6 ways to trim life insurance costs

"Shopping costs you nothing but energy and time," Weisbart says.

Comparing rates especially makes sense if you didn't get one of the top rankings with your original policy, he says. That's because along with the longer life spans, many life insurance companies are also taking into account developments in medicine over the last few decades when they price a policy.

"People who died of a condition years ago now live with it for years," he says.

So, if a company wouldn't even consider you for coverage years ago, you may just qualify today.

On the other hand, if your health has slipped significantly, or if you have put on more than a little weight, or have taken up smoking since you first bought your policy, you might do best by sticking with the old insurance, Udell says. That's because, even with the lower rates, you may not qualify for the best coverage anymore.

2. Get the right size 

If you are desperate to squeeze down your insurance costs, one option may be to reduce the amount of coverage you have.

"It's not the best solution, but it's better than dropping it altogether," Udell says.

Going with a smaller policy will reduce your premium, but the danger is twofold. First, if you were to die, your family may not have enough to replace your income. And second, once your finances improve, your health may not be as good, and that would mean you may have trouble getting that coverage back without having to pay an arm and a leg.

On the other hand, many older policies may be suffering from the opposite problem.

While a $100,000 life insurance policy seemed like a fortune in 1990, it may not be nearly enough to cover today's expenses, Weisbart says.

If that is the case, it may make sense to either buy a second policy to make up the difference, or even to cancel the old policy and replace it with a larger one at today's rates.

For help in determining how much life insurance coverage you need, consult Bankrate's life insurance calculator


3. Find the right kind of coverage 

Life insurance comes in two basic "flavors" – term and cash value.

The different types of policies make sense for different financial situations. With life insurance, one size certainly doesn't fit all, and with a tight budget, you may just find that your policy doesn't fit you anymore.

As a rule of thumb, term insurance is much, much less expensive than the cash value variety. And while cash-value insurance can come in handy for special circumstances, such as if you have a special-needs child, or to offer some financial stability in rough financial times, term insurance tends to rule with budget-conscious buyers.

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