Life insurance for women

Women pay an average of 24% less for life insurance than men. But age, hormonal conditions, and pregnancy can impact policies and rates.

Headshot of Policygenius editor Nupur GambhirRebecca Shoenthal author photo

By

Nupur Gambhir

Nupur Gambhir

Senior Editor & Licensed Life Insurance Expert

Nupur Gambhir is a licensed life, health, and disability insurance expert and a former senior editor at Policygenius. Her insurance expertise has been featured in Bloomberg News, Forbes Advisor, CNET, Fortune, Slate, Real Simple, Lifehacker, The Financial Gym, and the end-of-life planning service Cake.

&Rebecca Shoenthal

Rebecca Shoenthal

Editor & Licensed Life Insurance Expert

Rebecca Shoenthal is a licensed life, disability, and health insurance expert and a former editor at Policygenius. Her insights about life insurance and finance have appeared in The Wall Street Journal, Fox Business, The Balance, HerMoney, SBLI, and John Hancock.

Updated|6 min read

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On average, women pay 24% less than men for life insurance at any given age.* But despite lower premiums, less than half of U.S. women own a life insurance policy. This ownership gap of life insurance for women has steadily declined over the past five years. [1]

Gender-specific factors like pregnancy, ovarian or breast cancer, and menopause can impact women’s premiums and eligibility. Read on to find out what affects your life insurance costs and how to choose a policy to protect your family.

Key Takeaways

  • Anyone with dependents or financial obligations should consider life insurance.

  • Women pay less at any given age for life insurance than men.

  • Pregnancy, breast cancer history, and certain mental illnesses can affect life insurance rates for women.

Why women need life insurance

Women need life insurance for the same main reason as men: financial support for dependents. This goes without saying for primary earners, but economic contributions can go beyond income. A recent study estimated the median annual salary was $184,820 for stay-at-home moms in 2020. [2] If a stay-at-home parent passes away, the caretaker left behind would likely suffer financially without life insurance.

A life insurance policy can also help you plan for:

Buying coverage while you're young can save you money long-term because rates increase with age. A life insurance policy should cover any current or future expenses that would otherwise fall on the shoulders of your loved ones.

Factors that affect the cost of life insurance for women

“While women tend to have longer life expectancies than men, allowing for lower life insurance prices by age, they will typically face some health risks that men don't and vice versa,” says Policygenius Sales Associate Elia Weg. "Women’s quotes are commonly affected by breast and reproductive cancers, hormonal disorders like PCOS, and pregnancy-related conditions like gestational diabetes, preeclampsia, and postpartum depression,” adds Weg.

Note that every life insurance application is considered on an individual basis, and any underwriter will also look at information like your age, overall health, and hobbies to determine your final premium.

Age

Premiums increase by about 4.5 to 9% every year you don’t have life insurance, so it’s worthwhile to buy coverage early. Here is what women can expect to pay at different ages for different policy amounts.

AGE$250,000$500,000$1,000,000
25$14.23$21.10$34.16
35$16.61$25.56$42.91
45$29.00$47.95$86.87
55$61.46$108.96$208.04

Methodology: Rates are calculated for a female non-smoker who qualifies for a preferred rate class, obtaining a 20-year term life insurance policy. Individual rate will vary as specific circumstances will affect each customer's rate. Rate illustration valid as of 1/1/2022.

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Pregnancy

Purchasing life insurance before you’re pregnant can help secure policy approval and the best possible life insurance premiums.

Applications from pregnant women in the first trimester are typically approved, but applications submitted in the third trimester are typically delayed until after birth due to the unpredictability of your health during this stage of pregnancy. Underwriters also consider fertility treatments of any kind to determine your premiums, a particularly important detail if you’re undergoing IVF treatment.

Side effects from pregnancy, such as weight gain, postpartum depression, and gestational diabetes, will also delay your life insurance application until your complete recovery. Lasting side effects can influence your premiums. Insurance companies will also look at previous pregnancies to determine your risk.

Breast cancer

Underwriters examine your personal and family history of breast cancer alongside the rest of your medical history. Some may even ask for mammograms or a BRCA gene mutation test, which determines if you have DNA mutations that increase your risk of breast cancer.

Traditional life insurance coverage is hard to acquire when going through cancer treatment. Most breast cancers are discovered in women ages 50 and older – another reason why it’s a good idea to purchase life insurance earlier. [3] After remission, any cancer history typically leads to a less favorable health classification from insurers, but there are some companies with more flexibility for cancer survivors.

Mental health & hormonal disorders

Women are more affected than men by certain mental health illnesses and some types of disorders are unique to women. [4] Depending on the insurer, mental health history can have an impact on the premiums you are offered. For example, a history of depression, bipolar disorder, or schizophrenia will likely lead to higher premiums.

Hormonal disorders, such as premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD), won’t affect life insurance coverage, but the related symptoms, such as depression and anxiety, could. The side effects of treating a hormonal disorder can also affect how a life insurance application is assessed. For example, a medication used to treat endometriosis can sometimes lead to weight gain, which could be flagged as a concerning health condition on a life insurance application.

Honesty is always the best policy when disclosing your medical history on your application. Medical tests and an intricate application process make it hard for any information to stay hidden for long, and anything you lie about can be logged with the MIB and risk your ability to buy life insurance in the future.

Gender identity

Policy premiums will not change for transgender women, but hormonal treatments and mental illness such as depression – a prominent medical diagnosis amongst transgender people [5] – will be analyzed by underwriters just as it would be for everyone else.

While most of the paperwork you’ll be asked to supply is similar to that of cisgender people, you may have to share additional paperwork to demonstrate your gender expression.

Transgender women may also find that while typically policies are offered based on your actual gender as opposed to your sex assigned at birth, there are, unfortunately, rarely concrete protocols at life insurance companies for working with transgender applicants. The way underwriters process your application and the documents they request from you could vary.

A Policygenius broker can guide you toward a provider that can handle your application with sensitivity and flexibility.

What type of insurance do women need?

Term life insurance makes the most sense for most people, but each situation is different. Your death benefit should account for your income, your debts, any financial support you currently offer to dependents, and future financial obligations. Working with a Policygenius adviser can help you choose the type of life insurance policy that is the right fit for you.

Should you buy life insurance for your children?

If you have children you want to protect with your policy, it doesn’t mean that you should name them as your beneficiaries or buy them their own policies. Life insurance payouts can’t go to minors, and if your child is under 18, the court will decide who manages the funds for your children.

The best way to ensure that your children are financially protected is to name your spouse or another adult you trust to care for your children as your beneficiary. Single women can set up a trust to receive their insurance payout and specify how the money will be disbursed to their children.

Should you get a policy with your partner?

Couples can choose to purchase separate or joint life insurance policies. Purchasing life insurance separately from your partner allows for the individual policies to be tailored to each partner’s needs and circumstances, while a joint life insurance policy is usually less flexible but is advantageous when it comes to the cash value.

Women, regardless of marital or employment status, can use life insurance to better protect loved ones, safeguard finances, and plan for the future.

*On average, women pay 24% less than men for life insurance at any given age: Average percentage difference based on monthly premium rates for non-smoking men and women from the January 1, 2022, Policygenius Life Insurance Price Index.