Life Insurance 101, An Explanation of Various Types of Life Insurance

TERM LIFE INSURANCE – Life insurance for a set number or years. You can choose from 5 to 30 year terms. No cash value, if you die during the term you collect the death benefit. The policy dies after the selected term has ended and you receive nothing unless you have a, return of premium rider or you convert the policy to some form of permanent insurance.

RETURN OF PREMIUM TERM INSURANCE (ROP) – A term insurance policy that returns all or a portion of premiums paid at the end of the term if the death benefit has not been paid.

SIMPLIFIED TERM INSURANCE – Term insurance which uses a simple application. Underwriting is done electronically. No underwriting requirements by the applicant unless red flags arise out of the electronic underwriting process. Policy is usually issued much quicker than regular term. There is a limit of death benefit for this type of policy ($350,000 or less) depending on the insurance carrier. This type of policy is generally more expensive because of additional risk by the insurance carrier. Less underwriting =more risk.

CRITICAL ILLNESS INSURANCE – Applied for as a stand-alone policy or as a rider to another life insurance policy. Pay immediate benefit for a covered illness even if death does not occur.

ACCIDENTAL DEATH INSURANCE – Pays benefit in event of a covered sudden accidental death. Applied for as a stand-alone policy or as a rider to another form of life insurance.

MORTGAGE PROTECTION INSURANCE OR DECREASING TERM INSURANCE – Term insurance that pays the balance of your mortgage should death occur. The amount of death benefit decreases to match the amount owed on mortgage. The insurance is set up to end at the same time your mortgage is set to end.

UNIVERSAL LIFE INSURANCE (non variable) – Flexible premiums. Can be a permanent insurance as long as premiums are paid and policy is funded properly. Investment policy in which risk lies with insurance company.

Has a minimum guaranteed interest rate which differs by company. This policy has the ability to gain contract value. The death benefit can be set to level (death benefit stays the same throughout) or increasing (death benefit increases as contract value rises). You may obtain loans or make withdraws but you must be careful, if the policy is not funded, it will collapse.

VARIABLE UNIVERSAL LIFE INSURANCE – Agent must have securities license to sell. Very similar to non-variable universal life. The difference is that the policy owner assumes investment risk. There is no guaranteed interest rate. Policy can collapse if investment does not do well and policy is not funded properly.

WHOLE LIFE INSURANCE – Simply put, you pay the premium and the policy will last your whole life. You usually have an option to borrow against the policy, amount depends on the value of the policy. This type of policy is usually much more expensive than the universal life policy.

GRADED BENEFITS WHOLE LIFE – Partial or no benefits paid until a named or tiered waiting period has passed. If you die before the waiting period has passed, you usually will receive the return of your premium payments with some sort of interest.

FINAL EXPENSE WHOLE LIFE INSURANCE – This type of whole life insurance is aimed at burial and funeral expenses and other final expenses. Usually, no medical exam required and death benefit is limited to $50,000 or less.

SINGLE PREMIUM WHOLE LIFE – This whole life policy is paid for by a single lump sum payment. In return the beneficiary receives a larger death benefit than the payment.

THINGS TO CONSIDER: You may be interested in mixing and matching different types of policies. For example; There is a need for 500k immediately. As time goes on, the kids have graduated college and are out of the house, the house is almost or totally paid off. Now the need is less. In this example you may want to purchase a 330k universal life and a 20 year 200k term. This plan will save you money and still protect your family for life.

Or, you may want to mix term, critical illness, accident, universal life, or whole life in various ways depending on your needs.

RIDERS:

Waiver of Premium Rider – pays life insurance premium if you become disabled and can’t work. There is usually a waiting period and rider usually expires at age 60 or 65.

Critical Illness Rider – Rider is explained above.

Return of Premium Rider – Rider is explained above.

Guaranteed Insurability Rider – this rider allows you to purchase an additional amount of life insurance at a later date without having to prove insurability again or take another medical exam.

