You already know you need it. Why not save some money?
Before we dive into the 15 tips to keep more dollars in your pocket, we absolutely MUST make one thing crystal clear up front.
The #1 way to find the most affordable life insurance rates is to find the company that views you the most favorably. That insurer is likely different than the one that is right for your brother or next door neighbor.
Premiums can and DO vary widely among insurance companies. So whether you do it yourself, or with the help of a trusted insurance broker (they don’t cost a penny), you must shop around to save money. I can’t stress this enough.
How This Guide Works
Save Later – Can save you money in the future.
Gain Value – May cost more but you get a better value in return.
Some of these strategies may not be available at all insurance companies. Yet another reason to make sure you get with the right one for YOU.
Table of Contents
***Use the links below to skip to specific sections***
- Backdate Your Life Insurance Policy
- Avoid Being Over-Insured
- Paying Premiums Annually vs Monthly
- Buy in Bulk
- Income Protection Settlement Option
- Reduce Your Life Insurance Death Benefit Along the Way
- The Truth About Term Length
- Ace the Medical Exam
- Health and Lifestyle Reconsiderations
- Choose Term Over Permanent Insurance
- Don’t Dodge the Medical Exam
- Consider an ART
- It Won’t be Cheaper Tomorrow
- Policy Laddering to Bring Cost Down
- The #1 Secret to Shopping Around for Affordable Life Insurance
Backdate Your Life Insurance Policy
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Many insurance companies will use your nearest age to base the premiums they charge on.
For example: Joe is 42 with a birthday coming up in December. If he applies for life insurance in August, he will be rated as a 43-year-old even though he does not actually turn 43 for 4 more months.
Joe would like $500,000 in coverage for a 20-year term. He is Standard Plus health class, non-smoker. Using our quote engine, his best rate currently is from Banner Life Insurance Company.
rated as a 43-year-old he will pay $809 per year with Banner
rated as a 42-year-old he would have paid $729 per year with Banner
Keep in mind that premium is locked for all 20 years.
Joe is paying a difference of $809 minus $729 = $80 per year x 20 years = $1,600.
By paying this $126 upfront he will lock in the 42-year-old rate for all 20 years and save the $1,600. $1,600 – $126 for a net savings of $1,474. Nice work Joe.
Avoid Being Over-Insured
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Everyone always tries to scare you about the consequences of being under-insured. Sometimes, this advice can actually leave you over-insured, which isn’t a good thing for your piggy bank.
Why would insurance agents sell me too much insurance?
Simple. Commissions. The more you buy, the more they get paid. $$
Have a skeptical eye to what is being proposed to you and ask questions. It’s your money!
To figure out the right amount of life insurance coverage that is needed you’ll need to take a look at a few areas of your finances and life first:
- Assets minus any debt
Once you have a good picture of those, answer the following questions:
- If I died tomorrow, what would be the immediate cash needs of my family?
- What would be the long-term income needs for my family?
You’ll also need to take into account some things about money in the future like investment return and inflation. Is this sounding overwhelming? A good unbias life insurance needs calculator that we trust can walk you through all these items. Do this in peace on your own so you have some confidence. Then work with a trusted independent agent to answer questions and find you the right coverage.
Paying Premiums Annually vs Monthly
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Paying your premiums monthly is common and what most people do. However, many insurers will give you the option to save money by paying your premiums annually.
When you pay annually, you help the insurance company in 2 ways:
- Lower administrative costs that monthly payment processing requires.
- They are able to use the money now vs waiting all year for smaller payments.
The insurance company returns the favor by giving you a discount. How much of a discount varies per insurer but is typically a 4-5% savings.
Currently, MetLife and Prudential are both offering an 8% discount which is on the higher end. Let’s take a look at the potential savings:
For example: Sara is a 50-year-old female applying at Prudential. She is a non-smoker in Standard health class.
For a $750,000 policy with a 15-year term, Sara will pay $177 per month or $1,967 per year.
Maybe you can’t afford to pay in full each year. Just do the years that you can to bank some savings. As a side benefit, taking care of it once per year will save you the hassle of making sure the payment is made each month.
Buy in Bulk
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- Save Later
- Gain Value
Buying food or supplies in bulk saves you money, why should life insurance be any different?
The price you pay for $500,000 in coverage is NOT necessarily 5 times what you’d pay at the same company for $100,000. Most insurers have certain tiers or “bands” where price breaks start to occur. These can often be in 250k increments at 250/500/750/1M and so on.
