What you'll learn
What is life insurance?
The primary purpose of life insurance is to provide a lump sum payment that may support dependants and loved ones after the person insured has passed away. This financial benefit can be used to cover various expenses, including:
- Funeral costs
- Outstanding debts, such as mortgages, loans, or credit card balances
- Daily living expenses, including housing, education, and healthcare costs
- Income replacement to ensure the family's financial security
How life insurance works
When applying for a life insurance policy the applicant will stipulate or confirm the amount of life insurance required. This represents the financial benefit paid as a lump sum at claim time.
The insurer will ask a range of questions regarding health, medical history, occupation, and lifestyle to assess the application. It is important to answer these questions honestly and accurately as it may have an impact on premium costs or the ability to claim in the future.
Beneficiaries can be nominated by the policy owner once the policy has been accepted. This is who may receive the proceeds of the insurance once a claim is processed.
To ensure that a life insurance policy remains relevant to personal circumstances, it should be reviewed regularly. This is particularly important if there have been changes in life events, such as paying down a large portion of debt, getting married, having a baby, or commencing a new job. This ensures that the levels of cover continue to align with the person insured’s individual circumstances.
Determining life insurance cover amounts
The sum insured can vary drastically between individuals due to their circumstances and priorities. Consider how much beneficiaries will need and for how long if a benefit is paid due to the insured passing away. Common things to consider when determining the level of cover required are:
- Debt repayments
- Replacement income
- Housekeeper/childcare costs
- Children’s education
- Living expenses
Once the amount of cover needed to cover expenses is determined, there may be the possibility of reducing this by exploring any existing cover already in place. For example, the insured may already have cover in a superannuation fund.
The cost of life insurance
The cost of a life insurance policy depends on many factors and differs from person to person. Some factors that may influence the cost of life insurance include:
Generally, the higher the sum insured the higher the cost of the life insurance premiums.
The health and medical history of the person to be insured are important in determining the premium they will pay. If the person has any pre-existing medical conditions, this could impact the premiums to pay, the ability to take out cover or the terms on which the person may be accepted for cover.
Additional policy features
Additional features, such as an inflation protection benefit and premium freeze option, can be added to the policy but may increase the total premium to be paid.
Premiums are not fixed and can increase. There are two types of premium options - Stepped and Level. Stepped premiums are based on the insured’s age and generally increase at the policy anniversary date each year. Level premiums have the cost of increases associated with age spread over a number of years and are based on the insured’s age at the policy start date. This means the costs start out higher than Stepped premiums, but depending on how long the policy is held, the cost may be lower at some point in the future. Both types of premiums may also increase if the insurer adjusts its premiums due to market conditions or other factors that may affect the policy including discounts or adjustments for inflation (CPI).
It is best to compare life insurance policies with different life insurance providers to find the right policy that fits individual circumstances.
Other types of life insurance
It is important to consider other types of life insurance that can provide a financial safety net if a person suffers an illness or injury.
Total and permanent disability insurance (TPD)
TPD insurance provides a lump sum payment if a permanent illness or injury that is suffered affects the ability to work again, after a qualifying period and the required severity of the condition set out in the policy terms or PDS are met.
Critical illness insurance (trauma cover)
Critical illness insurance (Trauma insurance) is a type of life insurance cover that provides a lump sum payment if a specified illness or injury is sustained, meeting the qualifying period and the required severity of the condition set out in the policy terms or PDS.
Income protection insurance
Income protection insurance is a monthly payment that replaces a portion of income if injury or illness prevents the ability to work and income is reduced after serving a waiting period.
It is important to understand the different options and products available and compare policies with a variety of life insurers.