How to Buy the Best Life Insurance in 7 Easy Steps [The Ultimate Guide]


Do you need life insurance?

Ever wonder what it’s like to go through the LONG process of researching and selecting a life insurance policy?

I highly recommend you get life insurance, but I don’t necessarily wish the buying process upon you.

It can be tough to navigate.

I’ll share my experience with buying my own term policy as well. This includes:

  • getting the life insurance quote,
  • selecting the insurance company,
  • taking medical exams,
  • filling out applications, and
  • a lot of waiting.

Here are the steps you need to complete while searching for and buying life insurance.

Hopefully, this comprehensive guide will give you the confidence to take the steps to protect your family.

If you don’t have life insurance, the best life insurance you can get is any life insurance.

Not that all insurance is good. But in the case of life insurance, I feel like people sit around and do nothing because they are confused by all of the choices or because it just takes so long.

Perfect really is the enemy of good here.

According to LIMRA, “Three in 10 American households (35 million) are uninsured and half say they need more life insurance.”

Truthfully, you do need to get the right kind of life insurance. But it isn’t that hard.

Most people will need a simple term life insurance policy, which probably costs less than your phone bill every month.

Other types of life insurance have their positives, but they are expensive or an investment component that confuses the product. For most people, life insurance should be nothing more than a replacement of income for their dependents when they die.

Today I’m going to tell you how to find the best term life insurance.

Table of Contents

What is Life Insurance?
What Life Insurance is Not
Who Needs Life Insurance?
When to Get Life Insurance
Step 1: Research the Type and Amount of Life Insurance
Step 2: Request a Life Insurance Quote Online
Step 3: Pick a Highly Rated Life Insurance Company
Step 4: Get a Life Insurance Health Exam
Step 5: Turn in Your Life Insurance Application
Step 6: Wait for the Insurance Underwriter
Step 7: Pay Your Life Insurance Premium
My Full Story – Buying Life Insurance in my 30s
My Friend Jason’s Thoughts on Buying Life Insurance for His Family

What is Life Insurance?

Life insurance is a contract between the policy owner (you) and the insurer, where the insurer agrees to pay a designated beneficiary a sum of money upon the occurrence of the insured individual’s or individuals’ death or other events, such as terminal illness or critical illness.

In return, the policy owner agrees to pay a stipulated amount called a premium at regular intervals or in lump sums.

What Life Insurance is Not

Life insurance is not an investment opportunity. I’m of the opinion that investing and life insurance are two separate things.

Insurance products that promise investment returns are just an expensive waste. Keep investing simple, inexpensive, and separate from your insurance goals.

Related: How to Keep Investing Simple and Get Started Today

Life insurance is not a waste of money if you don’t use it. You aren’t just throwing money away. Therefore, cheap isn’t always better. Make sure you get the proper amount, type, and quality of life insurance.

Who Needs Life Insurance?

The idea of life insurance never popped into my head until I had a kid. No one was solely dependent on my income until that point, nor did I have any debts jointly owned with Mrs. PT that she couldn’t handle on her own. That view was probably a bit short-sighted, but since I have a small policy with my current employer, I thought I was fine.

Related: The Different Types of Insurance and What Insurance You Need

Mrs. PT even had a small policy of her own when I met her and I encouraged her to drop it, thinking that no single person should ever own life insurance. I mean, who’s going to benefit besides her creditors?

Anyway, the general rule of thumb here is that if you’re single or married with no kids and each spouse has their own solid income, it’s unlikely that you need life insurance. Everyone not in that group should seriously consider life insurance to protect those dependent on their incomes.

When to Get Life Insurance

Life insurance isn’t needed until you have dependents in my opinion.

Once you have someone in your life that relies on your income and is unable to produce that income by themselves, if needed, then you need to look into life insurance. For most people, this means when they get married and/or have children.

Okay, now let’s get started with the seven steps to getting the insurance you need…

Step 1: Research the Type and Amount of Life Insurance to Buy

The last thing you want to do is get into the buying process without doing your own research. You need to understand how much coverage you need and what type.

