Term life insurance

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Historical Life Insurance Policy

Term Life Insurance is a life insurance variation that offers coverage for a predetermined duration or "term." In contrast to whole or universal life insurance, which provides perpetual coverage and might accumulate cash value, term life insurance's primary purpose is to deliver a death benefit if the policyholder passes away during the designated term. Known for its simplicity and cost-effectiveness, term life insurance is favored by those looking for short-term financial safeguards for their beneficiaries. This piece explores the evolution, characteristics, and importance of term life insurance within the broader insurance framework.

Term Life Insurance Explained

Term life insurance is a type of life insurance that provides coverage for a specific period, or "term." Common terms might be 10, 20, or 30 years. Unlike other forms of life insurance, such as whole life or universal life, term insurance has no savings or investment component. It’s designed purely to pay out a death benefit if the insured person dies during the specified term.


  1. No Cash Value Build-Up: One of the primary reasons term life insurance tends to be less expensive than other types of life insurance is because it doesn't accumulate cash value. Policies that build cash value, like whole life insurance, often come with higher premiums because they not only provide a death benefit but also function as a savings or investment vehicle.
  2. Temporary Coverage: Since term life insurance only covers a specific period, there's a possibility the policy will expire before the policyholder dies. In such cases, the insurance company doesn't have to pay out any death benefits, making it less risky and therefore less expensive.

Pure Protection

Term life insurance is often referred to as "pure protection" because its sole purpose is to provide beneficiaries with financial support in the event of the policyholder's untimely death during the term. There are no frills or added complexities, like investment options or loan provisions, that come with other types of life insurance policies.

Comparative Perspective

While whole life, universal life, and other permanent life insurance policies offer lifelong coverage (as long as premiums are paid) and may have an investment or savings component, they come at a higher cost. The premiums for these policies are generally more expensive because they offer coverage for the entirety of a person's life and also because a portion of the premium is put toward the cash value component of the policy.

Term life insurance is straightforward. You pay premiums for a specified period, and if you pass away within that term, a death benefit is paid out to your beneficiaries. If the term expires and you're still alive, there's typically no payout or return of premiums.

Term life insurance[1] is the original form of life insurance and is different to permanent insurance because its rates will not go up, and there is a fixed term contract, which will end in the future. Permanent life insurance contracts can last until the death of insured person, but the rates will slowly increase over time.

Because term life insurance is only death insurance, it is used to cover mortgages (guarantee that the bank will receive their money), payment to the families (upon death of insured person his family will usually receive repayment for funeral costs and in some cases will get some money), repayment of debts.[2]

Term Insurance as Mortgage Protection:[3]

  • Matching Term Lengths: When buying term life insurance for mortgage protection, homeowners often choose a term that matches the length of their mortgage. For instance, if you have a 30-year mortgage, you might opt for a 30-year term life insurance policy. This ensures that the insurance will cover the mortgage duration.
  • Death Benefit Equals Mortgage Amount: The death benefit (the payout amount if the insured dies) can be set to match the mortgage amount. If the policyholder passes away during the term, the beneficiaries can use the death benefit to pay off the remaining mortgage balance, ensuring that they aren't burdened with mortgage payments during a financially challenging time.
  • Decreasing Term Option: Some term life insurance policies offer a "decreasing term" feature. In this structure, the death benefit decreases over time, generally in alignment with the decreasing outstanding mortgage balance. This can be a cost-effective option since the coverage reduces as the mortgage is paid down.
  • Financial Flexibility: If the insured person passes away and the death benefit is paid out, the beneficiaries are not strictly obligated to use the funds to pay off the mortgage. They have the flexibility to use the funds as they see fit. However, the primary intention of getting the policy might be to ensure the mortgage is covered.
  • Cost-Effective: Term insurance, especially when compared to other life insurance products, is often more affordable. This makes it an attractive option for homeowners who might be budget-conscious but still want to ensure their mortgage is covered in case of untimely death.
  • Peace of Mind: Knowing that the mortgage will be covered in case of death can provide immense peace of mind to the policyholder. The surviving family members would have one less significant financial concern to address during a challenging period.

It's essential to regularly review the policy, especially if there are significant changes to the mortgage amount or structure. Refinancing, for instance, might extend the mortgage term, which could necessitate adjustments to the term life policy.

Term life insurance can be a strategic tool for homeowners to ensure that their mortgage obligations are met, even in the event of their untimely death. By aligning the term and coverage amount with the mortgage, homeowners can offer their families added financial security.

References[change | change source]

  1. S. J. Knowles (2023-08-29). "Term Life Insurance: A Closer Look". Life Insurance. Retrieved 2023-09-04.
  2. Richards, Carl (12 April 2010). "Why Life Insurance Is Not an Investment".
  3. "Understanding Mortgage Life Insurance and Its Advantages". Investopedia. Retrieved 2023-09-04.