How much life insurance do I need?

Determining the amount of life insurance you need is very important, yet often confused. For starters, many people are comforted to know that their loved ones are free of obligations like mortgages and loans, so buying insurance to pay off the house, car, student loans, and other debts is a great start.

Most importantly, you will want to make sure that your family has enough income to live comfortably after you are gone. Factors to consider when looking at this are how much income is needed, the number of years the income will be needed for, and how inflation will impact the future. Additionally, if you have children, you might want to consider making sure that their college education is covered. Lastly, depending upon the value of your estate, you may need insurance to pay for some, or all, of estate taxes that will be due. The best approach to determining your needs is to have a discussion with a qualified financial advisor.


Is term life insurance right for me?

Much more important than type of insurance is the right amount of insurance. Term insurance is an excellent solution for short-term and medium-term needs. And in many cases, it is the most suitable product even if you think you will need coverage for an extended period of time.

Unlike “permanent” life insurance such as universal life and whole life, most term policies offer coverage for a specific number of years – ranging from one-year term to periods in excess of 30 years. Many term insurance policies also offer “conversion privileges” allowing you to exchange your policy for a universal life policy. This allows the purchase of affordable term insurance today, while having the option of extending coverage to meet lifetime needs.


What factors should I consider when selecting a term life insurance policy?

While premium is certainly an important consideration when selecting a life insurance policy, there are other factors which are also very important. In particular, you should consider the financial ratings of the companies you are evaluating as well as conversion privileges if that is a possibility in the future.

Our term quoting engine displays the ratings from four services: A.M. Best, Standard & Poors, Moody’s, and Fitch. Each of these services analyzes insurance carriers using different criteria. Furthermore, not every carrier is rated by each of the services. When reviewing ratings, you will see the name of the service followed by the rating and a number in parentheses. For example, you might see a rating such as “A.M. Best: A(3).” This means that particular carrier received an “A” rating from A.M. Best, and the “A” rating is the 3rd highest awarded by that service. Other services use a different rating system so with Standard & Poors as well as Fitch, the 3rd highest rating is AA.

Term life insurance is an excellent and affordable solution. Still, there may be times when a permanent policy such as universal life might be best. Most term insurance policies allow the policyowner to convert the policy into a permanent one without showing additional evidence of insurability. Each policy offers different conversion rates, so be sure to look at these details when reviewing your options.


Can I get affordable life insurance if I’m a smoker or use other tobacco products?

We help smokers and other tobacco users obtain life insurance every day. In general, it is a bit more expensive to purchase a life insurance policy if you have a recent history of tobacco usage, but our excellent underwriting team will help you obtain affordable coverage.

There are innovative underwriting programs available for those insureds who promise to quit smoking today in return for more favorable life insurance rates. Additionally, non-cigarette tobacco users have many options available, although it is important to choose the right carrier. Some insurance companies are known for offering better priced policies for tobacco users than others, and for those who no longer use tobacco products, different carriers employ different standards in terms of the length of time from your last usage before you can qualify for the best rates.

We invite you to contact one of our underwriting specialists who will make sure you get the right coverage from the right carrier.


Can I get life insurance if I am a pilot?

If you are a private pilot, you can qualify for life insurance with no flying exclusions. It is very important that you contact one of our underwriting experts who will help you choose the right carrier. Generally speaking, if you are a private pilot (i.e.: your profession is not a pilot) with more than 150 solo hours, an instrument rating, and fly no more than 150 hours per year, we can help you obtain coverage at the most favorable rates. If you do not have an instrument rating, although rates may not be ideal, coverage is still available. Please keep in mind that depending upon the carrier, the same pilot might receive a Preferred Best rating from one insurer and Standard from another. Selecting the right carrier is extremely important as the different in price could be quite large.


Can I get life insurance if I’m on active duty in the military?

We can help you obtain affordable coverage if you are on active duty in the military, even if you are about to be deployed. Several of our carriers recognize the great sacrifice made by men and women in the armed services and are willing to offer coverage on a favorable basis.


Can I get life insurance if I travel or live outside of the United States?

Life insurance carriers understand that we have a global economy and offer many attractive alternatives for U.S. citizens traveling or living abroad, or foreign residents in the U.S. In most cases, if you are traveling to countries NOT on the State Department’s Travel Advisory or Watch List, and don’t plan on being out of the U.S. for more than three months, you should be able to qualify for insurance with no restrictions or limitations. If you are living abroad, although not at the most favorable rates, life insurance can still be obtained. When planning to travel to countries on a Watch List, you may not be able to obtain coverage immediately, or have restrictions placed on coverage that is offered to you.


What is involved with scheduling and completing the life insurance medical exam?

Once you submit your application for coverage, we will have a specialized insurance medical examination service call to schedule your appointment. They are quite flexible and can usually conduct the exam at your home or office, during the day or in the evening. Depending upon your age and the amount of coverage desired, the examination will be completed by either a licensed nurse or physician. There is no charge for this service.

