Term Life Insurance Riders Provide Benefits While You’re Still Alive

While term life benefits are designed to provide benefits for your family after you die, you can benefit from the policy while you’re still alive if you need to. How? Through a rider.

Let’s say you buy a 20-year term life policy with a death benefit of $250,000. Four years into having the policy you’re diagnosed with a terminal illness and given a life expectancy prognosis of two years. A term life rider would allow you to use some of that $250,000 to help pay for medical bills, hospice, or even a trip to a place on your bucket list. You determine how you want to use it, if at all.

There are four types of term life riders you can add to your term life policy that enable you to use the benefit from your policy while you’re still alive.

Types of Term Life Riders

Terminal Illness Rider. Also known as an accelerated death benefit, this rider allows you to use your coverage amount to pay for end-of-life care, debt, or that bucket-list trip. Whatever you need to help make your last days more comfortable.

Critical Illness Rider. This rider allows you to use your death benefit to pay for medical care for a specific illness that isn’t terminal but can shorten your life expectancy, such as a stroke or heart disease. Some carriers call this rider a Long Term Care (LTC) Rider.

Return of Premium Rider. This rider returns the money you paid in premiums once you’ve outlived your policy term. So if you paid $800 a year for 20 years beginning in 2020, you get back $16,000 when the term ends in 2040.

Disability Waiver of Premium. This allows you to stop making premium payments and still keep the policy should you suffer an illness or injury that prevents you from working.

How Term Life Insurance Riders Work

The main thing to know about term life riders is that whatever funds you use from your death benefit will be deducted from the payout going to your loved ones after you pass away.

Also, some carriers require that you have the policy for a specific amount of time before you are allowed to withdraw funds from your death benefit.

Your illness must meet the criteria set by both your insurance carrier and the state you live in. To collect funds on a Chronic Illness rider, you must prove that you are unable to perform two of the six Activities for Daily Living (ADL) such as eating, moving, bathing, dressing, and toileting or continence, and other eligibility requirements.

Life expectancy timelines for terminal illness benefits differ among carriers, too. Most stipulate a life expectancy of two years to collect the benefit. It’s important to know what your carrier’s guidelines are if this is a rider you’re interested in buying.

For the Best Life Insurance for Veterans: Shop EARLY

If you’re military, you probably know all about Servicemember Group Life Insurance, or SGLI. It’s provided coverage for you and your family for your whole career.

However, transitioning out of the military presents new life insurance options worth exploring. You can go with a Veteran Group Life Insurance policy (VGLI); life insurance through a military association such as American Forces Mutual Aid Association (AFMAA); or opt for private life insurance like term life or whole life.

Either way, the best piece of advice any life insurance professional can give a retiring servicemember is this: get quotes early.

You have 120 days from discharge to choose the best life insurance option for you and your family. You can stick with government group insurance or go private with term or permanent life insurance from a commercial life insurance company. But perform your due diligence to determine which will serve you best going forward. And if you’re leaning toward private, keep in mind that it takes between four to six weeks to go through the private life insurance underwriting process.

Online life insurance quotes are easy to get and provide automatic side-by-side comparisons to give you a bird’s-eye view of the marketplace and what you can expect to pay.

Term Life Insurance for Veterans

Term Life insurance is the most affordable commercial life insurance with the most coverage.

It’s set up for a set amount of time with a set amount of coverage at a set premium payment. For example, if you are a healthy 40-year-old male, you can expect to pay around $49 per month for a 30-year $500,000 policy. Your rate does not change.

A similar VGLI policy would cost the same 40-year-old more than $80 per month, renewable every five years with a rate increase. Also, you wouldn’t be able to purchase $500,000 worth of coverage with government life insurance. VGLI coverage caps at $400,000.

Term life is ideal for young families with dependents as it provides a financial safety net when you need it most. And as your family, income and needs grow, you can convert to a permanent policy with cash value without submitting to a medical exam.

Term life insurance does require underwriting, which means a medical exam and labs. So, if you’re retiring with a service-related injury, you probably won’t be able to qualify for term life or will pay much higher premiums than you would through government-sponsored insurance.

Permanent Life Insurance for Veterans

Permanent life insurance is a bit more expensive than term life but generates cash value you can use in a variety of ways—to borrow against or to pay your premiums, for example. Whole life is a type of permanent insurance.

