Written by: Guest | Best Company Editorial Team
Last Updated: July 1st, 2020
Guest Post by Kelsey Down
When it comes to life insurance, what's right for one person might not be right for the next. No two people have identical financial needs, especially when considering personal factors like debt, dependents, and health conditions — all of which can influence the best type of life insurance for you, and even your eligibility for coverage.
Age is a major factor that life insurance companies weigh when considering if they can cover you. It may feel discriminatory knowing that the older you get, the more you will pay for life insurance. But with age comes a higher risk of death, no matter how healthy you are. The good news is that most people need less coverage as they progress through life, so things should balance out.
If you aren’t sure which kind of life insurance best fits your needs, here is a guide to choosing the right policy based on your age and life stage:
As an unattached 20-something, fresh out of college and into the workforce, you may consider life insurance an unnecessary expense. But don’t forget that if your parents have co-signed your car payment, private student loan, or other debts, they could be held responsible to pay the balance in the event of your death. You should also consider the likelihood of marriage and children in your future. Do you anticipate settling down (and adding dependents) soon? If so, the sooner you start paying for life insurance, the lower your premium will be for a longer term policy.
Of course your chances of dying are lower as a young adult than they will be in later years, but that also means life insurance is at its most affordable. For example, a 20-year-old can expect to pay a monthly average of about $9.62 for a $250,000 ten-year policy — while a 50-year-old will need to pay more than double that amount for the same policy.
If you haven’t purchased life insurance yet, you should consider it once you become a parent. No one wants to think about death when there’s a baby in the mix. However, it’s especially important for single parents or for any income-earners in a household to avoid leaving dependents without the financial means to remain comfortable. However, even if one parent stays at home, you should think about getting life insurance for them too; losing them could mean losing a crucial share of childcare and household responsibilities.
Choose a term life policy that will cover the child-raising years, and possibly the length of your mortgage as well. In special circumstances, permanent life insurance might be a better option, but usually only if you anticipate having a lifelong dependent.
Even if your children have achieved 100 percent financial independence, life insurance still offers a crucial lifeline to your spouse in the case of your unexpected death. But the truth is, housing and tuition costs increase continually, sometimes leaving children dependent on their parents for longer periods, even after they’ve flown the coop. If you still support grown children in the form of a car payment, rent, or college tuition, you can select a term period that will ensure their financial security for a predetermined length of time.
Chances are, you also have a mortgage to pay off. In this case, you can calculate the time it will take you to finish paying it off, and purchase a term life policy based on that figure.
Mature and Late Adulthood
In the years approaching retirement, your needs for life insurance will decrease. That’s a good thing, because this is also the time when your premiums will increase. Your children will likely be old enough to provide for themselves, and your time left in the workforce will be limited. If you purchase a new life insurance policy, focus on the shorter-term options that will carry you through the final years spent working before social security and retirement benefits kick in.
There are some exceptions to this advice, though. You may continue to work part-time after retiring, to bring in supplementary income that supports a spouse or other loved one. Life insurance can also act as a form of estate planning, to alleviate estate taxes if you are leaving behind a considerable sum.
As you progress in age, you will find it more difficult to purchase life insurance. After age 80 you may no longer be eligible for even 10-year coverage by most companies. Those who still hope to ease their family’s financial burdens can consider alternatives like burial or final expense insurance, which will help pay for funeral costs and sometimes outstanding debts.
Remember that these are guidelines, not concrete rules. If you have special circumstances like chronic health problems, lifelong dependents, or other considerations, your needs probably differ. You might need to consult with an insurance agent to review your options if this is the case.
Kelsey Down is a freelance writer in Salt Lake City, Utah, whose work has been featured on publications including Venture Beat and Working Mother. Follow her on Twitter @kladown23.