People who are healthy and physically active are typically more insurable and qualify for lower life insurance premiums than people who are overweight and idle. That said, if you are in the latter category consider making some positive changes to improve your financial bottom line.
How Insurers Assess Costs
The cost of life insurance is affected by many factors including your age, height and weight, medical history, driving record, occupation, family health history, and personal habits. When you apply for a policy, a company will ask you detailed questions about these and other factors in order to assess your overall health and insurability.
Your responses may prompt them to dig deeper, potentially requiring additional information or medical tests prior to extending coverage. Once all information is gathered, the company will decide whether to offer you coverage and at what premium rate.
Out with the Bad, in with the Good
There are certain lifestyle indicators that may count against you when you apply for life insurance. Following are a few of the common “red flags” for insurers, as well as tips and resources for addressing each.
Smoking. Are you a smoker? Most insurance companies define a smoker as someone who regularly uses cigars, cigarettes, nicotine patches, nicotine gum, electronic cigarettes, or chewing tobacco.
For folks in this population, life insurance can cost two to four times more than it does for nonsmokers. The reasoning is simple. According to the Centers for Disease Control, smokers are expected to die sooner than people who don’t smoke – roughly 10 years sooner. That’s strong motivation. And here’s some more: Those who quit before age 40 have a 90% chance of reversing the likelihood of dying from a smoking-related illness. Quitting is great, but you’ll need to maintain your “non-smoker” status for at least 12 months to qualify for lower rates with most insurers.
For more information: Resources abound for individuals who want to kick the habit. The CDC website is a good place to start.
Overweight and obesity. Hop on the scale. Are you happy with what you see? Overweight and obesity are now considered worldwide epidemics. According to the World Health Organization, in 2016, 1.9 billion adults aged 18 and older were overweight. Of those, more than 650 million were considered obese. Overweight individuals are putting themselves at risk for developing diabetes, heart disease, and other potentially life-shortening conditions.
(Overweight and obesity are defined using the Body Mass Index (BMI), a simple height-to-weight calculation. According to the World Health Organization, overweight adults have a BMI of 25 or higher; obese adults have a BMI of 30 or higher.)
Losing weight—and keeping it off—can potentially lower your health risks along with your life insurance premiums. Keep in mind, as with quitting smoking, you may have to maintain your lower weight over a sustained period before you qualify for lower premium rates.
For more information: To learn more about healthful, balanced strategies for losing weight, visit the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Healthy Weight website.
Sedentary lifestyle. The evidence is compelling. At a minimum, physical activity can help manage or reduce the occurrence of many chronic ailments, boost energy levels, and enhance sleep. The U.S. Department of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion recommends that adults do at least 150 minutes (2 hours and 30 minutes) of moderate intensity aerobic activity per week. This includes activities such as brisk walking, bicycling, exercise classes, dancing, some types of yoga, and swimming.
You might find that using one of the many fitness apps for smart phones or wearable fitness trackers helps to keep you focused and motivated toward meeting your exercise goals. Whatever works to get and keep you moving! But be sure to check with your health care provider before starting any exercise program.
For more information: Log on to the Centers for Disease Control’s Physical Activity page for physical activity guidelines and much more.
First Things First: Assess Your Insurance Needs
Life insurance is often used to provide a surviving spouse or children with replacement income to maintain a standard of living, repay debt, or fund education costs. So it stands to reason that the amount of life insurance you need depends on your unique circumstances.
That said, if you are currently in good physical shape, consider exercising your health “bonus”—and purchasing a policy or increasing your level of coverage now.