Life Insurance Awareness Month is about carefully considering a variety of factors that help you discover the type and size of coverage that’s right for you and your family.
But taking the time to do so can easily become a wasted effort if you, like most of today’s consumers, opt for the quick, faceless digital interaction that online policy shopping offers.
Before you single-click your coverage, you might want to consider:
How will different insurance carriers view your health profile?
While online quote-generators are fully capable of calculating the cost of insurance based on a singularly assumed health rating, you may be defined at a “standard” health class by one company and at a “preferred” class by another based on just one factor.
It’s important to remember that all companies are trying to determine your lifespan with proprietary health rating criteria. Your premium could rise or fall greatly based on their consideration of variables such as height and weight; alcohol, tobacco, and marijuana use; credit score and driving record; and both physical and mental health issues.
So while those in near-perfect health are probably safe purchasing the least-expensive policy from a highly-rated carrier, those with any level of health issue or potential “vice” may benefit from comparing and contrasting how various insurance companies view people like them. They can then choose the one that’s likely to offer them a higher health rating and subsequent lower premium.
How “healthy” are you?
Given carriers’ disparate definitions of “healthy,” being able to choose one whose underwriting best fits you requires you to have a thorough understanding of your health.
This means getting an annual physical, at a minimum. It can be easy to ignore what seem like minor annoyances, but many of us are far less healthy than we think. I’ve seen clients discover major health issues such as diabetes, high cholesterol, or even cancer after years of living with the condition.
As difficult as such discoveries are, being aware of and able to share your full health status with a policy provider is key to getting the right coverage – in almost all cases, this means talking to a human rather than relying on an online calculator to paint your full health picture.
Are you seeing all the options?
The majority of online policy providers offer you two options: permanent life or term life, with nothing in between, above, or beyond.
However, combination insurance programs have become increasingly popular over the last ten years. Sales of life insurance/long-term care (LTC) insurance hybrids, which provide for LTC and pay a substantial death benefit if LTC is not needed, now surpass those of traditional LTC plans. Additionally, because most life insurance needs are finite in nature, it often makes sense to buy multiple, smaller policies with varying termination dates – an approach known as “stacking” – rather than a single policy that’s unlikely to align with your evolving needs.
Bottom line, it’s clear that insurance companies will continue to make a dedicated push toward the online, automated underwriting process that saves them dollars and saves consumers time.
Smart life insurance shopping will always be based on knowing what questions to ask yourself, knowing what questions a provider should be asking you, and knowing what options are out there. With this in mind, it may be worth staying offline when looking for the customized plan that will best meet your needs.
Greg Klingler, director, wealth management, CFP, ChFEBC, joined the Government Employees’ Benefit Association — a nonprofit promoting access to insurance and investment options — in 2010, serving as director of products and member services. He has since transitioned to focusing solely on wealth management, advising state and federal employees in retirement planning using pensions, survivor pensions, employer sponsored insurance and retirement plans, as well as portfolio analysis, estate planning and college planning.