How and Why to Buy Life Insurance After Age 80

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Quick Answer

If you’re thinking about buying a life insurance policy for yourself (or buying one on your parents), you will find that the prices and limitations increase along with age. By the time the insured reaches age 80, finding the right policy can be a bit tricky.

Of course, this doesn’t mean that it’s impossible. While you can certainly buy life insurance at 80, you can expect to have a higher premium than if you were younger, and be required to pass additional medical tests prior to your approval. You’re also more limited in the term length that you can purchase.

Let’s take a look at everything that’s involved with buying life insurance after 80.

Once you hit 80 years old, your priorities have shifted. You are no longer focused on your career, as you have likely long-since retired. Your children, and even grandchildren, are grown and independent, and you may even have great-grandchildren to think about. You’re probably living off of your retirement savings, rather than the income from a job.

All of this makes life insurance less of a necessity than it may have been earlier in your life. Without little ones running around the house, a mortgage, and even student loan payments to think about, you may wonder why life insurance would be worth the cost at 80.

Well, no matter your age, there are merits to buying a life insurance policy. It’s true that the older you are, the more hoops you’ll have to jump through. However, this doesn’t mean that you can’t still find the perfect policy to meet your needs, even at an older age.

Life Changes Around Age 80

The average American currently retires around age 63 (here’s a look at how that varies by state, if you’re curious). This means that by the time you hit 80, you’re unlikely to be working full-time to support yourself or your family. Instead, you’re probably living off of your retirement savings, a pension, or government benefits, rather than relying on income from your job.

Considering that one of the biggest reasons for buying life insurance is to replace your lost income, this may limit your need for a policy (or at least lower the amount of coverage you should buy).

As you get older, there are also fewer people relying on you for financial, emotional, or physical support, too. Your children (and even their children) are probably grown and leading their own lives. Unless you have a spouse or adult child with a disability or special needs, or an aging parent who still relies on you, you may not need as much life insurance as you once did.

Lastly, once you hit age 80, your finances will change. By this point, you are likely to have paid off your mortgage long ago, don’t hold any loans that could transfer to loved ones, and you probably don’t owe on your vehicle, if you still choose to drive. All of this means that you have fewer (if any) debts to consider when calculating your life insurance needs.

However, just because your situation has changed, that doesn’t mean that buying a policy after age 80 can’t still be a wise move.

Why to Buy Coverage at 80

There are a few great reasons to buy life insurance after 80, mostly based on want versus need.

First, though, if there is anyone who relies on you for their day-to-day care – such as a spouse, parent, or adult child with needs – you will need to take this into consideration when calculating your life insurance policy. In-home care and assisted-living facilities cost a pretty penny, and the bill can add up quickly. Think about how much money would be required to replace the caregiving you currently provide, and buy a policy that covers at least this much.

If you have grown children or loved ones, you may choose to use a life insurance policy to better their lives in a financial way. The payout from a policy could have an impact on everyone you leave behind, no matter its size.

For instance, you could use life insurance to fund a celebration of life in your honor, for your family. The payout from a policy could be your way of getting everyone you love together in an exciting place, such as paying for them all to go to a city you love or your birth country. Planning a big trip for an entire family can be a significant cost; your life insurance proceeds could be directed toward such an adventure, if you so choose.

You could also use life insurance to build wealth for your loved ones. This could mean buying a big enough policy to pay off a child’s mortgage, establish college funds for the grandchildren (and great-grandchildren), or pay for big events like weddings. Want to encourage philanthropy? You could leave behind enough funds that each member of your family can have an impact on the cause of their choosing.

You can also use life insurance to directly benefit the causes you’re most passionate about. Proceeds can be used to establish a scholarship fund for children you wish to encourage, or to support a charity that’s near and dear to your heart.

Lastly, there are many who reach their 80s and are simply concerned with the cost of final expenses, which their family will be left to cover. This makes buying life insurance a cost-effective and wise choice, even if the policy is small. Considering that the average funeral costs around $8,500, buying a policy simply to cover burial expenses can have a big impact on your loved ones.

Even if you don’t have the typical financial concerns of decades past – like a mortgage or small children – this doesn’t mean that life insurance can’t still have a big impact on those you leave behind.

