Last updated July 12, 2010
Your life expectancy is everything to your life insurer. There are thousands of life insurance underwriters employed across the nation whose job is to accurately guess your life expectancy. Your health conditions and your family history are used to calculate your quoted rate up or down. Each life insurance company works from its own sophisticated life expectancy tables.
Further, life insurance companies must be financially ready to pay claims and prove their financial stability. We certainly can’t have a nation full of loose cannon insurance companies making up all sorts of financial numbers. To make sure everyone is on the same page, the National Association of Insurance Commissioners releases an official “mortality table” that is the legal standard for “reserves and nonforfeiture benefits of currently issued ordinary life insurance policies.” (If you care to know what that means, it’s explained below.)
John Bruins, Senior Actuary with the American Council of Life Insurers, explains that “life expectancy at age ‘X’ is the average future life for someone at that age.” For example, the table below shows that a newborn boy has a life expectancy of almost 77 years. But that doesn’t mean he is expected to die at age 77; rather, males alive at age 77 will have an average life expectancy of about 9 more years.
Bruins explains that the chart shows that among males age 77, about half are deceased and the other half are expected to live an average of about 9 years more — some longer and some shorter.
Now, the numbers, please:
Your life expectancy
Source: National Association of Insurance Commissioners, 2001 Commissioners Standard Ordinary Mortality Table
The 2001 Commissioners Standard Ordinary (CSO) Mortality Table is the legally required table for calculating life insurance company reserves and nonforfeitures values as of Jan. 1, 2009. That means life insurers must look at their policyholders’ ages and then calculate how much money they must hold in reserves to pay future policy benefits using the mortality rates of the 2001 CSO. It also means that the 2001 CSO is the basis for determining guaranteed cash values and other nonforfeiture benefits. These are the amounts that are available to a policyholders if they surrender the life insurance contracts.