As we get older, it’s natural to worry about what will happen to our loved ones when we die. Life insurance is one way to help protect them, and take some of the worries out of our later years. After all, getting older isn’t only about challenges. It’s also the ideal time to enjoy family or friends or hobbies, to have new adventures, and do all those things you always said you’d do when you retire.
Life insurance provides peace of mind and makes it easier to relax and enjoy the good things about getting older. And for those who are struggling with, for example, poor health, life insurance can remove some of the stress and provide reassurance that their loved ones will be ok no matter what.
Let’s look at some key facts about life insurance, and what to ask when choosing a policy.
Who Needs Life Insurance?
Most people can benefit from life insurance. Anyone who’s concerned about what will happen to their family when they die, or about funeral expenses, can benefit from taking out life insurance to cover some of those expenses.
Life insurance is a good idea at any age. Seniors who don’t already have it might want to consider it. Those who have retired and thus no longer get employer coverage might be in the market for a new policy.
However old you are, the right time to get life insurance is now – after all, you’ll never be younger than you are today.
What Does Life Insurance Cover?
Most people take out life insurance with a specific aim in mind. For example, they might be in the market for a policy large enough to cover their mortgage payments or put their kids through college.
Many seniors have already paid their mortgage, and their kids are grown and have gone through college, so mortgages and tuition aren’t such pressing priorities. The same is true of dependants. Seniors don’t necessarily need the same cover to look after dependants as younger people do (in general – every circumstance is different.)
For many seniors, the main concern with life insurance is making sure their funeral expenses are covered. Funerals can be costly, and having an insurance policy can relieve that burden on loved ones. Seniors may also want to provide an inheritance for their family, have money to fall back on if they become ill, or make sure their partner can afford to keep living in their home.
What Kinds Of Life Insurance Are There?
There are two main types of life insurance: Term and Permanent.
Term life insurance is taken out over a specified period of time, usually 10, 20, or 30 years. You pay a set monthly premium for the term of the insurance. Term life insurance is a more popular option for seniors. The only drawback is that if you outlive the policy (which is, of course, a wonderful thing!), you might not see any benefits from it. Thus if you’re nearing the end of a term life insurance plan, that means it’s time to contact your insurance company and ask about your best next options.
Permanent life insurance plans cover you for the length of your life, so long as you keep paying your premiums. There are two main kinds of permanent policies. Whole life policies offer set premiums for the duration of your life, while universal life policies are more flexible and allow you to adjust your premiums and death benefit amounts. Permanent policies usually have steeper premiums than term policies.
Can Seniors With Health Conditions Get Life Insurance?
There’s a common misconception that seniors with existing health conditions cannot get life insurance, but this isn’t true. Although in some cases a pre-existing condition might increase your monthly fee, a health condition isn’t necessarily a barrier to getting life insurance.
How Much Does Life Insurance Pay?
The size of your policy depends on your needs. For example, if you’re looking to cover funeral expenses only, you may only need a policy of $10,000 or so. If you want to cover mortgage payments or provide for dependents, a $250,000 or more policy might be more appropriate. Your life insurance broker or agent can help you decide what size of policy you need.
How Much Does Life Insurance Cost?
The cost of life insurance can vary widely, depending on factors such as:
- What kind of life insurance you have
- The size of your policy
- Your age and health
- Your lifestyle and circumstances
As a rough guide, you can expect to pay anywhere from $40 all the way up to over $300 monthly for a $250,000 policy, depending on your gender and age.
Questions To Ask Before Signing Up For Life Insurance
Before signing up for any life insurance policy, we recommend asking the following:
- How are the benefits paid? Is it a lump sum, or is there an option to have beneficiaries receive regular smaller payments?
- Will my premiums rise? Whole life premiums are fixed. However, universal life premiums can change. In addition, if you take out a term life policy and then outlive it, your premiums on the next one you take out could be higher.
- Is the benefit adjusted for inflation? Some insurance companies auto-adjust death benefits to stay in line with inflation, while others charge extra for this service. In some cases, you can simply buy extra life insurance to boost your benefit amount – but of course, this costs more.
- What happens if I can’t pay my premium? Many companies will offer you a grace period of anywhere from 30 – 90 days to come up with the payments, while certain permanent policies let you borrow against them if needed.
- What happens if my health changes? It’s important to know how your policy will be affected if your health worsens or you become disabled.
