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Which life insurance term length is best? Pros, cons & best-use scenarios

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Your family is your highest priority, and life insurance can help you make sure they're taken care of if something happens to you. With a contract in place, your beneficiaries receive life insurance benefits if you die during your coverage period. It's a helpful tool to make sure your loved ones have what they need to cover potential expenses and debts.

A popular option people choose to fit their specific needs is term life insurance. It expires after a certain number of years—10-, 15-, 20- or 30-year term life insurance lengths are common—which contributes to its affordability. But when the term ends and you seek additional life insurance, you're likely to face higher premium prices and may have to undergo another medical exam. So it's prudent to choose a term that's the right fit for both your current budget and your long-term needs from the start.

Reviewing the benefits and drawbacks specific to each term length can help you feel more confident in your decision.

Exploring 10- and 15-year term life insurance


  • Premiums are lower compared to a 20- or 30-year term, especially if you're seeking this level of coverage when you're young and healthy.
  • You'll be covered for the financial obligations you have in the near future, such as taking care of children who are almost grown or covering loans that you're close to paying off. These terms also are useful for bridging a short gap in coverage.


  • A 10- or 15-year term is likely not long enough for you to have enough of a benefit to pay off major or long-term debts or replace much of your projected lifetime income.
  • You may have to requalify and likely will pay more for coverage if you need to renew your policy or buy a new one when the term expires.

Best-use scenarios

  • You have two teenage children and seven years left on your mortgage. A 10-year term should be long enough to protect your income until the kids become self-sufficient and your mortgage is paid off.
  • You anticipate taking several years out of the workforce to care for an aging parent, who has little savings. You won't be able to save for retirement during this time. A term policy would provide for your parent's care if something happened to you. It also could bolster your nest egg and help your spouse retire more comfortably.
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How can you increase your existing coverage?

Even after you've selected a certain term life coverage, you're not locked in forever.

Read more

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Analyzing 20-year term life insurance


  • Premiums are lower compared to a 30-year term. If you're on the younger side and healthy, you're likely to lock in lasting rates that both fit your budget and meet your present and future needs.
  • You'll be covered for your mid-range financial responsibilities, such as major loans with payoff dates two decades down the road, or income replacement for a substantial stretch of your working years.


  • It's usually more expensive than a 10- or 15-year term.
  • A term life insurance length of 20 years may not be long enough to pay off a mortgage or support young children until they're financially self-sufficient.
  • If the term expires and you decide you want more term insurance, you may face challenges with requalifying and finding rates as low as your initial one because you likely will be middle-aged or older.

Best-use scenarios

  • You take out an unsecured 20-year loan to start a business. The lender requires you to carry life insurance naming someone who will be responsible for the financial affairs of the business as the beneficiary. This arrangement can protect both the lender and your loved ones.
  • You've recently divorced. A judge rules that both you and your former spouse must carry term life insurance to ensure that your children, ages 3 and 5, will have the financial resources they need through young adulthood.

Examining 30-year term life insurance


  • You lock in your insurability and premiums for decades based on your current age and health and won't need to worry about requalifying over and over again.
  • A 30-year term is long enough for many people to pay off a mortgage and amass a sizable retirement account or other assets that can provide for loved ones if the term expires before you pass away. It's also long enough for most children to reach financial self-sufficiency.


  • It tends to demand a higher premium than 10-, 15- or 20-year terms.
  • Even 30 years may not be long enough to square away all or most of your financial obligations. If you outlive it without any options for renewal or convertibility, you may find yourself scrambling to find affordable coverage or going without coverage at all.

Best-use scenarios

  • You've recently married. You and your spouse are young and healthy, and your premiums may never be lower. Even though you have life insurance through work, you don't want to risk going without coverage if you get laid off, change jobs or take time out of the workforce.
  • You're 45 years old and single, and your child is a teenager. Your 15-year term policy will expire soon, but you want an affordable option that lets you fulfill your goal of having your child inherit your house and enjoy financial stability if something happens to you.

Beyond 30 years: Considering permanent life insurance

Some financial responsibilities are unexpected and last beyond what term insurance lengths can offer. In situations where your livelihood is indispensable to your family and expenses are substantial or ongoing, you may find permanent life insurance is exactly what you and your loved ones needed in your financial plan to maintain a sense of stability.

Permanent life insurance can provide guaranteed protection for life and let you accumulate cash value. Although premiums may be much higher than term insurance, you may be able to customize coverage to achieve lifelong protection that's affordable for you. If you have term insurance, you may want to look at a conversion option that lets you transition to a permanent contract without requalifying.

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Finding the term life insurance length that's best for you

Life insurers offer different term lengths and coverage amounts for a reason: There's no such thing as a one-size-fits-all policy. Here are factors to consider as you calculate the ideal term length for you:

  • Premium cost and affordability. Terms of 10- or-15 years have the lowest premiums while 30-year terms and permanent insurance have the highest. But longer terms can help you lock in your insurability and rate for more years based on your current age and health.
  • Risk assessment and long-term financial planning. People with longer-term financial responsibilities or more years until retirement may gain more confidence from a 20- or 30-year term. People with short-term financial responsibilities or fewer years until retirement may find a 10- or 15-year term offers enough protection.
  • Life stage and financial goals. Consider where you are in life and what needs lay ahead. Many people match the length of their term coverage to the number of years they have left on a mortgage or to the difference between their youngest child's current age and the age that child is likely to be financially self-sufficient.
  • Flexibility and conversion options. You may be able to purchase a rider that lets you convert your term coverage to permanent or one that provides renewable coverage at favorable rates.

Guidance for all your life insurance needs

Thrivent financial advisor can partner with you to analyze your options and give you personalized quotes for any policy term that interests you. With Thrivent's expert insights and customized pricing, you can feel good about choosing the term length that best protects your loved ones and fits your budget.

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

Riders are optional and available for an additional cost.

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.