The examination itself will usually consist of height and weight measurements, blood pressure readings, collection of blood and urine samples, and a medical questionnaire. For large amounts of insurance, an EKG or treadmill may be required.


What should I do to prepare myself for the life insurance medical exam?

  • Morning Exam: If possible, schedule your examination in the morning. It is easier to fast while you sleep, and blood pressure is typically at its lowest upon first waking.
  • Rest and Good Health: Have adequate rest and be in generally good health for your examination. If you are sick with even a cold or exhausted, reschedule the examination. If you are pregnant, make sure you inform the examiner.
  • Nicotine Testing and Usage: You should not use any nicotine products for at least two hours prior to the examination. It is important to disclose to the examiner any nicotine products you are using. Failure to do so, combined with a discovery of nicotine in your urine, may suggest a lack of full disclosure and result in a declination of insurance.
  • Alcohol Consumption: Avoid all alcohol consumption for at least 48 hours prior to the examination. Alcohol consumption can increase blood pressure and adversely affect certain elements of the blood.
  • Caffeine Consumption: Limit caffeine consumption 48 hours before the examination. Have NO caffeine the morning of the exam. Caffeine increases blood pressure and pulse.
  • Medications: Take any prescribed medications as directed by your physician. Make a list of all medications with their name, dosage, and instructions on how they are taken, or bring along your prescription bottles to the exam.
  • Food and Drink: If you will be undergoing blood and urine testing (which is most often the case), you should not eat or drink twelve hours before the medical exam. If you are NOT undergoing such testing, you should not eat or drink four hours before the exam. A small amount of water is permissible during the fasting period. Limit the amount of high cholesterol and high salt foods for 24 hours prior to the exam. Please let the examiner know if you have any medical conditions which prevent you from fasting.
  • Exercise: Do not exercise before the medical exam – preferably for at least 24 hours. Exercise can cause inaccurate elevations of cholesterol levels.

How long is the life insurance application process?

The length of underwriting is based on a number of factors such as the carrier, the reason for the desired amount of coverage, and the overall health of the individual. Healthier, younger individuals are often able to get a policy issued within 30 days or less. We also have access to a number of accelerated underwriting programs that offer the ability to place a policy in as little as 15 days with the opportunity to skip the medical portion of the underwriting altogether. With more complex cases, we estimate policy placement to typically take place within 30-90 days. Extensive medical histories will delay the process, as this will require the carrier to obtain medical reports from your physicians. To speed up the process of obtaining medical records, it is best to gather your medical records yourself directly from your physician as there are delays in third parties requesting the records on your behalf due to HIPAA laws.


What should I consider if my birthday is coming up?

There are some insurance carriers who price their products based upon an “age last” basis, and others who price based upon “nearest age.” What this means is that as soon as you are six months from your last birthday, you will be a year older. It is very imporant to specify your actual date of birth and not just your age in years. If this situation applies to you, choosing the right carrier who prices products on an “age last” basis could result in saving a fair amount of money.


How long does it take before I will not test positive for tobacco usage?

It can take several weeks before your lab results will show Cotinine (what is tested for to determine tobacco usage) results consistent with a non-smoker. Of course, it varies from person to person and heavier users of tobacco products will take longer for Cotinine levels to decrease to normal levels than the occasional smoker.

However, we strongly discourage you from being anything but honest during your life insurance examination. In addition to blood and urine tests, it is common for insurance companies to obtain physician records. If those records indicate you have smoked, even occasionally, you will most likely be declined for insurance if you indicated otherwise on your application. Insurance companies do not like issuing policies when they learn about dishonest answers.

Unfortunately, this means you will be looking at a tobacco rating, which is more expensive than a policy for non-tobacco users, but there are options. Some companies offer life insurance more competitively priced for tobacco users than others. While it may not apply specifically to your case, insurance companies look at type of tobacco usage differently. For example, many companies will allow someone to have a “celebratory” cigar or some other form of tobacco and offer better rates than for cigarette smokers. Additionally, some companies offer “Preferred Tobacco” ratings, while others lump all tobacco users in one category even if there is a difference in other health factors. You may also apply for a decrease in the rating of a policy once you do stop smoking. The very best rates are usually reserved for people in excellent health who have not smoked for at least five years, but even after a year of not smoking, your premiums may be reduced.


What are the advantages of term life insurance?

The primary advantage of term life insurance is affordability. The most important decision an individual or family can make in terms of life insurance is how much is needed. Term life insurance often allows people to obtain the necessary amount of coverage while other forms of life insurance might be cost prohibitive.


For how long are term insurance premiums level?

Term life insurance policies are available in a variety of level premium periods to meet the various needs of policyholders. At the end of the level term period, some policies offer no additional coverage while most allow for continued coverage, but at a very high cost.