Decreasing term insurance

This type of life insurance provides a death benefit if you pass away while the policy is active, but the benefit amount decreases the longer you hold the policy.

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Decreasing term life insurance offers a set premium, but the death benefit decreases over the life of the policy. You may find a decreasing term policy useful if you only need your life insurance policy to cover your debts, but a traditional level term policy likely offers more flexibility and a better value for your money.

For most people, a level term life insurance policy is the best life insurance option. A level term policy is the most common form of term life insurance and provides a set death benefit if you die while the policy is active, for which you pay a premium that stays the same for the life of the policy.

Key Takeaways

  • A decreasing term policy usually lasts for 5 to 30 years and pays out if you pass away during that time.

  • The payout amount shrinks over the life of the policy, but your policy premium stays the same.

  • If you only want life insurance to cover a debt, decreasing term insurance could work for you.

How does decreasing term life insurance work?

Decreasing term life insurance is a type of term life insurance that offers a death benefit that shrinks over the duration of the policy (typically 5 to 30 years). You pay the same amount each month or year, but your death benefit grows smaller. How often your benefit decreases and the amount it decreases is set when you buy your policy. For example, decreases might correspond with a loan payment schedule, or your provider could set the death benefit to decrease by $100,000 every five years.

When should you buy a decreasing term policy?

Like credit life insurance, a decreasing term policy is often attached to a large personal or business loan. You might buy a decreasing term policy because you’ve saved enough to support your family after you pass away and only need your benefit to pay the balance of your loan in the event of your death. This way, you never pay for more life insurance than you need.

Most people encounter decreasing term life insurance as mortgage protection insurance (MPI). MPI is a decreasing term life insurance policy that you purchase through your bank and may pay as part of your mortgage. In the event of your death, the life insurance company pays the death benefit directly to the mortgage company.

MPI differs from private mortgage insurance (PMI), which your lender may require you to buy if your down payment is less than 20%. PMI protects your lender if you default on your loan, but doesn’t offer coverage if you pass away before paying off the loan.

Level term insurance vs. decreasing term insurance

Here’s how level term and decreasing term life insurance compare:

Duration1-30 years1-30 years
Guaranteed Death BenefitYesYes, but death benefit decreases over time, per terms of policy
PremiumsGuaranteed to remain levelGuaranteed to remain level, even as death benefit decreases
NotesBest option if you'll need coverage for several years and more than a single debtMost often purchased as mortgage insurance through a bank

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Alternatives to decreasing term life insurance

Decreasing term life insurance policies rarely make sense, especially since level term life insurance is so affordable. But if your primary reason to purchase life insurance is to ensure that one debt is covered in case you die, a decreasing term policy could be an option. Still, most people can address this same financial need with level term life insurance or the life insurance laddering strategy.

The ladder strategy

If you’re concerned that you will ultimately be left paying for more coverage than you need as you pay off your debts, you could employ the life insurance ladder strategy, which involves buying multiple level term policies of varying lengths and coverage amounts that expire as your financial obligations decrease. Laddering policies will also save you money on premiums by ensuring that you only pay for the coverage you need and only when you need it.

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Is decreasing term life insurance worth it?

For the most part, decreasing term life insurance isn’t worth the cost. Not only are you paying the same amount throughout the term for a decreasing amount of coverage, but it often doesn’t account for your changing coverage needs.

If you’re worried that your need for life insurance will decrease over time, you can lower the amount of coverage you have with a traditional life insurance policy or use the ladder strategy. This will also lower your premiums — whereas in a decreasing life policy you’d continue to pay the same premiums for a lower amount of coverage. A traditional term policy will likely be more affordable in the long run than a decreasing term life policy.

Decreasing term insurance FAQ:

How does decreasing term insurance work?

Decreasing term life insurance lasts for a set number of years and pays out to your beneficiaries if you pass away while the policy is active. The size of the payout grows smaller the longer you own the policy.

What is the main difference between decreasing term insurance and level term insurance?

The insurance benefit from level term insurance stays the same as long as you keep the policy active, whereas the benefit decreases over time in a decreasing term policy.

Should I get decreasing term life insurance?

If you only want your life insurance to cover a specific debt, decreasing term insurance is an option. However, most people are better off with traditional level term life insurance, which offers a steady benefit amount and therefore a better value for the premiums you pay.

Can I buy increasing term insurance?

It's unlikely that you'll find an increasing term life insurance policy that increases your death benefit over the life of your policy. To increase your coverage amount, you’ll need to speak with your provider or buy a new policy.