If you decide to go with VGLI when you retire, you can later convert to a private whole life insurance policy. Unfortunately, you cannot do so with term life.

Combination Private and Military Life Insurance

But you can purchase additional term life coverage to supplement a VGLI policy. Experts recommend families obtain coverage for between 10- and 15-times annual income. So the $400,000 coverage cap VGLI offers probably is not enough to protect your family should they lose your income if you pass unexpectedly.

If you’re in reasonably good health, you can purchase a supplemental term life policy for an additional $250,000 for as little as $28 per month.

No matter which life insurance you go with, remember that it’s vital that you start shopping around for the best insurance quotes online as early as possible.

Those 120 days will go fast.

It Isn’t About Who Has the Lowest Life Insurance Quote

As enticing as a low quote on life insurance is, it’s a preview, not the whole story. And life insurance websites that tout the lowest quote will not always guarantee the lowest monthly rate.

Why? Because not everyone who buys a life insurance policy is going to pose the same risk to a carrier providing coverage. Insurance carriers need to keep risks minimal to ensure everyone gets a fair premium.

And how do they do that? With risk classifications. These determine what you’ll pay based on how likely the carrier will have to pay out to your loved ones in the event you pass away.

Life Insurance Risk Classifications

When the life insurance company approves your application, their underwriters assign you a risk classification largely based on your health questionnaire and medical exam.

Classifications are made up of people who share the same characteristics that pose a specific level of risk to the company of paying out a death benefit sooner rather than later. The standard risk classification is the baseline. People in preferred risk classifications have the least risk characteristics and pay the lowest premiums; people in the substandard risk classifications have the highest risk characteristics and pay the highest premiums.

It would be great if the life insurance industry used the same names and requirements for these classifications, but they don’t. However, this may be to your advantage.


Because some carriers have strengths their competitors don’t when it comes to these classifications.

One company may consider a BMI of 25 to be optimal and therefore place it in the risk class with the lowest premium; another may see it as acceptable but put it in a risk class with a higher premium.

One company may classify your annual scuba diving trip in one risk class and premium and another company may place it in a higher risk class with a higher premium.

It all depends on the carrier.

It gets even more complicated when you factor in table ratings.

Life Insurance Table Ratings Chart

Anyone who falls below standard risk is placed in the substandard risk classification and will pay more than the standard risk rate. How much more will depend on their table rating. Substandard risk is where the table ratings kick in.

Underwriters use a life insurance table ratings chart to assess how much those who fall into substandard will pay above the standard rate. Increases generally occur at increments of 25%.

Table rates are identified by numbers or letters. Some carriers use numbers and some use letters. But basically, if you are table rated 1 or A, you will pay 25% more than standard rate, 2 or B 50% more, 3 or C 75% more and 4 or D 100% more and so on.

So let’s look at a table rating in action.

Mary is a 35-year-old woman looking at the average life insurance cost per month for a $1 million life insurance policy. She is looking at a 20-year term policy.

She got a quote of $27 per month from Company A.

Mary admitted she smokes when she got the quote. The medical exam she underwent during underwriting claims she’s in otherwise good health. But her driving record reveals she’s had a couple of driving tickets in the past year. (Yes, those do count.)

Company A places her in a substandard risk classification because of her smoking. So, she’s already going to pay more than a nonsmoker. However, they consider her driving risky behavior and give her a Table 1 rating, which adds 25% to her rate. So now, rather than paying $324 per year, she’s paying $405.

Company B quoted Mary $29 per month but doesn’t consider two tickets to warrant a table rating. She ends up paying $348.

Had she gone with the lowest quote, she would’ve ended up paying more than she would if she’d gone with a higher quote.

A low quote is a great place to start. But they can be misleading. You want to collaborate with a company that gives you the whole story.

Term Life Insurance for Diabetics

Can you get life insurance if you have diabetes? Absolutely. You need it.

Diabetes is no joke. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 16% of adults aged 20 and older are living with diagnosed or undiagnosed diabetes. More than 100,000 people died of it in 2020. It’s currently ranked the eighth cause of death.

If you’re diabetic with dependents, it’s important you have life insurance to protect you if you’re no longer there to support them. Term life insurance is perfect because it offers protection during the period of life when you most need it—while you’re in your peak earning years and raising your family.

