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Nothing can fully protect your family and loved ones from the unexpected. But life insurance is among the best ways to help the people you love get back on their feet more quickly when you’re no longer able to provide for them. A life insurance policy can present your family with the financial support necessary to settle your debts, pay for funeral arrangements or care, execute any requests and even set up a future inheritance. Optional riders can provide additional peace of mind, allowing you to enhance your policy to cover specific anticipated needs. That way, your loved ones can more easily focus on healing and life without you.

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Consider these life insurance companies

Name Product Issue Ages Coverage Range Medical Exam Required
18 - 85 years old
$10,000 to $10,000,000+
Depends on provider and policy
Compare quotes from 16 life insurance companies side by side.
18 - 64 years old
$100,000 to $3,000,000
No
Customized term life insurance policies up to $3 million, no medical exam required.
20 to 60 years old
$100,000 to $8,000,000
No
Term life insurance with no policy fees and the freedom to cancel anytime. Simple application process that can get you approved for coverage instantly.
21 - 54 years old
$50,000 to $1,000,000
No
Affordable 2-, 10- and 20-year term life insurance policies. Instant quotes and no medical exams.
25 - 60 years old
$100,000 to $5,000,000
No
Offers term life insurance with accelerated underwriting. No-exam coverage up to $1,000,000 for those who qualify.
18 - 80 years old
$50,000 to $25,000,000
Depends on provider and policy
Get a quote within minutes from more than a dozen insurers.
20 - 85 years old
$100,000 to $1,000,000
Depends on policy
Get a term or whole life insurance quote from Fidelity Life - starting as low as $15/day.

Compare up to 4 providers

Life insurance

When deciding how to narrow down your life insurance needs, start by choosing from its two main types: term life and whole life. Term life covers you for a specified period of five to 30 years or more, depending on the provider. After your coverage expires, you can typically renew or convert your policy to another term. Whole life insurance is a type of permanent policy, providing lifelong coverage and often a cash value component and dividends supported by an investment account.

Term life insurance

Easily the most practical and affordable life insurance option, term life insurance offers coverage for a predetermined period of time.

Whole life insurance

Whole life insurance provides lifelong coverage at a fixed rate, while building in cash value.

Universal life insurance

Universal life insurance offers both lifelong coverage and an investment component that tracks the major indexes.

Variable life insurance

This investment focused life insurance policy is for experienced investors looking to grow and use the cash value component of their policy later in life, tax deferred.

Joint life insurance

Joint life insurance is a single policy, term or whole, that aims to meet the needs of two people, usually married.

Disability insurance

This type of insurance provides a necessary income should you become afflicted with a debilitating injury or illness and are unable to work.

Every type of life insurance, explained

Companies we’ve reviewed

AIGBanner LifeBrighthouse FinancialGlobe LifeUSAAState FarmJohn HancockLincoln FinancialSBLI

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When is life insurance paid out?

Most life insurance providers pay out claims within 60 days, with most states allowing your insurer up to 30 days to investigate your claim, if necessary. In most cases, your insurer pays your life insurance policy in a lump sum to your beneficiaries after you die.

A beneficiary or representative of your estate starts the claims process with your insurer after your death, submitting required forms along with a copy of the death certificate. Insurers may delay payouts if the policyholder’s death is ruled a homicide or suicide. Also, deaths that happen in the first two years after signing up for life insurance coverage typically are subject to something called the two-year contestability clause. This clause allows your insurer the right to more thoroughly investigate your claim to confirm you didn’t provide false or fraudulent information to get a life insurance policy.

Can I receive my life insurance payout before I die?

You might be able to, but it depends on whether you customized your policy at signup with an accelerated benefit rider. These riders allow you to receive a percentage of your policy’s payout if you unexpectedly fall ill or suffer a disability. Depending on your policy’s terms, you can receive your accelerated benefit in periodic installments or as a lump sum to cover the costs of a critical or chronic illness, including long-term care.

What can a life insurance payout be used for?

Living expenses image

Everyday living expenses

Mortgage repayments image

Mortgage repayments

03-debt

Other outstanding debts

Education expenses image

Education expenses


What to look for in a life insurance policy

To find a comprehensive life insurance policy at the best rates, look into how coverage amounts affect your premiums, the flexibility of your policy options and additional riders or features specific to the providers you’re interested in.

To simplify the process of comparing different policies, ask yourself:

Life insurance policy options

While term and permanent life insurance are the basics, you’ll find variations that allow for flexibility in how much you pay in premiums, how you can accumulate cash value, whether you can borrow against your policy and more. Knowing what these common variations provide can help you customize a policy that meets you and your family’s anticipated needs.

