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Life insurance is a financial tool that promises a payout to your beneficiaries upon your death. While it provides financial security, its value varies based on individual needs and personal circumstances, such as your financial obligations and dependents.

If you’re married, have a long-term significant other or have children or other dependents who rely on your income, life insurance could help protect them.

If you’re young and healthy, have a low income but not a lot of debt, or don’t have a spouse or dependents, it may not be the best financial decision for you.

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Key Takeaways

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Life insurance provides a financial safety net for your loved ones, but weighing the advantages and drawbacks tailored to your situation is valuable before opting for a policy.

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Life insurance may not be for you, depending on your needs and circumstances. Various alternative financial strategies, such as investments or self-funding, can offer comparable benefits without the commitment that comes with life insurance.

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Your choice between term and permanent life insurance will considerably influence the policy's value and alignment with your financial goals.

Who Should Buy Life Insurance

Whether you should buy life insurance ultimately depends on your specific situation. When deciding whether or not to take out a policy, you should take a moment to assess your needs and the needs of your loved ones.

Questions to Ask Yourself Before Buying Life Insurance

Considering purchasing life insurance coverage? Here are some questions you may want to ask yourself before deciding.


Do you have dependents?

One of the primary purposes of life insurance is to provide for children and other dependents in the event of your passing.


Are you married or in a long-term partnership?

Your spouse or significant other is another person you should consider when deciding whether to buy life insurance. If they depend on your income, insurance is likely a good idea.


Do you financially provide for other loved ones?

You should consider purchasing life insurance if you provide for other family members, like siblings or parents.


Do you have a high income?

The higher your income, the more sense it makes to purchase significant life insurance coverage.

Life insurance isn’t something you necessarily buy for yourself; it’s something you purchase for your loved ones. Because everyone’s circumstances differ, there’s no one-size-fits-all approach to selecting a life insurance policy.

That said, if you have people in your life who depend on you financially, a robust life insurance policy can help ensure that they’re taken care of if you die.

How Life Insurance Works

Life insurance establishes a financial agreement between you and an insurance company. You pay regular premiums to the insurer; in return, they commit to providing a predetermined death benefit to your designated beneficiaries upon your death. This death benefit serves multiple purposes, from settling debts, replacing lost income and offering your loved ones a financial safety net.

Understanding how life insurance works will help you assess its value in your financial portfolio.

Factors to Consider When Deciding on Life Insurance

Deciding whether life insurance is a worthy financial tool involves careful consideration of various factors. These elements can also affect the type of policy that's right for you and the overall cost.

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    Your age significantly impacts your premium rates. Younger individuals often secure lower premiums, making it a more affordable option.

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    A medical exam is usually part of the application process. Pre-existing conditions or poor health can result in higher premiums or even disqualification.

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    Financial Obligations

    Consider your debts, mortgages or any other financial responsibilities. Life insurance can help cover these costs, ensuring your debt doesn't burden your family.

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    If you have family members who rely on your income, life insurance becomes more valuable as it can replace your income in the event of your death.

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    Investment Goals

    Some life insurance types, like permanent policies, include a cash value component that can serve as an investment tool.

Life Insurance Costs

Multiple factors determine the cost of life insurance. Understanding these can guide you in selecting a policy that meets your needs and is financially manageable.

  • Age: Generally, younger applicants receive lower premium rates.
  • Health: Medical history and current health conditions can significantly impact your premiums. A medical exam is often necessary as part of the application process.
  • Type of Policy: Term life insurance usually costs less than permanent life insurance due to the absence of a cash value component and limited coverage period.
  • Coverage Amount: The higher the death benefit you choose, the higher your premiums will be.
  • Lifestyle Choices: Habits like smoking or high-risk hobbies can also affect your premium rates.
  • Gender: Statistically, women tend to live longer than men, which can result in lower premiums for female policyholders.

Consider how these factors may apply to you. You can explore average term life insurance costs by age in the table below, helping you plan for your potential policy. These rates are based on a $250,000 term life insurance policy for a healthy, non-smoking adult.

Average Costs of Term Life Insurance by Age
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Pros and Cons of Life Insurance

Understanding the advantages and drawbacks of life insurance can help you make an informed decision. This balanced perspective allows you to assess whether the benefits align with your financial goals and personal circumstances, helping you decide if it's a suitable investment.

