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When Should I Get Life Insurance? A Guide to Find the Answer

March 08, 2023
Our goal is to educate and advise on life insurance options, so you can feel confident in making the right choice, whether that’s through Quotacy or somewhere else. To ensure we provide accurate and trustworthy information, our writers follow strict editorial standards.

The right time to buy life insurance varies from person to person. In general, if anyone relies on you financially or if your death would cause a negative financial impact on others, then you need life insurance.

In this guide, you’ll learn when you should get life insurance and how much it may cost.

Why Get Life Insurance in the First Place?

Life insurance provides a payout to your beneficiaries should you die while your policy is active. There are two categories of life insurance: term life insurance and permanent life insurance.

Term life insurance is temporary, lasting 10-40 years, depending on the term length you buy. If you die during this time, your beneficiaries receive a death benefit check.

Permanent life insurance lasts your entire life. Therefore, your beneficiaries receive a death benefit check no matter when you die.

Term life insurance costs much less than permanent life insurance, which makes it the best choice for most families. Term life insurance can be customized to your needs and adjusted to fit most budgets.

Here are some of the most common reasons why people buy life insurance:

  • Financial protection for your children as they grow up
  • Financial protection as you’re paying off your mortgage
  • Financial protection for your spouse/partner as you’re saving up for retirement
  • Pay off debt your loved ones may become responsible for upon your death
  • Pay for your children’s college education even if you’re not present to see them graduate
  • Funding for buy-sell agreements
  • Collateral for small business loans
  • Pay for funeral and end-of-life expenses
  • Pay estate taxes
  • Make charitable contributions

Learn more about who life insurance helps: Who Needs Life Insurance?

When Should I Get Life Insurance?

Your age heavily influences the cost of a life insurance policy. The younger you are, the cheaper it is. 

Term life insurance has fixed premiums. This means you lock in the rate for your entire term when you buy the policy. So, take advantage of low rates by purchasing a policy as soon as you need it.

Another reason to get life insurance sooner rather than later is the likelihood that you may qualify for life insurance that doesn’t require a medical exam. While the life insurance medical exam isn’t invasive or time-consuming, it’s a nice perk if you don’t have to bother with it.

So, when do you need life insurance? 

  • When you get married, you should have life insurance.
  • When you have your first child, you should have life insurance.
  • When you buy a house, you should have life insurance.
  • When you take on significant debt, you should have life insurance.

In fact, the moment you begin to ask, “Should I have life insurance?” is when you probably need it.

Not sure how much life insurance you need?

Life Insurance Needs and Costs By Age

Life is constantly changing. As we age, financial goals come into focus, life stabilizes, health can shift, etc.

To help you get a sense of your current and future life insurance needs and potential costs, let’s explore the role life insurance can play in each decade of life.

Life Insurance in Your 20s

In your 20s, life insurance rates are very inexpensive. They’re probably comparable to your Netflix and Hulu fees.

You likely don’t have significant health issues yet, so life insurance companies aren’t hesitant to insure you. However, life can change in an instant.

If you’re starting your family or want to soon, now may be a perfect time to lock in that cheap rate. And because these are likely the lowest rates you’d ever qualify for, consider buying as much as you can afford.

How Much It Costs to Buy Life Insurance in Your 20s

Monthly rates for a $250,000 term policy for a healthy non-smoking male
Term LengthAge 20Age 29
10-Year $9.50$9.54
15-Year $9.99$10.05
20-Year $12.08$12.27
25-Year $15.61$15.54
30-Year $17.47$17.72
35-Year $20.79$21.45
40-Year $24.75$28.31

Reasons to buy life insurance in your 20s:

  • Term rates are cheap
  • You have debt that someone may become responsible for
  • You share a life with someone who depends on you
  • You have children or plan to soon

Life Insurance in Your 30s

Many 30-somethings need life insurance. In your 30s, you’ve likely settled into a career, have a long-term partner, and, if you want kids, you may have one or two by now.

A large percentage of your income goes toward your family’s standard of living and securing their future. So, what happens if you die unexpectedly?

It goes without saying that your unexpected death would cause your family immense grief. But also consider the financial impact it would have.

Life insurance helps protect against this. Should the worst happen, the policy’s death benefit can help pay for the mortgage, the cost of raising children, and pay debts.

