Different Types Of Life Insurance

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Written by Bob Phillips
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Choosing the right life insurance can feel overwhelming, especially with so many options available. Whether you’re seeking to secure your family’s financial future, cover outstanding debts, or simply gain peace of mind, understanding the different types of life insurance is crucial.

Let’s explore various life insurance plans together. By the end, you’ll know how to choose wisely and dodge common mistakes in getting covered properly. By not carefully selecting a good life insurance policy, you run the risk of leaving your loved ones in financial distress during difficult times. Leveraging my decade and a half of experience selling life insurance, I’ll simplify the key points to guide your decision-making process.

Key Takeaways

  • Term life insurance is typically the most affordable type of life insurance

  • Permanent policies build cash value that can provide living benefits such as policy loans

  • Final expense insurance is a relatively inexpensive way to pay for burial costs

When shopping for life insurance, you’ll find there is a wide variety of different types to choose from. To help you compare, here are five of the basic types and some key comparison points:

Type of Life Insurance Coverage Length Builds Cash Value Death Benefit Amount
Term Life Specific term (e.g., 10, 20, 30 years) No Fixed amount for the term duration
Whole Life Lifetime Yes Fixed and guaranteed
Universal Life Lifetime Yes Adjustable
Variable Life Lifetime Yes Varies based on investment performance
Final Expense Lifetime Yes Typically lower, meant to cover funeral costs

Term Life Insurance

Term life insurance is a straightforward and affordable option designed to provide coverage for a specific period, typically ranging from 10 to 30 years. If the policyholder dies within the term, the beneficiaries receive a death benefit. If the term expires and the policyholder is still alive, the coverage ends without any payout or residual value.

This type of insurance is best for young families, individuals with temporary financial obligations, or those seeking maximum coverage at a lower cost.


  • Affordable premiums
  • Simple to understand
  • Flexible terms


  • No cash value
  • Limited coverage period
  • Higher renewal cost

Whole Life Insurance

Whole life insurance offers lifelong coverage with a guaranteed death benefit and a cash value component that grows over time. Premiums are typically higher than term life insurance but remain fixed throughout the policyholder’s life. This policy is suitable for individuals looking for permanent coverage and a financial product that combines insurance with cash value benefits.


  • Lifelong coverage
  • Cash value accumulation
  • Fixed premiums


  • Higher premiums
  • Complex structure
  • Slow cash value growth

Universal Life Insurance

Universal life insurance provides permanent coverage with flexible premiums and a cash value component that earns interest. Policyholders can adjust their premiums and death benefits within certain limits, offering more flexibility than whole life insurance. This type of insurance is ideal for those who want permanent coverage with the ability to adapt their policy to changing financial circumstances.


  • Flexible premiums
  • Adjustable coverage
  • Cash value growth


  • Requires monitoring
  • Higher costs
  • Interest rate variability

Variable Life Insurance

Variable life insurance combines permanent coverage with investment options. Policyholders can invest the cash value in various sub-accounts, similar to mutual funds, potentially increasing the policy’s value over time. However, investment performance can be unpredictable, making this policy best for those comfortable with higher risk and seeking potential investment growth alongside their life insurance.


  • Investment potential
  • Lifelong coverage
  • Cash value growth


  • Higher risk
  • Complex management
  • Higher fees

Burial Insurance

Burial insurance, also known as final expense insurance, is designed to cover funeral and burial costs. It typically offers lower coverage amounts compared to other life insurance types and is often easier to qualify for, with minimal health requirements. This policy is best suited for seniors or individuals looking to ensure their end-of-life expenses are covered without burdening their loved ones.


  • Easy qualification
  • Affordable premiums
  • Covers funeral costs


  • Low coverage amounts
  • Little cash value
  • Limited benefits

Other Types Of Life Insurance

Survivorship Life Insurance

Survivorship life insurance, also known as second-to-die insurance, covers two people, typically spouses, and pays out the death benefit only after both insured individuals have passed away. It’s often used for estate planning and ensuring that beneficiaries have funds to cover estate taxes or other financial obligations.

Mortgage Life Insurance

Mortgage life insurance is designed to pay off the remaining balance of your mortgage if you die before it’s fully repaid. This type of insurance ensures that your family can stay in their home without the burden of mortgage payments after your death.

Credit Life Insurance

Credit life insurance pays off a specific debt, such as a car loan or credit card balance, in the event of the policyholder’s death. It directly benefits the lender and is typically decreasing term insurance, where the coverage amount decreases as the debt is repaid.

Supplemental Life Insurance

Supplemental life insurance is additional coverage that you can purchase to enhance your existing life insurance policy, often provided through an employer. It allows you to increase your death benefit beyond what is provided by your base policy.

Indexed Universal Life Insurance (IUL)

Indexed universal life insurance is a type of universal life insurance where the cash value growth is tied to a stock market index, such as the S&P 500. It offers the potential for higher returns compared to traditional universal life policies, along with flexible premiums and death benefits.

