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How long does term life insurance last?

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Life insurance is one way you can ensure your loved ones will be cared for no matter what. If you pass away, your family will continue to have some financial support to rely on.

Perhaps you've already chosen between permanent and term life insurance based on how long you'll want coverage. Generally, you'll find term life insurance options in increments of 10, 15, 20 or 30 years. Whereas permanent life insurance lasts for your lifetime (as long as premiums are paid).

People who choose term life insurance typically do so for the budget-friendly premiums and relatively high amount of coverage, or death benefit, it offers. But learning more about the different available term lengths can help you decide which type of term life insurance is best for your family.

Term life insurance contract lengths & rates

A life insurance term length is the number of years you're covered under your contract, as long as you keep up with premiums. If you died during that stretch of years while your contract was active, or in force, your family would get paid out a death benefit.

Some companies offer life insurance with a term as short as one year or as long as 40 years. For most people, term lengths between 10 and 30 years make sense. You may want coverage for as long as you expect to have a mortgage—15 or 30 years. Or your goal may be to protect dependent children until they're self-sufficient, perhaps in 10 or 20 years.

Term life insurance rates for the contract's initial term depend on your age and health when you buy your contract. The rates also depend on the death benefit and term length you choose. Contracts with shorter terms have lower premiums because it's less likely that the insurer will need to pay the contract's death benefit.

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How much life insurance do you need?

Our life insurance calculator can tell you how much coverage you need and estimate premium costs.

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How to choose the right length of term insurance

The right term insurance length for you may come down to the kind of expenses you'd need to cover, your personal circumstances and specific age qualifications.

Consider your family's financial needs

Here are some of the main expenses you might want to consider as you make your term selection.

  • Replacing your income for your loved ones. Choose a term that will last until your anticipated retirement age.
  • Covering your major debts. If you have a large loan, such as for a business venture or to consolidate debt, pick a term that would last until it's paid off.
  • Funding your child's college education. Match your term to the number of years that will pass between now and when they are likely to complete their degree.
  • Keeping your loved ones in the family home. Choose a term that matches the number of years you have left on your mortgage.

Find the ideal term length to support your situation

As you evaluate term lengths based on your expenses, also consider these factors and scenarios:

  • Age. The younger you are, the longer the term you may need. For instance, a newly married 25-year-old couple who hopes to buy a home and raise children may want to lock in their insurability at lower rates while they're young and healthy. A 30-year term contract for each partner may be perfect.
  • Family. Different term lengths may be appropriate for certain family sizes and avenues of income. If you have a 10-year-old child, for instance, who relies on your income, a 15-year contract would make sure they'll have your financial support until they're 25. Or, if your household relies on two incomes to save for the future, maintain a comfortable lifestyle and give to others, you and your spouse may each consider a contract that would last until you retire.
  • Business. If you're a business owner, you don't want your business partner or heirs to be forced to sell the company if you pass away unexpectedly. So, perhaps you consider a 20-year term contract to cover the time until you plan to retire.
  • Financial obligations. If you owe certain forms of debt, you may consider a contract that covers your repayment timeframe. For example, perhaps at age 55, you've refinanced into a 15-year home loan and you have five years left on a business loan. A 15-year term contract could provide some reassurance that, if something were to happen to you before age 70, your debts would be repaid and your home stays in the family.

Consider any specific age qualifications or limits

Your age may also determine the term lengths for which you qualify:

  • The minimum age to qualify for many term life insurance contracts is 18 (or the age of majority in your state).
  • The maximum age to qualify is 75, and you can purchase a 10-year contract at that age.
  • The oldest age to purchase a 30-year contract is 55 if you are not a tobacco or nicotine user and 50 if you are.

Common mistakes when selecting your term length

One of the main benefits of term insurance is all the options you get to consider. But with all those choices, you want to feel good about the contract you land on. Keep these pitfalls in mind when selecting a term length:

  • Overlooking inflation and future needs. As the value of a dollar fluctuates, there's a chance the purchasing power of your protection amount won't stretch as far when it comes time for your family to access it. You also don't want to undercount the expenses that will crop up.
  • Being under- or over-insured. You can always buy a longer term than you think you might need while being mindful of what it means for your budget. It's a matter of balancing how much risk you take on versus the insurance company. Generally, clients may reduce the death benefit of term coverage at any point. When the death benefit is reduced, premiums are decreased.
  • Not updating your contract regularly. You'll want to pick out coverage that's right for you at a certain point in time, but you shouldn't set it and forget it. If your needs change, you can refresh your choices at renewal time, cancel what you have and start a new contract or—if you've added on this specific option—consider converting to permanent coverage.

Get help choosing the right term length

Term life insurance offers a budget-friendly way to financially protect your family should you pass away during the contract term. If you renew annually or have the option to convert to permanent coverage at the end of your initial term, you can often keep the original health rating of your term contract.

You can also choose to enhance your coverage with riders that would pay your premiums if you become disabled or allow you to access your death benefit if you are diagnosed with a terminal illness.

It takes courage to confront the idea of your own death, but protecting your family with term life insurance is a responsible and loving choice. Connect with a Thrivent financial advisor to get help with choosing the term length and coverage amount that makes the most sense for you.

If requested, a licensed insurance agent/producer may contact you and financial solutions, including insurance may be solicited.

Hypothetical examples are for illustrative purposes. May not be representative of actual results.

Life insurance contracts have exclusions, limitations and terms under which the benefits may be reduced, or the contract may be discontinued. For costs and complete details of coverage, contact your licensed insurance agent/producer.