Assuming you have a legitimate need for more coverage, buying a little more can bring you a better value if you just crossed into a new band for that particular insurer.
In fact, it’s very well possible that in some cases getting more coverage could actually cost you less. That is not a misprint. I’ll explain:
Let’s say you are purchasing $700,000 in coverage. It’s in your best interests to check on the price of $750,000. It could be the same or less if you have crossed into a new tier with that insurer at $750,000. I can’t think of a reason NOT to grab an extra 50K for your beneficiary if the price is the same or less.
A knowledgeable independent broker should be able to tell you where these breaks exist at each company to help you potentially get a better value.
Income Protection Settlement Option to Save You Money
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Think about it. What is life insurance intended for really? If you die, your beneficiaries will get any assets you have all at once. That likely won’t be enough to last them forever. That is why you are purchasing life insurance. To replace the income you would have produced.
Since keeping premiums low and saving you money is the goal of this guide, let’s talk about the income protection option. It’s just what it sounds like, to protect your loved ones from the loss of your income. You may also see this referred to as a “fixed death payment” option or an annuity.
In language everyone can understand, this pays the death benefit over time in a number of payments instead of all at once in a lump sum.
This can be structured 2 ways, both of which save you LOTS of $$ in premiums.
Option 1 – As a pure annuity payout
Instead of receiving one payout of $1 million, your beneficiary receives 10 years of $100,000 per year or 20 years at $50,000 per year. These payments replace your lost income. In the end, they are getting that same $1 million in benefits.
In return for choosing this payout structure, premiums can be as much as 30% lower!
Option 2 – Combination lump sum + annuity payment
A smaller lump sum right away and then the rest over time as an annuity payment.
For example: your beneficiary gets $300,000 right away and then $46,666 per year over the next 15 years. This results in the same $1 million payout so the coverage hasn’t changed.
A combination payout like this can save you 10-15% depending on the company and how you structured it.
Life insurance companies would really prefer to payout this way. It gives them flexibility so they are happy to pass the savings on to you.
Going this route may end up BETTER for your beneficiaries too. Are you worried about them blowing through the money too quickly? The National Endowment for Financial Education states that as many 70% of Americans who receive a sudden windfall lost most of that money within 5 years.
Do you want to make sure it’s DOES NOT and save some money in premiums too?
Not everybody talks about this because they don’t know it exists. Don’t overlook this one. The income protection payout option can be a nice fit.
Reduce Your Life Insurance Death Benefit Along the Way
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The insurance companies won’t be advertising this one and prefer not to talk about it.
Most carriers do allow you to reduce the death benefit in the middle of the term. Let’s explore why you might want to do this:
- You lost your job and the premium payments are tough to afford but you’d like to keep the coverage.
- You came into a sum of money and you don’t need quite as much coverage anymore.
- Any of 37 other reasons that life throws at you.
Things happen. We can’t always predict 5 or 10 years down the road. If your situation changes and there is a need to reduce your coverage, CONSIDER IT, you’ll save some $$.
Some insurers will be clear in the policy about the process to reduce the death benefit. Others will not. It may require you to call and threaten to cancel all your coverage. Rather than lose your business entirely, they may agree to keep you as a customer at the lower death benefit and resulting lower monthly premiums.
Any life insurance agent worth working with will stick with you. Your policy and needs should be reviewed every 1-2 years. They can help you determine if reducing the coverage is the right move.
The Truth About Term Length
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This one is pretty simple and no big secret but is essential to be mentioned.
Too many times consumers will put off getting life insurance because it’s too expensive. You may have heard the saying:
“Nobody needs life insurance until they are dead“
cliche? maybe, but it’s true. If the price is an issue, the simplest way to drastically cut cost it is to purchase a shorter term. Purchasing the same coverage on a 10 or 15-year term will ALWAYS be much less than a 20 or 30-year term. There is a much lower chance of the insured dying over the next 10 years than there are over 30 years. Insurance premiums reflect this.
See the below examples for how quickly the rates drop from 30 to 20 to 15 to 10-year terms.
All listed rates are the cheapest for that particular age and health class.
