Sara Routhier, Managing Editor and Outreach Director, has professional experience as an educator, SEO specialist, and content marketer. She has over five years of experience in the insurance industry. As a researcher, data nerd, writer, and editor she strives to curate educational, enlightening articles that provide you with the must-know facts and best-kept secrets within the overwhelming world o...

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Leslie Kasperowicz holds a BA in Social Sciences from the University of Winnipeg. She spent several years as a Farmers Insurance CSR, gaining a solid understanding of insurance products including home, life, auto, and commercial and working directly with insurance customers to understand their needs. She has since used that knowledge in her more than ten years as a writer, largely in the insur...

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Reviewed by Leslie Kasperowicz
Farmers CSR for 4 Years Leslie Kasperowicz

UPDATED: Jan 22, 2022

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The Brief

  • Life insurance is an asset that many people use to provide financial support for loved ones after they pass away
  • Life insurance is typically seen as a way to manage risk, but depending on the type of policy you choose, it can also be an investment opportunity
  • As long as you pay your premiums on time and your policy extends to the date of your death, your beneficiaries will receive a payout from your policy

When you first hear about life insurance, and even when you begin shopping for a life insurance policy, you may be wondering, How does life insurance work?

Life insurance is a type of asset that many people utilize when they consider long-term financial planning for themselves and their loved ones. Life insurance is one common way to provide financial support for loved ones after you die. But it can be difficult to know where to buy life insurance.

If you are interested in purchasing a life insurance policy, you will want to shop around for policies online and compare quotes from various companies. This will allow you to find a policy that works for you and your family without paying too much in monthly premiums.

You can use our free quote tool above to find and compare life insurance quotes from life insurance companies in your area to determine how much you’ll end up paying for coverage.

What is life insurance?

Life insurance is essentially a contract. Once you purchase a life insurance policy, you will have to pay your monthly rates in order for the policy to remain intact. If you pass away and your policy is still active, your life insurance company will pay out a death benefit to your beneficiaries.

When you shop around for life insurance, you will want to consider numerous factors to ensure that you obtain the best policy for you and your loved ones. Here are some of the most important characteristics to consider:

  • The amount of coverage you need
  • Whether you want a term or a whole life insurance policy
  • How much you will pay for monthly premiums
  • Whether you want to purchase any riders

You can use a life insurance calculator if you need help figuring out what kind of death benefit you will need. If you select one that’s too large, you’ll end up paying a lot more in monthly rates. And if you choose one that’s too small, you may not receive the coverage you want for your family and loved ones.

When it comes to the type of life insurance policy you want, a term life insurance policy will cover you for a certain amount of time. This term can typically be anywhere from 10 to 30 years. In contrast to a term life insurance policy, a whole life insurance policy will last a lifetime, as long as you pay your premiums on time.

Term life insurance plans tend to be much more affordable than whole life options, but whole life policies can accumulate cash values and end up paying more in death benefits, depending on what you select.

When you shop for life insurance, you should compare quotes for the type of policy you are seeking to discover how much you would end up paying in monthly rates. Your life insurance premiums are something you will have to pay every month for years, so it’s important to know what you can afford to pay and find a policy that will work for you.

You can choose riders for almost any life insurance policy. A life insurance rider is an extra benefit you can add to different life insurance policies. The most common life insurance riders include the following:

  • Guaranteed insurability
  • Accidental death
  • Waive of premium
  • Family income benefit
  • Accelerated death benefit
  • Child term
  • Long-term care
  • Return of premium

You may choose to add riders to your policy for additional protection. Or you may want to stick with a standard plan without purchasing any riders. It all depends on what you and your family members need.

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How does life insurance work as an investment?

Life insurance policies should be viewed as risk management options instead of investment options, especially in the short term.

When you purchase a life insurance policy, you are almost always trying to find the best options to ensure that your family members and loved ones remain protected and provided for if you die. This is a way to manage potential future risks by putting money aside in a death benefit for others.

But in the long term, a life insurance policy — especially a whole life policy — can be a type of investment for your personal future. For example, if you pay into a whole life insurance policy for a few decades and then decide you no longer need the death benefit, you could choose a type of payout annuity that would offer you monthly amounts until you pass away.

There are other ways that life insurance can be considered an investment, from the payout of premiums to the accumulated cash value. But you need to remember that many of these options will mean that your beneficiaries receive less of a payout when you die.

How does life insurance work after death?

After you die, your life insurance company will pay out the death benefit to any of the beneficiaries listed on your policy. The only exception to this would be if you purchased a term life policy and lived through the duration of the term. Once that happens, you will no longer be covered by a policy which means that no one will receive any money after you pass away.

Your beneficiaries may need to provide a death certificate and other documentation before they can receive any portion of the death benefit. But as long as you pay your premiums on time, they will be entitled to the death benefit.

How does life insurance work if you don’t die?

If you have a term life insurance policy and you don’t die before the end of the term, your life insurance will not pay out any death benefits. Similarly, if you neglect to make premium payments on time, or if you end your whole life insurance policy while you’re still alive, your beneficiaries will not receive any portion of the death benefit of your policy.

But if you have a permanent policy and you keep up with the premiums, your beneficiaries will reap the benefits of your policy regardless of when you pass away.

When you shop around for the right life insurance policy, be sure to compare quotes from several different companies. You’ll be paying the premium on your policy for years, so it’s a good idea to find a policy that offers low premiums you can afford.

Be sure to use our free quote tool below to compare life insurance rates from many different companies before you make any final decisions about coverage.