Making those decisions is easy once you understand the different options.

And unless you have a particularly rare family situation, you don’t need an insurance salesman to tell you what type or how much to get.

While I’m sure there are some very helpful, honest insurance salesmen, you don’t really need them with the wealth of free information available to you on the subject. Shopping online can also help you find the best price.

Term Life Insurance is Best for Most

For most people, a simple term life insurance policy will do. Term life insurance ends after a specific period (or term). This makes it less expensive than other forms of life insurance and it also matches the needs of most people.

Related: The Best Life Insurance Companies [for Term Quotes]

Most people have dependents (kids, stay at home spouse, etc.) in their life for around 20 to 30 years. After the kids have left, and you’ve built up retirement savings, there isn’t much need for life insurance anymore.

This initial research process took me only a few days, but I took some time before requesting quotes. I ended up deciding that I needed a $500k 20-year term life insurance policy.

So How Much Life Insurance Should You Get?

A very logical question is “how much to get?” I’m going to throw out another rule of thumb here:8 to 10 times your current annual income. Your particular situation may warrant another number, but it’s best to be conservative and over-insure. Term insurance is not expensive, so the real risk lies buying too little.

Things to consider: ages of your kids, whether your spouse also brings in an equitable income, your level of dependence on both incomes, the amount of debt jointly owned by you and your spouse (the surviving spouse becomes solely responsible upon your death), and other factors. Do a search for “how much life insurance” calculators and work the numbers for yourself.

Also, the cost difference between $500,000 and $1M in term life insurance isn’t that great, so it won’t hurt to over-insure by a little.

If you’re already getting life insurance from your employer, don’t heavily count on it. You’re likely to change jobs at some point and your coverage typically won’t follow you. Plus, your rates and even your ability to buy life insurance at all depend on your health. If you get sick and lose your job you will also lose your coverage but will be unable to buy more due to your health.

Step 2: Request a Life Insurance Quote Online

Once you know what you need to buy, you can begin to shop around. As with any major purchase, it’s good to shop around and try and find the best deal you can. Here are some options for where to shop:

  • Use a Life Insurance Broker to Get Quotes: Insurance brokers are usually paid by the insurance companies to bring you in, so there’s no extra cost applied to you. A broker is going to have access to different insurance companies’ policies and rates. Therefore, they can help you find the best price.  Read: Bestow life insurance review
  • Go Straight to the Insurance Company to Get a Quote: If you already have auto or home insurance with the likes of an Allstate or State Farm, you should see what they can offer in the way of life insurance and a combined policy discount.
  • Consider Your Employer for Life Insurance: If you work for a big company, odds are they already have you set up with a life insurance policy with a minimal amount of coverage. They also will usually offer more coverage at reasonable prices. You definitely need to compare these prices to see if it makes sense to just buy more from them.

People with current health issues should especially consider this insurance because your company is likely not going to require a health exam or deny you because of previous health issues. Keep in mind that you need to make sure that the policy can be converted to your own term life insurance policy in the event you leave the company.

Back when I purchased my policy there wasn’t a huge list of online insurance companies to use. So requested quotes with Zander insurance (the Dave Ramsey endorsed insurance broker), Allstate (my home’s insurer), and ING (now Voya), who had recently started offering insurance through ReliaStar. I also checked out my employer options. The quoting process took only a day.

I personally ended up getting my 20-year term life insurance plan with ReliaStar. They aren’t around anymore, so I suggest shopping around.

Where to Get Life Insurance Quotes Online

Though I had few options for getting quotes online when I bought my policy, the insurance world online has gotten much bigger since then. These days, you don’t even have to get out of your pajamas to access and compare life insurance quotes.

