Term life insurance is the easiest type of life insurance to understand. To put it simply, the insured person pays a minimal premium per thousand dollars of coverage on an annual, semi annual, quarterly or monthly basis. If he or she dies within the term of the policy, the life insurance company will pay the beneficiary the face value of the policy.
1Distinctive Features of Term Life Insurance
To better understand some of the distinctive features of term life insurance consider the following points:
First, term life insurance is “pure insurance” because when you purchase a term insurance policy you are only buying a “death benefit”. Unlike with other types of “permanent insurance” such as whole life, universal life, and variable universal life, there is no additional cash value built up with this kind of policy. Term insurance only gives you a specific death benefit.
Second, the coverage is for a defined period of time (the “term”) such as 1 year, 5 years, 10 years, 15 years, and so on. Once the policy is in force, it only remains in force until the end of the term — assuming you pay the premiums, of course.
Third, most term insurance policies are renewable at the end of the term. With what is known as “Level Term Life Insurance”, the death benefit remains the same throughout the term of the policy, but since the insured person is getting older, the premium will gradually increase. As time goes by the cost of a level term insurance policy may become greater than you are willing to pay for a simple death benefit. An alternative is the “Decreasing Term Life Insurance” policy in which the premium remains the same, but the death benefit goes down as time goes by.
Fourth, most term policies can be converted to permanent policies within a specific number of years. If you decide it is important to retain the insurance coverage, converting may be something you should plan for. You can anticipate the accelerating cost of term insurance premiums and convert your policy before the premiums become prohibitively high. It is true that in the short term the premium will usually be higher than if you stayed with the term policy. But over the long term this difference will decrease because of the rapid acceleration of the term insurance premium as you get older. A permanent policy also accumulates cash value which increases the total death benefit paid to your beneficiary.