Term life insurance is a life insurance product that pays out a cash lump sum upon death of the insurance policyholder or at the point that the insurance policyholder is diagnosed as terminally ill. But, despite it being a low cost term life product surprisingly few of us have term life insurance in place.
Term life insurance is the easiest type of life insurance to understand. To put it simply, the insured person pays a minimal premium per thousand dollars of coverage on an annual, semi annual, quarterly or monthly basis. If he or she dies within the term of the policy, the life insurance company will pay the beneficiary the face value of the policy.
To better understand some of the distinctive features of term life insurance consider the following points:
First, term life insurance is “pure insurance” because when you purchase a term insurance policy you are only buying a “death benefit”. Unlike with other types of “permanent insurance” such as whole life, universal life, and index universal life, there is no additional cash value built up with this kind of policy. Term insurance only gives you a specific death benefit.
Second, the coverage is for a defined period of time (the “term”) such as 1 year, 5 years, 10 years, 15 years, 20 years and 30 years. Once the policy is in force, it only remains in force until the end of the term — assuming you pay the premiums, of course.
Third, most term insurance policies are renewable at the end of the term. With what is known as “Level Term Life Insurance”, the death benefit remains the same throughout the term of the policy.
Fourth, most term policies can be converted to permanent policies within a specific number of years. If you decide it is important to retain the insurance coverage, converting may be something you should plan for. You can anticipate the accelerating cost of term insurance premiums and convert your policy before the premiums become prohibitively high. It is true that in the short term the premium will usually be higher than if you stayed with the term policy. But over the long term this difference will decrease because of the rapid acceleration of the term insurance premium as you get older. A permanent policy also accumulates cash value which increases the total death benefit paid to your beneficiary.
For people with a mortgage and family to support, not having a term life insurance policy exposes them to a large financial risk. This risk becomes apparent when you consider how the mortgage and household bills would be paid if the main income producer were to die or to become terminally ill. The end result could be that loved ones who are left behind find their home is repossessed because they cannot keep up the mortgage repayments.
Here are some things to look for when getting a quote for term life insurance:
- The cheapest rate today will not be the cheapest rate tomorrow. For instance, the cheapest premium today will likely be for a Yearly Renewable Term policy. This policy is renewed every year at which time your premium is also adjusted upwards. This is fine if you intend to convert to a longer term solution (permanent insurance) in a year or two, or if you have a very short term requirement for insurance. But if you think you will need this insurance for a longer period, you would be better off committing to something like a Twenty or Thirty Year Term Policy. This locks your premium and death benefit in for that period of time. Your rates will not increase until you renew.
- Compare coverage and premium projections for different policies. Think about the long term and get the coverage that saves you money in the long run.
- Make sure you completely understand the conversion options built into the different policies you are considering. Most policies will let you convert part or all of your term insurance into permanent insurance within a specific period of time, and without the need of a medical examination.