One of the best options out there, especially if you’re generally healthy, is Bestow. The entire application process is online and you can get a quote within minutes. This is the kind of process I wish I had when I was buying my policy. Here’s more information about Bestow to help you decide if it’s a good fit:

Bestow: Fast and Free Life Insurance Quote Online


Bestow offers a one-stop process for getting a life insurance quote online. There is no medical exam required and no endless paperwork to fill out. The company uses its own technology called “accelerated underwriting” to underwrite policies it offers in-house. More info…show

Check out our full review of Bestow here or get a life insurance quote now.

Step 3: Pick a Highly Rated Life Insurance Company

After you get your quote information, don’t rely on price alone to make the decision. I feel safe saying that you wouldn’t want to go with an insurer with a rating less than A. You might also consider doing some general searching online for any issues/complaints with the particular insurer.

I ended up picking ReliaStar. They had the best price, good service, and a good enough rating.

Step 4: Get a Life Insurance Health Exam

Once you decide on a company, they’ll want you to complete a health exam. They will cover this expense, but you’ll need to schedule some time with the medical company that they use to complete the exam.

The exam usually involves a questionnaire, blood samples, height and weight measurements, and a request for medical records. It’s typically done at a time convenient for you, at your home, and is really quick.

I dreaded the exam portion of this process, but it ended up not being that bad. The examiner was very professional and it was over with quickly. It took about two weeks from the time I requested the quote to get the exam performed.

Step 5: Turn in Your Life Insurance Application

The application is usually given to the exam company, who then passes it, along with exam results, to the insurance company’s underwriter, who decides on your insurance class. You may be given the option to pay for your policy at the exam and lock in your insurance. I opted not to do this and to wait to see the final price.

Step 6: Wait for the Insurance Underwriter

An underwriter is a person working for the insurance company who decides if they can insure you and how much it will cost to do it. They factor in as much information as they can about you. The biggest factors are obviously age and health.

There’s usually at least a two-week wait from the time the exam is complete till the underwriter makes the determination.

Step 7: Pay Your Life Insurance Premium

Finally, when the underwriter is done, you’ll be sent your policy and information to make your payment. Once payment is received, you’re insured.

So that’s what you can expect when trying to get life insurance. It’s not an easy process. But I do feel strongly that it’s worth the hassle. I’m happy with the coverage I now have and I rest a bit easier knowing that my family has a bit of protection in the event something happens to me.

My Full Story–Buying Life Insurance in my 30s

When I first started this blog I was clueless about life insurance. It’s just one of those products no one wants to talk about. I started caring about it about the time I found out we were having a baby.

Over the years I picked up a lot of good information and formed an opinion about what type and how much life insurance product works best for me. I actually have a small policy through work, but it’s only for a small amount. I knew I needed more.

Our plan was simple: purchase a term life insurance policy (likely 20-25 yrs) on me, the primary earner, for five times my current income.

We’d shop around at the following providers to determine the best place to purchase the policy: Allstate (current home and auto insurer), (Dave Ramsey recommendation), and through my professional organization discounts.

We also wanted this policy from a provider with a high rating.

Here’s our mentality going into this decision…

We plan on living well within our means throughout our lives. In fact, our goal is to be able to live within one of our incomes at all times. Even when Mrs. PT (who’s now in grad school) goes back to work full-time. That being the case, we hope that life insurance is never a big part of our overall risk reduction plan. We plan on “self-insuring” as much as possible by eliminating our debts and building solid savings and retirement accounts.

The reason I’m focusing only on life insurance right now is two-fold: most other forms of insurance are required (e.g. home owner’s insurance if you have a mortgage, auto insurance) and life insurance is something a lot of people need, but just haven’t taken the time to purchase.

I realize I could write the rest of my life about how to spend less on other forms of insurance. That is important. But not as important, I believe, as getting those without life insurance, who need it (including myself), signed up with a policy.

I’m in my 40s now. I’m married with three little kids. My wife doesn’t work but could if she needed to. Back in my 30s, I purchased a $500,000, 20-year term life insurance policy from ReliaStar.