If you opt for a permanent policy, ask these additional questions:
- When does it start paying out? It’s common for life insurance policies to take five years or more to become profitable and be ready to payout.
- What about during-life benefits? Can I take money out of the policy if I need it, and what can I use it for?
- What’s the guaranteed figure? Make sure you know the guaranteed sum that the policy will pay regardless of the fiscal health of the insurer, or the conditions of the market.
Are There Alternatives To Life Insurance?
Yes. Depending on your exact circumstances, there are a few alternatives:
- If you’re still paying a mortgage and covering that is your main concern, you could choose a mortgage insurance policy to cover payments in the event of your death.
- If your main concern is funeral expenses, you could choose a funeral-specific insurance plan.
- Another option for burial expenses is to make an arrangement with a local funeral home to make payments while still living, so when the time comes everything is paid off already.
- If your financial circumstances allow, you can use savings and investments to set aside a lump sum as an inheritance or to cover a partner’s living expenses, for example.
When making your decision, the important thing is to know what you need money to cover, and then make sure your policy or plan of action adequately covers that.
Consider Expert Advice on Life Insurance
Buying life insurance is a big decision, and the range of options can seem dizzying. An independent life insurance broker can assess your situation and help you find the best policy for your circumstances. If you work with a broker, it’s a good idea to find out:
- What are their credentials as a life insurance professional?
- How long has their company been in business?
- What is the company’s fiscal rating? You can use a tool such as Weiss Ratings to find out a company’s fiscal rating.
- Do they have certification such as being a certified financial planner, a chartered financial consultant, or a chartered life underwriter?
- How do they calculate your life insurance needs? Broadly speaking, life insurance policies are based on how much money you need. However, each broker has their own way of calculating your needs, and it’s useful to know how they do it.
Best Life Insurance for Seniors
Here are four life insurance providers for seniors to consider.
Prudential was started all the way back in 1875 when it was called The Widows and Orphans Friendly Society, and today is the largest insurance company in the United States.
Prudential offers a wide range of both term and permanent policies. Their website has a handy chart to help you figure out which policy is best for you.
What are customers saying about Prudential Life Insurance?
Like any life insurance company, Prudential attracts a mix of reviews. We found several reviews referencing the polite agents, and the ease of use of the website when it comes to filing claims. However, we also noticed that several people have struggled to get payouts, with a long stream of requests for further info and very little in the way of communication in return.
New York Life
New York Life got its start back in 1841 in Manhattan, when it went by the name Nautilus Mutual Life. It’s currently the third-largest insurance company in the United States and the largest mutual insurance company.
What are customers saying about New York Life Life Insurance?
We noticed a recurring theme of customers finding New York Life agents to be very knowledgeable, and great at explaining the policies and answering questions. However, we did also notice several customers losing money because their premiums went up and then New York Life used their policy amount to pay off said premiums, causing confusion and a loss of benefit. We definitely recommend checking what is guaranteed before signing up to a policy.
AIG (American International Group) is the 87th largest public company in the world. They were founded in 1919 in China, as American Asiatic Underwriters, and opened their first Stateside offices in 1926. AIG was bailed out by the federal government during the 2008 financial crisis.
AIG’s website offers a financial calculator to help you figure out how much life insurance you need. They offer a guaranteed life issue policy especially for seniors aged 50 – 85, which offers a guaranteed payout for life, not just for a specific term.
What are customers saying about AIG Life Insurance?
We saw several comments about AIG’s reasonable fees, alongside positive experiences with customer service reps, and a sense that they offer a good range of policies to fit different needs. On the negative side, we noticed a trend of customers not being notified in a timely manner if there was a payout problem or if AIG needed further information from them.
Gerber life insurance is the youngest company on this list. It was formed in 1967 in Fremont, Michigan. Gerber currently has 3.6 million life insurance policies in place through the United States, Puerto Rico and Canada.
Gerber offers senior-friendly policies with a simplified application process and, in many cases, no medical exam. These include both term and life policies, and a guaranteed acceptance life policy.
What are customers saying about Gerber Life Insurance?
We saw several customers mention the easy application process and the affordable premiums they get through Gerber. On the negative side, customers seem frustrated by their phone system which makes it hard to talk to a real person, and there seemed to be several cases of lost or missing paperwork delaying a claim.
Bottom Line on Life Insurance for Seniors
No one insurance company is perfect, and there will always be a mix of reviews. That’s why we recommend asking plenty of questions and making sure you understand your policy and especially what specifically is guaranteed before you sign up.