Term life Whole life Universal life Variable life Variable universal life
Length of term 1 to 30 years Life Life Life Life
Cost of premium Level premiums Level premiums Premiums can vary at the policyholder’s discretion, subject to federal tax laws Level premiums Premiums can vary at the policyholder’s discretion, subject to federal tax laws
Guaranteed death benefit checkmark checkmark checkmark checkmark checkmark
Guaranteed cash value checkmark May be exhausted to pay premiums, safeguarded from risk
How your money appreciates or depreciates N/A Set rate of interest Variable rate of interest Pooled accounts managed by investors Pooled accounts managed by investors
What you should know You can’t lose coverage, and you receive no premium refund at the end of the term Not as flexible as other life insurance options Flexible policy options and premiums High-priced policy with no or minimal cash appreciation High-priced policy with no or minimal cash appreciation

How much coverage should I get?

Given the general unpredictability of life, there’s no one universal answer for how much coverage you should buy. Experts will tell you to start with a multiple of your annual income — up to 10 times your salary. Generally, you want to determine an amount that will cover immediate and ongoing costs after you die, so that your family and other dependents can support their current way of life.

4 ways to work out how much coverage you need

When determining how much coverage is enough to protect your family, consider your debts, living expenses and lifestyle. Also plan for how your loved ones will pay for your funeral, burial and related expenses.

1. What types of debt will you leave behind?

Think about how much of your salary goes to pay down debt and how much you pay monthly or annually toward:

  • Outstanding mortgage payments.
  • Rented properties.
  • Personal debt like personal loans, car loans or credit card balances.
2. How much do you already have for your family to fall back on?

Think about the number of years you might need to cover your family’s living expenses and whether savings or assets can offset those costs after your death, including:

  • Accumulated savings.
  • Assets that your family can sell.
  • Investments like property or stock.
  • Employer-sponsored retirement plans or a 401(k).
3. What are your family’s ongoing living expenses?

Factor into your life insurance coverage everyday and even irregular expenses, like:

  • Transportation costs, including car maintenance and gas.
  • Property and income taxes.
  • Food, clothing and utilities.
  • Future education and childcare costs.
  • Car, health and homeowners insurance.
  • Entertainment and vacations.
4. How long will your family need coverage?

At some point, your family will be able to rely on Social Security benefits and other investments. But until then, think about:

  • Your age.
  • The ages of your partner and children.
  • The earning capacity of your partner today and in the future.
  • Anticipated funeral expenses.
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What affects my life insurance premiums?

To calculate your policy’s premiums, life insurance providers engage a complicated review of your age, health and lifestyle called underwriting. They often run these details through proprietary algorithms and analytical tools to determine the level of risk in taking you on as a policyholder.
How a life insurance provider rates you within each category varies, but most consider:

  • Your age. Age is the No. 1 factor that determines your premiums. Generally, the younger you are, the less of a risk you present to the insurer — and the lower premiums you’ll pay.
  • Your gender. Women generally live longer than men. Because this means a policy will likely be longer, they tend to have lower premiums than men.
  • Your health history. If you have a history of medical conditions, an insurer might consider you a risk for future, more serious issues, bumping up your premium accordingly. If you can prove to the insurer that you’re managing any existing condition, it might help you lock in a lower rate.
  • Your occupation and lifestyle. If you work in a dangerous field or embrace life like a daredevil, potential insurers may consider you a person with high potential for death. Because most insurers will assume an inevitable policy payout, your premium will undoubtedly be high.
  • Your relationship with alcohol and nicotine. Drinking and smoking are risks to your health, and you could end up paying double the life insurance premium for those with less risky habits.
  • Your family’s medical history. If you come from a line of relatives with serous health issues, especially hereditary conditions, insurers might conclude that you will too, resulting in higher premiums.
  • Your driving record. Today, many insurers consider your actions behind the wheel when determining costs. If you’ve racked up driving violations or serious convictions, you might pay higher rates.

Should I buy insurance through a broker or directly from an insurer?

You have options when shopping for a life insurance policy. Today, you’ll find brokers that work with a range of companies to help you find the best prices in their network on the coverage you need, but they may not offer the personalized service you’ll find with a direct agent.

Both broker and agents work on behalf of providers to sell you a life insurance policy. It all comes down weighing each against what you’re looking for.

Buying life insurance from a broker
  • Not limited to one provider, offering access to a wide range of products for potentially greater choice.
  • Can flex their knowledge of the market to help you find coverage to suit your circumstances.
  • Can help you assess your situation to determine the type and amount of coverage you need.
  • Can offer overall advice regarding life insurance and annuities.
  • Depending on their expertise, may offer higher coverage levels and stronger features outside of your typical policy.
Buying direct from an insurance provider
  • Limited to one provider’s products, though with expertise to talk about them in detail.
  • May allow you to fully sign up online or by phone, with immediate conditional approval.
  • Online providers may offer faster underwriting and turnaround.
  • Direct products are beginning more — with some offering coverage amounts of up to $15 million.

