ASK KIM


How to Cope With Rising Life Insurance Rates

Kimberly Lankford

Shop around soon because some insurers haven't hiked term life premiums yet.



Are term life insurance rates actually rising this year?

Yes, they are. Term insurance rates have plummeted over the past 15 years, and now it looks like prices have finally hit bottom. Several major insurers raised their term insurance rates for the first time in nearly a decade -- by 5% to 20% since March. Most insurers are expected to raise rates by at least 10% over the next year because they've been hit by the market meltdown as hard as everyone else has. Not only have insurers lost money on their investments, but regulators are requiring them to set aside more money in reserves as a precaution against possible future economic damage.

But you can still get a good deal if you shop around soon. Some insurers haven't raised their rates yet but are expected to make changes by the end of the year. And some companies that have already increased premiums are gearing up for a second wave of rate hikes in the next few months.

Because some insurers are lagging others in boosting premiums, it's important get quotes from several insurance companies. And if you're thinking about buying coverage, it may pay to do it sooner rather than later.

Remember to keep these price hikes in perspective. Rates had dropped so much over the past 15 years that you may still be able to get a better deal now than in 1994 - and lock in your rate for a longer period -- even though you're older. In 1994, a healthy 40-year-old man would have had to pay at least $995 per year for a term policy with a $500,000 death benefit that locked in the rate for 20 years - and most companies charged more than $1,000. Today, the same man -- now 55 years old - could buy a ten-year, $500,000 term policy for just $880 if he's still healthy, lowering his rate by more than $100 per year and locking in the fixed rate until 2019.

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Extending the coverage for a few extra years can be particularly valuable to many people in their fifties and early sixties now. They may have thought they'd need insurance only until their kids graduated from college, or they paid off their mortgage, or they retired and started receiving a pension with a generous death benefit. But many people's plans -- and their insurance needs - have changed in this economy. They may still be helping to support grown kids after college or paying off a mortgage and other debt, and they may end up having to work several more years to make up for losses in their retirement savings. And as employers have pulled back on benefits, workers may be less likely to have as large a pension death benefit to support their spouse if they die after they retire.

You can get price quotes from dozens of insurers at AccuQuote.com and find detailed medical criteria to qualify for policies at Insure.com. See Get the Best Rate on Life Insurance for more information about shopping for insurance.

Got a question? Ask Kim at askkim@kiplinger.com.



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