If you have dependents and need life insurance, chances are that you’ll be paying premiums for years or even decades. Getting the best possible rate can make a huge impact on your pocketbook. Here are some ways to ensure you don’t pay any more than you have to for the coverage you need.

1) Start young

In general, younger policyholders represent the lowest risk to insurance companies. That’s because they’re paying premiums during the years when, statistically, the chances of dying are extremely low. Naturally, companies will give you a lower rate if you sign up while you’re still in your 20s or 30s.

That doesn’t mean every young adult needs coverage. If you don’t have a child or spouse who depends on you for financial support, you’re probably better off putting the money into an IRA or 401(k).

2) Get in shape

Most carriers require medical testing when you apply for a life insurance policy, so be prepared. There’s no better time to quit smoking or get your blood pressure under control. The healthier you are, the greater your chances of living a long time – and that translates into lower costs for your coverage.

When the day of your medical exam arrives, be ready. Make sure you’ve fasted for at least 24 hours before your appointment in order to keep your cholesterol as low as possible. If you take any medications for blood pressure or other health conditions, double check that you’ve taken them. For more details, see What to Expect When Applying For Life Insurance.

3) Adopt a safer lifestyle

Do your hobbies include racing cars or climbing mountains? Many insurance carriers will ask about your leisure activities and travel habits on the application. If you’re a bona fide adrenaline junkie, insurers will likely have serious doubts about covering you. They may offer you a policy, but charge steeper rates to offset the increased risk that you’ll meet an early end. Think about switching to pastimes that provide a similar challenge without the associated health hazards.

4) Consider a term policy

Many insurance agents will try to sell you a whole life policy, which provides lifelong coverage and includes a savings, or “cash value,” component. There’s a good reason why they tend to be avid supporters of whole life: They usually bring substantially higher commissions (see What Your Life Insurance Agent Makes – On You).

The problem is that, with a cash value element, your premiums are going to be larger as well. Further, the cash portion of your policy accrues very little over the first few years. If you surrender your policy early, that extra premium amount is lost. Many financial experts suggest buying a less expensive term policy and investing the difference on your own.

5) Shop around

As with most buying decisions, it helps to compare multiple competitors to get the best deal. That doesn’t mean you have to talk to several different agents, however. By consulting with an independent insurance rep or broker who sells from several different carriers – or works for a company that does – you can get multiple quotes in one place. In addition to convenience, there’s another reason to get multiple quotes from a single source; the agent will be able to explain any differences between one policy and another.

The Bottom Line

The amount you pay for life insurance is based on the statistical likelihood that people like you will live a long life. If you get no-frills coverage early and adopt a healthy lifestyle, you’re almost always going to pay lower premiums.

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