I’ve already got life insurance in my retirement plan. Is it enough?

Many retirement plans provide members with a default level of coverage that you can increase, decrease or cancel altogether. If your employer matches contributions through a 401(k), your plan most likely includes default coverage.

To know whether your 401(k)’s coverage is sufficient for your situation, consider the benefits and drawbacks of investing through your retirement plan.

Benefits of investing through your retirement plan

  • Generally more affordable, because coverage is purchased in bulk.
  • Premium payments may be tax-deductible if paid with pretax dollars.
  • Self-employed workers under the age of 75 may be eligible to claim a tax deduction for personal contributions.
  • In some cases, employees can arrange for an employer to make contributions directly to their 401(k) for an amount that includes life or disability premiums.
  • Payments are automatically withdrawn from your 401(k), and not your after-tax income.
  • May not require lengthy medical or health exams.

Drawbacks of investing through your retirement plan

  • The types of coverage available to you may be limited.
  • Nondependents may pay taxes on benefits.
  • Benefits payments can be complicated and take more time, because the benefit is paid to a trustee, who then distributes funds.
  • Coverage may not be as comprehensive or flexible as a policy.
  • Coverage expires around age 70, whereas most policies outside of a retirement plan can provide coverage until age 90 or 100.
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Am I eligible for coverage if …

  • I am a non-US resident? Yes. A number of insurers are willing to provide life insurance to nonresidents, especially if you’re in the US for work or family. You must apply for the policy in the US and be willing to take a medical exam.
  • I am over 70? Yes. Most insurers provide life insurance to applicants up to age 75, and a few offer coverage for applicants up to age 80 or even 90. If you’re eligible, the insurer may reduce the level of coverage you’re able to receive.
  • I have a pre-existing condition? It depends on the nature of your condition and any treatment you’re receiving to maintain it. Insurers either exclude the condition from coverage, request more details about your condition or automatically accept it. Eligibility and requirements differ among providers, so you might want to speak directly with an agent about products that meet your needs.
  • I work in a high-risk job? Yes. But it’s likely you’ll pay a higher premium for coverage than an office worker will. If you’re in a high-risk industry, talk with an insurance expert about your chances of finding an insurer willing to offer competitive coverage for your occupation.
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How to get quality protection that won’t break the bank

When it comes to life insurance, you don’t want to overpay. But you also want a policy that leaves your family underinsured when they need it most. Here’s how to make sure you’re getting adequate coverage within your budget.

  • Buy young to lock in a competitive rate. The best time for an affordable policy is nearly always when you’re young and in good health. Otherwise, a more complicated medical history and older age can spell high rates.
  • Calculate how much coverage you actually need. Take the time to assess what you’d need to cover in the event of death or serious injury, and think about how that figure could change as you and your family grow older.
  • Learn what coverage you already have. You may already have some life insurance as part of an employer-sponsored retirement plan or 401(k). Find out what you stand to receive in a claim and whether extra coverage is necessary.
  • Take the time to shop around. Compare quotes from a range of insurers for a better chance a finding something tailored to your needs and budget.
  • Keep an eye out for special offers. With so much competition among insurers, you might be able to take advantage of special offers to save on your coverage. Discounts could include free coverage for the first year, access to health rewards programs and lower premiums.

Can life insurance fit into my budget?

You may find it surprising how little a life insurance policy can cost monthly when compared with other expenses. Budgeting for life insurance is often easier than some of the other expenses you might be shelling out monthly such as a cellphone bill or car insurance.

How do annuities work?

An annuity is long-term investment tool designed to pay out your death benefit as regular income to you or your beneficiary, rather than as a lump sum. Life insurance annuities earn interest at either fixed or variable with either immediate or deferred disbursal.

Fixed annuities earn interest a rate that’s fixed at the time you purchase your policy. While a variable annuity earns interest at a rate that depends on the market, which makes it more like an investment that increases or decreases over time. Your money is distributed into a subaccount that’s managed by a pool of investors, and what you’re paid depends on how well your investment does.

When it comes to how quickly you’ll get paid, you can either set up an immediate annuity that pays right away or a deferred annuity that disperses cash at a later date that you agree on.

Keep in mind that your annuity is valid only as long as your insurer is in business. When you’re looking for a policy, shop with highly rated companies.

Still need help? Get answers to common questions

Do I even need life insurance?

How can I get a life insurance quote?

How do I apply for coverage?

What won’t my life insurance policy pay for?

How do I manage my life insurance policy?

How do I make a claim?

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