What to Buy

Term life and whole life insurance are very different products. The former is typically more affordable and offers a set timeframe (“term”) for coverage. The latter, on the other hand, is traditionally much more expensive, offering a product that builds a cash value over time.

Once you hit 80, though, much of this changes. In fact, once you reach this age, whole life might actually be the less expensive option.

This is because some types of whole life policies have different underwriting processes compared to term life. As you age, term life policies can often have more requirements, with additional medical exams and questionnaires required and an ever-increasing price tag to boot.

Also keep in mind that, depending on your health history, you may not even be able to find traditional coverage. There are companies that will insure adults up to age 89, but they are few and far between. If you choose a term policy, the length will likely be only a few years (10 at the absolute most, but that’s extremely rare).

What you’re most likely to find at this age is burial (or funeral) insurance. This policy is really a fancy name for a small amount of whole life coverage.  These smaller policies are designed for older customers, intended to cover final expenses and take the burden off of their family. Most often, coverage is limited to between $5,000 and $50,000, and they often do not require a medical exam.

Some of these policies have a graded benefit policy, which means that the amount your beneficiaries will receive increases over time. For example, if you pass away within the first year of buying the policy, your loved ones will only receive back your premiums paid plus interest. In year two, they might receive 50% of the policy value, though, and get 100% of the value in year three or beyond. You’ll likely encounter this type of coverage if you have a significant health concern.

What the Search is Like

You’ll find much fewer options when looking for life insurance at age 80, compared with just a few years prior. While you may have had many companies to choose from at 60 or even 70, the list really seems to dwindle when you cross the 80s threshold.

If you’re lucky enough to find a term policy that will offer you coverage, you can expect to be checked over thoroughly. The company will usually order at least the last 5 years of your medical records, ensuring that you don’t have a serious or undisclosed condition. You can also expect to endure the usual medical exam, questionnaire, and EKG, in addition to tests like a cognitive or mobility screen.

You can also expect to pay a high premium. After all, with the average life expectancy being about 86 for women and 84 for men, life insurance companies know that their 80+ customers are more likely to utilize their policies.

If buying burial insurance, things will be a bit easier. These policies offer lower amounts of coverage – typically between $5,000 and $50,000 – and are intended to cover your final expenses. While your age will still factor into the premiums, these policies offer a low-coverage option for those simply seeking to pay for a funeral and such.

Of course, your family isn’t limited to using these funds for your funeral, even though that’s the intent of the policy. Be sure to make your wishes known to your loved ones, if you want the money to be utilized in a specific way.

Application Requirements

The application process is still fairly straightforward, once you find an insurance company willing to offer you coverage at your age.

You’ll need to submit an application and choose the coverage options that best suit your needs. Once you’re given a quote, the medical exam process can begin (unless choosing a whole life/funeral insurance option with guaranteed acceptance, which doesn’t require a medical exam).

This will include blood work, a urinalysis, an EKG, and additional age-related screenings for cognition and mobility. You will also be asked to confirm your questionnaire answers, and the company will request your last few years’ worth of medical records.

How Much You Can Expect to Spend

It’s much more difficult to gauge just how much life insurance will cost after age 80. There are so many factors at play, including the type and amount of coverage, your health status, and exam results.

However, you can expect to pay at least a few hundred dollars a month for term coverage. If you want to buy a whole life (burial insurance) policy, the cost may even be greater. The benefit to the latter, of course, is that you can often find guaranteed acceptance. And once you reach age 80, this guarantee of approval is worth its weight in gold.

Curious about life insurance at any age? Give us a call and let us walk you through your options. We have licensed life insurance agents available to answer your questions, offer free quotes, and help you decide exactly what kind of coverage will best suit your needs.

Peace of mind starts at $14/month*

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*Sample quote is based on 35-year-old healthy male in California receiving a $250,000 10-year Term Life policy (Policy Form # I L1702) underwritten by Assurity Life Insurance Company.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
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Stephanie Colestock is a freelance editor and personal finance writer, who is passionate about financial planning and getting out of debt. Her writing has appeared on authoritative sites such as Forbes, USNews, Daily Finance, and Dough Roller, among others. She graduated from Baylor University, but now lives in Washington, D.C. with her two young sons (who are learning how to wisely manage their own money).

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