Term Conversion Rider – allows you to convert a term insurance policy into a permanent policy without proving insurability again.

Accelerated Benefit Rider – this rider is only for permanent life insurance policies. This rider is usually included automatically for free. It allows you to collect a portion of your policy’s death benefit if you become terminally ill with a short life expectancy, usually one year. The portion paid out is subtracted from you policy’s death benefit.

Accidental Death Benefit Rider – This rider pays in addition to the death benefit if you die from an accident.

Child protection Rider – Usually used to pay final expenses if the unthinkable happens. Often, at a nominal cost and purchased in units of $1,000.

UNDERWRITING: requirements depend on insurance carrier, type of policy, amount of death benefit, age, build chart, gender, medical history, medications, family history, motor vehicle report, and other factors.

An application is always required, although, non-medical policies usually have a simple application.

Requirements could be: Paramed (certified medical processor or nurse comes to your place of choosing, takes you through a medical questionnaire, measures your height and weight, takes blood and urine sample, possibly EKG either resting or non-resting), Medical information from your physician or hospital, Medical exam, etc.

HEALTH CLASSES – Typical health classes would be, Preferred Best, Preferred, Select Standard, Standard, and then different nicotine classes such as, preferred nicotine, select nicotine, and standard nicotine.

It is possible to be rated less than standard depending on health and underwriting factors.

You must qualify for a health class. This is chosen by the underwriter after the underwriting process is complete. The agent can only quote you the different health classes but this can change with the underwriting process.

Underwriting Life Insurance For Diabetics and Diabetic Life Insurance Information

Life Insurance Companies differ in their “underwriting philosophy” when it comes to diabetes. Offering life insurance for diabetics can be risky if the underwriters are not fully trained. Underwriters at the insurance companies that are fluent in underwriting diabetes have the ability to look at all of these factors and determine if the company will accept them as a risk. Moderately controlled diabetes cases would usually merit a “rating” or an increase in the premium, but not necessarily a declination for coverage. If the client with diabetes that is looking for life insurance is not controlled, then there are options – it will just cost them more for coverage!

Diabetic Life Insurance can be obtained no matter how severe the diabetes condition is. If the proposed insured has well controlled diabetes and a history of compliance with what the Doctor reccomends, then the rate for insurance will naturally reflect that. The better the control, the better the rate. Clients with well controlled diabetes have a great chance at getting a lower rate from a regular insurance carrier and would qualify for a policy that is fully underwritten. If, at the other extreme, the client has very poor control over the diabetes, the rate will be higher and the client will have to go with a life insurance plan that guarantees acceptance. This type of life insurance is called “guaranteed issue life insurance”.

Guaranteed issue life insurance for diabetics is more expensive than regular (fully underwritten) life insurance and is only sold as “whole life insurance”. This type of insurance can be advantageous, though, because it builds cash value and is intended to cover the client for their “whole life” as opposed to a “term” period of time. Another provision of guaranteed issue is that the premiums paid into the policy would be paid to the beneficiary PLUS 10% interest if the insured dies within the first 3 years of the policy’s inception. After that 3 year period of time, the guaranteed issue policy would pay the full death benefit to the beneficiary.

Fully Underwritten policies take the client’s full medical records into account. The doctor’s records are ordered, blood is drawn, a urine sample is taken, and a full screening is done to evaluate the client. If the insurance company decides to insure this applicant, it is after the company’s underwriters look at the case. If the client is fully underwritten and passes through underwriting, then they would have more options than just whole life insurance (in the case of those who are in need of guaranteed issue whole life insurance). Term insurance, Universal Life Insurance, Survivorship Universal Life Insurance, and regular Whole Life Insurance would be available to these applicants that are fully underwritten.

