Life Insurance 101

Written by Jason Fisher

Life Insurance 101

Here’s the life insurance 101 in case you need the simplest of explanations.

Confused about what life insurance is? Confused about some of the general terms? Confused about if you even need it?

Here’s the Life Insurance 101 you’ve been looking for.

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We’ll answer the most basic questions in the most simple way for you. The more clear we can make it, the better your buying experience will be.

We know life insurance isn’t a super fun topic, so we’ll make it brief also.

Life Insurance 101

1. Basic Terminology

Here are some of the most common terms in regards to life insurance, explained in super easy to read format.

  • Life Insurance: insurance which pays money to your heirs when you die.
  • Premium: the monthly, quarterly, or annual price you pay for your insurance coverage.
  • Beneficiary: the person you select to receive the payout after you die.
  • Death Benefit: the amount of insurance in dollars due to your beneficiaries (also called Face Amount).
  • Cash Value: the accessible amount of cash in your policy.

Those are the most basic terms you’ll hear if you’re buying basic coverages. Life Insurance 101 won’t go into things like Modified Endowment Contracts today. So, if you have a good grasp on these terms, you’ll be able to have a decent understanding on what means what when discussing insurance options with your agent. And while I mentioned it, you may want to talk to an agent if this is your first ever purchase, just to make sure you get what you need, nothing more.

2. Types Of Coverage

There are three basic kinds of coverage, and within each type, there are different specifications within each one. Let’s talk about what each is from a bird’s eye view first.

a. Term

Term is short for terminate, meaning your coverage is temporary. It could last as little as one year, or up to 40. You choose when you buy your policy. Your premium can fluctuate, or be locked into one price range the whole duration of the policy. Term is usually the best bang for your buck, and costs the least per thousand. If you’re in the Life Insurance 101 crowd, this may be your best option to start. You can always upgrade.

b. Universal

Universal life insurance is a blend between term and whole life. It’s permanent in nature, and can last your entire life as long as you keep up with your payment. It’s like term insurance though, because there is no accessible cash build up (unless you pay in extra on purpose). The death benefit is usually a level amount, meaning it won’t increase over time.

c. Whole

Whole life is good for, well, your whole life. It’s a permanent life insurance policy, and it’s made to slowly grow with you over time. There is a level premium, and a cash value element inside the policy as well. You can borrow against the cash value when needed, for whatever you want.

3. Figuring Out How Much To Buy

One of the things most new buyers struggle with is how much to purchase. There is no perfect solution, as every situation and family is unique. But, there are some “by the book” methods to buying. The biggest rule of thumb?

Get 10-20x your income.

The primary use of life insurance is to replace income which you would have earned for your family. Replacing 10x or 20x years of your income is usually the go-to amount. If you’re younger and you’re the breadwinner in the family, lean towards 20x. If you’re older, and your income is not the only income, you could lean towards 10x and be safe.

You may also want to add extra if you have debts you’d like to have paid off, funeral and medical expenses you’d like to pay for, or even add some to leave as extra for your family to do with as they please. Legacy and charity can also be a part of the death benefit, but is not typical in basic insurance planning.

4. Finding An Independent Agent

When you’ve got the basics down, it might time to go ahead and find an independent agent to work with. Like us! An independent agent is one who doesn’t work for a single life insurance company, but rather offers you insurance from all the major carriers. If you use a captive agent, you’ll only be able to buy life insurance from that one company. If you didn’t like the price, you would have to manually search all the companies yourself.

And independent agent solves this.

Also, if you have any medical concerns, a dangerous occupation, participate in hazardous activities, or have a bad driving record, you might really need an independent agent anyway, to make sure you find a company who won’t decline your application.

5. The Buying Process

The final step of the Life Insurance 101! If you’ve completed the above successfully and you’ve applied for life insurance, there’s more to do. You have to complete a medical exam. There are policies which require no exam even up to a million dollar no exam life insurance policy, but you might pay a little extra. The medical exam involves an examiner meeting with you to draw blood, measure your height and weight, and complete a urinalysis. It takes about 20 minutes per person, but could vary based on requirements per the company you apply with.

The insurance underwriters will review this medical exam info, as well as your medical history, your driving record, and your current doctor’s records, if required.

You’ll get your final rating after you’re approved, and this rating will determine your final premium. If the premium was agreeable, you can accept the policy and finish the delivery requirements. If the rating you received was not good, and the price was too expensive, you could decline to accept and you’re not responsible for any premiums.

You’re Finished!

Not so bad right?

Well there you have it, the Life Insurance 101. If you have further questions, please don’t hesitate to contact us and we’ll be happy to help you.

Perhaps you’re wondering if you can qualify for life insurance based on certain health conditions such as someone needing life insurance during pregnancy or life insurance with lupus; we can answer your questions and help you get the coverage you deserve.

Shopping Hack: Compare Life Insurance Policies From 12+ Companies
About You
Your Health
About Jack D. Davis
About Jack D. Davis

Jack has been an independent life insurance agent since 1985 with a focus on helping families and small business owners.  Jack’s calm approach is very much appreciated by his clients when explaining what type of policy is needed for their unique situation.

You can reach Jack at 800.277.3098 or email:

Learn more about Jack D. Davis

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