Is Guaranteed Life Insurance Worth It?

You can buy a guaranteed life insurance policy regardless of your health, as long as you meet the age requirements. But while such policies are widely advertised and easy to obtain, they may not be the best choice for you.

Key Takeaways

  • Guaranteed life insurance requires no medical exam or health information from the applicant.
  • It is typically sold to people between the ages of 50 and 80 who want a small life insurance policy ($5,000 to $25,000) to cover their final expenses.
  • These policies have waiting periods (often two or three years) before they will pay the full death benefit.
  • Compared with other forms of life insurance, guaranteed life is expensive.

Understanding Guaranteed Life Insurance

Guaranteed life insurance, also known as guaranteed issue or guaranteed acceptance life insurance, is a type of whole life insurance. People can buy a policy without taking a medical exam or answering questions about their health, which might make them ineligible for other kinds of life insurance. To highlight that selling point, guaranteed life is often promoted with slogans like “you can’t be turned down.”

Compared with other types of life insurance, guaranteed life insurance has a low death benefit, usually between $5,000 and $25,000, depending on the company and the policy. As an example of the costs, a 70-year-old woman in Illinois would pay a monthly premium of $38.23 for a $5,000 policy from Gerber Life Insurance, while a $25,000 policy would cost her $187.46 a month. (That includes a discount she’d receive by making automatic monthly payments from her bank account.) As with most guaranteed life insurance, those premiums would remain the same for the life of the policy.

How the death benefit works

A guaranteed life policy must typically be in force for a certain waiting period, such as two or three years, before the policyholder dies for their beneficiary to receive the full death benefit. If the policyholder dies sooner than that, the beneficiary will receive a reduced, or “graded,” death benefit. 

Consider the policy offered by the major insurer, American General Life. It will pay an amount equal to 110% to 120% of the premiums the policyholder had paid if that person dies of natural causes within the first two years. In the case of accidental death during that period, the beneficiary would receive the full death benefit. If the policyholder dies after two years, the beneficiary will receive the full death benefit, regardless of the cause of death.

Guaranteed life insurance shouldn’t be confused with simplified issue life insurance, though the two products are similar. Like guaranteed issue life insurance, simplified issue life insurance doesn’t require a medical exam. However, the applicant is required to answer some health-related questions, which the insurer uses to determine their eligibility for a policy and, if they’re accepted, the rates they’ll pay. Simplified issue life insurance may also take the form of a term life, rather than whole life, policy. 

Even people who have serious preexisting medical conditions are often eligible for regular life insurance at a lower cost than guaranteed life insurance.

Who Is Guaranteed Life Insurance For?

Guaranteed life insurance is generally marketed to people between the ages of 50 and 80 or 85. The policy will remain in force for the rest of the policyholder’s life, as long as they continue to pay their premiums. 

Because of its relatively low death benefit, policyholders often buy a guaranteed life insurance policy to cover their end-of-life expenses, such as a funeral, or to pay off any small debts they leave behind. In that way, it is similar to final expense or burial insurance. Both guaranteed life and burial insurance are whole-life policies with a smallish death benefit. However, burial insurance may require that the applicant provide at least some information on the state of their health.

People may also buy guaranteed life insurance in the mistaken belief that it is the only kind of insurance they are eligible for because of health problems. In fact, having a chronic, preexisting condition doesn’t necessarily make other types of life insurance unobtainable, although it may make them more expensive. Among the conditions that life insurers focus on are cancer, diabetes, heart disease, high cholesterol, hypertension, obesity, and some mental health issues, such as anxiety and depression.

According to the Guardian Life Insurance Company, which sells whole life and term policies, applicants with preexisting conditions can increase their odds of obtaining coverage and lower their rates by following a medically supervised treatment plan to control the condition, as well as exercising regularly and losing weight if they need to.

Alternatives to Guaranteed Life Insurance

A regular insurance policy, whether whole life or term life, has several advantages over a guaranteed life policy for people who are eligible. For one thing, a conventional policy is likely to be considerably less expensive in terms of how much coverage each dollar of premiums will buy. For another, the policyholder may be able to buy a larger death benefit overall if they happen to need one.

Generally speaking, term life is the least expensive form of life insurance, and whole life is considerably more expensive than term life. Simplified issue whole life insurance will be even more expensive, and a guaranteed life policy is the most expensive of all.

The Bottom Line

Anyone who is shopping for life insurance should see if they qualify for a regular policy before settling for a guaranteed life policy. If it turns out that a guaranteed life policy is their only option, they should still shop around to compare prices. They may also want to compare the waiting period before each policy’s full death benefit becomes available—just in case. An independent insurance agent who is familiar with these policies and the companies that offer them may also be able to help.