Essentially, if I died in the next 20 years my wife will get $500,000 to use to support her and the kids. If I don’t die during this 20 years, the policy is worth $0 + peace of mind. I pay around $45 a month for this policy and the security of knowing that if I were to croak, my family would have a safety net.

Life insurance is important for my family to have because I want my kids to be raised by their mom and not a daycare. I want my wife and kids to be able to stay in this house if they want to. I also want my wife to not have to work for every dollar that she needs to support the kids.

We had our children because we thought I’d always be around to help support my family. If I’m gone, I want there to be some financial support in my place.

I picked ReliaStar as our life insurance provider because they have a solid rating from A.M. Best, Moody’s, S&P, and Fitch, who all rate the best term life insurance companies. If you are looking for the best term life insurance company I would encourage you to check the ratings with these agencies.

Don’t stop there though. Check with your employer, current auto or home insurance provider, trade organizations, etc. Scour the globe and get quotes to truly find the best term life insurance rates.

After you’ve looked at quotes and ratings of companies for yourself, you may start to wonder about term and amount. Is 20-year, $500K right for you? Not necessarily.

The best life insurance term for you is primarily going to depend on your kids’ ages. Typically someone with a newborn (and more kids on the way) goes for a 25 to 30-year policy.

As for the best life insurance amount, just make sure it’s enough to cover your funeral, pay off all your debts, and replace your income. If you’re a stay at home parent you may want to consider getting insurance to replace the value of you being home (i.e. a full-time nanny or at least daycare).

So that’s my take on finding the best term life insurance. It’s really not that hard or expensive. Do it today!

Why did you choose term life insurance?

I decided term life insurance was the way to go (vs whole life insurance or some other product) for the following reasons:

1. I plan to self-insure in the future. Twenty years from now I won’t need life insurance. I’m planning on having at least $500,000 of my own at that point. I’m taking serious steps with my retirement and short-term savings so that as soon as I’m able I can drop life insurance and rely on my own stash.

2. I’m of the opinion that investing and life insurance are two separate things. Why the heck did investing ever get involved with life insurance? Insurance products that promise investment returns are just an expensive waste. Keep investing simple, inexpensive, and separate from your insurance goals.

3. It’s inexpensive now. I was able to get my term life, 20-year, $500k policy for around $45 a month. For what it’s worth, I’m in my mid-30s, a non-smoker, and in good health. My weight was the only thing that took me down from the elite to the standard rates.

4. I don’t have a child with special needs. People with children with special needs should consider a whole life insurance policy since they may have a dependent for the rest of their lives.

Why did you choose a 20-year policy?

I decided on 20 years vs 25 or 30 because, again, I plan to be self-insured in 20 years. And, I expect all my kids to be close to adulthood by that point. They are why I’m getting life insurance, so it makes sense that I drop the insurance about the time they don’t need me anymore.

Why did you choose a $500,000 policy?

I decided on $500k because that would be enough to replace a good portion of my income. If I passed, my wife would still have to work (which she plans to do anyway), but the extra income would allow her to breathe easy and not put our home, her retirement, or our kid’s education at risk. Life insurance is all about the replacement of income. But no one says it needs to be 100 percent. Especially for a couple that already lives well below their means.

What’s the Deal with Whole Life Insurance and is it an Investment?

A friend recently contacted me through my Facebook profile saying that he had someone trying to sell him a whole life insurance policy. My friend is a single guy with no dependents. I immediately advised him that he doesn’t need life insurance at this point and that anyone suggesting he “invest” in a whole life policy is likely just wanting a commission. My friend, who’s in his 30’s with little or no debt, could do much better to invest his extra money in index funds and interest-bearing savings accounts.

So are whole life policies inherently bad? I think they’re not. It could be said though that most people just don’t need them. Liz Weston points out a couple of situations where whole life might be a good choice:

  1. People with disabled and/or permanently dependent children
  2. People that are extremely wealthy that need insurance money to cover their estate taxes

Although there are many types of insurance products that fall under the “whole life” umbrella, it can generally be said that they are often more expensive, unnecessarily complex, and make poor use of your extra savings.

