Saturday, April 21, 2007

Life Expectancy Going Up, Life Insurance Rates Going Down

Ready for good news from your insurer? Well, since you're probably reading this sitting down, we'll go ahead and tell you: you're going to live longer, and because of that, your life insurance will be a better deal.

Due to improved lifestyles and better medical care, people are living longer, and the actuarial tables that the insurance industry uses to set its rates are going to reflect that.

Actuarial tables, also known as mortality tables, are the charts that give us our life expectancies. Last compiled in 1980, they were recently revised, and the news is good. Average Joe, instead of living only until 70, will now make it to 74, and Josephine's looking at enjoying her grandchildren until 79 instead of 77.

How insurance companies are giving new meaning to the phrase, live long and prosper

Insurers charge you premiums, and then use that money to invest before they need to pay out the benefits. If you live longer, they have more time to invest the money. That means they don't need to charge you as much. The one hitch is that this is only going to affect new policies--old policies are locked in to the rates established under the old mortality tables. Be sure to check with your insurance agent to see if you can take advantage of the new rates. Also, depending on the insurance company, don't expect the price cuts to reach their deepest for a few years. State laws require insurers to adopt the new tables, but it gives them 5 years from the day of their implementation (January 1 of next year) to do so.

New actuarial tables mean new savings

How much your insurance will actually drop will depend on what type of insurance you have. According to industry watchers, term life insurance-insurance that provides coverage for a specific period of time and doesn't build any cash value will see the most significant price drops. That's good, because term insurance meets the needs of life insurance for a large number of consumers. Although it has no investment value, it gives the insured the peace of mind that if a death does occur, the house will be paid off and the kids will have money for college.

There are a few industry actuaries who think that, on the contrary, whole-life insurance will have an even more dramatic change. Whole life insurance is insurance that remains in full force for the entire life of the insured, and also builds cash value.

In either case, for most policyholders, the new tables will provide an opportunity for significant savings.

Sounds like a win-win situation all around. But does anyone stand to lose? Alas, according to the new tables, woman smokers are living even shorter lives, and paying higher premiums in the meantime--just another to reason to quit.



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