A 35 year non-smoking male at Preferred rate class can receive $1,000,000 in coverage
- $76 per month on a 30-year term with AIG
- $40 per month on a 20-year term with Protective Insurance Company
- $28 per month on a 15-year term with Protective Insurance Company
- $23 per month on a 10-year term with Protective Insurance Company
A 52 year non-smoking male at Standard rate class can receive $500,000 in coverage
- $339 per month on a 30-year term with Banner Life
- $200 per month on a 20-year term with Banner Life
- $154 per month on a 15-year term with Banner Life
- $117 per month on a 10-year term with Banner Life
A 45 year non-smoking female at Standard rate class can receive $750,000 in coverage
- $162 per month on a 30-year term with AIG
- $102 per month on a 20-year term with AIG
- $84 per month on a 15-year term with AIG
- $64 per month on a 10-year term with Banner Life
As you can see, the shorter terms are considerably less expensive. If cost is an issue and holding you back from getting coverage to protect your loved ones, take a look at reducing the term length. Get something in place now and revisit your options down the road when your financial picture may have changed or improved.
I will always suggest reducing term first before reducing the coverage amount.
Ace the Medical Exam
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The lowest rates for life insurance will always be on fully underwritten policies. These policies require you to take a medical exam. The insurance company will use this information when determining your health classification and corresponding premium.
Why not ace the exam and present yourself in the best way possible?
Generally speaking, the medical exam is looking at things such as:
- Height and weight
- Blood pressure
- Cholesterol levels
- Blood sugar levels
- Presence of certain medications
- Presence of nicotine
- Evidence of illicit drug use
To be clear: We are NOT saying there is anything that can be done in the few days before a medical exam that will drastically improve your results. What we ARE saying, is that if you follow the below tips, they certainly can’t hurt your results. They could save you thousands over the life of a policy if they nudge you into a better health class (lower rates).
In the few days leading up to the exam
Eat like a healthier person, even if it’s not your norm.
- Drink lots of water to flush the system
- Eat green salads – not the ones with fried chicken strips and a gallon of ranch dressing.
- Choose lean proteins like grilled chicken or fish instead of the full rack of ribs or bacon cheeseburger.
- Eat almonds, avocados, beans, lentils and other foods high in HDL-cholesterol, the “good cholesterol”
- Stay away from fast food and highly processed foods like microwave dinners. These can be high in both salt and sugar.
- Limit the alcohol, caffeine, and cigarettes. You don’t need to completely cut them out (yet) but don’t go crazy.
24 hours before the exam
- Keep drinking water
- Avoid strenuous exercise which raises your blood pressure
- No alcohol at all
Schedule the exam in the morning if at all possible. This will allow you to fast overnight which is important. Weekend appointments are available.
Morning of the exam
- No caffeine
- No cigarettes or other tobacco
- Still no exercise
- Wait to eat breakfast until AFTER the exam
- Have a big glass of water about an hour before the exam so that you are adequately hydrated and your body is functioning normally.
The difference between Preferred Plus and Preferred health class (1 level down) can be a savings of 20-30%. Doing everything you can to pass the exam with flying colors is something everyone should do. You gotta at least try!
Health and Lifestyle Reconsiderations
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This is another tip the insurance companies won’t be advertising.
When you apply and receive your policy, the premiums are based in part on your current health and lifestyle. If anything changes significantly for the better, why should you still be penalized?
- Did you quit smoking?
- Did you lose weight?
- Do you no longer skydive?
- Is your previously high blood pressure now under control?
- Did you change jobs and no longer wash windows on skyscrapers anymore?
These are a few of the obvious examples but there are many more. If you have made changes to your health or lifestyle, it is worth asking about a reconsideration of your health class which means lower premiums and more $$ in your piggy bank.
To be clear: You need to show a sufficient amount of time has passed so they believe it will stick and you really deserve the lower rate.
Don’t tell them you quit smoking last week and expect a lower premium. Every company is different but for many, they need 2 years to pass by. Documented medical records or proof are always a good idea to keep.
What is the worst that can happen?
I promise the insurance company will not be proactively trying to lower your rates, you have to request it. The worst they can say is NO.
If they don’t agree to lower your rates based on your positive lifestyle change you still have a couple of options:
- Wait a little longer. Maybe they came back and said you need to keep the weight off for another 6 months before they’ll agree to reconsider.
- Apply with different companies. Each insurer has different underwriting guidelines. It may be worth shopping your shiny new self to see what premiums you can get elsewhere. If you get a better deal, take it. One of the nice things about term life insurance is you can cancel at any time.
However: Don’t cancel or stop paying your original policy until you are approved and have the new policy fully in force. That is a risk you do NOT want to take in case something falls through on the new cheaper policy.
Consult with your independent life insurance broker before doing anything. They can tell you if a reconsideration request is a good idea. It may be that switching to a different insurance carrier is a better move.
