If you know what goes into the life insurance quotes you're offered, you may be able to secure lower price. This is especially true if you plan to buy insurance within a year or two (such as if you're planning on starting a family then), because you'll have time to make some adjustments in your life. It's still true, though to a lesser extent, if you're planning to buy life insurance tomorrow.
Without further fanfare, let's review the factors life insurers take into account when offering you a policy. First, understand that they're not doing so out of the goodness of their hearts. They want to make money while offering you some protection. Thus, they want to estimate your expected lifespan rather precisely. Of course there's no telling whether you will reach it, will exceed it, or will meet cruel early fate. But if they estimate well over their thousands or millions of customers, they will do well.
Age and sex
These are the top two factors influencing the pricing you're offered. That's because the life expectancy for a 25-year-old women and a 63-year-old man will be vastly different. Obviously, the younger you are, the lower rates you'll be offered, because it's less likely that you'll die anytime soon. And the longer you live, the longer you'll be sending checks to your happy insurer. Thus, there's a case for securing life insurance sooner rather than later – but only if you need it, as many young people have no dependents and no one counting on any income from them.
Sex matters simply because women tend to live longer than men. Recently, for example, the life expectancy for American women was 81.2 years, while it was 76.4 years for men. Thus, since they'll likely be paying the insurance company premiums for more years than men would, they can expect to be quoted lower rates.
The next most important consideration, unsurprisingly, is your health. If insurers could only assess one factor, it would probably be whether you do, or did, smoke, as smoking is tied to many undesirable things, such as heart disease, dementia, and strokes, and to shorter life spans. According to the American Lung Association, "Smoking reduces one's normal life expectancy by an average of 13 to 15 years-thereby eliminating retirement years for most smokers." Life insurance premiums can be twice as high or more for smokers.
Your weight can also be an influential factor in your life insurance quotes. Many life insurers will require a medical exam before qualifying you for coverage, and they may gather information on your blood pressure, cholesterol, blood sugar, and more. Don't assume you're doomed if you have some conditions, though. Most older Americans do have high blood pressure or high cholesterol, or some other issue. As long as it's diagnosed and you're being treated for it, it won't necessarily be a big strike against you. Your family health history and longevity can matter, too.
The factors above are most important in influencing your insurance costs, but insurers take other factors into account, too. Your occupation, for example, might matter, as those in dangerous jobs are more at risk than, say, accountants. Your hobbies and lifestyle could matter, too. Mountain climbers and sword-jugglers might face higher rates than stamp collectors and golfers. Some insurers will check your driving record and penalize you for traffic tickets in the past few years, as those suggest more aggressive, and thus risky, driving habits. Even your credit score can make a difference.
The bottom line
Clearly, you won't be able to change everything about yourself to get yourself the lowest life insurance rates. But you might be able to make some changes that can improve matters. Keep in mind, too, that each insurer will have its own algorithms and will weight each factor in a different way. Having a parent who died young of heart disease, for example, might matter more to one insurer than another, as might your weight or credit score. Thus, shop around.
Longtime Fool specialistSelena Maranjian, whom you can follow on Twitter, has no position in any stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.