Women: It’s time for you to close the gender gap in life insurance ownership. Just 47% of women have life insurance coverage versus 58% of men, according to the 2021 Insurance Barometer Study by Life Happens and LIMRA, insurance industry groups. Yet women are just as likely to need life insurance as men.
“It’s important for women to realize the contribution they make to their households and to have financial protection in case something happens,” says Brittney Burgett, head of communications at Bestow, an online life insurance company. “If you have people in your life who rely on you for their well-being, you’re generally going to need life insurance.”
So if you don’t already have life insurance or don’t have enough, here’s what you need to know.
Life Insurance Is Cheaper for Women Than Men
Fortunately, the pink tax doesn’t apply to life insurance. In fact, it pays to be a woman in this case.
“The price of life insurance is based on actuarial data,” Burgett says. “Statiscally, women live longer than men and are more likely to live past a [life insurance policy’s] term length. That is why coverage is generally more affordable for women.”
For example, the average monthly cost of a 20-year term life insurance policy with a $500,000 death benefit for a healthy 35-year-old woman who doesn’t smoke is $25.23, according to Policygenius. The average cost of that same policy for a healthy 35-year-old man who doesn’t smoke is $30.03 a month.
Be aware that opting for a term life insurance policy rather than a permanent policy is a more affordable way to get coverage. Plus, buying sooner rather than later will help you get cheap life insurance because the cost will go up each year you wait to apply. Also, waiting to apply is risky because you could develop a health problem that will affect your life insurance quotes.
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Don’t Assume Coverage You Have Through Work Is Enough
Taking advantage of a group life insurance benefit through work can be a low cost—or even free—way to get coverage. But you need an individual policy as the foundation of your life insurance plan. Usually you can’t keep supplemental life insurance through work if you leave the job.
“If you have a need for financial protection, you want to always have that protection in place,” Burgett says.
Plus, the amount of life insurance you can get through work is typically equal to only one or two times your annual income. That won’t be enough to cover your life insurance needs, especially if you own a home or have children, Burgett says.
To calculate how much life insurance you need, add up the debts and expenses you want to cover, such as a mortgage or college tuition for your kids. Subtract the amount you already have to cover these costs, such as existing life insurance and college savings. The difference is an estimate of how much life insurance you need. You also can use the Life Happens calculator to get a good estimate.
You Need Life Insurance Even if You’re Not a Breadwinner
Even if you don’t bring home a paycheck, you need life insurance if you are a stay-at-home mom. That’s because you provide substantial support for your family that your spouse or partner would have to pay to outsource if something happened to you. A life insurance payout would help cover those costs and provide a financial safety net to your family.
Don’t worry: You can get life insurance even if you don’t have an income that needs to be replaced. “Insurance companies recognize there is a value to having a stay-at-home parent,” says Erin Ardleigh, founder and president of Dynama Insurance, an independent insurance brokerage in New York. She says she hasn’t had trouble getting coverage—even large amounts—for clients who are stay-at-home parents.
You Can Apply for Insurance While Pregnant
It’s a big misconception that women can’t apply for life insurance while pregnant. Ardleigh says she has had clients apply during their eighth month of pregnancy and still qualify for the best life insurance rate class.
It also can be a big mistake to wait until after pregnancy to apply for coverage, Ardleigh says.
That’s because women can develop conditions during pregnancy, such as gestational diabetes, or conditions after giving birth, such as postpartum depression, that can make it harder for them to get coverage or get a good rate.
Plus, once you have a baby, “the last thing you want to think about is paperwork and doing an insurance exam,” Ardleigh says. “This is something you can take care of before you have the baby.”
Don’t Let Health Issues Prevent You From Applying
Pregnancy aside, you might have health issues that you’re afraid will prevent you from getting coverage or will make it too expensive. For example, say you had breast cancer and assume that no insurer will sell you a policy. But it’s possible to get life insurance after cancer—or if you have other medical conditions.
The key to getting coverage when you have health issues is to find a qualified independent insurance broker. Independent brokers work with several insurance companies rather than just one and know which ones are more willing to insure special cases or offer a better rate to people with your health condition. For example, Ardleigh says she had a client who had postpartum depression and was declined for coverage when she applied in the past with just one insurance company. Ardleigh was able to get her client coverage at a good rate by identifying insurance companies that were sympathetic to her medical history.
Getting Life Insurance Can Be Fast and Easy
“What makes buying life insurance now easier than it’s ever been before is how quick and easy it is to get it if off your to-do list,” Burgett says. More and more companies are using a process called accelerated underwriting that can make it possible, in some cases, to get approved for coverage in a matter of minutes and without a life insurance medical exam.
Bestow, for example, has a term life insurance product that is 100% digital, never requires a medical exam and can take less than 10 minutes to apply for and get approved. There are several other online insurance companies that also offer no-exam life insurance, including Fabric, Haven Life and Jenny Life.
Even though you might be able to get coverage quickly, don’t make a rushed decision when it comes to buying life insurance, Ardleigh says. Get life insurance quotes on a couple different life insurance products from at least three different companies. And be aware that if you use an independent broker to do the comparison shopping for you, the process still can be relatively quick and might not involve a medical exam if you’re healthy.
Be an Educated Shopper
If you enjoy comparison shopping, put your savvy shopping skills to use when looking for a life insurance policy. In addition to comparison shopping to find a good rate, make sure you understand the products you are comparing.
For example, term life insurance will provide the most coverage for the least amount of money, but it’s a bad choice if you really need a permanent life policy such as universal life insurance.
Do your homework before shopping for a policy. “Never buy something you don’t understand,” Ardleigh says.
Don’t Just Choose a Brand You Know
It might seem smart to stick with the same insurance company that provides your auto or homeowners insurance. Or maybe there’s a company you’re familiar with because you’ve seen its ads or your best friend has recommended it.
Sticking with a brand name you know can be a mistake, though, when it comes to buying life insurance.
“Just because you’ve heard of the company before doesn’t mean the product it has is the right fit for you,” Ardleigh says. You want to find the right life insurance company with the right product at the right price for you. If you use an insurance quote website to get quotes from several companies, don’t write off companies that aren’t familiar to you. They might offer better rates than the brand you know, have a stronger financial rating and have better customer service.
What Works for Your Spouse Might Not Work for You
It might be tempting to base the type and amount of coverage you get on what your spouse or partner has. But that might not be the right solution for you.
Ardleigh says that often the reason her female clients had bad experiences with life insurance before coming to her was because they bought the same policy their spouses had.
“Insurance is highly personalized,” she says “Don’t assume that what is a fit for your husband is the right fit for you.”
Don’t Buy Life Insurance for Your Kids
Watch out if you’re getting the hard sell to buy life insurance for your children, or if you feel compelled to protect them with coverage of their own. This is rarely a good idea, Ardleigh says.
Life insurance policies for children typically are whole life policies that are touted as a way to build cash value that your children can access when they’re older to, say, help pay for college. Life insurance isn’t an ideal savings vehicle, though. “If you want to help your kids have savings, put money in a 529 plan for their college or open an investment account and teach your kids how to invest,” Ardleigh says.
Keep in mind, too, that your focus should be on buying enough coverage for yourself to provide a financial safety net for your loved ones if something happens to you. Your kids are counting on you for support, not the other way around.