When evaluating a client with diabetes, the underwriters at the insurance company take into account whether the client is a type one diabetic (type I diabetic, type 1 diabetic, type 1 diabetes, type I diabetes) or a type two diabetic (type II diabetic, type 2 diabetic, type 2 diabetes, type II diabetes). Another thing that the underwriters look at is whether the client is a juvenile onset diabetic or an adult onset diabetic. And yet Another determining factor is the Hemoglobin A1C level (this is a more comprehensive test, showing the blood sugar levels over about a 3 month period of time as opposed to a quick “snapshot” blood level test).

If the client’s A1C level is below 8, then fully underwritten life insurance may be available subject to the client’s full medical file. If the client’s A1C level is above 8, then guaranteed issue life insurance is a more realistic goal.

One of the things that applicants fear in the case of insulin dependent type 1 diabetics is whether or not their insulin pump will prevent them from getting a life insurance policy. An insulin pump is actually a positive factor where life insurance underwriting is concerned because the client’s insulin level is kept at a constant level.

How often the client monitors their sugar or glucose levels in their blood is another factor. If the client habitually monitors their glucose level, then this is seen as evidence of compliance on the part of the client. If, on the other hand, the client does not monitor these sugar levels, then this could be seen as a negative in the eyes of the insurers and underwriters.

Have there been any low sugar episodes? Have there been any high sugar episodes? Is the client taking glucovance, glucophage, insulin injection, or other type of medicinal treatment? Is the client controlling the diabetes with “diet and exercise”? These are all questions that will be asked during the underwriting process (unless you opt for guaranteed issue).

By the way…ANYONE can get guaranteed issue; you don’t have to be “uninsurable”. Guaranteed issue is available for clients between the ages of 46 and 80 and up to $35,000 in coverage. Again, this is the more expensive type of life insurance and it is advisable that if you CAN make it through an underwriting evaluation, you should try unless you just want to pay more and be done with it!

So what kind of companies will accept clients with diabetes? Personally, I broker only with “A” rated companies that have the right combination of price, customer service, product variety, and recognition in the market. I deal with companies that take clients on a case by case basis as opposed to categorizing them “by the book”. I have fully researched the market, I am in touch with the underwriters personally, and I assure you that these companies have the proper credentials to back up their policies. My clients are provided with full company backgrounds and financial profiles. I deal with several companies that are in the market to insure diabetics. The reason why I am witholding exactly what companies I deal with is because I want to earn your business and represent you as your life insurance agent. Contact Me for a free consultation!

Secret #1: Don’t spend too much time on a life insurance quote.

Do not be fooled by the low price quotes you get online – they don’t apply to you unless you are extremely healthy. Statistically only 10% of people who apply actually get the lowest priced policy. The premium you end up paying has nothing to do with the initial quote you get online or from an agent. It is amazing to me how often I see people getting duped by an agent who quotes company X at a lower price than another agent.

Life insurance policies are the same price no matter who you buy from! One agent or website quoting a lower premium means nothing. Prices for any given policy is based on your age and health. There are a few exceptions to this but that is beyond the breadth of this article.

Most life insurance companies have 10-20 different health/price ratings and no agent or website can assure you the quote they give you is accurate. You have to apply, do a health check, and then go through underwriting (meaning you complete a mini-exam with a nurse in your home and then the company checks you doctor records and reviews and ‘rates’ your health) to get the real price of the policy. Remember that a health rating also factors in your family history, driving record, and the type of occupation you have. Only use quotes to help narrow down your choices to the top companies. You may want to consider a no load or low policy. The more that you save on commissions the more money builds up in your policy. You can even buy term insurance no load, and save a lot on premiums. You will not get the help of an agent, which may be worth something if they are very good.

The most important factor determining price is matching your particular health history with the company best suited for that niche. For instance company X might be best for smokers, company Y for cancer survivors, Company Z for people with high blood pressure, etc.

Secret #2: Ignore the hype on term versus cash value permanent insurance.

