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This Life Insurance Buyer's Guide Is For You If:

  • You need life insurance
  • You know the basics like how life insurance works and what term life insurance is
  • But you're not sure about the right plan or amount of coverage

>> Still need help with the basics?  See our guide.

If the above describes you, congratulations!  

You're almost ready to buy!

Now, only 3 essential questions must be answered to move forward.

Quick Guide:

Click below to go directly to the section

In this guide, we'll help you answer these questions so you can shop for life insurance with confidence and make a great decision for your family.  

>> Or skip the guide and use our assessment below.

The Perfect Match Assessment

If you're in a hurry, simply answer 5 easy questions and we'll match you with the perfect company! Click here for quick assessment.

which type of life insurance is best for me?

Hint:  Term Life Insurance Is (Almost) Always the Best Choice.  

If you're looking for financial security for your family at a great price, term life insurance is your choice.

You've probably heard a radio commercial that says:

"Joe, who is a 40-year-old non smoker in good health, got a $500,000 policy for just $23 per month"

That's an ad for TERM!

You can tell because Joe can get a lot of coverage for a really low rate!

You've got another option when it comes to types of life insurance called permanent life insurance (whole or universal life insurance).  It costs more but may provide lifetime coverage.

Here's a quick comparison:

  • Term life insurance - lowest cost option, provides coverage for 10 to 30 years, premiums stay level during the "term", has no cash value
  • Whole or Universal life insurance - costs up to 20x more, has an investment component, designed for lifetime coverage


When to Buy Term Life Insurance:

  • Provide for Family - Your spouse and/or children depend on your income
  • Debt Payoff - Pay mortgage or other debts at death
  • Fund a Funeral - You can usually buy term up into your 70s

When to Buy Whole or Universal Life:

  • Estate Planning - Such as to fund a trust or leave an inheritance
  • Charitable Planning - Leave an endowment to a charity
  • Fund Retirement - these policies have a savings component

Ideal term life insurance buyer:

Natalia is 35 years old, married, and has two children, ages 10 and 12.  She and her husband both work full-time.  They don't have much in savings so if anything happened to Natalia, her husband would stuggle to pay the bills by himself and manage to care for the kids.  

Why term for this situation:

Natalia doesn't need life insurance forever, but should have some coverage in place for at least 10 to 15 years so her husband could get some help paying the bills and raising the kids if she passed. 

Other term features:

  • Conversion - some plans allow you to convert to a permanent policy before the term ends without proof of good health
  • Reduce coverage - some plans allow you to reduce your coverage as your needs change.  As you get older and save up more money, for example, you may not need as much coverage
  • "Living Benefits" - Most plans allow you to access a portion of the death benefit while you are still living if you are diagnosed with a chronic or terminal illness

What is the right term length?

Most companies offer 10, 15, 20, and 30 year term lengths, during which time, your premium cannot increase.  

It's important to choose the right term length because your rates will typically skyrocket at the end of the term - or the policy simply expires.

Key factors to help you decide the right length:

  • Cost:  Shorter terms cost less than longer terms, so 10 year typically costs the least while 30 year costs the most.  If you're on a tight budget, a shorter term might be the way to go.
  • Career plans:  You might choose a term that coincides with your approximate age of retirement.  If you are a prudent financial planner, you should have plenty in savings and investments by then that you will no longer need coverage.
  • Obligations: You might also line up your term expiration with the date when you will pay off your mortgage or some other loan or obligation.
  • Financial planning:  Do you consistently invest in savings and retirement?  You might look 10 to 15 years down the road and see a future where you've paid down (or paid off) your debts, have plenty in the bank, and no longer need coverage.

Try not to get hung up on the term length.  Analysis can lead to paralysis and the important thing is that you get your family the protection they need.  

Bottom line:  If you want a sizeable amount of coverage at affordable rates, and need coverage for 10 to 30 years, term is probably the best choice for you.

Ready for a Quote?

Simply answer 5 questions and we'll match you with the perfect company! Click here for quick assessment.

The Case for Permanent Life Insurance

Permanent plans like whole life and universal life insurance can be an attractive alternative for people who want coverage to age 90, 95, 100 or 120, or for people interested in the cash value or "investment" component of life insurance.

