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Katherine Murbach Policygenius

By

Katherine Murbach

Katherine Murbach

Associate Editor & Licensed Life Insurance Expert

Katherine Murbach is an associate editor and a licensed life insurance expert at Policygenius. Previously, she wrote about life and disability insurance for 1752 Financial, and advised over 1,500 clients on their life insurance policies as a sales associate.

Edited byAntonio Ruiz-Camacho

Antonio Ruiz-Camacho

Associate Content Director

Antonio helps lead our life insurance and disability insurance editorial team at Policygenius. Previously, he was a senior director of content at Bankrate and CreditCards.com, as well as a principal writer covering personal finance at CNET.

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Expert reviewed

This article has been reviewed by a licensed Policygenius expert to ensure that sources, statistics, and claims meet our standard for accurate and unbiased advice.

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By

Kristi Sullivan, CFP®

Kristi Sullivan, CFP®

Certified Financial Planner

Kristi Sullivan, CFP®, is a certified financial planner and a member of the Financial Review Council at Policygenius. Previously, she was a regional consultant at Fidelity Investments for nine years.

Updated

Policygenius content follows strict guidelines for editorial accuracy and integrity. Learn about our editorial standards and how we make money.

What is life insurance?

Life insurance is a contract between you and an insurance company: You agree to make payments toward your policy, and the insurance company agrees to pay a sum of money to your beneficiaries if you die while your policy is active.

Do I need life insurance?

If you have people who depend on you and your income for their livelihoods, you probably need life insurance. Many people find themselves shopping for life insurance following a major life event, like getting married, having children, or buying a house. Below are some common examples of people who benefit from life insurance.

  • Families: If you have family members in your household for whom you provide, it’s important to have life insurance to protect their quality of life.

  • New parents: After growing your family, it’s smart to evaluate your life insurance coverage to make sure your children are protected.

  • Anyone with dependents: If you have other dependents or expect to care for an aging family member, life insurance can help make sure their care doesn’t lapse in your absence. 

  • Stay-at-home parents: Even though stay-at-home parents don’t bring home a traditional salary, they provide significant value in the form of housework and childcare, among other activities. Life insurance can help replace their contributions to the household in the event they pass away.

  • Business owners: Life insurance can help business partners pay estate taxes, buy out a partner, or hire a replacement for the deceased owner.

  • Young adults: Even if you don’t have any dependents yet, getting life insurance while young might be a smart move because that's when it's cheapest for you — and you can help your beneficiaries cover any financial obligations you may already have in your absence, like a mortgage. 

  • Anyone over 60 years of age: Seniors can use life insurance to cover final expenses or to complement their estate planning strategy.

→ Read more about who needs life insurance and why

How much life insurance do I need?

How much life insurance you need depends on your financial obligations. You’ll want to keep in mind your savings and debts, your current income and expenses, as well as any significant future expenses, like if you’re planning to pay for a child’s college tuition. Here are a few simple ways to calculate how much life insurance you need:

  • Multiply your income by 10 and add $100,000 for any children: One common rule of thumb is to multiply your income by 10 to 15 to provide support for your family for a meaningful length of time. Some people choose to add about $100,000 for each child to account for any future child care or education expenses.

  • The DIME method: If you’re using this strategy, you would tally up your outstanding debts, your income multiplied by the number of years your family will depend on it, the amount left on your mortgage, and the cost of your children’s education. You can also include any other outstanding co-signed debts that your co-signer would be responsible for if you died.

  • The 1% rule: Choose a coverage amount that will make your premiums about 1% of your annual income. This will make sure you can comfortably afford to keep your policy active if you’re on a budget. Some coverage is better than no coverage at all.

  • Use our calculator. Provide a few details like your date of birth, your gender, and your financial situation — we don’t sell your information to third parties — and Policygenius’s life insurance coverage calculator will get you a personalized life insurance quote based on your specific needs.

How much does life insurance cost?

The cost of your life insurance will depend on your age, gender, and health, as well as the specific policy you’re looking to buy.

  • A healthy 35-year-old non-smoker, for example, will pay less than $28 per month for a term life insurance policy with a $500,000 death benefit payout and a duration of 20 years. Term is the most affordable and convenient type of coverage for most people.

  • The same 35-year-old would pay around $526 per month for a whole life insurance policy with the same $500,000 payout. Whole life is the most popular type of permanent life insurance because it never expires, but is five to 15 times more expensive than term.

You can use our life insurance cost calculator down below to input specific values and get rates for your personal situation.