Pros of Having Life Insurance

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    Financial Security for Loved Ones

    Life insurance ensures that your family can maintain their standard of living in your absence. The death benefit can cover mortgage payments, utility bills and even educational expenses for your children.

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    Income Replacement

    If you are the primary breadwinner, the death benefit can replace your income, ensuring your family's financial needs are met.

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    Tax-Deferred Growth

    Permanent life insurance policies offer a cash value component that grows tax-deferred, allowing you to accumulate wealth over time.

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    Loan Options

    Some permanent life insurance policies allow you to take loans against the cash value, offering a low-interest borrowing option.

Cons of Having Life Insurance

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    Cost Factors

    Life insurance premiums can be a significant expense, especially for permanent policies and those older or with health issues.

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    Health Qualifications

    Many policies require a medical exam, and pre-existing conditions can raise your premiums or disqualify you from coverage altogether.

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    Policy Limitations

    Term life insurance offers coverage for a limited period, and if you outlive that term, the policy simply expires without any benefit payout.

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    May Require Management

    With its cash value component and investment options, permanent life insurance may require careful management to ensure it meets your financial goals.

Reasons Why You Would Want to Buy Life Insurance

There are a variety of reasons and life events that might prompt you to purchase life insurance.

These include when you get married or are in a long-term partnership, when you have children and when you take on financial responsibilities and debts, like a mortgage.

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    You’re getting married

    When embarking on married life with your new spouse, it’s a good idea to plan for the future to ensure that you’re both protected. If your spouse relies on you financially, a life insurance policy can help provide for your spouse in the event of your passing.

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    You have kids

    We also recommend purchasing life insurance when you become a parent or assume responsibility for a dependent. Life insurance will help take care of your children if you die while they’re still young.

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    You bought a house

    You might consider purchasing life insurance if you have a significant financial obligation like a mortgage. A life insurance policy can help your family afford monthly mortgage payments and other big bills.

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    You support other loved ones financially

    Life insurance is a good idea if you’re the primary breadwinner for your household or support family members like parents or siblings. In the event of your passing, a life insurance policy can help mitigate the loss of your income.

Life insurance may not be an option you need if you're single, you don't have children and you're in your early twenties. Still, it's worth considering as you accumulate commitments and responsibilities throughout your young adulthood.

In particular, you should consider getting life insurance when you go through significant life changes, like getting married or having children. With more people dependent on your income, there's more at risk if you can no longer provide for your family.

Reasons Why You May Not Want to Buy Life Insurance

While having life insurance can be reassuring, it may not be worth the cost for some people. Life insurance may not make sense for you if you don’t have any dependents or have a low income.

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    You have no spouse or dependents

    You might want to forgo life insurance if you don’t have a spouse or children. Life insurance is primarily a benefit for others, not yourself, so it may not be worth the cost if there’s no clear beneficiary of the plan.

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    You have a low income

    If you have a low income and are on a tight budget, life insurance may not be the best use of your funds.

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    You don’t financially support other family members

    Another reason to purchase life insurance is to support other family members, such as parents or siblings if you die. If you’re only financially responsible for yourself, you may not need to take out a life insurance policy.

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    You’re elderly and on a budget

    The older you are, the more expensive your life insurance policy is. If you’re a senior considering a life insurance policy, you should carefully weigh whether or not the benefits of a policy are worth the cost.

Life insurance probably isn't worth the cost for young, healthy individuals with no dependents and low incomes. While there’s nothing wrong with purchasing a life insurance policy, even if you don’t strictly need it, you may be able to put those funds to better use elsewhere, like making contributions to a retirement plan or bulking up your emergency fund.

Similarly, life insurance might not make sense if you’re aging. Because life insurance is much more expensive for older individuals, the coverage might not be worth the cost.

Compare Life Insurance Rates

Ensure you’re getting the best rate for your life insurance. Compare quotes from top providers to find the most affordable life insurance coverage for your needs.

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Term vs. Permanent Life Insurance

There are different types of life insurance, but the two main categories are term and permanent. Each serves distinct needs and offers unique features and limitations, emphasizing the need to understand their differences to make an informed choice.