The two main plans:

  • Whole life insurance - Does not expire.  Offers guaranteed premiums, cash values, and death benefits. Lasts until age 100 at which point it "endows" and pays your beneficiary even if insured is still alive.  It is the most expensive form of life insurance and offers the most guarantees.  Read our full guide.
  • Universal Life Insurance - Another form of permanent coverage.  Unlike whole life, universal life has flexible premiums, cash value and death benefit.  It can be customized in many different ways.  It is cheaper than whole life but more expensive than term insurance.  Read our full guide.

Here's the permanent plan we recommend most:

We talked about the flexibility of universal life above.


Some universal life insurance plans are specially designed to mimic the pricing of term life insurance.

It's called "guaranteed universal life" and - in a nutshell - it can allow you to buy affordable coverage for your entire life, essentially by stripping out most or all of the cash value growth of a typical universal life policy.

Since it acts like term and is affordable, we highly recommend it to people who want to lock in their rates to age 90 or later.

You can request a quote for guaranteed universal life insurance by clicking the button below.

You may also need permanent coverage if you:

  • have special needs children
  • need life insurance for estate planning
  • need business life insurance
  • over 50 years old - longer terms typically have max age limits starting at age 50
  • have a serious medical condition like cancer or HIV and can't qualify for term
  • want to use life insurance for supplemental retirement income

Bottom line:  Very few people need whole or universal life insurance.  If a salesperson has tried to convince you to buy whole life insurance when all you need is term, say "no thanks" and buy term instead.  

Note: We specialize in low-cost universal life insurance.  Click here for a quote. 

what coverage amount do I need?

There are two approaches you can take to calculate how much life insurance you need.  

If you want a quick estimate, you can use a proven rule of thumb.  If you prefer to be more precise, however, we'll give the calculated approach.

#1 - Proven Rule of Thumb

Dave Ramsey says to get coverage that's equal to 10-12 times your annual income.

But that only applies to income protection.  The calculation changes based on the situation.

Here are some other popular rules of thumb depending on your life insurance need:

  • Income Protection for Breadwinner:  10 - 20 times annual income
  • Non-Working Spouse:  Half the coverage of working spouse
  • Final Expenses:  $50,000 for funeral, burial, and debts
  • Leave an Inheritance:  Total of mortgage and other debts plus inheritance 
  • Key Employee:  1 - 3 times annual revenue for which the employee is responsible

Obviously, a rule of thumb is just a starting point.

You can and should make adjustments for your own situation.

#2 - Calculate Your Needs

The easiest way to calculate your life insurance need is to estimate how much your spouse (or other beneficiary) would need per year if you were gone and multiply that number by the number of years they would need it.

For example:

My family spends about $100,000 per year, but if I was gone, my wife would probably only need about $80,000 per year.  I estimate she'd need that for about 20 years.

Result: $1.6 million dollars needed ($80k X 20 years)

You can modify the calculation above by adding in additional expenses such as:

  • money to fund college 
  • pay off debts
  • final expenses (funeral and burial)

If your spouse/beneficiary has other forms of income or assets, for example if he/she works, that will reduce the amount of life insurance they need.

In addition, if you have existing life insurance, cash, investments, or other assets, you might subtract the total of those assets from the amount your beneficiary will need.

And if you want to get really high tech, you could use a nifty life insurance calculator which will factor in things like the investment return on your money and inflation. 

This may be overkill, but to each his own.

3 Factors That Cap How Much Life Insurance You Can Buy

Please also consider these factors when deciding on an amount.

  1. You Must "Financially Qualify" for the Amount You Request - You can typically qualify for 20 to 40 times your annual income depending on your age.  Life insurance is about replacing the financial loss caused by the insured person's death, not making your family rich.
  2. Make Sure It's Affordable! - None of the calculations you make below will mean a hill of beans if you buy more coverage than you can afford and end up dropping your policy.
  3. Quoted Rate May Be Different Than Final Rate - Sometimes a site or agent quotes you an amount, but it's really just an estimate.  Actual premiums will depend on what the insurance company learns about your health and lifestyle during the approval process.  If you are not as healthy as your quote expected, you could move into a higher risk class which would raise your premium.  The nice thing here is you can usually request for a decrease in death benefit or term length to fit your budget.

What's the best company for me based on my specific situation?

Once you know the type of insurance you want and the amount, you're 90% there.

Here are a few tips to keep in mind before selecting a company.

