As the name implies, term insurance provides protection for a specific period of time and generally pays a benefit only if you die during the “term”. Term periods typically range from one year to 30 years, with 20 years being the most common term..
Term Insurance 101
- When the term ends
- Return of Premium option
- Key Policy Provisions
One of the biggest advantages of term insurance is its lower initial cost in comparison to permanent insurance. Why is it cheaper when initially purchased? Because with term insurance, you’re generally just paying for the death benefit, the lump sum payment your beneficiaries will receive if you die during the term of the policy. Term insurance is often a good choice for people in their family-formation years, especially if they’re on a tight budget, because it allows them to buy high levels of coverage when the need for protection is often greatest. Term insurance is also a good option for covering needs that will disappear in time. For instance, if paying for college is a major financial concern but you’re pretty sure that you won’t need life insurance coverage after the kids graduate, then it might make sense to buy a term policy that’ll get you through the college years.
When the Term Ends
But what happens if you buy a term policy only to realize at the end of the term that you still have a need for life insurance? Well, it’s sort of a good news, bad news story. The good news is that many policies will give you the option to renew your policy when you reach the end of the term. The bad news is that you’ll probably face much higher costs since age is one of key factors used to determine life insurance premiums. To renew the policy, you also may have to present evidence of insureability (that’s insurance jargon meaning, ”take another medical exam and answer a new round of questions about your lifestyle, health status and family health history’). If you’re still a fine specimen with healthy living habits, you might re-qualify at a reasonable rate. But if your health has deteriorated, you may find that it’s too expensive to renew your policy or you may not even re-qualify.
So if you’re considering a term policy, make sure you carefully consider how long you’ll need the coverage. If you’re pretty sure that your needs are temporary, then term insurance is probably the light choice for you. But if you think there’s a possibility that you might need the coverage for a long time, then remember that if you want to renew your term policy after it expires or buy a new term policy at that time, your age, health status or other factors may make coverage very expensive. To better understand term insurance, consider this analogy. When you purchase term insurance, it’s sort of like renting a house. When you rent, you get the full and immediate use of the house and all that goes with it, but only for as long as you continue paying rent. As soon as your lease expires, you must leave. Even if you rented the house for 30 years, you have no “equity” or value that belongs to you.