Term life insurance is straightforward but offers no cash value, while permanent life insurance can act as both a death benefit provider and an investment tool.

Who Should Buy Term Life Insurance

Term life insurance is often a good choice for individuals with dependents who want protection for their loved ones. This type of insurance tends to be more affordable than whole life insurance. However, you’ll need to purchase a new policy once your term length is up if you want to continue coverage.

Term Life Insurance

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Best for:
  • People who want to ensure their family’s financial safety but have a budget
  • Individuals who want to set the term length of their coverage
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Not for:
  • Individuals who want to use a life insurance policy for investing or estate planning
  • Potential buyers with a high income who want guaranteed lifetime coverage

Term life insurance is straightforward and affordable, making it an excellent option for most people. It provides coverage for the length of the policy, so you’ll be covered if you die at any time during the term. Once your term has ended, you can purchase a new policy.

In some cases, insurers will allow you to convert your term life insurance policy to a permanent life insurance policy if needed.

Who Should Buy Permanent Life Insurance

Permanent life insurance, which includes whole life and universal life insurance, offers coverage for your entire lifetime as long as you continue to pay premiums. Unlike term life insurance, permanent life insurance policies often come with a cash value component, which can act as an additional savings vehicle.

Permanent Life Insurance

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Best for:
  • People with a high income who have maxed out other retirement savings options
  • Individuals with lifelong dependents
  • Those looking to leave a financial legacy or cover estate taxes
  • People who want to grow their wealth with a life insurance policy
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Not for:
  • People on a budget
  • Someone who does not plan to use their policy as a tool for investing or estate planning
  • Individuals who only need coverage for a specific term
  • Buyers who prefer a straightforward policy

While permanent life insurance offers a range of benefits, including lifelong coverage and a cash value component, it's not the ideal solution for everyone. One of the most significant drawbacks is its higher cost than term life insurance. Evaluate your financial situation and long-term needs. Make sure this type of policy aligns with your financial goals and provides value that justifies the higher premiums.

Insurance Rates

Compare Life Insurance Rates

Ensure you’re getting the best rate for your life insurance. Compare quotes from top providers to find the most affordable life insurance coverage for your needs.


Other Options to Consider

Life insurance isn't the only financial tool to secure your family's future. Alternative strategies are worth exploring based on your specific needs and financial goals. Here are a few of them:


Investing in the stock market or mutual funds may yield higher returns over time. These options, while riskier, offer the opportunity for capital growth, which can serve as a financial cushion for your family.

Health Insurance

Certain health insurance policies come with living benefits that can provide financial assistance in the event of chronic or terminal illnesses. This can be a complementary or alternative route to life insurance.


Building a robust savings account or emergency fund can sometimes negate the need for life insurance. However, this requires disciplined saving and a substantial income to accumulate enough funds to support your family.

Real Estate

Property investment can provide a steady income stream through rentals. It can also appreciate in value, offering long-term financial security.


Annuities are financial products that provide a steady income stream, usually after retirement. They can be a part of your financial planning to ensure that your spouse or dependents have a consistent income in your absence.

Each of these options comes with its own set of risks and benefits. You can consult financial advisors to tailor a strategy that suits your circumstances.

Frequently Asked Questions About Life Insurance

There are many factors to weigh when deciding if life insurance is a worthwhile investment, and the process can take time. To help you make an informed choice, we've compiled a list of frequently asked questions.

Experts' Tips on the Worth of Life Insurance

  1. What's the most important factor individuals should consider when determining if life insurance is worth it?
  2. How can individuals leverage life insurance to enhance their estate planning objectives?
  3. How can life insurance be effectively integrated in developing a comprehensive retirement income strategy?
  4. What are some of the limitations of life insurance, and how can one navigate around these issues?
Mahalene Dulay
Mahalene Dulay

Founder and Wealth Advisor at Modern Wealth Collective®

Nadia C. Vanderhall
Nadia C. Vanderhall

Founder of The Brands + Bands Strategy Group

About Margaret Wack

Margaret Wack headshot

Margaret Wack is a freelance writer who covers insurance, saving, investing, banking, and more. Margaret earned a bachelor's degree in classics, comparative literature, and poetry from Smith College and a master's degree from St. John's College.