Forty may be the new 30, but age is still a factor when it comes to estimating how much a person will pay for an insurance policy.
Not only can age impact life insurance premiums, it can also have a significant impact on the cost of health, auto and homeowners coverage – and even pet and travel insurance.
However, in some cases, age comes with more than just wisdom, it comes with a reduction in costs.
As individuals mature and have no traffic violations or accidents, they are more likely to have lower auto insurance rates than teenagers or people in their early twenties, explains Loretta Worters, spokesperson for the Insurance Information Institute.
“In fact, people in the 40 to 60-year-old range probably have the best rates age-wise,” Worters said.
Teens carry the highest rates for insurance because of the risk associated with inexperienced drivers. Motor vehicle collisions are the leading cause of death among 15- to 20-year-olds, according to a report by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS). In fact, drivers age 15 to 20 accounted for 12 percent of all drivers involved in fatal crashes and 14 percent of all drivers involved in police-reported crashes for that year. Twenty-five percent of teen drivers killed were alcohol-impaired.
“Immaturity and lack of driving experience are the two main factors leading to the high crash rate among teens,” Worters said.
While teens see the highest rates, costs start to increase again when drivers reach their 70s and 80s. Driving skills vary from one elderly person to another, but there are physical and mental changes that accompany aging which can diminish the abilities and reaction times of elderly drivers.
“We know that based on per-miles driven, crash rates for seniors are far worse than any other age group except for teens. Consequently those rates for the elderly can be much higher,” Worters said.
Homeowners may also find a financial benefit to the aging process.
Retired individuals, generally people over the age of 65, are more likely to be home and therefore more likely to discourage intruders, Worters said. These individuals are also more likely to spot any electrical problems that could cause a fire or maintenance issues that could evolve into bigger problems because they are home. In addition to this, retired individuals are more likely to take care of their homes.
On the other hand, life and health insurance costs tend to rise as individuals mature. Both age and overall health are major factors for determining the price of life and health insurance.
Len Barend, president of the Barend Agency Inc., in Henderson, Nev., and a member of the senior Medicare advisory group of the National Association of Health Underwriters, says the cost for most health insurance policies are determined based on the overall health, age, gender, weight and pre-existing medical conditions of an individual.
Information is compiled for all the individuals in the group to determine the rates. In larger groups, the rate is averaged over all the participants to create a composite rate so the impact of cost to individuals who have higher health risks is shared among the group.
However in smaller groups, that is not necessarily the case.
Each individual may pay the rate determined for his or her own risk. That rate will likely be higher for older individuals.
“Age is critical. As you get older the risks become more paramount than when you’re younger,” Barend said.
Steve Weisbart, senior vice president and chief economist for the Insurance Information Institute, said life insurance underwriters also look at age when determining rates.
“Both age and overall health are major price factors for life insurance,” