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Life insurance for seniors

Senior life insurance options become more limited as you age, but you can still score a policy tailored to your needs.

In your golden years, life insurance can help you plan for the future while making sure you have access to money if you need it during your lifetime, with the help of riders. Just be sure to take the time to compare policies, as seniors are typically charged higher rates — and shopping around can save you hundreds of dollars over the life of your policy.

Quick take

  • Seniors with serious health conditions still have access to life insurance policies
  • Seniors should opt for policies with add-ons that offer living benefits
  • The average monthly cost of term life insurance for a healthy 60 year old starts at $89.54

See the 5 best life insurance companies for people over 60

Senior life insurance can help cover end-of-life expenses and more

Regardless of whether you have dependents anymore, life insurance can help cover necesssary expenses while you’re living and after you’re gone. Some reasons to consider getting a policy are to:

  • Plan for retirement using life insurance riders
  • Leave a legacy to not only your children, but your grandchildren
  • Support your spouse
  • Take care of large purchases, like college tuition
  • Pay off any outstanding debt, like a mortgage or credit card
  • Cover your own funeral, burial and end-of-life expenses, such as medical bills

However, if you’re leaving behind other assets to your loved ones, you may not have as much of a need for coverage.

4 types of life insurance for seniors

As a young senior, you have access to most types of life insurance. Though, seniors over 70 begin to see more limited options. Which coverage is best for you depends how much coverage you need, your age and how healthy you are.

Term life insurance

The cheapest and most straightforward policy, term life insurance offers coverage for a set period of time — like 10 or 15 years. The premiums stay the same for the life of the policy, and your beneficiaries receive a payout if you die within the term. However, you may need to take a medical exam, which could raise your rates if you have a serious health condition and the cutoff age for this type of policy is usually around 70 to 75.

  • Who it’s best for: You’re a healthy senior under 75 who wants to make sure you have coverage for a specific amount of time, such as the remainder of your mortgage. And, you’re not interested in building cash value through your policy.
  • Permanent life insurance

    If you want to treat your life insurance policy as an investment, consider a permanent policy like whole life insurance or universal life. These provide lifelong coverage and build cash value over time at either a fixed or variable interest rate. Once you’ve accumulated enough, you can withdraw that money and use it to fund your retirement or leave a larger legacy to your family. These types of policies can be offered to seniors well into their 80s, but coverage limits may be lower as you age.

  • Who it’s best for: You want to be sure your policy covers you for the rest of your life, and life the idea of building cash value.
  • Final expense insurance

    Open to those over 50, final expense insurance is specifically designed to pay for end-of-life expenses, such as funeral and burial costs as well as medical bills.

    Ross Quade, a licensed insurance agent and co-owner of Prime Mutual told Finder, “If a senior is on a fixed-income and their primary concern is covering the cost of their funeral or not passing on debt to loved ones, they can consider final expense insurance.”

    It aims to reduce the financial burden on your family immediately after your death, and you don’t need to take a medical exam to qualify. But it can be expensive, and coverage is capped at small amounts — like $2,000 to $10,000.

  • Who it’s best for: Your main goal for life insurance is to leave behind enough money to cover your funeral, burial or end-of-life costs.
  • Guaranteed issue policies

    Guaranteed issue policies are whole life policies that do not require a medical exam or health questionnaire to receive coverage. They usually have low limits, like $10,000 to $25,000, and cost more than policies requiring a medical exam.

  • Who it’s best for: You need life insurance but have health conditions that make you ineligible for traditional life insurance.
  • Does life insurance cover pre-existing conditions?

    Traditional policies typically won’t cover pre-existing conditions like heart disease or diabetes, so you may not qualify for a traditional policy or your insurer may specifically exclude coverage for your pre-existing conditions.

    If you aren’t approved for a traditional policy, you can opt for a policy that specializes in pre-existing conditions or no medical exams — just know the premiums are typically higher.

    How much does life insurance for seniors cost?

    The average cost of life insurance for a $500,000, 20-year term policy is $228.63 for a 60-year-old man, and $162.88 for a 60-year-old woman. This premium increases significantly depending on age, so expect to pay nearly double that average at the age of 65 and nearly triple at the age of 70.

    AgeM/W$250,000 policy$500,000 policy$1,000,000 policy
    Rates are provided by Quotacy based on 20 year term policy, and valid as of April 2021 in all states except Montana.
    To get a better idea of how costs differ per age, compare senior rates with those of different age groups.

    6 factors that affect life insurance premiums for seniors

    You may see higher life insurance rates, especially with these risk factors, according to our analysis of life insurance rates.

    • Age. Your risk of running into health complications rises — so insurers charge higher premiums as you age.
    • Gender. Men often pay more for coverage than women since men have a lower average life expectancy, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
    • Smoking status. You might pay two to three times more than a non-smoker if you’ve touched tobacco within a year.
    • Medical history. If you have a poor medical history or serious pre-existing conditions, you may see expensive premiums.
    • Driving record. If you’ve had major traffic violations within three to five years, you could face higher premiums.
    • Lifestyle and occupation. If you have hazardous hobbies or a dangerous job, your insurer will raise your rate.

    Compare life insurance companies for seniors

    Explore life insurance companies’ perks and benefits, and select view rates to get a quote.

    How to compare senior life insurance

    Keep these tips in mind while shopping for a policy to make sure you get the best deal:

    • Get multiple quotes. Any life insurance policy you choose must be affordable throughout retirement. Make sure you can comfortably pay your premiums and compare quotes from multiple insurers to get the best value for your money.
    • Weigh cost vs. benefits. Cost is always an important consideration when buying insurance, but it shouldn’t be the only one. Remember to weigh life insurance rates along with the features and benefits each policy offers. This can help you find the best value for money. For example, a cheaper policy with none of the add-ons you need may be less valuable than paying a few extra bucks for a policy that offers more add-ons.
    • Get expert advice. An experienced insurance broker can help you assess your coverage needs, compare a variety of policy options that you qualify for and find the policy that’s right for your situation.
    • Look for high-risk insurers if you have health conditions. Keep your risks in mind as you search for a policy, you’ll want to “know what your specific risk factors are, and which insurers look upon these issues more favorably” Quade suggested.

    Life insurance add-ons seniors should consider

    Keep an eye out for these add-ons that make your policy more valuable, especially in your senior years.

    • Accelerated death benefit rider. Pays out a portion of your death benefit early if you’re diagnosed with a terminal illness, and you can use the money however like — not just on medical bills.
    • Critical illness rider. Pays out a lump sum if you’re diagnosed with a critical illness specified in the policy, like heart disease, cancer or stroke.
    • Long-term care rider. Allows you to access money from your death benefit to cover the cost of a nursing home or similar expenses if you’re diagnosed as chronically ill.
    • Disability income rider. Offers a monthly benefit if you become ill or injured and can’t work for a period of time — which is worth considering if you’re still in the workforce and have a family relying on your income.
    • Spouse rider. Pays out a death benefit if your spouse passes away, and is typically limited to half of the policy’s face value.
    • Estate protection rider. Usually only available on joint policies, this rider offers an additional death benefit if both policyholders die within a specified time frame.
    • Guaranteed insurability rider. Policies with this feature allow you to adjust coverage without having to take a medical exam.

    4 ways to get cheap life insurance as a senior

    There are a few ways to reduce the costs of life insurance:

    • Choose the right level of coverage based on your existing financial obligations.
    • Take steps to improve your health.
    • Consider various premium payment structures.
    • Compare quotes from a handful of insurers to get the best possible premium.

    Protective offers the cheapest rates of 5 top life insurers

    We averaged rates for a 500k, 20-year term policy for healthy people 60 to 69 with five top life insurance companies and found that average rates with Protective are cheapest for both men and women in their 60s.

    AIG Life Ins (American General)$412.67$330.15
    Banner Life (Legal & General America)$410.60$332.79
    United of Omaha$467.86$328.16
    Rates are provided by Quotacy based on 20 year term policy, and valid as of April 2021 in all states except Montana.
    Protect your loved ones
    Compare 12+ top insurers side-by-side to get the best possible deal, and shop return of premium policies online.

    Need help? Talk to a customer specialist


    How to use life insurance during retirement

    You can use a life insurance policy in several ways to prepare for or fund your retirement with a permanent life policy.

    When you take out whole, variable or universal life insurance, part of the premium goes to an investment account that becomes a cash asset over time. Once you’ve built enough cash value, you can use the money, but any loans or withdrawals are deducted from the death benefit.

    1. Borrow against your policy. You can borrow against your policy’s cash value without paying taxes, and for most policies that’s true even if you borrow more than the premiums you paid. However, the loan accrues interest.
    2. Withdraw up to the premiums paid. Policy withdrawals are considered a partial surrender of the cash value and are tax free until you reach the amount of premium you’ve paid. Withdrawals don’t accrue interest but do reduce the death benefit.
    3. Surrender the policy. You also could cancel the policy and collect its surrender value minus any fees. You pay the lowest fees if you’ve held the policy for 10 years or longer, but you forfeit the death benefit with this option.
    4. Living benefits. Many policies offer extra coverage — called riders — that let you use the death benefit while you’re alive, such as for long-term care or medical bills if you become terminally ill.

    Senior life insurance alternatives

    Whether you don’t qualify for or don’t want traditional life insurance, consider critical illness or disability insurance policies to pay expenses if you suffer from an illness or injury. You could use the cash to pay for:

    • Modifications to your home. Think ramps or safety features to aid your mobility.
    • In-home assistance. Cover the costs of an at-home nurse or helper.
    • Ongoing medical needs. Bridge your health insurance gap and cover any ongoing medical costs or treatments.
    • Nursing home. If you can’t stay at home, you may need to move to a nursing home — which can be expensive.

    Bottom line

    If you have debt, financial dependents or want to make sure your loved ones aren’t burdened with funeral costs or medical expenses, it’s worth looking into a policy as a senior.

    But premiums increase significantly as you age. To get the lowest possible premium, compare life insurance companies.

    Life insurance ratings

    ★★★★★ — Excellent

    ★★★★★ — Good

    ★★★★★ — Average

    ★★★★★ — Subpar

    ★★★★★ — Poor

    Our experts analyze life insurance companies to help you to find the strongest possible policy and premium for your family’s needs. We assess their financial strength, customer satisfaction, policy features and riders. We then give each insurer a score between one and five stars that reflects their offering and reputation in the industry.

    Learn more about our methodology here.

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    Katia Iervasi is a lead writer and spokesperson at NerdWallet and a former editor at Finder, specializing in insurance. Her writing and analysis on life, disability and health insurance has been featured in The Washington Post, Forbes, Yahoo, Entrepreneur, Best Company and FT Advisor. She holds a BA in communication from Australia's Griffith University. See full bio

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