Choose Term Over Permanent Insurance
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Just keep it simple and choose term life insurance if you want to save $$.
This tip could really stop there. But let’s explore further why term insurance is what we suggest to more than 90% of our clients.
First of all, the cost. This is a guide about tips and tricks to get you the most affordable life insurance. Well…it’s not even remotely close in price.
Permanent insurance has so many different variations that we can’t give you a straight quote for comparative purposes.
Let’s just say for now that comparable coverage can easily be 5-10 times as high as term.
To be fair….you do get some additional benefits in a permanent life insurance policy. With the way they are structured, there are some significant differences between term and permanent.
In our opinion, the only clients that should be exploring permanent life insurance are those that have their financial house in great shape and make well above average incomes.
What do I mean by that?
Before considering permanent insurance you should:
- Pay down any revolving debt
- Fund your 401K, Roth IRA, IRA to the maximum allowed
- Have 6-12 months of emergency reserves set aside
- Fully funded educational accounts
- Savings for any planned large purchases such as a down payment on a mortgage, wedding expenses, etc
This will normally only apply to those making 250K or more annually. If you meet all these criteria, then yes, it might make sense to look at some permanent insurance as a way to take advantage of tax-free growth.
Many life insurance agents will push permanent insurance and use complex charts and illustrations to show you how much your future cash account is expected to be. Due to the higher costs of the policies, the associated commissions they earn are also much higher. Make sure you are working with someone you trust.
Don’t Dodge the Medical Exam
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We have many happy clients that choose no medical exam policies for various reasons and are very happy with them.
BUT, if you want to save $$ it’s usually worth the hassle of going through the medical exam process. While you are it, ace the exam.
Expect to pay 10% to 50% more in premiums for comparable no medical exam policies.
The insurance companies have a more complete picture when they have the information from a current exam. This allows them to place you in the right health class. When they lack information, they take on more risk. Guess who pays for that risk? YOU DO in higher premiums.
So sure, skip the medical exam if you are deathly afraid of needles or don’t want the hassle. Just know that you ARE paying for that convenience.
Consider an ART
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ART stands for Annually Renewable Term policy. This means that you only have coverage for 1 year with the option to keep renewing up to a certain age. You will NOT need to submit to a new medical exam each year.
The cost initially for this coverage will almost certainly be less than a longer-term policy. This is because the odds of you dying in the next year are very low compared to a 10/20/30 year term.
What’s the catch then?
Each year the premium will increase based on your new(older) age. The coverage amount stays the same. It will go up quickly, so we don’t advise this as a good long-term strategy.
Then how am I saving money?
An ART can be a great fit when:
- You need extra coverage for a very short defined period of time, typically 1-3 years. If longer than 3 years, it’s probably best to seek out a 5-year level term policy.
- You are planning (or in the process) of a major lifestyle change. This could be health related such as quitting smoking. This could also be related to an extremely hazardous occupation that you know you will be quitting soon.
Let’s say you do quit smoking. By going with the lower rate for a short while, you banked some savings. You then switch to a long term policy once you are able to qualify for non-smoker rates. In the meantime, you had coverage for your loved ones.
Sticking with the example of quitting smoking, if you are just thinking about it, we don’t advise going this route. Get long term coverage now and then ask for a reconsideration if in fact the quitting does hold.
It Won’t be Cheaper Tomorrow
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Nobody really WANTS to buy life insurance but it’s just something you have to do. While it can be easy to put it off until tomorrow, we know how that goes. Tomorrow turns into next week, next month, and then 8 months from now and it’s still on your To Do list. Everyone is busy and it’s easy to push obtaining coverage to the back burner.
Putting it off brings the scary risk that you die before actually getting your life insurance taken care of. Nobody knows what is going to happen tomorrow. While not the point of this section, it HAD to be said.
Procrastinating the purchase of your life insurance can cost you lots of $$ in 2 ways:
Rates go up as you get older
Just another month in waiting may put you another year older in the eyes of the insurance company. Many go off your nearest age so if your birthday is 5 months away, they’ll “round up” and consider you a year older today when figuring out the rates you’ll pay.
Example (1 year older)
20-year term for $500,000 in coverage for a non-smoker male in Preferred health class.
At age 44 the rate is $56 per month
At age 45 the rate is $61 per month
$5 per month x 12 months x 20 years = $1,200 wasted by waiting a few months.
