How to Buy a Life Insurance Policy

Comprehensive Guide Your Life Insurance Policy: Types, Benefits, and How to Buy

Author: Amy Fontinelle

Updated: September 21, 2023

Reviewed by: Anthony Battle


A life insurance policy is a crucial financial tool that provides invaluable security for you and your loved ones. This comprehensive guide will explore various aspects of life insurance, from understanding its fundamental concepts to choosing the right policy and finding reputable providers. Whether you’re new to life insurance or looking to enhance your knowledge, this guide will help you navigate the world of financial protection.

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What Is Life Insurance?

Life insurance is a legally binding contract that provides financial protection to your loved ones in the event of your passing. It’s a commitment between you and an insurance company, where you pay regular premiums during your lifetime in exchange for a guaranteed sum of money, known as the death benefit, to be paid to your chosen beneficiaries upon your demise.

Types of Life Insurance

Term Life Insurance

Term life insurance provides coverage for a set number of years, such as 10, 20, or 30. It’s a cost-effective option with fixed premiums and a focus on affordability.

  • Decreasing term life insurance: Gradually reduces coverage over time.
  • Convertible term life insurance: Allows conversion to permanent insurance.
  • Renewable term life insurance: Offers yearly renewals but can become more expensive with age.

Whole Life Insurance

Whole life insurance provides lifelong coverage and accumulates a cash value over time. It offers financial flexibility and can serve as both protection and an investment.

Universal Life Insurance

Universal life insurance features a cash value component that earns interest. It offers flexibility in premium payments and can be designed with a level or increasing death benefit.

Indexed Universal Life Insurance

Indexed universal life insurance lets you earn a fixed or equity-indexed rate of return on the cash value component.

Variable Universal Life Insurance

Variable universal life insurance allows you to invest the policy’s cash value in separate accounts, offering flexibility in premium payments and death benefit options.

Top-Rated Life Insurance Companies

Choosing the right insurance provider is essential. Here are some top-rated companies to consider:

  1. Nationwide (Best Overall)
    • AM Best Rating: A+
    • Coverage Capacity: Over $5 million
    • Maximum Issue Age: 85
    • Policies Offered: Term, whole, UL, IUL, VUL, final expense
  2. Protective (Best for Term)
    • AM Best Rating: A+
    • Coverage Capacity: Over $5 million
    • Maximum Issue Age: 85
    • Policies Offered: Term, whole, UL, IUL, VUL
  3. MassMutual (Best Convertible Term Life)
    • AM Best Rating: A++
    • Coverage Capacity: Over $5 million
    • Maximum Issue Age: 90
    • Policies Offered: Term, whole, UL, VUL
  4. Mutual of Omaha (Best Return-of-Premium Term)
    • AM Best Rating: A+
    • Coverage Capacity: Over $5 million
    • Maximum Issue Age: 85
    • Policies Offered: Term, UL, IUL, final expense
  5. Guardian (Great Traditional Insurer)
    • AM Best Rating: A++
    • Coverage Capacity: Over $5 million
    • Maximum Issue Age: 90
    • Policies Offered: Term, whole, UL, VUL
  6. USAA (Best for Military)
    • AM Best Rating: A++
    • Coverage Capacity: Over $5 million
    • Maximum Issue Age: 85
    • Policies Offered: Term, whole, UL
  7. New York Life (Best Whole Life)
    • AM Best Rating: A++
    • Coverage Capacity: Over $5 million
    • Maximum Issue Age: 90
    • Policies Offered: Term, whole, UL, VUL


Term vs. Permanent Life Insurance

Understanding the differences between term and permanent life insurance is essential for selecting the right policy. Term life insurance offers affordability and flexibility but expires after a specific term. Permanent life insurance, on the other hand, provides lifelong coverage and features a cash value component.

Before purchasing life insurance, assess your financial situation, and determine your coverage needs based on factors like your family’s financial well-being and future responsibilities. This evaluation ensures you choose the right policy for your circumstances.

What Affects Your Life Insurance Premiums and Costs?