You can go crazy reading what everyone has to say on buying term insurance versus a whole or universal life policy. Big name websites give advice that I think borders on fraudulent. Simply put there is NO simple answer on whether you should buy permanent cash value policies or term insurance.

But I do think there is a simple rule of thumb – buy term for your temporary insurance needs and cash value insurance for your permanent needs. I have read in various journals and run mathematical equations myself which basically show that if you have a need for insurance beyond 20 years that you should consider some amount of permanent insurance. This is due to the tax advantage of the growth of the cash value within in a permanent policy. I am divorced and have taken care of my children should I die. I probably no longer need as much insurance as I now have. I have earned a great return on my policies and have paid no taxes. I no longer pay the premiums, because there is so much cash in the policies. I let the policies pay themselves. I would not call most life insurance a good investment. Because I bought my policies correctly, and paid almost no sales commissions my policies are probably my best investments. I no longer own them, so when I die my beneficiaries will get the money both tax free, and estate tax free.

Since most people have short term needs like a mortgage or kids at home they should get some term. Additionally most people want some life insurance in place for their whole life to pay for burial, help with unpaid medical bills and estate taxes and so a permanent policy should be purchased along with the term policy.

Secret #3: Consider applying with two companies at once.

Life insurance companies really don’t like this “trick” because it gives them competition and increases their underwriting costs.

Secret #4: Avoid captive life insurance agents.

Look for a life insurance agent who represents at least fifty life insurance companies and ask them for a multi company quote showing the best prices side by side. Some people try to cut the agent out and just apply online. Just remember that you don’t save any money that way because the commissions normally earned by the agent are just kept by the insurance company or the website insurance company without having your premium lowered.

Plus a good agent can help you maneuver through some of the complexities of filling out the application, setting up your beneficiaries, avoiding mistakes on selecting who should be the owner, the best way to pay your premium, and also will be there to deliver the check and assist your loved ones if the life insurance is ever used.

Secret #5: Consider refinancing old life policies.

Most companies won’t tell you but the price you pay on your old policies has probably come down dramatically if you are in good health. In the last few years life insurance companies have updated their predictions on how long people will live. Since we are living longer they are reducing their rates rather dramatically. Beware the agent may be doing this to obtain a new commission, so make sure it really makes sense.

I really am amazed at how often we find that our client’s old policies are twice as expensive as a new one. If you need new life insurance consider “refinancing” your old policies and using the savings on the old policies to pay for the new policy – that way there is no extra out-of-pocket costs. We like to think of this process as “refinancing your life insurance” – just like you refinance your mortgage.

Secret #6: Realize life insurance companies have target niches that constantly change.

One day company ‘X’ is giving good rates to people who are a little overweight and the next month they are super strict. Company ‘Y’ might be lenient on people with diabetes because they don’t have many diabetics on the books – meaning they will give good rates to diabetics. At the same time company ‘W’ might be very strict on diabetics because they are insuring lots of diabetics and are afraid they have too big of a risk in that area – meaning they will give a bad rate to new diabetics who apply.

Unfortunately when you are applying a life insurance company will not tell you, “Hey, we just raised our rates in diabetics.” They will just happily take your money if you were not smart enough to shop around. This is the number one area a smart agent can come in handy. Since a good multi-company agent is constantly applying with multiple companies he or she will have a good handle on who is currently the most lenient on underwriting for you particular situation. The problem is that this is hard work and many agents are either too busy or not set up to efficiently shop around directly to different underwriters and see who would make you the best offer. This is a lot harder than just running you a quote online.

Secret #7: Don’t forget customer service.

Most people shopping for insurance focus on companies with the lowest price and the best financial rating. Unfortunately I know of some A+ rated companies with low rates who I would not touch with a ten foot pole simply because it’s easier to give birth to a porcupine backwards then it is to get customer service from them.