Why you can trust our rates

At Policygenius, our sample rates are based on internal actuarial rate tables for life insurance companies that offer policies through the Policygenius marketplace (AIG, Banner Life, Brighthouse, Lincoln Financial, Foresters Financial, MassMutual, Mutual of Omaha, Pacific Life, Protective, Prudential, Symetra, and Transamerica), and the Policygenius Life Insurance Price Index, which uses real-time rate data from leading life insurance companies to determine pricing trends. The prices represent the average monthly life insurance premium for each sample customer profile (age, gender) and policy type (term or whole, and coverage amount) as of the date reflected on each table's methodology. Rates for those products may vary by state, and not all products are available in all states. Individual rates may vary, depending on age, gender, state, health profile, and other eligibility criteria.

How much does term life insurance cost?

Below are some average sample term life insurance rates for non-smokers and smokers.

Average monthly term life insurance rates for non-smokers

Age

Sex

$250,000 coverage amount

$500,000 coverage amount

$1 million coverage amount

25

Female

$14.17

$21.06

$33.45

Male

$17.11

$26.89

$44.62

35

Female

$16.39

$25.43

$42.49

Male

$18.58

$30.14

$51.51

45

Female

$28.31

$47.71

$86.45

Male

$35.11

$60.58

$112.52

55

Female

$59.80

$108.44

$207.17

Male

$82.80

$150.39

$282.99

Methodology: Sample monthly estimated rates are for male and female non-smokers with a Preferred health rating buying a 20-year, $250,000, $500,000, and $1,000,000 term life insurance policy. Life insurance averages are based on a composite of policies offered by Policygenius from AIG, Banner, Brighthouse, Lincoln, Mutual of Omaha, Pacific Life, Protective, Prudential, and Transamerica, and may vary by insurer, term, coverage amount, health class, and state. Not all policies are available in all states. Rate illustration valid as of 12/01/2022.

Average monthly term life insurance rates for smokers

Age

Sex

$250,000 coverage amount

$500,000 coverage amount

$1 million coverage amount

25

Female

$34.37

$58.10

$107.13

Male

$42.44

$73.44

$135.52

35

Female

$44.12

$77.96

$142.23

Male

$52.85

$93.23

$176.03

45

Female

$89.32

$164.09

$313.43

Male

$120.06

$223.83

$430.88

55

Female

$195.98

$364.32

$705.41

Male

$283.07

$526.72

$1,022.11

Methodology: Sample monthly estimated rates are for male and female smokers with a Preferred Smoker health rating buying a 20-year, $250,000, $500,000, and $1,000,000 term life insurance policy. Life insurance averages are based on a composite of policies offered by Policygenius from AIG, Banner, Brighthouse, Lincoln, Mutual of Omaha, Pacific Life, Protective, Prudential, and Transamerica, and may vary by insurer, term, coverage amount, health class, and state. Not all policies are available in all states. Rate illustration valid as of 12/01/2022.

How much does whole life insurance cost?

Below are sample monthly whole life insurance rates for non-smokers and smokers.

Average monthly whole life insurance rates for non-smokers

Age

Sex

$250,000 coverage amount

$500,000 coverage amount

$1 million coverage amount

25

Female

$175

$346

$660

Male

$199

$393

$765

35

Female

$243

$481

$947

Male

$288

$571

$1,121

45

Female

$360

$716

$1,417

Male

$435

$866

$1,690

55

Female

$589

$1,173

$2,332

Male

$692

$1,380

$2,173

Methodology: Sample monthly rates for male and female non-smokers obtaining a $250,000, $500,000, and $1,000,000 whole life insurance policy fully paid up at age 100 through MassMutual. Not all policies available in all states. Rates will vary as specific circumstances will affect each customer’s rate. Rate illustration valid as of 12/01/2022.

Average monthly whole life insurance rates for smokers

Age

Sex

$250,000 coverage amount

$500,000 coverage amount

$1 million coverage amount

25

Female

$216

$427

$833

Male

$251

$496

$972

35

Female

$301

$597

$1,177

Male

$371

$735

$1,452

45

Female

$467

$928

$1,838

Male

$574

$1,142

$2,230

55

Female

$762

$1,519

$3,020

Male

$930

$1,854

$3,645

Methodology: Sample monthly rates for male and female smokers obtaining a $250,000, $500,000, and $1,000,000 whole life insurance policy fully paid up at age 100 through MassMutual. Not all policies available in all states. Rates will vary as specific circumstances will affect each customer’s rate. Rate illustration valid as of 12/01/2022.

What factors affect life insurance quotes?

Your age

Age is one of the biggest factors that determines your life insurance rates — the cost of life insurance increases an average of 4.5% to 9% every year you get older. This is because we all become riskier to insure as we age.

