You know life insurance is an important tool for protecting your loved ones but have no idea how premiums are calculated or which aspects of your application could cause your rates to go up (or down). You’re in good company.

More than half of Americans viewed purchasing life insurance as “complicated” according to a 2016 survey.

Before you start comparing life insurance policies, it’s essential to understand life insurance basics. Here are eight factors that could affect your premiums:

1. Age: Your date of birth is the No. 1 factor in determining your life insurance rate. Younger policyholders pay lower premiums. As you age, the likelihood an insurer will have to pay out on your policy increases, therefore the premiums increase.

2. Gender: Women tend to live longer than men (in the United States, the average life expectancy for women is 86.6; it’s 84.3 for men), which means women generally pay less for life insurance than men do.

3. Health History: Insurers may require a medical exam and access to your health records before issuing a policy. A history of health conditions, especially serious illnesses such as heart disease and cancer, will increase your premiums. Insurers will also look at your weight, cholesterol levels, blood pressure and other metrics that could indicate a higher risk for future health issues.

4. Family Health History: Even if you have no current health issues, a family history of illness, especially hereditary diseases, could increase the cost of your coverage.

5. Smoking: The health risks associated with smoking, including potentially fatal diseases like cancer, will increase the cost of life insurance premiums. If you’ve quit smoking since purchasing life insurance (congrats!), call your provider to see if your new nonsmoker status will lower your rate.

6. Hobbies: Do you spend weekends skydiving? Have a passion for racing cars? High-risk activities could lead to higher premiums. What one insurer considers high-risk, another might not. It may pay to shop around for quotes if you regularly participate in high-risk hobbies.

7. Occupation: Certain occupations, including logging workers, fishers and aircraft pilots, can be considered riskier than others. Insurers will ask about your line of work as part of the application process, and your premiums could be higher if you have an occupation that exposes you to toxic chemicals or requires you to perform dangerous duties. 

8. The Policy: The specifics of the life insurance policy you choose will also play a role in determining your premium. Policies issued for larger benefits amounts over longer terms generally cost more than policies with smaller benefits amounts issued for shorter periods. Whole or permanent life insurance policies tend to be more expensive than term life insurance policies.

Understanding how rates are calculated — and making changes such as losing weight, quitting smoking or adopting a healthy lifestyle to lower your blood pressure and cholesterol — can help you make smart decisions for picking the right policy at the right price.

We Can Help!

Our life insurance calculator can help you determine how much coverage you may currently need. We offer three types of life insurance: term life, whole life and universal life. Talk with your Farm Bureau agent to see which type is right for you!