Still, insurance in whatever form is simply a financial product that can be used for positive or negative results.

My Friend Jason’s Thoughts on Buying Life Insurance for His Family

PT’s note: I asked Jason Price, my friend and fellow blogger to share his thoughts on why he chose to get life insurance. Here’s Jason…

In my single years, after I got my first job, I quickly learned that I needed a monthly budget to manage my expenses, otherwise, I wasn’t going to make any progress and likely miss a rent payment.

In fact, my dad instilled the importance of setting aside some money every month in a savings account to plan for the unknown.

What I didn’t realize until a few years later, was that, overall, I needed to mature financially.

Financial Maturity

As a single guy, I wasn’t thinking big picture about major financial decisions and what life would look like 10 years or more down the road. I wasn’t thinking about responsibilities you one day have as life gets bigger:

  • Having a family one day and the cost of raising children.
  • Combining finances with the future love of my life and how we would manage our money together.
  • Putting food on the table for my family.
  • Getting out of and staying out of debt.
  • Saving adequately for retirement.
  • Getting a life insurance policy and protection for our family.

How could I? I was only a young adult and had no understanding of this level of responsibility. And I didn’t have the opportunity to take a personal finance class in school!

Suddenly, everything changed. I got married.

Getting married is a wonderful event in life. It made me grow and mature in many ways and certainly, with my finances. My marriage made me think about the importance of my financial decisions and planning for the future.

The Importance of Life Insurance

Marriage made me think about life insurance too. One of the books I learned a lot from years ago was written by David Bach, Smart Couples Finish Rich. It covered a wide variety of topics, including building your “retirement basket”, “security basket” and “dream basket.”My time as a single man was mostly focused on my dream basket, but “marriage me” now needed to be focused on retirement and security baskets.

Life insurance is central to a good security basket and it became really important to me because of my love for my wife. We had established a new life together. She was finally able to stop working when we had our first child. The last thing we wanted to do was talk about the unthinkable, but you have to be wise and plan for the future. You have to make sure everything is in order for your loved ones.

Could my wife go on living with enough financial support to take care of herself and our first child, or would she be stuck with debt, lack of funds to pay for funeral costs and looking for a job all in a time of mourning?

David Bach says this about life insurance:

Protection Plan

So, we got a protection plan! I made sure that my wife and daughter were protected and today our coverage is enough to replace my salary for many years and support my wife and now two children.

There are different types of life insurance and I won’t bore you with all the details. The purpose of this story is to prompt you to take action.

There are simply two types of life insurance (whole and term) and the majority of people need a term life insurance policy. Term insurance provides you with set protection for set amount of time for a set price. It’s simple, the least expensive and the easiest to understand.

Taking financial responsibility feels good. I feel like I’ve taken an important and responsible step to protect my family. They won’t have to worry about paying for my funeral and they can have peace of mind knowing they are supported for years if I were to pass away.

Life insurance for us is a critical financial tool in our tool belt. Term policies are so cheap that most people can find room in their budgets and this makes getting life insurance an absolute no-brainer. I highly encourage you to take action today!

Bottom Line: You Should Buy Life Insurance?

As you can tell from my thoughts above, I’m of the belief that purchasing life insurance is a good thing for those who need it.

If you aren’t self-insured and you have someone other than yourself dependent on your income (and they will be for some time), then it’s probably wise to get yourself some life insurance.

A good term policy can be had for the price of Internet service each month. So if you are reading this blog post, you can likely afford it.

Next Step: Compare the best life insurance companies or get a free life insurance quote from Bestow

Have you purchased life insurance? Was your process similar? If you haven’t purchased it, what’s holding you back?