Several factors influence the cost of life insurance premiums, including age, gender, smoking status, health, lifestyle, family medical history, and driving record. To secure more affordable rates, it’s advisable to obtain life insurance as early as possible. Furthermore, maintaining good health and making positive lifestyle changes can lead to lower premiums.

Life Insurance Policy Buying Guide

Follow these steps when purchasing a life insurance policy:

Step 1: Determine How Much You Need

Calculate the amount of coverage required to support your beneficiaries in the event of your death. Consider expenses like mortgage payments, college tuition, and other debts, along with funeral costs and income replacement needs.

Step 2: Prepare Your Application

Life insurance policy applications typically require personal and family medical history, beneficiary details, and possibly a medical exam. You’ll need to disclose preexisting medical conditions, driving violations, DUIs, and risky hobbies.

Key application elements include:

  • Age: Life expectancy significantly impacts risk.
  • Gender: Women typically pay lower rates.
  • Smoking: Smoking raises health risks and premiums.
  • Health: Medical exams assess health conditions.
  • Lifestyle: Risky habits can increase costs.
  • Family Medical History: Genetic factors play a role.
  • Driving Record: Good drivers enjoy lower rates.

Standard identification documents, such as a Social Security card, driver’s license, or passport, are also necessary.

Step 3: Compare Policy Quotes

Gather multiple life insurance quotes from different providers based on your research. Prices can vary widely, so take the time to find the best combination of policy, company rating, and premium cost. Since a life insurance policy is a long-term commitment, choosing the right policy can lead to significant savings over time.

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Benefits of a Life Insurance Policy

A Life insurance policy offers numerous advantages, including:

  • Tax Benefits: The death benefit is typically tax-free.
  • Financial Security: Provides financial support to beneficiaries.
  • Wealth Preservation: Wealthy individuals use life insurance to cover estate taxes.

Who Needs a Life Insurance Policy?

A Life insurance policy is essential for various individuals, including:

  • Parents with minor children
  • Parents with special-needs adult children
  • Adults who own property jointly
  • Seniors who want to leave money to adult children
  • Young adults with co-signed loans
  • Children or young adults securing low rates
  • Stay-at-home spouses
  • Wealthy families expecting estate taxes
  • Those with preexisting health conditions

Considerations Before Buying a Life Insurance Policy

Before purchasing a life insurance policy, conduct thorough research, review policy options, and read company reviews. As policies vary, ensure that you understand the coverage, beneficiaries, and circumstances under which the policy pays out. Regularly reassess your insurance needs, especially after significant life events like marriage, divorce, or buying a home.

How a Life Insurance Policy Works

A life insurance policy comprises two main components: the death benefit and the premium. While term life insurance has these components, permanent life insurance policies also include a cash value component.

  • Death Benefit: The death benefit is the money guaranteed to beneficiaries when the insured passes away. It depends on factors like the insured’s age, health, and risk factors.
  • Premium: Premiums are regular payments made by the policyholder to maintain the insurance. They are influenced by factors such as the insured’s life expectancy and the policy’s coverage.
  • Cash Value: Permanent life insurance policies accumulate cash value over time, offering a living benefit. Policyholders can borrow against this value or use it for various purposes.

Life Insurance Riders and Policy Changes

Many insurance companies offer policyholders the option to customize their policies with riders. These include:

  • Accidental Death Benefit Rider
  • Waiver of Premium Rider
  • Disability Income Rider
  • Accelerated Death Benefit Rider
  • Long-Term Care Rider
  • Guaranteed Insurability Rider

Policyholders can also borrow money against the cash value of permanent life insurance policies.

Qualifying for a Life Insurance Policy

Qualification for a life insurance policy depends on factors like age, health, and lifestyle choices. There are numerous insurance companies and policies available, making it possible for most individuals to find suitable coverage, even with unique circumstances or health conditions.

In summary, a life insurance policy is a vital financial tool that offers protection and financial security for you and your loved ones. Understanding the various types, factors influencing premiums, and the purchasing process is essential for making well-informed decisions about your life insurance needs.



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Millennial Life Insurance
3600 West Broad St
Richmond, VA 23230
Phone: (804) 551-9526

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