Purchasing life insurance coverage is one of the best ways to secure your family’s financial future, but it can be difficult to find the plan that’s right for you. How do you choose between term life and whole life insurance? Both have their merits—and downsides—so it’s important to understand what each entails in order to make an informed decision.

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What is Term Life Insurance Coverage?

Term life insurance offers financial protection for a specific period or term. This period typically ranges from 10 to 30 years. Here’s a quick overview of what you can expect from term insurance:

  • Term life insurance coverage is generally less expensive than whole life, making it an attractive option for individuals seeking affordability. 
  • It’s straightforward and easy to understand, providing a death benefit to your beneficiaries if you pass away during the term.
  • There is no cash value component, meaning it does not act as an investment or savings vehicle. 

Think of it like renting an apartment: you may not be putting firm roots down like you would by purchasing a house, but you’ll get temporary coverage that “gives you a place to stay” during periods of uncertainty. 

What If I Outlive My Term Life Insurance?

If you suspect you will need coverage after the term ends, it would be prudent to start planning well ahead of the coverage termination date. Most plans offer a conversion rider that allows you to convert your term policy into a permanent plan without a medical exam. 

However, if your plan does not come with a conversion rider, you will need to start shopping around for a permanent policy. It’s especially important to purchase additional insurance if you have dependents relying on your income or significant wealth, as it can help with estate planning.

Understanding Whole Life Insurance Coverage

Whole life insurance, as the term implies, provides coverage for your entire lifetime. It can be complex and typically comes with higher premiums, but its long-term benefits make it an attractive option for many. Generally, whole life insurance:

  • Offers a fixed premium and death benefit for the duration of the policyholder’s life. 
  • Includes a savings component, known as cash value, which grows tax-deferred at a guaranteed rate. 
  • Allows policyholders to borrow against the cash value or even surrender the policy for the cash value if needed. 

This type of insurance is best for those seeking lifelong peace of mind. If you don’t want to be scrambling to find new coverage options once your term insurance ends, consider purchasing whole life insurance.

Why It’s a Great Investment

As mentioned previously, whole life insurance offers a great cash value benefit. It grows over time and can be accessed through loans or withdrawals. Term life insurance coverage, by contrast, does not typically offer this sort of benefit—it only “pays out” if the insured dies within the term coverage period.

In addition, many policies pay dividends. These dividends can be used to reduce premium payments, purchase more coverage, or be taken as cash. Over time, this can boost the policy’s overall value.

Comparing Insurance Options

There are several points to consider before selecting a life insurance policy. If you’re having trouble deciding between term and whole life insurance, here are some key considerations to keep in mind.


Life insurance costs vary based on numerous factors, including age, sex, and lifestyle. For example, a 30-year-old female nonsmoker can expect to pay about $186 for term coverage each year, and $4,407 for whole-life insurance coverage. The difference in cost between whole and term life insurance can be huge, so it’s important to gather multiple quotes for comparison.

Investment Savings

Whole life insurance, with its built-in savings features, can be extremely beneficial for individuals who struggle to save money otherwise. The policy’s cash value can serve as a nest egg or emergency fund later in life.

Duration of Coverage

While term life insurance may expire without ever paying out—in the event that the policyholder outlives the term—whole life insurance is guaranteed to provide a payout eventually, as long as the premiums are paid. This assurance can offer valuable peace of mind to policyholders. 

Which is Right For You?

The decision between term and whole life insurance coverage is a highly personal one. You should choose a policy based on your individual circumstances. Term insurance may be better for parents with young children and a mortgage, for example, because the family may be dependent on the policyholder’s income.

On the other hand, if you’re seeking lifelong coverage, need help with estate planning, or are looking to pad your savings, whole insurance may be the better option. It’s also beneficial for those with reason to believe they will outline their term policies. 

Equipped with the right information, you can proceed with confidence and choose a plan that will serve you and your family for years to come. 


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