Life Insurance Glossary of Basic Terms

Life insurance concepts and terms can be confusing! Before you decide to purchase a life insurance policy, you need to understand the definitions of a few basic terms.  Below is a short list of the most basic (and most important) life insurance terms you need to be familiar if you are planning on having any sort of conversation with a life insurance agent.

What is the Beneficiary?

The beneficiary is the person who will receive money if the insured dies.  For example, if you started a life insurance policy today, you would have to specify who you’d like the money to go to if you pass on.  If you are married, you’d most likely choose your spouse to be the beneficiary.  The beneficiary of your life insurance policy, however, doesn’t have to be your spouse.  It can be a relative or close friend.  The important thing is that you as the insured choose the beneficiary.

What is the Death Benefit?

As described in most life insurance policies, the death benefit is the money that your beneficiary will receive if you pass on.  When you started your life insurance policy, you were required to attached an amount of money to the policy.  This money is termed the death benefit.  The death benefit can range from as low as $50,000 all the way up to $5,000,000 and even more!  The most common amounts for the death benefit range between $250,000 and $2,000,000.

What is the Term?

The term is the length of time the insurance company is required to honor the policy (as long as you stay current with your payments).  Terms can range anywhere from 5 years all the way up to 20 years and longer.  The longer the term, the more expensive the insurance will be.  Also, the older the insured, the more expensive the insurance will be.  Most life insurance policies don’t have a term; term life insurance policies are the only type of life insurance that have an expiration date.

What is Cash Value?

Most life insurance policies have a cash value associated with them.  This means if, for whatever reason, an insured needs to cancel the insurance, or possibly allow it to lapse, he or she will receive some money.  The reason for this is because whole and universal life insurance policies couple as investment and savings vehicles.  They provide a lot more benefit then just insurance against death.  Payments for whole and universal policies are much larger than payments for a term life insurance policy, but with whole and universal life insurance, a portion of that money is being invested and saved for you.

What is a Rider?

A rider is a provision or addition added to the policy.  Adding children to a life insurance policy is considered a rider.  If your children die, you can receive a small amount of money if you added your children as riders onto your policy.  Riders don’t have to be children.  It is any provision that you choose to add to the policy outlining restrictions or limitations.

Author: Tom

As I was researching life insurance for myself and my family, I decided that it might be helpful to put what I learned into an impartial, unbiased guide so that other people might have a shortcut to learning about life insurance: it's just too easy to get lost in all the information on the internet!

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