As a diabetic applying for life insurance, it’s important to know what to expect as you shop for the best term life insurance company for you.

How Life Insurance Companies Evaluate Diabetics

Term life insurance provides coverage for a specific amount of time (term) with a set premium and a set benefit payout. For example, you can buy a 30-year term policy for a $250,000 benefit payout with a $25 per month premium.

All life insurance policies and their premiums will vary based on your age and health. The younger and healthier you are the less you will pay. So, diabetics on average pay more than a person without diabetes. How much more you will pay depends on your diagnosis, diabetic health history, co-conditions, and other variables.

As an applicant with diabetes, your health will naturally be looked at closer than someone without it. Expect to at least be asked additional health questions and most likely undergo a medical exam and lab tests. Some of the things life insurance carriers will want to know about include:

  • Your diagnosis – this is the one area where the axiom about the younger you are the less you’ll pay doesn’t apply. For diabetics, the older you are when you’re diagnosed the less you’ll likely pay. A diagnosis at an early age may suggest more life-threatening disease.
  • Your diabetic health history – They may also request an attending physician statement (APS) to gain insight as to how you’re managing your diabetes.
  • Any diabetes-related co-conditions (heart disease, kidney disease, impaired vision, etc.)
  • Your sugar levels – A1C levels over 7 may affect your premium.
  • Your medications – what you take, how often you take them and for how long you’ve taken them

What to Do If You’re Denied Life Insurance Because of Your Diabetes

Look into guaranteed issue life insurance, which requires no medical exam or health questionnaire and offers guaranteed approval in most cases. The premiums are high, and the coverage maxes out at $25,000, but it provides a cushion for your family to plan next steps in the event your diabetes or related illness takes you away from them.

If your diabetes isn’t severe, try simplified issue life insurance, which has a lower rate and a coverage cap of $50,000. You’ll have to answer some medical questions but again, if your diabetes is less life threatening, it may be worth looking into.

Final expense insurance, also known as burial insurance, is also an option. It will cover outstanding debt and/or funeral expenses so your family won’t be burdened with them.

Like anything else, it pays to shop around. It’s easy as ever to get the best life insurance quotes online for a thorough term life insurance quotes comparison. Then go into the underwriting process confidently, armed with the information you need to get the best deal possible.

How Long Does It Take for a Beneficiary to Get a Life Insurance Payout?

Frank spent months browsing online life insurance quotes and finally bought a life policy. He passed away just shy of two years later. It took more than a year for his wife to collect his life insurance payout.

Doug had a 30-year term life policy and died the same day as Frank did. His wife was able to get her life insurance payout within two weeks.

How long does it take for a beneficiary to get a payout?

As the two scenarios illustrate, it depends. Some payouts can take as little as three to five days. If the insured dies within two years of purchasing the policy (called the two-year contestability period) as Frank did, it can take longer.

Barring any snafus, the average life insurance payout takes about 30 days to process.

How to File a Life Insurance Claim

Whether you are the sole beneficiary or one of several beneficiaries, you will have to file your own individual claim.

  1. Locate the actual policy. The life policy will have the claim instructions as well as the insurer’s contact information. You can either call the insurer to have a claim form mailed or download it from the insurer’s website.


  1. Gather Your Documents and Information. To fill out the form, you will need to have the following documents and information handy:
  • the insured’s death certificate, either the original or a certified one obtained from the funeral home or the vital statistics office of the insured’s state of residence.
  • the life insurance policy, with the policy number
  • the date of death
  • the cause of death
  • the state in which the insured died
  • the insured’s date of birth
  • the insured’s social security number
  • an obituary notice, not necessary, but may help move things along
  • in some cases, the insurance company will ask for an autopsy report or medical records


  1. Choose how you want your payout delivered. There are a few ways available to choose from.
    • a lump sum. This is tax free.
    • an annuity. This pays out a fixed amount over a specific time frame. The insurance company invests unused funds for you. However, any interest earned will be taxed.
    • a retained asset account. The insurance company keeps the payout in an interest-bearing account from which the beneficiary can withdraw funds. Interest on this account is also taxable.


  1. Submit your claim according to the claim instructions.

Why Would an Insurance Claim Be Denied?