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  1. Avatar Tom Wachowski says:

    Nice, simple article, PT. Helpful for many folks.
    I did disagree with one part though… Hiring an agent. You were correct, hiring an agent doesn’t cost any more. So why not get human help from someone you can call 24/7 for service or… The dreaded claim (hopefully not).
    Can you get all that with an online broker? Sure. But I can do my taxes with software, too… But I hire a real human (expert I can call anytime) for that. Life insurance agents (ones with a fiduciary mindset) are parallel in that regard.
    Plus, most agents are entrepreneurs… Why not support local business owners (round about).
    Just a thought.
    Again, great article!

  2. Avatar Richard Jonas says:

    @PT Hello Craig. Great post but I’d like to offer a different point of view on your comment and several others that express the same general opinion that life insurance doesn’t make sense for a single, young adult with no kids
    Here’s an important fact about life insurance – the younger you are and the healthier you are, the less expensive life insurance coverage will be. As a healthy young person, you could lock in an incredibly inexpensive 30 year policy. The cost is guaranteed to never increase. To start with, you could name a friend, parent, or sibling as the beneficiary. If you eventually got married and/or had kids, you could change the beneficiary to your spouse or a child without ANY increase in the cost or having to go through the application process again. This gives you great flexibility for the future as well as incredibly affordable premiums. The best time to buy life insurance is always ASAP.
    For example, a 25 year old, non-smoking female can get 30 years of guaranteed coverage with a benefit of $250,000.00 for only $16.55 per month.

  3. Avatar getrichwithme1 says:

    life cover is the first thing you should buy after a wedding band or if you make a commitment to someone you love.
    We all want our partners to be able to enjoy a reasonable standard of living if we’re no longer around.
    The thought raising a family on a single income, and childcare is frightening

  4. Avatar Canadainsuranceplan says:

    About 48 Million Americans do not have Insurance which is a huge amount to look through and solve the issue of insurance , even though insurance is said to be started as soon as we start our first salaried job.

  5. Philip:  This is a great distillation of a process that a lot of people get lost in or intimidated by. 
    One quick point: is not actually a broker.  They (like many, if not most of the big online sites) are just a lead generation site that tries to get your contact info and then sends it on to an agent who pays for the lead.  They call it a ‘referral’ service.
    I always think it’s nice for people to know that there are a small number of online sites out there where they can research price without divulging their personal information or being treated like a lead in that way: (full disclosure: my company) and are two such sites.

  6. Avatar Thirtysixmonths says:

    It’s important that we protect our love ones. A life insurance is one of the best ways we can do this,

  7. Avatar Money Life and More says:

    I haven’t purchased life insurance yet but will be when we decide to have a kid or have a need for it before then.

  8. Avatar Aaron @ Clarifinancial says:

    I just saw this over on the Black Coffee. I like how you outlined buying life insurance like it’s not scary.. because it shouldn’t be. I also like how you went to a few different sources to compare life insurance quotes because no single agent knows all the answers for you. Of course, if you were able to compare multiple agents in one place, that would be nice too;)

  9. Avatar Jo/GaelicWench says:

    I have 30-year term life insurance (250k) which my two children are the beneficiaries 50/50. It is with USAA.

    I checked the rating on USAA and it’s got a triple A rating…..extremely strong. I take comfort in this knowing that if something happens to me, they will receive the proceeds in full.

  10. I love the image. Looks like Marfa. Good advice on the life insurance…it’s always good to know that if something ever happens to me my family is set up.

  11. @Craig – Yeah, I see no reason for the single man to get it. Enjoy it while ya can! 🙂

  12. Being young, single, healthy, I figure I have no need for it now since I am only responsible for myself, but should look into it more for when the time comes.

  13. Avatar Investing 101 For Dummies says:

    Between term and whole life insurance, the sensible choice is term life insurance and investing the difference. This list will help people who are in the process of getting life insurance. Wish you had put it up a few years back, when I was shopping for my own policy 🙂

  14. Good to know, Ken. Thanks.

  15. I went through these same steps 3 years ago and went with ING reliastar as well. Wow!
    This is good information. Thanks

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