You probably need life insurance. Lots of people do.
If you have small children, a mortgage, a spouse who’s dependent on your income—or any person who would be inconvenienced financially if you were hit by a bus tomorrow, you probably should have life insurance.
Experts generally recommend buying 10 to 20 times your annual income in term life insurance, which is the most affordable variety. You make $50,000? Great. You should probably have at least $500,000 in life insurance.
Luckily, it’s not prohibitively expensive. A 40-year-old healthy nonsmoking male may be able to buy a 20-year level term $500,000 policy for as low as $350 per year, AccuQuote.com estimates. (“Level term” simply means the annual premium will stay the same for the term of the policy—in this case, 20 years.)
But there are a variety of things that could make your life insurance policy pricier, from health conditions to hobbies to lifestyle choices. Here are some of the top offenders:
1. Tobacco use. If that same healthy 40-year-old male admitted to being a smoker, his annual premium could jump to at least $1,535, according to numbers from AccuQuote.com. Stop smoking, meanwhile, and it will take one year before you can get a nonsmoker discount, but you won’t get a top-tier price until you’ve been cigarette-free for at least three years. “They want to be really sure you’re off it,” says AccuQuote founder and C.E.O. Byron Udell. That said, if you need life insurance now, go ahead and pay the higher premium—and when you’ve stopped smoking, call your insurer and see if you can lock in the lower price.
2. Your weight. Being overweight increases your odds of dying, so the more overweight you are, the more expensive your life insurance will be. Depending on the carrier, as little as 10 to 15 pounds may be enough to knock you out of the top pricing tier, Udell says.
3. Your driving record. A couple of recent tickets aren’t going to seriously raise your annual premiums, but if you have more than two moving violations in the last three years, you likely won’t be able to get the best life insurance rates. “Insurers know that each time you get a speeding ticket, you were probably speeding about 250 times before you got caught,” Udell says. “If you’re routinely violating traffic laws, there’s a much greater likelihood you’re going to die in a traffic accident.”
4. Cardiovascular disease. This includes high blood pressure and other heart issues, which can lead to early death. “Sometimes they’ll write a life insurance policy with an exclusion for heart conditions,” says LearnVest Planning Services Certified Financial Planner™ Katie Brewer. “So they’ll give you insurance, but exclude you if you die of a heart condition.” If you have high blood pressure, but it’s controlled by medication, you should have no major problems. That means you can’t show up to your insurance exam with a blood pressure of 145 over 95, Udell says. “That’s not controlled. It’s the high blood pressure itself, not the medication, that concerns them.”
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