There are only a few reasons why a life insurance company would deny a claim.

Fraud. If the company suspects the insured died under questionable circumstances or lied to the insurance company, the company can deny the beneficiary the life insurance policy’s payout.

The insured died during the contestability period. Most policies and/or states have a provision that allows the insurance company two years to review an insurance policy for inconsistencies related to fraud.

If the insured dies during the contestability period, the beneficiary may be denied the life insurance payout. In Frank’s case, he died just short of the contestability period. His wife was able to collect, but it took longer and required more effort.

A lapsed policy. If the premiums have not been paid up at the time of the insured’s death the beneficiary will not receive the death benefit payout.

If your claim is denied, you can always reach out to the insurance company for clarification. Sometimes it’s just a matter of missing documentation such as an autopsy report or an insurance payment receipt.

Losing a loved one is difficult. Life insurance companies have worked to make the claims process as easy as possible. Once you’ve filed the claim, you can relax and know you are taken care of.

How Life Insurance Affects Your Taxes, Simplified

They say nothing is sure but death and taxes.

If you’re reading this, you probably already have life insurance or are seriously considering buying a policy to protect your family. And you probably know how life insurance works.

You buy a policy for a certain amount of coverage, say $250,000, for which you pay a monthly premium of say, $25. Should you die while the policy is active, your beneficiaries receive the $250,000 payout.

What you now want to know is, how will life insurance affect your taxes? What follows are some highly simplified explanations for a variety of “death and taxes” situations.

How Term Life Insurance Affects Your Taxes

If you have a term life policy, your beneficiaries won’t have to pay taxes on the payout they receive.

Term life policies are straightforward. You pay a monthly premium for a set amount of time, and you receive a set amount in death benefit. End of story.

But if you expect a tax break on your premium, you’re going to be disappointed. The IRS considers life insurance premiums a personal expense and therefore not deductible.

How Permanent Life Insurance Affects Your Taxes

Because permanent life insurance policies produce cash value, the IRS looks at types of permanent life insurance such as whole life and universal life differently than they do term life.

Interest earned on a permanent policy is tax-deferred, i.e. not taxed if it remains untouched. However, if you withdraw it, it will be subject to income tax.

Life Insurance Annuities and Taxes

If your beneficiary collects your death benefit in installments, the payouts will be considered income and subject to income tax.

Life Insurance and Estate Tax or Inheritance Taxes

If your life insurance policy is wrapped up in an estate, your beneficiaries will owe an estate tax if the estate is worth more than the IRS threshold, which for 2023 is $12 million for an individual beneficiary and $24 million for a married beneficiary filing jointly.

If the estate is worth less than that, they will owe no tax.

Some states levy an inheritance tax. States vary on the threshold so consult a tax attorney in your state to find out what your beneficiaries may or may not have to pay.

Accelerated Death Benefits and Taxes

Although you can use the benefit from an accelerated life insurance policy while you are still alive, it is not taxable.

Transfer for Value Life Insurance and Taxes

If you sell (settle) or surrender your life insurance policy, you will pay tax on any monetary or material value above what’s called the policy basis.

The policy basis is the policy’s cash value minus premiums you paid and required administrative fees. Anything you receive above the policy basis will be taxed as income.

Again, these are highly simplified explanations for situations that can be complicated. As with any financial decision, it’s important to consult with a tax professional or financial advisor to determine the tax implications related to any life insurance policy you’re considering purchasing.

For the Best Life Insurance, Trust the System

For the Best Life Insurance, Trust the System

If you’re over a certain age, you remember calling customer service and having a human answer the phone. We all know those interactions aren’t normal anymore. Automated technology is standard today.

And technology continues to evolve. For example, PolicyWand just adopted aggregator neural network technology in the form of Wandy, an avatar designed to provide initial customer services to online visitors in search of the best life insurance.

But AI can’t get inside your head. Wandy can only go so far to get you to a life insurance policy that will fit your lifestyle and your family’s needs. Yes, avatars like Wandy accelerate the process with upfront data gathering and quotes, but life insurance is personal. It deserves human interaction.

The best systems blend automation and human interaction.

Life Insurance Agents

The best thing to come from automated technology is that it’s encouraged life insurance agents to reevaluate their business approach. Why would anyone take time to drive to a storefront with a pushy life insurance salesperson inside when they can hop online from home?