Your gender

Women are statistically less risky to insure than men because they have longer life expectancies. As a result, they typically see cheaper rates. If you’re transgender or nonbinary, your gender shouldn’t have a noticeable impact on your life insurance quotes — and you can use the gender that most closely aligns with your identity during the application process instead of the one assigned to you at birth.

Your health

In general, the fewer health conditions you have, the cheaper your rates will be. Each insurer has their own guidelines when it comes to health conditions and height-to-weight ratios, but following a healthy lifestyle and getting regular check-ups with a doctor can help as a starting point to secure the best rates.

Your use of tobacco products

The use of tobacco products can have a significant impact on your life insurance rates. Smokers pay at least twice as much for life insurance as non-smokers because smoking has known negative health effects. Insurers will also consider what kind of tobacco products you use and how frequently you use them when setting your premiums.

Your lifestyle

Hobbies like regularly skydiving, scuba diving, or piloting a private plane can impact your rates because life insurance companies may see you as a higher insurance risk.

How do I get a life insurance quote online?

To get a life insurance quote online, you’ll need to start by providing a few pieces of information that will affect your rates — for instance, your age, gender, and any health conditions you may have. You’ll then get an estimate or a range of what you can expect to pay, but your rate won’t be final until you apply and go through underwriting, which is when the insurance company reviews your application.

Where to buy a life insurance policy

You can buy a life insurance policy directly with a company, an affiliated agent, or through an independent broker. We recommend the latter option. Here’s why.

  • Directly from the insurer: You can work with a specific insurance company and apply through their agents. They’ll be familiar with that company’s products, but you’ll only be able to compare policies from that particular insurer.

  • Through an affiliated agent: You can work with an agent who is affiliated with one or more insurance companies. They’ll have access to those insurers’ product guides, but they might work on commission, which might influence their advice and the policies they offer you.

  • Through an independent broker: You can work with a broker, who works with multiple insurance companies and can offer you unbiased advice and a wider array of products. At Policygenius, we work with more than 10 different insurance companies and can help you easily compare and buy a policy online. 

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What type of life insurance policy do I need?

The type of life insurance you need depends on what kind of financial protection you’re looking for, as well as your budget. Below are the most popular types of life insurance.

Term life insurance

Term life insurance is the most popular type of life insurance coverage because it’s affordable and provides financial protection when you need it the most, usually during your peak earning years. Term life policies typically have a length between 10 years and 30 years. They don't have complex tax implications or restrictions.

Whole life insurance

Whole life insurance is a type of permanent life insurance that lasts your entire life. It’s five to 15 times more expensive than term, but comes with a cash value account separate from the standard death benefit. The cash value grows at a low interest rate set by your insurer, and is funded by part of the premiums you pay.

Universal life insurance

Universal life insurance is a flexible type of permanent life insurance that allows you to increase or decrease how much you pay toward premiums. If you decrease how much you spend, the difference is withdrawn from your policy’s cash value. It’s best for high earners trying to build a nest egg without entering a higher income bracket.

No-medical-exam life insurance

No-medical-exam life insurance refers to policies that don’t require a medical exam for approval — you complete a health interview online or over the phone instead. Most no-medical-exam life insurance options are term policies that offer a faster application process for people with minor health conditions.

What is the difference between term and whole life insurance?

Term life insurance lasts for a specific period of time — usually 10 years to 30 years. Whole life insurance lasts your entire life, as long as you continue to pay the premiums. Whole life is also five to 15 times more expensive than term life, on average.

→ Read more about the differences between term and whole life insurance

What are the best life insurance companies?

Protective, Banner Life, Lincoln Financial, Brighthouse Financial, and Pacific Life are among the best life insurance companies, according to Policygenius’s ratings. We’ve used industry data, pricing from our partners, and third-party rankings like A.M. Best and J.D. Power to select the top insurers on the market. 

It’s important to choose a life insurance company that’s financially stable since you want to be confident they can pay the death benefit on your policy if needed. At Policygenius, we only work with companies that are A-rated or higher according to A.M. Best, so you’re in good hands.

The best life insurance company for you, however, will depend on your financial needs, as well as your age, gender, and health. The best way to find the best insurer to fit you personally is to work with an independent broker and get recommendations for your specific circumstances.

Company

Policygenius rating

Best for

Protective

4.9/5

Cheapest

Banner Life

4.7/5

Overall, term, pre-existing conditions

Lincoln Financial

4.7/5

Marijuana users, mental health conditions

Brighthouse Financial

4.6/5

No medical exam, young adults

Pacific Life

4.6/5

Customer satisfaction

AIG

4.5

Families, sleep apnea

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How does life insurance work?

