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When should you get life insurance?

Clock in hand

For many people, life insurance doesn't seem necessary until they reach a certain age, get married, or have children. However, life insurance can be beneficial at many different ages and stages of life.

Many factors go into choosing the right time to get life insurance. If you're young and healthy, it may feel like you don't need it. But, if you have dependents or financial obligations, life insurance can give you the security of knowing your loved ones will be OK if something happens to you.

When should you get life insurance and at what age?

It's typically best to buy a life insurance policy as soon as possible, because it gives you the best chance of being insurable.

Insurability means an insurance company is willing to provide you with coverage. When you're younger, you're generally healthier, which means you pose a lower risk to the insurer. This results in lower premiums, making life insurance more affordable when you're young.

If you wait until later in life to get life insurance and then develop health problems, your rates will be much higher if you're approved than if you had secured a policy when you were healthy.

For these reasons, it's best to get life insurance while you're young, in your 20's or 30's. If you don't get insurance in your 20's or 30's, you should strongly consider purchasing a policy when you reach one of the seven life stages and milestones.

1. You get married

Getting married is a major life milestone. Not only does it signify a commitment to your partner, but it also comes with a number of legal and financial responsibilities.

For many couples, getting life insurance is one of the first steps they take after getting married. First of all, life insurance can provide financial security for your spouse in the event of your death.

It also can cover:

  • You income so your spouse can maintain the lifestyle they're accustomed to
  • Your mortgage
  • Other outstanding debts
  • Final expenses

Dive deeper into our guide to life insurance for married couples

2. You have children

One of the most important things you can do as a parent is to make sure your children are taken care of financially if something happens to you. What would happen without your income? Life insurance is a way to help your meet financial goals and maintain their lifestyle if you're not there.

It can also:

  • Establish college funding
  • Provide funds for future life events such as marriage
  • Support family traditions that are important to continue

You also may want to consider purchasing life insurance on your children to provide future insurability on their lives.

Learn more about life insurance for children

3. You're the primary earner for your family

As the primary earner for your family, you understand how important it is to have a solid financial foundation. You work hard to provide for your loved ones and make sure that they have everything they need. However, if something were to happen to you, your family would be left with a large financial burden.

If you were to pass away, life insurance would provide your family with the financial support they need. While no one likes to think about their own mortality, it's important to take steps to protect your loved ones in the event of your death.

4. You're a stay-at-home parent

Life insurance isn't just for the primary earner of the family. Even if one parent stays at home to care for the children, life insurance is an important addition. Stay-at-home parents provide an essential service by taking care of the home and children. If something happens to them, childcare or other services could add strain the the budget.

Consider purchasing a policy that covers both parents. This way, if one parent dies, the other still will have enough coverage to take care of the family.

5. You own a business

If you own a business, life insurance can be an important tool for protecting your company in the event of your death. If you are the sole owner of your business, your family likely will inherit the business upon your death.

However, if you don't have life insurance, they may not be able to keep the business running. In addition, if you have partners or co-owners, life insurance can be used to buy out their share of the business in the event of your death. This ensures that your family or partners are taken care of financially and that the business can continue to operate without interruption.

Discover how life insurance can protect your small business

6. You have debt

If you are struggling with a large amount of debt, life insurance can be a helpful tool. If you die unexpectedly, the death benefit from your life insurance policy can be used to pay off your debts.

One of the largest debts that people carry are mortgages. If you have a mortgage, it's important to have enough life insurance to cover the balance of your loan in the event of your death.

Life insurance also can be especially beneficial if you have private student loans, as these are not dischargeable in bankruptcy. (Federal student loans are discharged upon death.)

7. You have a family history of illness

No one likes to think about their own death, but it's important to make sure you have your affairs in order in case the worst should happen. If you have a family history of illness, it's especially important to get life insurance. While no one can predict the future, having a policy in place helps create a sense of comfort should you die prematurely.

Keep in mind, however, a family history of illness can be a concern when it comes to life insurance. If you have a parent or grandparent who has suffered from a serious condition, you could be classified as a higher-risk applicant. As a result, you may have to pay more for your life insurance policy or be denied coverage altogether. Make sure you apply, however, and find out if this is the case for your specific situation.

Parents looking at daughter playing in new house
Parents looking at daughter playing in new house
Parents looking at daughter playing with packing peanuts. Happy family of three sitting on hardwood floor in new apartment. They are wearing casuals.

What's the cost of not having life insurance?

Without life insurance, your loved ones may struggle to cover funeral costs, mortgage payments and education expenses.

You also could miss out on other benefits life insurance provides—including tax-deferred growth, supplementing retirement income and cash value.

Before you skip coverage, ask yourself these questions

Do you need life insurance if you have it through work?

If you work for a large company, you already may have life insurance through your employer. However, this coverage is often not adequate to cover your family's needs. And if you were to leave or be let go from your job, it's unlikely you would be able to take that insurance with you. So it's important to assess your need and consider a supplemental policy.

No matter what age you are, stage of life you're in, or what your occupation is, there is a life insurance policy that can meet your needs. By taking the time to understand your options, you can find the right coverage for you.

What type of life insurance should you buy?

There are two common types of life insurance: permanent and term life insurance.

Permanent life insurance coverage lasts for your entire lifetime, as long as you continue to pay the premiums. These types of policies also have what's called a cash value component, which builds up over time and can be accessed for financial needs like retirement or as a source of emergency funds.

Conversely, term life insurance gives policyholders coverage for a set period of time, typically 10-30 years. After the term expires, the coverage ends and you will no longer be eligible for a death benefit. It's also generally less expensive than permanent life insurance.

When choosing a life insurance policy, it's important to assess your needs and budget to determine which is best for you. A financial advisor can walk you through the options and give you a personalized quote.

Get guidance from a financial advisor

If you're thinking about getting life insurance, it's important to talk to a financial advisor to see if it's right for you. They can help you figure out how much coverage you need and what type of policy would be best for your situation.

As far as when to get life insurance, reaching many of the life stages above are an ideal time to consider it. However, if someone relies on you or would be burdened financially by your death, it's a good idea to explore the idea of getting life insurance.

Guarantees based on the financial strength and claims-paying ability of Thrivent (or product’s issuer).

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.

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