Life insurance agents have had to adapt from being a salesperson to being an answers-person. When technology connects you to a live agent today, you’ve already received your quotes. There’s no more selling to do.

That’s good news.

But there are still plenty of questions. No two life insurance clients have identical medical or financial situations. Their questions are as unique as their needs. And most people prefer to speak with a person rather than a data-collecting avatar when discussing them.

Life insurance customers want a licensed life insurance agent with the knowledge and experience to identify the best products to meet their needs. If just anyone could answer your questions, the process would go faster. But quality takes time and specialized knowledge that doesn’t come from a call center.

So getting from an avatar to a licensed agent requires a wait, sometimes minutes and sometimes hours, depending on when your call comes in. Normal business-hours calls take minutes. A call that comes in after business hours will require a ticket for a returned call in the morning.

Providing exceptional service takes time. But think of it this way. If you must wait a few minutes, it’s probably because the life insurance agent you’re waiting to speak to is providing the best service they have to give. And if they’re committed to that kind of quality, they’ll extend the same to you when it’s your turn to discuss your life insurance needs.

You just have to trust the system.

Does Term Life Have Cash Value? Cash value life insurance explained

Technically there’s no such thing as term life cash value. With term life insurance policies, you pay a specific premium for a specific amount of time (term) and receive a specific payout in the event you die before the term ends. Even the best life insurance companies in the U.S. don’t offer traditional term life insurance with cash value. There’s no time to build it.

However, there are some ways to use a life insurance policy to build it.

Firstly, what’s cash value?

Cash value is money accrued from a life insurance policy over time. The longer you have the policy and the more you pay into it, the more cash value you build.

Cash value is a savings component. You build interest in a tax-deferred investment account your insurance company provides. Part of the rate you pay will go to your premium and administrative fees; the other part will be invested to build interest.

So, it’s more expensive than traditional term life insurance. Also, the savings component varies based on market conditions and your insurance company’s investment performance.

But the great thing about cash value is you can borrow against it or use it to pay your premiums. You can also surrender or cash out your life insurance policy.

What types of life insurance build cash value?

Permanent life insurance policies build cash value. These include whole life and universal life.

Universal Life Insurance (UL) is a type of permanent life insurance that builds cash value and has characteristics closest to those term life has. UL premiums, like term life premiums, are lower. So, you pay a lower premium but still enjoy building cash value. UL insurance has its drawbacks, but it is the closest thing to term life with cash value you can find.

Whole life insurance builds cash value but has set premiums and less flexibility. And it’s more expensive than UL.

Alternative Ways to Leverage Term Life Insurance for Cash

Buy a Return of Premium (ROP) Rider

An ROP is a rider you can add to your term life insurance policy. It enables you to receive a refund on the premiums you paid into it. It also has its drawbacks but is a way to use your term life policy as a savings component.

Sell Your Life Insurance Policy

Technically called a life settlement, you can sell your policy for a cash payment. It won’t be for the whole value of the policy, but a percentage of it. Typically, it’s investors who buy policies. They’re mainly interested in older policyholders because it will take less time to see a return on their investment.

If you want to sell your policy, it’s best to find a broker to handle it.

Convert Your Policy

Young people with young families tend to buy term life insurance because it protects their families at an affordable rate. They aren’t necessarily interested in or able to buy a cash value policy.

However, as children grow their needs grow. Many times this coincides with higher income. So, it may make sense to convert your term policy to a permanent one and enjoy building cash value.

So, to answer the question put forth in the post title, does term life insurance build cash value, it does not. But it can be an effective springboard toward building it in other ways.

Underwriting: How Life Insurance Rates Are Determined

Since its inception, life insurance has been about relationships—protecting those you care about. You want to get life insurance to protect the ones you love. Life insurance enables you to do that. Underwriting ensures you receive the best life insurance rates possible from the best life insurance companies in the U.S.

What Is Underwriting?

The dictionary says that to underwrite something means to accept responsibility for guaranteed payment in case loss or damage occurs.

The business of underwriting is a vetting process. The insurance company wants to make sure you’re a good insurance risk. And they want to make sure you can afford the premium. It’s also your chance to choose the best company for your needs.

