000 coverage amount||$1 million coverage amount|
Methodology: Sample monthly estimated rates are for male and female non-smokers with a Preferred health rating buying a 20-year, $250,000, $500,000, and $1,000,000 term life insurance policy. Life insurance averages are based on a composite of policies offered by Policygenius from Banner Life, Brighthouse Financial, Corebridge Financial, Foresters Financial, Lincoln Financial, Mutual of Omaha, Pacific Life, Protective, Prudential, Symetra, and Transamerica, and may vary by insurer, term, coverage amount, health class, and state. Not all policies are available in all states. Rate illustration valid as of 05/01/2023.
What factors affect life insurance quotes?
The younger you are, the lower your premium payments will be. In fact, life insurance rates go up anywhere from 4.5% to 9% every year you age, since we all become riskier to insure as we grow older.
pay an average of 24% less for life insurance than men. Since women often live longer than men, covering women presents less near-term risk to an insurance company.
can lead to high rates or denied coverage, while milder conditions may only have a small impact on the cost of your premiums.
Insurance companies consider some hobbies — like skydiving or
past a certain depth — risky enough to increase the cost of your life insurance premiums.
Best life insurance companies of May 2023
We use a mix of proprietary pricing data and third-party ratings like AM Best and J.D. Power to pick the best insurers on the market. Our independent, unbiased ratings and reviews will help you find your best possible life insurance policy with confidence.
Our top-rated life insurance companies
|Company||Policygenius rating||AM Best rating||Cost|
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I had a very good experience using Policygenius. They did most [of] the heavy lifting and made everything super easy. They sent me timely reminders which were helpful. I would 100% recommend using them.
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Policygenius made the process easy to navigate. The representatives were helpful and attentive to my questions. They were persistent in trying to help me find the best insurance for my current life goals. Once they connected me with insurance agents, the application process was relatively quick and, again, easy to navigate. I'd recommend them to anyone!
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Frequently asked questions
What is the best type of life insurance?
The best type of life insurance will depend on your financial and coverage needs, but in general you'll likely have to choose between term life and whole life insurance.
Term life is one of the most affordable coverage options on the market, only lasts for a set term, and comes with few rules and tax restrictions. Term life is the best option for most people looking to protect their income and provide their family with a financial safety net to cover any debts — including a mortgage or any other types of personal loans.
Whole life and other types of permanent life insurance, on the other hand, are good options for people looking to use life insurance to diversify their investment portfolio or those with long-term financial obligations or coverage needs, like dependents who require lifelong care. Whole life never expires and comes with a cash value that earns interest in addition to the death benefit payout. Because of that, it’s usually five to 15 times more expensive than traditional term policies. If you’re already maximizing your contributions to tax-advantaged accounts like a Roth IRA or a 401(k) and are seeking another investment option, whole life might work for you.
What is the difference between term and whole life insurance?
Term life insurance lasts for a specific period of time — usually 10 years to 30 years. Whole life insurance lasts your entire life, as long as you continue to pay the premiums. Whole life is also five to 15 times more expensive than term life, on average.
Where can I compare multiple life insurance quotes in one place?
At Policygenius you can compare multiple life insurance quotes online and for free. Policygenius is an independent broker that works with more than 10 different insurance companies, including many top insurers on the market.
At what age is life insurance worth it?
Anyone who has dependents that rely on their income should consider getting life insurance, regardless of age. The best age to buy life insurance, however, is when you're young and in good health. This will allow you to lock in the cheapest rates for the duration of your policy even if you still don't have dependents or financial obligations to cover in your absence.
What are the three main types of life insurance?
The three main types of life insurance are term life, whole life, and universal life insurance.