>> Click Here to Skip to Quote Section

3 tips for a great life insurance shopping experience:

  • Think Like You're Shopping For a Car:  Life insurance company offerings are as different as a BMW sports car, a Honda sedan, and giant Chevy truck.  They are different in a lot more ways than just price.  We'll help you "fit" into the perfect policy.
  • Shopping Experience Varies Significantly:  Shopping at some companies is like going to a used car lot.  They hound you!  In the case of life insurance, it's with incessant calls and emails.  Others let you look around and are there when you have a question.  We'll help with this.
  • The "Best Company" Depends on YOUR NEEDS! Just like you couldn't say the Honda Civic is the "best car" (Maybe you like sports cars or trucks?) there's no single "best" life insurance company.  Companies tend to have their specialities such as low pricing, speed or ease of approval, and leniency on health issues.

3 Ways to Find the Perfect Company for YOU

The "right company" depends a lot on your specific needs.

Below we offer customized advice based on your:

  • Age
  • Health
  • Desire to take a medical exam

If you have any questions, please call us at: 888-681-4952

Tell us Your Age

18 to 24 years old

You can choose an exam or no exam option at this age so long as your are in good health.  Please continue to our medical questions.      

25 - 39 years old

You can choose an exam or no exam option at this age so long as your are in good health.  Please continue to our medical questions.          

40 - 60 years old

You can choose an exam or no exam option at this age so long as your are in good health, although the no-exam options are much more limited.  Please continue to our medical questions and pay special attention to age restrictions before you get a quote.        

Over 60

Life insurance options become more limited over age 60. For example, none of our partners offer "no-exam" plans beyond age 60.  Our recommendation is to speak to one of our agents at Life Insurance Shopping Reviews.  Click here for a no-hassle, free quote or call us at 888-681-4952.

Do You Have Any Medical Concerns?

Heart Disease






Mental Illness


*Mild medical conditions such as high blood pressure or high cholesterol (if controlled), asthma, or mildly overweight, should not impact life insurance approval.

Do You Prefer a Medical Exam or No Exam?

Learn the Difference

Medical Exam Option:  Requires a free abbreviated medical exam (height/weight, blood pressure, blood & urine sample).  You'll typically save at least 5-10% but it may take 4-6 weeks to be approved.  (You can buy temporary coverage while you wait).  This is generally the way to go if you want the absolute lowest price, have any health conditions, or are over age 60.

No Exam Option: Non medical policies require no exam, can be approved and in place in as little as a few hours or a few days.  (Note: qualifying requires that you are under 60 years old and very healthy).


Our quote form to take an exam is below:

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  • We don't hassle you with calls and emails

>> Requires exam which saves you money!


If You Have Chosen a No-Exam Policy


Our #1 choice for no-exam life insurance is Ladder Life Insurance.

Ladder Life Insurance

Best for:  No-Exam Plans Up to Age 60

Ladder is known for a quick and easy online application with no medical exam required in many cases.  They have 10, 20, and 30 year plans.  They offer the most coverage without an exam in the industry. Coverage amounts start at $100,000 and go as high as $8 million.

When you shouldn't buy no-exam life insurance:

  • You smoke (tobacco or marijuana)
  • You have any health condition (from high blood pressure to asthma to diabetes or heart disease)
  • History of cancer or heart disease in your family
  • You travel outside the US
  • You participate in hazardous activities (parachuting, hang gliding, rock climbing, auto racing, etc)
  • Over 60 years old
  • Or if you're overweight

... then in that case, our experienced agents at Life Insurance Shopping Reviews can help!  Click here to request a quote from us.

Health Conditions?  Special Circumstances?  Here's Why You Should Speak to Us

You see, every company treats all of the issues above differently.  

Some companies might charge you 50% more if your mother had cancer. Other companies may not penalize you at all.

Some companies make you pay smoker rates if you smoke cigars or marijuana.  Some companies will let you pay non-smoker rates.

The trick?

Get a quote from an independent agency like us.

Independent agencies can shop from multiple companies for the best price for you.  

So if you have a special circumstance, like you're 50 lbs overweight or you travel to Israel twice per year, companies will vary widely on how much they'll charge you, so you really an agent who has access to multiple companies to match you with the best fit.

Not sure where to start?

Answer 5 questions and we'll match you to the perfect plan

Written by:  Chris Huntley 

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