In relationship terms, underwriting ensures the relationship between you and your life insurance company is a strong one. You just have to find a company you can work with.

Every life insurance company has its own set of standards and guidelines as to what constitutes an acceptable risk and what they’re not willing to cover.

There are two types of underwriting: full and accelerated.

Full underwriting is the traditional kind. It includes a medical exam and lab tests. It takes between six and eight weeks.

Accelerated underwriting requires no medical exam or tests, so it takes less time. However, no-exam life insurance can be more expensive than fully underwritten policies. AI has made it easier to streamline the process through technology called insurtech, which uses algorithms and machine learning to go through data quicker.

How Underwriting Works

The Application

The underwriting process kicks in once you’ve submitted your application. That application asks about your height, weight, habits (smoking, drinking, exercising), hobbies, and questions about your current and past health as well as your family’s health history.

The Phone Interview

The phone company will set up a call to ensure the information you provided on the application is correct. It takes no more than 30 minutes.

The Medical Exam and Lab Tests

This is a free exam of your height, weight, BMI, blood pressure, and blood and urine tests.

If your tests reveal red flags, the insurance company may order an Attending Physician Statement (APS) to find out if there are any underlying conditions.

They will also conduct a prescription check of all medications prescribed to you in the past three to five years.

The Motor Vehicle Report

The insurance company will also look at your driving record. Tickets, accidents and DUIs can mean you’ll pay a higher premium. Some companies will deny a life policy based on a DUI.

The Actuarial Tables

This is where the underwriter takes the collected data and compares it to actuary tables to help get a sense of your life expectancy. The mortality table is a statistical baseline that uses your age and gender to predict when you’re most likely to die.

They may also use a build table, which uses your height and weight to further predict your life expectancy.

The older and heavier you are, the higher your premium will be.

The Risk Classifications

The insurance company uses classifications made up of people who share the same characteristics posing a specific level of risk. This is what will determine how much premium you will pay.

For instance, if you’re in excellent health, don’t smoke, work a desk job, have a clean driving record and have no risky hobbies, you’ll likely be classified in the Preferred Best, or Preferred Select group, which pays the lowest premiums.

Most people are placed in the Standard class, with characteristics being a bit overweight, having some medical issues and dings on their driving records, and engaging in a risky hobby or two once or twice a year.

To be in this group, you have to have been smoke-free for at least a year. People in this classification pay the baseline rate. If you smoke, you’ll be placed in a substandard class and pay a higher rate.


Once the company assigns your rating, they send you the contract for signature. If you’re not happy with the premium offered, you can negotiate or look for another company to work with. As stated earlier, every life insurance agency has different guidelines about what they are willing to risk and what they aren’t.


Your online life insurance quotes are the beginning. Underwriting allows you to find the best life insurance with the best company you can go the distance with.

What Is Wandy? The AI Wizard of Life Insurance, that’s who.

If you’ve requested a quote from PolicyWand, you’ve no doubt met Wandy. And after interacting with our cool little guy, our customers have been asking for more information about it.

Aggregating the Life Insurance Neural Highway

Wandy is what’s called an insurance aggregator neural network—loaded with tons of life insurance data that enables it to take your information, match it with its existing data, and respond back with a tailored quote in real time.


While Wandy’s primary function is to provide quotes and answer life insurance questions, its intuitive technology makes it an apt problem-solver.


Each query interaction expands  Wandy’s fluid insurance knowledge. As the insurance market changes, the rates change. Wandy tracks all of it, flexing its AI skills to anticipate and respond more effectively to new customer queries. The more Wandy’s used, the smarter it gets.


Wandy is not only a great student, but also a great host. The smart little avatar guides guests through the entire life insurance buying process, from initial greeting to setting an appointment with a live agent.


If you need to leave the interaction before setting an appointment, Wandy will remember you when you return. And when it introduces you to a live agent, that agent is fully armed with a customized plan to identify the best policy at the best price without shuffling through files while you wait.


But Why  Call it Wandy?


Society has been using digital technology day in and day out for decades now. Our phones are now extensions of our bodies.


But stop and consider how much goes on inside your phone or computer in one nanosecond—or your body for that matter. It’s magic. Are there codes involved? Sure. But codes are the magic words. You still need someone to wield the wand.


Wandy’s our guy. We hope you get the chance to collaborate with it soon.