Before I understood this I used a life insurance company that gave a client a great rate but 2 years later the client called me and said, “I have mailed in all my payments on time but just got a notice saying my policy lapsed.” It turned out the company had been making lots of back office mistakes and had lost the premium payment!

We were able to fix it because we caught the problem so early. But if the client happened to have died during the short period the policy had lapsed, his family might have had a hard time proving that the premium had been paid on time and they might not have received the life insurance money – a loss of hundreds of thousands of dollars in that case.

Secret #8: Apply 3-6 months ahead of the time you need the insurance if possible.

Don’t be in a hurry to get a policy if you already have some coverage in force. But go ahead and apply right away knowing that you might need months to shop around if the first company does not give you a good rate. Even though the life insurance industry is getting more automated your application will still often be held up for weeks or months while the insurance company waits on your doctor’s office to mail them a copy of you medical records.

If you are in a hurry and buy a quickie ‘no-underwriting’ policy without going through the full health checks and underwriting that a mainstream life insurance company requires, you will end up paying 20%-50% more because the insurance company will automatically charge you higher rates because they don’t know whether you are healthy or about to die the next day.

Secret #9: Avoid buying extra life insurance through work if you are healthy.

I am sure there are exceptions to this “trick” but I have rarely found one. By all means keep the free life insurance your employer provides. But if you are healthy and you are paying for supplemental life insurance through payroll deduction you are almost certainly paying too much. What is happening is that your ‘overpayments’ ends up subsidizing the unhealthy people in your company who are buying life insurance through payroll deduction.

Usually the life insurance company has cut a deal with your employer and will waive the required health exam for all employees – instead they just average the price for all the employees and offer one or two rates for males or females at any given age. Life insurance companies know they will pick up lots of unhealthy clients this way so they jack up the price on everyone so that the healthy people end up overpaying so that the unhealthy employees get a cheaper policy. Also, unlike the guaranteed term policies which we recommend, most life insurance you buy through work will get more expensive as you get older.

Also group life insurance is generally not portable when you retire or change jobs meaning that when you retire or change jobs you might have to apply all over again even though you will be older and probably not as healthy and risk being turned down for a policy. If the group plan does allow portability they generally limit your conversion choices and force you to go into expensive cash value plans.

I remember helping someone evaluate his supplemental life insurance. He was sure it was a better deal than any policy I could find him. Little did he know that the price of his group plan would go up every year? By the time he retired his premium would have risen to over $10,000/year. I found him a policy for around $1000/year that would never go up. Also, unlike his old group life policy, he could take the individual policy with him when he changed jobs or retired.

Secret #10: Do a trial application on a COD payment basis.

Only send money with the application if you need the life insurance coverage right away. Sending a check with the application is a traditional practice agents used to do – I think mostly because it got them their commissions faster. If you send money with an application you usually get temporary coverage immediately but if you already have plenty of coverage and are just trying to get better rates ask your agent to do a trial application on a COD basis so you only pay once the policy is approved. If you do not send money, and you die before paying for the policy there is no coverage.

Secret #11: Wear your shoes when the nurse measures your height.

When the insurance company sends out the nurse to do your health check try to be as tall as possible if you are overweight? In most states you are allowed to wear shoes and if you are a little overweight your taller height/weight ratio will look a little better to the underwriter who is determining your health rating and policy price. Also do your exam early in the morning with no food in you – this will make your cholesterol count and various health ratios look the best.

Secret #12: Be careful with extra perks and riders.

Most policies come with options like accidental death benefit, child riders, disability riders, return of premium etc. If you do the math on most of these “extras” they usually don’t make smart financial sense. Life insurance companies are out to make money and these riders are usually profitable because they either cover something that rarely happens or they are so stringent that the benefit never gets paid out. Keep things simple and focus mainly on getting a life policy to cover your life without many strings attached. Again a good agent can help you weigh the benefits of the extra riders. But be wary of an agent who tries to tack on every possible extra rider.