How Much It Costs to Buy Life Insurance in Your 30s

Monthly rates for a $250,000 term policy for a healthy non-smoking male
Term LengthAge 30Age 39
10-Year $9.54$11.23
15-Year $10.06$12.43
20-Year $12.35$16.40
25-Year $15.62$22.94
30-Year $17.92$26.22
35-Year $21.69$32.50
40-Year $29.41$54.53

Reasons to buy life insurance in your 30s:

Life Insurance in Your 40s

If you’re in your 40s and don’t have life insurance yet, don’t wait much longer. The 40 age range is when life insurance rates begin to jump dramatically.

Health problems can start to creep in, raising life insurance rates.

A 30- or 40-year term may not be necessary at this stage in life. A 20-year term is probably the best option (cost-wise) and will provide financial protection for your loved ones until you reach retirement age.

How Much It Costs to Buy Life Insurance in Your 40s

Monthly rates for a $250,000 term policy for a healthy non-smoking male
Term LengthAge 40Age 49
10-Year $11.64$21.87
15-Year $12.94$27.97
20-Year $17.33$35.05
25-Year $24.21$53.00
30-Year $28.03$61.19
35-Year $34.73$101.06
40-Year $60.64Not available after age 45

Reasons to buy life insurance in your 40s

  • Buy before life insurance rates get too high
  • Your spouse/partner relies on you
  • Your children are still financially dependent
  • Your mortgage balance is significant
  • Your debt could become someone else’s responsibility
  • You have business life insurance needs

Life Insurance in Your 50s

If you’re in your 50s, life insurance is still attainable. But if you have health issues, expect to see some steep premiums.

The table below shares possible monthly pricing if you’re in excellent health and qualify for Preferred Plus rates.

How Much It Costs to Buy Life Insurance in Your 50s

Monthly rates for a $250,000 term policy for a healthy non-smoking male
Term LengthAge 50Age 59
10-Year $23.15$53.37
15-Year $30.14$71.07
20-Year $38.11$95.35
25-Year $57.82$177.14
30-Year $67.18Not available at age 59
35-Year $115.39Not available at age 59
40-Year Not available at age 50Not available at age 59

​However, because health issues can creep in as you age, I want to share what costs look like if your health is just average.

Monthly rates for a $250,000 term policy for a non-smoking male in average health
Term LengthAge 50Age 59
10-Year $43.76$90.55
15-Year $53.91$118.78
20-Year $67.55$164.44
25-Year $102.24$245.06
30-Year $123.13Not available
35-Year $166.07Not available
40-Year Not availableNot available

Term life insurance may not suit you if you’re in your 50s. It doesn’t last forever.

If you need life insurance until the day you die, permanent life insurance is necessary. However, permanent life insurance in your 50s will be much more expensive than term life insurance, so weigh the pros and cons.

Learn more: Do I Need Term or Whole Life Insurance? Differences, Pros & Cons

Below are sample rates from two types of permanent life insurance: guaranteed universal and whole life insurance. Guaranteed universal life insurance is essentially a term policy that provides lifelong coverage. Whole life insurance offers lifelong coverage and cash value accumulation.

Monthly rates for a $100,000 policy for a non-smoking male in average health
Product TypesAge 50Age 59
Guaranteed Universal Life Insurance$159.49$229.80
Whole Life Insurance (non-participating)$258.48$421.11

Reasons to buy life insurance in your 50s

  • You have a non-working partner who relies on your income
  • Your mortgage is taking longer to pay off than planned
  • You want to leave behind an inheritance
  • You have estate planning needs
  • You have aging parents relying on you
  • You want to leave money for final expenses

Life Insurance in Your 60s

As you reach your 60s, your life insurance options become more limited. The 30- and 40-year term lengths are no longer an option. Rates are going to be considerably higher.

At this stage in your life, perhaps you don’t need much life insurance. Is your mortgage paid off? Are your children independent? Do you have adequate emergency funds and retirement savings?

Consider your current financial situation and whether you need life insurance. The monthly premiums you save by not buying a policy may be used better elsewhere.

If you have confirmed you need life insurance, the table below provides quotes for someone in average health.

How Much It Costs to Buy Life Insurance in Your 60s

Monthly rates for a $250,000 term policy for an average non-smoking male
Term LengthAge 60Age 69
10-Year $98.84$277.72
15-Year $130.72$397.51
20-Year $182.84$563.31
25-Year $275.03Not available
Monthly rates for a $100,000 policy for a non-smoking male in average health
Product TypesAge 60Age 69
Guaranteed Universal Life Insurance$238.59$450.75
Whole Life Insurance (non-participating)$446.40$722.07

Reasons to buy life insurance in your 60s

  • You have debt you don’t want to leave your spouse/partner
  • You want to leave a financial cushion to supplement your partner’s retirement savings
  • You want to leave behind money for medical bills and final expenses

When Should You Get Term Life Insurance vs Whole?

