How to Buy Life Insurance: A Guide

October 01, 2017
Couple discusses finances at a table with their advisor

Purchasing life insurance is often a good decision. It protects your family financially when the unthinkable happens. Peace of mind for the future of your family requires some research and taking a few steps to find the best life insurance policy for your needs.

So, how do you buy life insurance? We break down the ways to get life insurance below.

Getting life insurance from your employer

Many employers offer group life insurance as a company benefit, whether they pay the entire premium or subsidize it. In fact, group life insurance represented 43% of all U.S. life insurance policies in 2014, according to the American Council of Life Insurers.

There are several advantages to these policies. If the company pays all or most of the cost, that’s, of course, a monetary savings for employees. However, the amount purchased may not meet your ultimate needs. If the benefits equal one or two times your salary, that’s probably not enough to leave your family in a comfortable financial position should you unexpectedly pass. You may have the option to upgrade the policy to a higher amount by paying the difference, or you can use this policy as a secondary one, purchasing an individual policy elsewhere.

One huge upside to group life insurance is you don’t usually have to take a medical exam to get it. It is easier to obtain group life insurance in these situations than as an individual.

The downside to getting life insurance through the employer is the coverage usually ends when employment ends. If you leave your job, whether you’re laid off or proactively find a new one, your life insurance policy doesn’t come with you. You might be able to convert it to an individual policy, but the costs may be higher than one acquired on your own. While a new employer might also offer life insurance benefits, there may be a waiting period.

Getting life insurance independently

If you want to buy life insurance independently of your employer, you can go to a specific insurance carrier or an online broker that sells policies from different companies. If you know what kind of insurance you want, you can get quotes online or with a phone call.

The advantage to getting online or phone quotes is you can get pricing information quickly and then compare quotes. If you go that route, it’s helpful to have a strong insurance background because you won’t be getting as much guidance as you would through your personal insurance agent. You might be comparing policy options without understanding the differences.

Talk to an insurance agent

Calling or meeting with a personal insurance agent is another way to get life insurance. Some insurance companies offer discounts to customer who bundle their policies, like having homeowner, auto and life insurance all with the same carrier.

The advantage to using personal insurance agents is they already understand your financial needs and they care about you as a long-term customer. They’ll spend the time to discuss the various life insurance types so you can find the best one for you. The disadvantage to using your personal agent is that they may be tied to only one insurance carrier, so they may not be able to offer you life insurance options from other companies.

What’s next?

Once you’ve chosen the policy you want and gotten a quote, you’ll apply for the insurance. That involves speaking with an insurance agent, even if you got your quote online. The agent will ask some questions and discuss the policy you chose. The agent will also send you paperwork to fill out and sign.

It’s likely that you’ll need a medical examination as the next step. The company will contact you to set up a time. The examiner will come to your home or office for some basic testing, such as determining your weight, getting a blood sample, perhaps an EKG, and listening to your heart.

This entire underwriting process can take a few weeks. Assuming everything checks out, the insurance company will send you the policy approval and ask for payment, if you haven’t already given a deposit. The premium might be different than in the original quote, depending on the results of your  medical exam and risk category.

LAW-0233AO (01/20)

  • Estate Planning