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How to Get Life Insurance

Licensed Life Insurance Agent/Staff Writer
March 31, 2020

Buying life insurance doesn’t always seem like a fast or straightforward process. There’s no one-size-fits-all solution, and insurers tailor pricing and coverage to you.

If you know how to tackle this process, you'll find the policy you need at the best price. If you don't, you could end up shelling out too much for the wrong policy. Bummer!

But don't worry. We'll walk you through how to get life insurance, step by step, so you know what to expect.

How to buy life insurance: an overview

  1. Write down your goals: So you can keep your needs close by at every step.
  2. Learn about your options: Learn the lay of the land so you know which policies can give you the protection you need.
  3.  Get life insurance quotes: No matter what your situation, prices vary between insurers. So shop around.
  4. Talk to an agent: While some companies offer a fully online application, an agent can better customize your coverage.
  5. Complete an application: Provide personal details, family medical history, and financial information to the insurer.
  6. Take a medical exam or answer questions: While some policies don’t require an exam, tests can confirm your good health and earn you low rates.
  7. Wait for underwriting: Insurance companies may take several weeks or more to crunch the numbers and offer you a policy.

Call today: 888-234-8376

Step 1: Write down your goals

When it comes down to it, buying life insurance is an act of love. It’s you protecting your loved ones from a financial burden. So when you’re buying life insurance, keep this love in mind. Doing so will keep you from getting distracted by all the choices out there. You only need to consider the choices that help you accomplish your specific life insurance goals.

Many people buy life insurance for one or more of the following reasons:

  • Pay off a mortgage or other debt
  • Cover living expenses of a spouse, children, or other relatives
  • Remove financial strain during burial and grieving
  • Provide college or retirement funds you would have saved
  • Leave an inheritance
  • Diversify your investment portfolio

Write down your must-haves, and don’t let anyone talk you into a policy that doesn’t include them. Draw a line under your must-haves, then write down your “nice-to-haves,” the things you could give up if you need to compromise for a lower price or other add-ons.

Keep your list (and a photo of your spouse, kids, furbaby, or other loved ones) as a constant reminder of why you’re on this journey in the first place.

Step 2: Learn about your options

You’re busy, so learning about life insurance doesn’t sit at the top of your to-do list. But you don’t have to spend hours poring over research to transform into a savvy consumer—we’ve done that for you.

Start by learning about the types of life insurance. Then, allow your goals from step one to help you choose a policy type, how much of a payout you need, how long you need coverage, and any add-ons (riders) you need.

Step 3: Get life insurance quotes

Once you know what you’re looking for, shop around using online quote tools. These ballpark rates can help you choose the right policy for your budget.

That said, price isn’t the only thing to consider when buying life insurance policies. Choose a financially stable company with top-notch service so you’ll trust that your insurer has your (and your loved ones’) back.

Not sure which company to choose? No worries. We created a list of the best life insurance companies so you’ll know where to buy life insurance without doing all that research yourself.

Avoid filling out forms over and over by using quote tools, like ours, that gather rates from multiple companies all at once.

Step 4: Talk to an agent

Now that you have the skinny on life insurance and a few price points, you can confidently dial a sales agent and get this life insurance train rolling.

Who to call? Go with an independent sales agent (one who sells policies from more than one company) instead of a captive agent (who works for one insurer). Since independent agents aren’t tied to a single insurer, they can go over more options with you and recommend companies that specialize in your unique situation.

Keep your wits about you. While independent agents aren’t required to sell you a certain policy, they may get a larger commission on some sales than others. If you feel like your agent doesn’t have your best interests at heart, find a second or third opinion. You’re the boss of your life.

Too busy to talk?

Do you have to talk to a life insurance agent before you apply for life insurance? Nope. These days, you can buy term life insurance online without ever picking up the phone, and not just by asking Alexa to dial for you. Ladder and Haven Life each have a fully online application process.

Even if you already know how to buy life insurance online, we recommend speaking to at least one life insurance agent before making your decision. Agents can answer your life insurance questions, and they might think of options you didn't. These experts can also help you start your application and customize your policy even more than when you buy life insurance online.

Step 5: Complete an application

Whether you apply for life insurance online or through an agent, you may need to answer questions about your health and family history. Answer each question honestly: whether the insurer approves your beneficiary’s claim later depends on it.

Do these kinds of life insurance application questions make you nervous? That’s understandable, especially if you have preexisting conditions. But don’t worry. Companies have different rules about how they rate health, so you could find better rates depending on what company you apply to.

If you work with an agent, you may complete the written portion of the application (everything except the medical exam) right over the phone. Or you may need to email, fax (yes, these machines still exist), or snail-mail an application directly to the insurer.

Step 6: Take a medical exam or answer questions

If you apply for an exam required policy, you’ll need to schedule a sort of mini-physical during the life insurance application process. This free, fast life insurance exam typically happens right in your home or office with a trained nurse.

You can avoid an exam if you buy life insurance online or apply for a simplified issue or no exam life insurance policy. These policies make great options for people with health conditions and those who don’t have time for an exam. If you’re healthy, you’ll receive a much better rate if you submit to tests.

Step 7: Wait for underwriting

Underwriting is what insurers call the process of determining whether the company will cover you and for how much. Underwriting can take several weeks or more, so kick back and let the insurance company do all that complex mathing.

If the insurer approves your application, sign the paperwork and send in your first payment, stat. Your coverage won’t begin until you do.

If the insurer doesn’t approve your application, don’t give up! You (or your agent) can shop your medical exam results around to other insurers to see what they’ll offer. Or, you can buy a no exam policy.

Take your first steps

Surprised at how long buying life insurance can take? Lots of folks feel that way. If you’re considering life insurance, we recommend starting as soon as you can.

Exploring TermLife2Go is the perfect place to start. We have plenty of resources to help you learn more about life insurance. When you're ready to talk numbers, use our life insurance calculator.

Buying life insurance might not seem fast or straightforward, but you don’t have to do it alone.

Written by
Kathryn Casna
Kathryn Casna is a licensed insurance agent and life insurance specialist who has appeared on The Simple Dollar and Best Company. On a weekly basis, she dives into complex life insurance topics to wring out genuinely useful information. When she’s not wrangling big ideas into easy-to-understand articles, Kathryn nerds out on budget-tracking spreadsheets and tries to coax her leash-trained cat to take outdoor adventures.