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A life insurance policy doesn’t have to be for the rest of your life.

For a variety of reasons, you may choose to buy coverage for a limited period of time, with comparatively low premiums. Term life insurance has no savings or investment components and doesn’t accumulate cash value over time.

If you decide that a term life policy is the best option for you, be sure to do your homework before you sign on the dotted line.’s life insurance basics article offers an overview of life product choices. Here are five questions to ask when considering a term life policy:

Questions to ask about term life insurance1. Is the insurance company stable?

The whole point of buying life insurance is to make sure your family is taken care of when you’re gone, so make sure your insurer has more staying power than you do.

Most life insurance companies are in excellent financial health, but you should still check out their rating before you purchase a policy. Look at the company’s rating from A.M. Best, Fitch Ratings, Moody’s Investors Services and Standard & Poor’s to get a clear picture of its financial stability. offers free insurance company ratings from Standard & Poor’s.

2. Does it allow you to convert the policy?

Assuming you outlive your term life policy, your life insurance needs might not evaporate when the term is up. That’s why it’s crucial to know exactly what sort of options you have for converting to a permanent type of policy near the end of the term, without needing another medical exam.

“Convertible life insurance policies allow you to switch from term life over to a permanent policy at any point,” says Heidi Moore, an insurance broker at Country Financial. “Convertible life insurance is a valuable tool if you have health problems and can no longer qualify for a new policy without taking a medical exam.”

Be sure to read the fine print on the conversion option, however.

There may be limitations in terms of when you are able to convert and how close to the end of the contract you can exercise that option, says Moore. You might also lose some of the options and endorsements you could have gotten if you purchased a permanent policy from the start.”

3. Are you getting the advertised rate?

One of the best reasons to buy term life coverage is to take advantage of the low rates that come with good health at a relatively young age. But even if you’re relatively healthy for your age, the rates promoted in ads may be based on an applicant with exceptional health.

Most life insurance companies advertise the lowest potential price, which is usually the super-preferred rate. And ultimately, the average person doesn’t typically qualify for this rate class. The only way to find out how much you will pay for life insurance is to get a personalized quote.

Here’s more on life insurance underwriting categories.



See more >

4. Exactly how much income are you replacing?

Consider what your family’s income needs will be over the course of your term life insurance policy.  

You should look at your ongoing expenses, like mortgage, rent or childcare. Estimate the total income that needs to be replaced to meet your family’s needs. This includes immediate expenses like medical bills, plus long-term goals like saving for college.

Also, keep in mind that death benefits don’t go as far as they used to. That’s because interest rates on savings and investments, which your survivors may use to turn insurance benefits into income, have fallen in recent years.

Lastly, make sure to choose a term length that matches your long-term income outlook. For example, if you’re planning to work 20 more years and you can leverage retirement benefits and Social Security, then maybe a 20-year term is sufficient.

If you don’t have those funds to tap into during retirement, you might choose a longer-term length, or go for a permanent life insurance policy that offers lifetime protection.

“There are so many scenarios and each one is different. It’s why we sit down with clients and ask them what their ultimate goal is for their life insurance plan,” says Moore.

5. What other benefits do you want?

If you want more protection than what your basic policy offers, you might think about adding riders to your life insurance policy.

For example, some insurers offer a “disability waiver of premium” option that will pay your premiums if you get sick or become disabled. Some term life products offer a “return of premium” option that allows you to get your premium expenditure back at the end of the term.

Adding riders to a life insurance policy will raise your premium. Make sure to choose riders that you might realistically need and use. Otherwise, you could end up paying too much for your coverage.

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