Joint Life Insurance

Joint life insurance covers two people under one policy, paying out upon the first death (first-to-die) or after both have died (second-to-die). It’s often used by couples for estate planning or ensuring financial stability for the surviving partner.

Decreasing Term Life Insurance

Decreasing term life insurance provides coverage that decreases over time, usually in line with a debt, such as a mortgage. The death benefit is reduced annually, making this a cost-effective option for those with diminishing financial obligations.

Convertible Term Life Insurance

Convertible term life insurance allows policyholders to convert their term policy into a permanent one without undergoing a medical exam. This option is beneficial for those who want flexibility to change their coverage type as their financial needs evolve.

AD&D Insurance

Accidental Death and Dismemberment (AD&D) insurance provides coverage if the policyholder dies or suffers severe injuries due to an accident. It offers a lump-sum payment in addition to any other life insurance and is often used to supplement existing coverage.

Renewable Term Life Insurance

Renewable term life insurance allows policyholders to renew their term policy without a medical exam at the end of the term. While premiums increase with each renewal, this option ensures continued coverage even if the policyholder’s health deteriorates.

Types Of Life Insurance By Underwriting

Underwriting in life insurance refers to the process used by life insurance companies to evaluate the risk of insuring an individual. By evaluating each application, insurers decide who gets covered and at what cost per month or year.

To gauge the likelihood of someone filing an insurance claim later on down the road—underwriters study details like one’s current state of well-being coupled with historical healthcare data—and even everyday living patterns. There are several types of life insurance underwriting, each with its own criteria and process.

Simplified Issue Life Insurance

Simplified issue life insurance offers a faster and easier application process compared to fully underwritten policies. Applicants are required to answer a series of health-related questions but are not subject to a medical exam.

This type of underwriting is ideal for individuals who want coverage quickly and may have minor health issues. However, premiums tend to be higher than those of fully underwritten policies due to the reduced scrutiny and increased risk for the insurer.

Guaranteed Issue Life Insurance

Guaranteed issue life insurance requires no medical exams or health questions, making it an accessible option for individuals with serious health conditions or those who have been denied coverage elsewhere. As the name suggests, acceptance is guaranteed. While this type of insurance provides an easy path to coverage, it comes with higher premiums and lower benefit amounts. Additionally, there is often a waiting period before the full death benefit is payable, usually two to three years.

Fully Underwritten Life Insurance

Fully underwritten life insurance involves a comprehensive evaluation process, including a detailed application, medical exam, and review of medical records. This type of underwriting provides the insurer with a thorough understanding of the applicant’s health and lifestyle, leading to more accurate premium rates.

Fully underwritten policies generally offer the lowest premiums and highest coverage amounts, making them a cost-effective option for healthy individuals willing to undergo the extensive review process.

Which Type Of Life Insurance Is Right For Me?

Selecting the best type of life insurance for you means considering how much coverage you’ll need based on your current finances and looking forward to your life’s bigger picture. Begin by identifying the purpose of having a life insurance policy—is it ensuring financial stability for your loved ones if something happens to you? Covering unpaid bills? Or taking care of potential inheritance taxes down the road?

Your overall well-being largely determines not just what’s possible but also how much you’ll spend. Those in good health might benefit from fully underwritten policies with lower premiums, while those with health issues may need to consider guaranteed issue or simplified issue life insurance at a higher cost.

Look closely at your budget today while also setting realistic targets for tomorrow’s ambitions. If affordability is your priority, term life insurance stands out by offering maximum coverage with minimal monthly payments—ideal for anyone watching their expenses closely. If you can afford higher premiums and seek lifelong coverage with an investment component, whole life or universal life insurance might be more suitable.

Consider your life stage and dependents—young families may prefer term life insurance for temporary coverage, while older individuals might look into whole life or burial insurance to cover final expenses and leave a legacy.

If your financial situation changes, universal life insurance can be beneficial due to its adjustable payments and benefits. For a more straightforward option, term life insurance might be ideal. Seeking advice from financial advisors, insurers, and comprehensive sites like Insuranceopedia can provide personalized recommendations, making it easier to understand the various coverage types and ensuring you choose the best protection for your loved ones.


What is the most popular type of life insurance?

The most popular type of life insurance is term life insurance due to its affordability and simplicity. It provides coverage for a specific period, making it an ideal choice for young families and individuals with temporary financial obligations.

Which types of life insurance generate cash value?

Whole life, universal life, and variable life insurance policies generate cash value. These policies build savings over time, which can be accessed through loans or withdrawals, providing both a death benefit and an investment component.

How much does life insurance cost?

The cost of life insurance varies based on factors such as age, health, type of policy, and coverage amount. Term life insurance premiums can be as low as $20 per month for healthy individuals, while permanent policies generally have higher premiums.

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