Buy your life insurance before death season starts


Chris Walters

Chris Walters

Blog author Chris Walters

Chris Walters writes for Policygenius, a digital insurance brokerage trying to make sense of insurance for consumers. He previously wrote for The Consumerist.

Published August 5, 2015|4 min read

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Believe it or not, in some cases certain times of the year are better than others for buying life insurance. For example, if you're pregnant, buying early in your pregnancy is better than buying late. If your birthday is coming up, it's better to buy before that date or else backdate the policy. And obviously (at least we hope it's obvious), it's better to buy it when you're younger, assuming you need it.

Here's an argument for why you should buy it in the summer, if those situations above don't apply to you: because you want to buy it before death season approaches.

"That's not a real thing!" you might be thinking to yourself. Well it is now, because here’s a blog post about it. And it’s a real thing that deserves a name because year after year, the month when the most people die is January, and the second highest is March. This table combines monthly mortality rates for every year from 1999 to 2013:.

As silly as this post is, the graph above uses real mortality data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s WONDER public health database.

There are theories why this is the case, but so far nothing substantial has turned up. It's not because of suicides, which, contrary to popular opinion, bottom out in December and peak in spring. It's not due to some unusual spike in heart disease, which is evenly distributed throughout the year, or to cancer, which is also pretty evenly distributed (but at its highest from July to September if you want to get nit-picky). It's not because people stubbornly refuse to come inside and therefore catch their death of a cold, because that isn't a real thing that happens.

So let's just assume that some day researchers will figure out why this happens (snowmen), and until then we'll describe it as "that part of the year when more people die." Or death season. It pretty much overlaps winter, but "death season" is a lot flashier.

Since the life insurance application process can take anywhere from 1-3 months, and since August through September has the fewest deaths, late summer is a great time to buy a life insurance policy. According to the chart above and my weak grasp of statistics, that’s when the odds are lowest that you'll die between the day you start shopping for a policy and the day it goes into effect. Assuming all goes well and you live to see fall, then this gives you plenty of time to get things in order and tell people off before whatever happens in January happens come January.

Maybe you have questions, so here are a few helpful answers.

If I die the very next day after I sign the policy, will it still pay?

Yes. It will even pay if you die the same day that you sign the policy, so long as--and this is important--you signed the policy first and then died.

But isn't there some kind of 2-year waiting period?

That's called the contestability period, and indeed it lasts from 1 to 2 years starting the day the policy goes into effect. But it's not a waiting period and you’re free to die at any time. If you die during the contestability period, the insurance company will review your application to make sure there weren’t any "misrepresentations" (meaning lies or withheld information). If it finds any, even if they have no connection to your cause of death, the insurer can adjust the amount of the benefit or decide not to pay it out at all. After that, any mistakes the insurer finds in your policy have to be related to your cause of death if the insurer wants to take action. So, you know, don’t lie.

This is different from a policy’s "suicide clause," by the way, which says that if you commit suicide within the first 2 years of the policy, it won’t pay.

This seems like a really flippant way to talk about death.

You know, there's more than enough treacly "we know this is difficult to talk about" life insurance content. We’ve written some of it ourselves. This is for the thick-skinned among us who don’t find it so difficult to talk about basic financial matters, because we just want to get things in order so we can go back to living life to its fullest.

Well, at least until death season comes around.