Can losing weight save you money on life insurance?

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Can losing weight save you money on life insurance?

Robert had an idea. He wanted to buy a life insurance policy, but knew that being overweight would make him look bad during the application process, potentially raising his premiums. The solution? A Get Skinny Quick diet, one that would let him lose just enough to be considered "healthy." After the application went through, Robert could go right back to bacon and Oreos. Robert wasn’t too overweight - he weighed 220 pounds and measured a flat six feet tall. But by cutting back on fatty foods, Robert was able to lose 15 pounds in three months.

But after his medical exam, Robert’s life insurance company didn’t offer him a lower rate. Instead, they told him that his weight had fluctuated too much in the last year for them to offer him a lower rate.

Robert was right about one thing - being overweight can knock you down into a worse classification, the same way any health risk lowers your classification. Classifications make it easy for insurance companies to quantify how healthy (and how risky) potential customers are. Every insurer has their own chart for how they judge weight, and depending on your gender and height, that number can be very different from person to person.

In order to qualify for the highest classification, Preferred Plus, at his chosen insurer, Robert needed to weigh less than 207 pounds. Below, you can find the full sample build chart for life insurance underwriting, which shows the maximum weight a person of each gender can be according to their height.

Height Male Female Height Male Female
5’0" 144 135 6’0" 207 180
5’1 148 138 6’1" 213 184
5’2" 153 140 6’2" 219 188
5’3" 158 143 6’3" 225 193
5’4" 163 145 6’4" 230 197
5’5" 168 148 6’5" 237 201
5’6" 174 150 6’6" 243 205
5’7" 179 155 6’7" 249 209
5’8" 185 160 6’8" 256 214
5’9" 190 165 6’9" 262 218
5’10" 196 170 6’10" 268 222
5’11" 201 175 6’11" 276 226

But life insurance companies don’t just take into account your most recent weight. According to life insurance underwriter Mike Woods, you’re required to disclose if your weight has fluctuated more than 10 pounds in either direction within the last year. Life insurance companies "want to see at least twelve months of weight stability in order to get full credit for any intended weight loss," Woods says. "For example, a loss of 60 pounds in the last twelve months would only count for 30 pounds until stable for twelve months or more."

Our advice? Don’t let a potential life insurance application get in the way of losing weight or getting fit. But if you’re planning on losing weight quick to get a cheaper life insurance premium, you’re out of luck.

You can potentially use your weight loss to get cheaper premiums down the line. Some life insurance companies will let you take a new medical exam one or two years after the policy goes into effect. This depends entirely on the insurance company and your specific situation, but an independent broker can help you navigate this.

Losing weight can have huge health benefits. It can lead to lower cholesterol levels, lower blood pressure, and a reduced risk of heart attacks, dementia, sleep apnea, and a host of other diseases. Check out our article on the 9 best health podcasts for more advice on staying fit.

If you’ve lost over ten pounds in the last year, your broker can help you shop around for the best policy. Since every insurance company will treat your weight loss different, your broker can run quotes and help you comparison shop.

If you lost weight because of a gastric bypass surgery, some smaller life insurers may take a more lenient stance. Otherwise, the same rules apply: show twelve months of stable weight and undergo a medical exam to catch health issues.

Photo: Natasia Causse