Money Essentials

Life insurance: A question of health

Life insurance can be difficult and expensive to obtain if you are not in good health.


The cheapest rates, known in the business as select or preferred, go to those who are in good health and who have a family history of good health.

If you take heart medication or are grossly overweight, you may pay 50% more than preferred rates.

If you smoke, have a risky occupation, or engage in risky sports like skydiving, you'll pay even more for life insurance.

If you fall into one of these more expensive categories, it pays to shop around. One company may charge much more than another, depending on how it estimates the risk of your condition (that's called underwriting). This is where a knowledgeable agent may come in very handy. Internet and phone quote services aren't set up to deal with nonstandard policies.

Why, some people might ask, should I tell the insurance company about negative information that will raise my rates? Well, even if you somehow get around the medical tests and other checks done before the policy is issued, it doesn't pay to try to fool the insurer.

Insurers may investigate suspicious claims. If the company finds out you've lied, the claim may be denied, or your heirs could be tied up in court for years.

So there's a good case to be made for getting a policy early in life while you are still in good health. However, it doesn't make much sense to buy one until you have dependents.

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