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Last updated: March 14, 2016 at 22:49 pm

Life Insurance and your High Risk Lifestyle

Not only preexisting medical conditions and risky occupations but “high-risk lifestyles” as well make it more difficult (but not impossible) to find affordable quality life insurance. Some companies will accept applicants who engage in high-risk lifestyle activities, some will not.

Some insurers specialize in such coverage and give you the best possible rate, others do not. Knowing the basic facts about life insurance for for people with high-risk lifestyles can help you save money, find a policy that fits your needs, and avoid unnecessary application rejections and/or claim denials.

How Do Insurers Define “High-Risk Lifestyles?”

The category “high-risk lifestyle” is distinguished from high-risk health conditions and even from high-risk occupations by many insurance companies in their underwriting practices. There are a wide range of possible specific activities that could put you into this category, including such things as:

  • Risky recreational activities like skydiving, scuba diving, driving race cars, mountain/rock climbing, or flying a private single-engine aircraft.
  • Unhealthy and/or addictive habits like smoking, chewing tobacco, using marijuana, and consuming alcoholic beverages.
  • International travel, particularly if the number of annual trips is high or the amount of time spent abroad is extensive.

Lifestyle choices of these sort increase the odds of the insured party passing away at a younger-than-average age. Insurance companies have little choice but to charge higher premiums to make up for the added risk. Nevertheless, there are many options available to high-risk lifestyle applicants.

Typical High-Risk Lifestyle Insurance Policy Types

The first good news for those with high-risk lifestyles is that, today, there are many insurers who specialize in this area and offer better high-risk rates than companies that focus mostly on the low-risk market. These insurers will take your individual circumstances into account instead of just pegging you into a broad high-risk category.

They may offer lower premiums to smokers, for example, who only smoke an occasional cigar; to someone extremely obese, if he/she is enrolled in a weight loss program; or to a scuba diver who passes safety training classes.

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Most insurers will offer a term life policy to people with high-risk lifestyles. The premiums, however, will be higher than average or the terms will be shorter. These policies will normally have only a death benefit but no cash value or savings feature.

As an example, a 50-year-old applicant might be able to take out a 20-year term on a $100,000 policy for a premium of around $65, compared to about $35 for average risk. For an otherwise equivalent $250,000 policy, high risk rates might be about $125 per month, compared to $75 per month for average risk applicants.

The problem with term life is that, once the term ends, you will need to reapply for new coverage at a more advanced age, which will likely increase the premium. As a temporary option, or for the sake of getting lower premiums than permanent policies offer, term life can be a good choice.

Permanent life insurance policies include whole life and universal life. These policies have a cash value component along with the death benefit, but they cost a bit more than term. The policy never expires, so your rates are locked in for life. Whole life is the basic permanent policy type, while universal life adds a savings account feature and allows limited flexibility on how much and when you pay your premiums.

Four other types of policies for those with high-risk lifestyles to consider include:
  • Group coverage, often through an employer, which does not utilize individual underwriting. This typically allows you to get a lower premium.
  • Accidental death and dismemberment insurance, which only covers you for accidental deaths. This will be much cheaper, but of course, the benefits are more limited.
  • Traveler’s insurance, which will cover you during international travel. Some policies include hospital expenses while living abroad and transfer back to the U.S. for care when necessary.
  • Policies that require no health exam and no underwriting process. These are usually “burial policies” and may delay benefits beyond your paid-in premiums for two years, but they are better than going without any life insurance at all.

How to Find Affordable High-Risk Lifestyle Insurance

It is very difficult to search for insurance for high-risk lifestyles on your own. A much better route is to use an independent agent working for a company that specializes in matching people with high-risk lifestyles to their best possible insurance policy.

A good agent will have access to dozens of insurers and know which ones offer the better deal on each relevant high-risk category. He/she will take the time to investigate prospects and find you an insurer not likely to reject your application. As a rejection in your past can hurt your ability to secure a policy later on, this is crucial. Insurers almost always ask if you have ever been denied life insurance coverage, and they have ways of verifying your answer.

Remember that, if an applicant is less than truthful, his/her insurance policy can be canceled. There will be a two-year “contestability period” wherein the insurer can either cancel the policy or deny any claims if they can show that false information helped get the insuree approved.

An independent insurance broker will not be bound to recommend the policies of any particular company and will have the ability to work with virtually any insurance company. This gives you the scope and flexibility you need to find the best high-risk lifestyle insurance to fit your needs at a price you can afford.

Only and independent agent will have access to both your information and detailed information on numerous insurers. This gives you the best odds of finding the right match.

Another tool to use, which may be part of an independent broker’s website, is an online insurance comparison tool. This allows you to see the quotes of multiple companies side by side at a glance.

Finally, if you receive trial offers, take advantage of any that are worthwhile, but keep records of all your offers and previous applications for future reference.


Those whose high-risk lifestyles put them in a higher insurance premium bracket need not despair. There are options available that can meet their needs at competitive prices. It may be wise or necessary, in these cases, to opt for a “non-traditional” policy type or to use a specialized insurance locating agency.

With a little diligence and the right kind of help, however, those who lead “high-risk lives” can still protect their families in the event of their passing away.

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