Yes, some companies will let you backdate the policy as we described in a previous tip but why even have to spend that $$?
Health conditions and rate class may change
Above we were assuming your health hadn’t changed.
What if it did?
There are any number of things that could surface in the next few months that affect your medical history and corresponding premiums. A lower health rating is going to result in you paying ALOT more.
Example (1 year older and 1 health class lower)
20-year term for $500,000 in coverage for a non-smoker
At age 44 in the Preferred rate class, it is $56 per month
At age 45 in the Standard Plus rate class is $77 per month
$21 per month x 12 months x 20 years = $5,040
It could be something as simple as your blood pressure increased or your cholesterol readings went up a tad.
If you’ve already made the decision to buy life insurance to protect your loved ones, don’t put it off a few months, you could really pay for it with higher rates.
- Contact a trusted independent life insurance agent to find you the best rates and options.
- Think about it for a couple of days.
- Submit the application and get this off your To Do list.
With a fully underwritten policy to get the most affordable premiums, the process can take anywhere from 2 to 8 weeks for your policy to be in place. You’ll have PLENTY of time to “think about it”
Policy Laddering to Bring Cost Down
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Unless you are in the extreme minority, your life insurance needs WILL change over time.
Laddering (also known as layering) is an effective way to keep premiums low while aligning coverage with your changing needs. Effective use of laddering policies can allow you to have sufficient coverage when you need it. But not waste $$ by being over-insured when you don’t.
What is life insurance policy laddering?
The stacking of multiple term policies with different lengths. For example:
- a 30-year policy for $500k in coverage
- a 20-year policy for $250k in coverage
- a 10-year policy for $250k in coverage
Why would I consider a policy ladder?
Let’s use David as an example. David is 26 years old and recently married to Bridgette. They live in Phoenix, Arizona and have no kids although they are planning a family.
26-year-old David purchases a 30 year $400k policy for his wife Bridgette. This policy is intended to replace his income should something happen to him.
Total coverage at this time: $400,000
6 years later
David and Bridgette have just had their 2nd child. They have also purchased their first home. The existing coverage is not nearly enough at the moment. David purchases 2 additional policies.
- a 20 year $500k policy – This will cover the bulk of his mortgage as well as take them up through the time the 1st child should be done with college.
- a 10 year $250k policy – His mortgage is higher in the early years and the children are still very young. He needs a little extra protection for a while.
Total coverage at this time: 400 + 500 + 250 = $1,150,000
16 years later
The 10-year term expires. David is 42 years old. The family is doing well and no additional insurance needs for now. The mortgage has 20 years left.
Total coverage at this time: 500 + 400 = $950,000
26 years later
The 20-year term policy expires. David is 62 years old. Their 1st child has graduated from college and is a couple of years into her career. The mortgage only has 10 years left on it. No additional insurance needs at the moment.
Total coverage at this time: $500,000
30 years later
The original 30-year term expires. David is 66 years old and getting close to retirement. Both kids have graduated from college and making lives of their own. The mortgage has 6 years left on it. David decides to purchase a 10-year term policy for $250k. This will cover the last few years of their mortgage and get him comfortably into his retirement years.
Total coverage at this time: $250,000
40 years later
By using policy laddering, David made sure he had adequate coverage for all stages of his life while saving substantial $$ along the way by not being over-insured.
The #1 Secret to Shopping Around for Affordable Life Insurance
We started this $$ saving guide talking about it. We are going to end with it too. It’s THAT important.
You must find the insurance company that views you in the most favorable light. Do this FIRST before even considering the tips and tricks outlined above. Without this step done properly, not much else matters.
Every insurance company has certain niches where they are the most competitive on pricing. This might be certain age ranges, coverage amounts, health issues, lifestyle risks, or a combination of multiple things.
PLEASE spare yourself the unpleasant hassle of actually shopping around to 50+ individual insurance companies.
Does that sound fun?
A knowledgeable independent broker knows the strengths of weaknesses of the different insurers. Independent life insurance agents work for you always and NOT the insurance companies.
At Simple Life Insure, the only thing we do all day is life insurance. No distractions with other products. No annoying up-selling our clients 18 other types of insurance they didn’t ask about.
Specializing in only life insurance has allowed us to stay laser-focused on the ever-changing insurance industry as well as the numerous companies available.
If you would like to have a no pressure conversation with us about your needs, please fill out a quote request or contact our office. We are obsessed with life insurance! and YOU are the one that benefits.
There is never a cost for any of our services.