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  • Writer's picturejimmy ting

Risk Classifications Involved in Life Insurance

An affordable term life insurance policy is one of the best ways to help financially protect your loved ones — but even though most term life policies are designed to fit into the average household budget, not everyone pays the same amount of money for their life insurance policy.

There are many factors that go into your life insurance premium costs, including the amount of coverage you take out and the term length you sign up for. However, many people don’t realize that life insurance risk classifications also play a significant role in their monthly premiums. They also don’t realize that they can improve the possibility of falling into a better underwriting risk classification by applying for life insurance when they are either relatively young or relatively healthy — or, in a best-case scenario, both.

When you fill out a life insurance policy application online with an insurance provider, you are categorized into one of multiple risk factor classifications used by underwriters to help determine your policy rates. What are these classifications of risk in insurance, and how can you improve your life insurance risk classification? Here’s what you need to know about underwriting risk classifications — and what you can do to receive the best classification possible for your life insurance plan.

What is classification of risk in insurance?

All insurance involves some kind of risk assessment, whether you’re taking out a life insurance policy, applying for car insurance or getting a family heirloom insured. Risk classification and management in insurance helps keep everybody’s policy rates as affordable as possible — but these risk classifications that are established during the underwriting process also mean that some people pay more for insurance than others.

When someone applies for life insurance and they get approved, their premium is based on their underwriting risk classification. If you apply for a life insurance policy, you could fall into one of five underwriting risk classifications — and these classifications affect how much you pay in monthly life insurance premium costs.

Risk classes are divided into two categories - preferred, which is also known as standard, and substandard.

If you are in a standard or preferred class, it means that you are in a low risk category and are likely to pay lower premiums. If you are in a substandard class, it means that you are in a higher risk category — and therefore you may have to pay a higher premium.

What factors determine underwriting risk classifications?

The life insurance risk classification used by underwriters is based on an applicant’s total health profile — as well as how that health profile compares to other people of the same age and gender. They check prescription history. They look at your history of nicotine use, even if you quit. Essentially, a life insurance company is trying to determine your overall health, as well as your potential health risks — and how those risks might affect your overall lifespan.

If you apply for medically underwritten life insurance, expect to provide a family health history as part of your life insurance application — and be prepared to complete a brief life insurance medical exam. These in-person assessments, combined with sophisticated risk classification algorithms, will help determine your classification of risk in insurance. During the underwriting process, the life insurance company may look at your personal medical history, your family history, and may check to see if you are at high risk for a specific health condition like heart disease.

Your risk classification will also determine how much you pay for your life insurance policy. In general, better health correlates with lower life insurance premiums — but you can still receive a preferred or standard life insurance risk classification even if your health isn’t perfect. You might have better than average blood pressure and BMI, but maybe you have high cholesterol. As long as your health is better than average, you’re likely to pay lower than average premium costs.

How can you improve your life insurance risk classification?

If you’re planning on applying for life insurance in the near future — maybe you’re thinking about getting married, for example, or maybe you’re hoping to start a family in the next few years — it is possible to improve your life insurance risk classification before you apply for life insurance.

Most term life insurance policies offer guaranteed level premiums that remain constant for the length of your policy, which means that it is to your advantage to apply while you are relatively young and in good health. The premium you pay today will be the same premium you’re paying 10, 20, or even 30 years from now, depending on which life insurance term length you choose — so why not try to get the best life insurance risk classification possible and keep that premium as low as possible?

If you want to improve your life insurance risk classification before taking out a term life insurance policy, start by taking a few basic to improve your health. If you smoke, for example, you’ll probably want to quit — especially because going nicotine-free for two or more years could significantly reduce your life insurance premiums. If you have high blood pressure or high cholesterol, talk to your doctor about how to bring those numbers down. Even something as simple as healthy eating habits combined with regular exercise could have a positive effect on your life insurance risk classification — and don’t forget about getting good sleep. (Tell yourself that those extra ZZZs will save you $$$.)

What if you don’t want to take a life insurance medical exam?

Medically underwritten life insurance policies, in general, offer lower monthly premiums than no-medical-exam life insurance.

Just because you choose a no-exam policy doesn’t mean that you get to avoid life insurance risk classifications. You’ll still need to answer a few basic health questions as you complete your application, and the answers to those questions could affect your monthly premium rate. (You also need to be truthful in your responses, or it could adversely affect your beneficiaries down the line, as issuance of the policy and payment of its benefits depend on your answers.) The no-exam policy gives you the opportunity to quickly set up your life insurance coverage and protect your loved ones from a worst-case scenario — but it doesn’t get you out of underwriting risk classifications.

Risk classification and management are an integral part of the insurance buying process. If you plan on applying for life insurance in the next few years, see if you can get yourself as healthy as possible before you fill out your life insurance application. Not only will you increase your possibility of paying lower monthly premiums, but you — and the people you love — could also benefit from your improved health. Since taking care of the people closest to you is one of the key reasons to take out a life insurance policy, consider it a win-win.

For more information about Life Insurance call JCT Insurance Agency at (626)354-2000 or email

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