What is term life insurance?

If you're interested in buying term life insurance, but not sure what it is or how it works, read more to learn about the benefits and coverage of a term life policy.

A young family playing together at home on the couch.

What is term life insurance and what does it mean?

Term life insurance gets its name because these policies provide financial protection for a specific amount of time (the term).1 Since this coverage is temporary, the premiums you pay are initially lower than premiums for a comparable whole life policy. What’s more, the premiums are often guaranteed during this period, so you don’t have to worry about them going up. As a result, term insurance can be a solid choice for families who are just starting out, are on a budget, or need extra financial protection during critical times.

Term life insurance definition:

Coverage that protects someone for a defined period and pays a death benefit if the covered person passes away during that time.

How does term life insurance work?

Like all life insurance policies, term coverage helps preserve a family’s financial well-being in case a loved one passes away. What makes term insurance different, is that the insured person is covered for a specific amount of time. If that person dies while coverage is in place, beneficiaries will receive a lump-sum payment that they can use to keep a roof over their heads, meet day-to-day expenses, or prepare for future events like college.

What are the benefits of term life insurance?

Coverage that may fit the bill

Since these policies do not provide lifelong coverage, they can be relatively affordable when compared with a permanent life insurance policy with the same amount of coverage.

Flexible features

While most term policies offer dependable, short-term protection, some are more flexible than others. At New York Life, our term policies offer a unique combination of features that can help if you become disabled,2 become terminally ill,or simply want to convert to a permanent life policy.4

Customizable benefits

Since term life insurance provides temporary protection, many people like to match the length of their policy with a key milestone, such as paying off a mortgage or seeing children through college. In fact, many people use a combination of term and permanent life insurance to make sure they have more protection during these critical times, but still have some coverage for the rest of their lives.

What happens to term life insurance at the end of the term?

Depending on your age at the time, you may be able to renew your policy so that you can keep your coverage intact. It’s important to know, that your premiums will likely go up since the original “term” has come to an end. That’s why we offer two different types of coverage—so you can choose the one that makes the most sense for your needs:

  • Yearly renewable term may be the right choice if you want protection for a particularly short period or think your needs could change soon. Premiums generally start out lower than those of a level premium product, but they increase each year.
  • Level premium term could be more effective if you want the premiums you pay to remain the same for 10, 15, or 20 years. Once that period ends, the amount you pay for coverage will increase annually.

So, which is better, term or whole life?

While both types of coverage can be effective, the decision to choose one over the other comes down to your particular needs. Do you need temporary coverage, or do you want to make sure you can leave a financial legacy to your loved ones? Would you like to have a policy that builds value over time or one that fits more comfortably in today’s budget? If you still have questions, here’s a bit more information about choosing between term and permanent life insurance.

What should I look for when buying term life insurance?

Since no one knows what the future has in store, it’s important to make sure your coverage is dependable enough to meet today’s needs—and flexible enough to help you prepare for tomorrow’s. Here are some key factors to keep in mind:

  • When it comes to something this important, you’ll want to make sure the company you use is financially sound and has a proven history of keeping its promises.
  • Check to see if your term coverage is renewable, and if so, for how long.
  • Ask if there are features and benefits you can use in case your needs change later on.
Related ContenT 

Want to learn more term life insurance?

A New York Life financial professional can help determine what’s right for you.

1The guarantees of a term policy are based on the claims-paying ability of the issuer.

 2 The Disability Waiver of Premium feature can be added for an additional cost.

3The Living Benefits Rider is an included feature on all term policies.

4Conversion guidelines and limitations (such as timing) may apply.