The year is winding down, which means you have some year-end tasks to attend to: figuring out whose family you’re spending Thanksgiving with, finding the right way to tell your aunt that you don’t want another homemade sweater for Christmas, and getting a term life insurance policy!
What, that last one isn’t on your list? Well it should be, because life insurance only gets more expensive as you age. And even if you’re looking into it, you might be putting it off until 2017 so it tops your New Year’s resolutions list.
But you probably shouldn’t wait. Anyone who has people depending on them – like the family you’ll be spending so much time around over the next few months – needs life insurance to protect them from debt and the financial burden of losing the primary breadwinner.
And in fact, if you apply now, you can get covered before you ring in the new year. If that’s your plan, here are the best life insurers you should look at.
Why does the life insurance process take so long?
Applying for life insurance is easy. Like, very easy. You can apply in minutes. What happens after that can take a little while, though.
After you apply you’ll have to take a medical exam, where the insurer will use your health data to classify you (in terms of mortality risk) and set your rates. The medical exam itself doesn’t take long (and it’s free), but you’ll still need to find a time to schedule it. The medical technician will come to your home or work but you’re a busy person so it could still be tough to squeeze it in.
The other hangup is if the insurer needs to request an Attending Physician’s Statement, or APS. Because they’ll have to get in touch with your doctor, and many doctors still aren’t using electronic health records, getting an APS alone can add 1-4 weeks to the application process. However, it’s worth noting that an APS isn’t required in the majority of cases.
In total, it can take up to 6-8 weeks from the time you apply to the date your policy goes in force. That puts you pretty close to your December 31st deadline. But not all life insurance companies are equal, and some can get you to the finish line quicker than others.
Insurers to get covered quickly
If you haven’t looked at our life insurer review pages, I suggest you do so at some point. We’ve broken down the top-rated carriers so you can see where they excel, where they’re average, and which ones are best for your particular situation.
One of the areas we looked at is how quickly you can get covered, whether it’s because they offer a faster-than-average turnaround time or the ability to apply without taking a medical exam at all.
Faster-than-average application times
We’ve evaluated the turnaround time for our top insurers, based on the completed application and medical exam, to see which offer the quickest options (and, since we’re about transparency, which ones are slowest).
For full application processes (medical exams included), some speedy insurers with turnaround times of under 30 days include include Pacific Life (20 days), Prudential (23 days), TransAmerica (24 days), and United of Omaha (28 days).
Accelerated underwriting policies
Here’s a little secret: you know that medical exam that adds time to the application process? You might not even have to take it.
We usually like to steer people away from simplified issue life insurance or other policy types where you don’t need an exam to get covered, because you’re paying for that convenience – literally – in the form of much higher monthly premiums.
But a lot of the top-rated life insurers will let healthy applicants skip the medical exam and still qualify for the best rates (i.e., not paying extra for it). Thanks to accelerated underwriting, insurers can use data (including prescription history, driving history and a personal history interview), rather than medical exam results, to evaluate you. Lincoln, Banner and Principal offer accelerated underwriting, which can cut weeks off of the application time for applicants who meet certain criteria, like applying for policies under a certain amount and having a good health history.
Want to learn more about accelerated underwriting? Read our full writeup on how the process works right here.
Other qualities to consider
It’s understandable that you’d want to get covered quickly, but it’s important to remember that even if it takes 8 weeks to apply for life insurance, you’re going to have that coverage for decades. That’s why you shouldn’t have "turnaround time tunnel vision" when you should apply. The premium is another huge consideration for people (you have to make sure the policy fits into your budget, after all), but there are other qualities that an insurer brings to the table that you should take into account as well:
What sorts of riders does the insurer make available on their policies? How much will they cost you?
What are the coverage terms? Some insurers have minimums as high as $100,000, while other insurers let you go as low as $25,000. And when it comes to term length, some insurers fix them in intervals of 5 or 10 years while others let you customize the term so you can get a, say, 18-year policy.
What does the insurer’s financial stability look like? We recommend life insurers who have at least an A- A.M. Best rating.
The most important thing is finding an insurer and a policy that works for you and your budget. If part of that is getting covered as quickly as possible, that’s great – you definitely have a lot of choices to get life insurance coverage before the end of the year. But that doesn’t mean you need to sacrifice other qualities like great customer service or an online experience.
Determine your life insurance need, get some free quotes, and take one last look at our insurer reviews before you decide. Those few minutes could make the next few weeks – and decades – go that much smoother.