Term life insurance
This coverage lasts for a limited time, typically 10, 15, 20, or 30 years. It's very easy to get a quote and buy term coverage, and it's also typically more affordable than permanent whole or universal life insurance. However, when your term ends, you're no longer protected – you either have to apply for a new policy at a higher cost (because you're older) or go without. However, many term policies (such as those from Guardian) may let you transition to a permanent policy in the future. You may also be able to get a policy through your employer at a lower group rate.
Whole life insurance
This is permanent life insurance coverage that can provide guaranteed protection for the rest of your life while earning additional cash value that can be used for things like policy loans8. Whole life policies don't expire as long as your regular premiums are paid. Policies from a mutual life insurance company (such as Guardian) may also provide dividends, helping you fund life's other financial opportunities.1,2,3
Universal life insurance
Like whole life insurance, this type of policy provides permanent protection and can earn additional cash value. However, universal life insurance can give the added flexibility of adjusting your monthly payments within a specific range to help you better deal with changing work circumstances.4
When you get a quote, the rate is affected by many variables, including the life insurance company, policy type, coverage amount, length of term, gender, health status, and other factors. According to the Life Insurance Learn Center7, the monthly cost for $1,000,000 of coverage for the average male at age 30 is $48; at age 40, it's $73; at age 50, it's $177. Women tend to live longer and enjoy slightly lower rates, so $1,000,000 of coverage for a female age 30 is $37; at age 40, it's $53; at 50, it's $133.
Life insurance death benefits are almost always income-tax free. The cash value growth of a universal or whole life insurance policy is also tax-deferred, so it can grow faster because it's not being reduced by taxes each year.
The best policy for you depends on your needs and budget. If you're looking for life-long insurance protection that also earns cash value, there are two main options: whole life and universal life. A whole policy offers level premiums and more guarantees, but a universal policy can be more affordable because it offers variable premiums that you can raise or lower within a certain range. The insurance company may also let you customize your policy with various provisions, such as an accelerated death benefit rider to pay for end of life needs and even certain kinds of long term care. If you don't need permanent coverage or cash value, which can provide benefits such as policy loans, term life insurance quotes will generally be lower.
If you have loved ones who depend on you for income, life insurance is one of the best ways to help provide for their financial needs if you die unexpectedly. Life insurance companies also have specialized kinds of policies for customers with varying incomes and other needs, such high net-worth individuals looking to transfer assets more easily without incurring added estate taxes (you should always consult with a professional for tax advice first). On the other hand, if you have no financial dependents or heirs that you wish to provide for, then life insurance may not be worth getting.