Choosing the right type of life insurance is an important first step to buying a policy. Term and whole life insurance have many differences.

Differences between term and whole:

  • Coverage length: Term life provides temporary coverage lasting 10-40 years. Whole life insurance coverage is lifelong, meaning your beneficiary is guaranteed a payout.
  • Rates: Term life insurance rates are much cheaper than whole life.
  • Cash value growth: Whole life insurance has guaranteed cash value growth. Term life has no cash value.

No two people are alike, and we all have different life insurance needs. The key is getting a policy that meets your needs and is affordable long-term.

Reasons to Have Term Life Insurance

During your life, there are prime years in which you’re at your earning potential, funding others’ standard of living, and saving for retirement all at once. It’s these same years when your unexpected death would cause the most financial devastation to your loved ones.

It’s why term life insurance is the most logical answer for people with families. You can afford to buy a large amount of coverage at a low cost. If you were to die during these fragile years, the death benefit from the policy could help ensure your loved ones have money for your final expenses and can continue their standard of living.

Needs term life insurance can meet:

  • Costs of raising children: If you die unexpectedly, money from the policy can go towards your children’s needs, such as clothing, food, and education.
  • Mortgage balance: If you die unexpectedly, money from the policy can be used to pay the mortgage bills so your family can stay in their home.
  • Shared debt: If you have debt that would transfer to someone else upon your death, term life insurance can provide funds to cover the debt.
  • Dependent non-working spouse: If you’re the sole provider, term life insurance can protect your spouse through your working years.
  • Working spouse: If you and your partner both work, you both likely contribute to bills and expenses. If you die unexpectedly, they must pay these same bills on one income. Term life insurance can replace your income.
  • Business ownership: If you own a business, you have many responsibilities. Term life insurance can be used for many business needs, such as loan collateral and buy-sell agreements.

What happens if you outlive your term policy? The answer here: What Happens When Term Life Insurance Expires?

See what you’d pay for life insurance

Comparison shop prices on custom coverage amounts from the nation’s top carriers with Quotacy.

Reasons to Have Whole Life Insurance

If you want life insurance to pay out no matter when you die, then you want permanent life insurance. Whole life insurance is the most well-known type of permanent insurance.

Whole life insurance is too expensive for many families, which is why term life insurance is purchased more often. There are benefits to whole life insurance if you can afford the premiums though, such as guaranteed cash value accumulation and potential dividend earnings.

Needs whole life insurance can meet:

  • Lifelong dependents: If you have children with special needs or aging loved ones you’re financially responsible for, whole life insurance provides a guaranteed payout should you predecease them.
  • Estate planning: If you’re a high-net-worth individual that will have estate taxes, whole life insurance can provide the liquidity needed when you die. Your family can use the death benefit to pay taxes instead of estate funds.
  • Business ownership: Whole life insurance is often used in buy-sell agreements. The cash value accumulated within the policy on a tax-deferred basis can also be accessed for business needs.
  • Supplement retirement: Buying a whole life insurance policy early on and letting it grow untouched means you’ll have a nice cash value balance later in life. You can borrow against this amount at a decent interest rate and use the cash for whatever you want.

The Cost of Waiting to Get Coverage

As years go by, not only do you age, but the likelihood of developing a health issue increases as well. Both of these factors have significant impacts on life insurance rates.

If your health issue worsens, you may even become uninsurable for affordable life insurance. Get life insurance before your health becomes a concern.

If you have anyone who relies on you, you’re taking a massive risk by not having life insurance. It’s a risk that could take away their standard of living in a second. Don’t force loved ones to become one of many struggling and asking for help on Go Fund Me.

The longer you wait to buy a policy…

  • The more expensive it will be
  • The higher your loved ones’ risk of financial ruin

Compare Quotes From Top-Tier Carriers and Apply Today

Buying life insurance has never been easier. Get instant and anonymous term life insurance quotes now. Through Quotacy, you can compare dozens of quotes from top-rated life insurance companies before applying.

Once you’re ready to apply, the online application only takes a few minutes. After you submit it, you’re assigned an agent who will advocate for you and help you through the process.

The life insurance buying process can take some time, so don’t delay. So, when should you get life insurance? The time is now. We can help.

Questions about buying life insurance? Read our How to Buy Life Insurance Wisely guide.

Note: Life insurance quotes used in this article are accurate as of March 8, 2023. These are only estimates and your life insurance costs may be higher or lower.

Watch the Perfect Age to Buy Life Insurance Video


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