Life insurance works much like other types of insurance policies — it provides financial protection for your loved ones. You pay a monthly or annual premium to an insurance company, and in return, the insurance company agrees to pay out a sum of money to your beneficiary if you die while your policy is active.

What does life insurance cover?

Traditional life insurance covers nearly all kinds of death — whether it’s caused by an illness or accident.

How does life insurance protect my family?

Life insurance provides funds for your family so they wouldn’t have to worry about paying bills, childcare expenses, or even burial expenses in the absence of your income.

How does life insurance work for estate planning?

Life insurance can be used as an estate planning tool — it’s an easy way to designate a lump sum to your beneficiaries so they’ll have funds to cover final expenses and any estate taxes. The life insurance death benefit doesn’t have to go through probate court like other assets, so it can provide a quicker access to money in the event of death.

How does life insurance work as an investment?

Permanent life insurance products can be used as an investment tool, since many come with a cash value account that gains interest tax-free over time. Although the rate of return is typically lower than other investment vehicles like a 401k or IRA, permanent life insurance can provide an alternative investment strategy if you’re already maxing out those other accounts.

How to buy life insurance with Policygenius

Buying life insurance with Policygenius is easy and straightforward — just follow these steps.

  1. Apply online. You can fill out a simple health questionnaire with some basic information to start the application process. You’ll get some initial quotes, but your rate isn’t set in stone until later.

  2. Talk to an agent. One of our licensed agents will follow up with you to confirm your information and walk you through some additional questions to determine which insurance company will offer you the most affordable coverage.

  3. Take a medical exam — or skip it if you’re eligible. The life insurance medical exam is like a standard annual physical with your doctor. Insurance companies use it to verify your health information and determine your rate. Some insurers offer a medical questionnaire over the phone or online instead — an option known as no-medical-exam life insurance — and will verify your health against your medical records.

  4. Sign your policy and pay your first premium. Once the insurance company offers you the final rate, you can sign your policy and we’ll help you set up payment. Your coverage is active after making your first payment, but if you need to make changes to your policy we can help with that, too.

Life insurance news

Policygenius ranks the 10 best places to die in the U.S.

Each state has different policies and prices regarding estate laws, end-of-life care, and funerals. We took a look at the best and worst places to die in the U.S. based on some of these metrics.

An in-depth look into infinite banking life insurance’s social media frenzy

A wealth-building strategy involving borrowing from the cash value of permanent life insurance products called infinite banking became a viral trend on TikTok. However, this personal finance hack has a few more caveats and potential downsides than social media posts will reveal.

Life insurance retirement plans come to the rescue

Life insurance can supplement your existing retirement plan if you’re maxing out other retirement accounts. It can also be a retirement investment option during turbulent economic times.

Life insurance FAQs

What do I need to consider before buying life insurance?

You’ll need to consider your needs for financial protection — who you’re buying the policy for or what specifically you’re looking to cover. For instance, your income for your family, a mortgage, final expenses, or other debt.

How do you qualify for life insurance?

Insurance companies use a process called underwriting to determine if you qualify for insurance. They assess risk based on your age, health, and other factors. You’ll need to fill out an application and take a medical exam or medical questionnaire to qualify.

Should I wait to buy life insurance?

Life insurance gets more expensive to buy every year you age. In most cases, if you know you need life insurance now, you shouldn’t wait. In some cases, like if you’re quitting smoking or waiting for a pending diagnosis or surgery for a medical condition, it might be best to wait. Speaking with a licensed agent can help determine the best way forward for you.

Is life insurance taxable?

No, the life insurance death benefit is not taxable. Some permanent life insurance products do come with tax implications, so speaking with a licensed agent and a financial planner can help if you want to integrate these products into your financial plan.

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Author

Associate Editor & Licensed Life Insurance Expert

Katherine Murbach

Associate Editor & Licensed Life Insurance Expert

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Katherine Murbach is an associate editor and a licensed life insurance expert at Policygenius. Previously, she wrote about life and disability insurance for 1752 Financial, and advised over 1,500 clients on their life insurance policies as a sales associate.

Editor

Associate Content Director

Antonio Ruiz-Camacho

Associate Content Director

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Antonio helps lead our life insurance and disability insurance editorial team at Policygenius. Previously, he was a senior director of content at Bankrate and CreditCards.com, as well as a principal writer covering personal finance at CNET.

Expert reviewer

Certified Financial Planner

Kristi Sullivan, CFP®

Certified Financial Planner

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Kristi Sullivan, CFP®, is a certified financial planner and a member of the Financial Review Council at Policygenius. Previously, she was a regional consultant at Fidelity Investments for nine years.

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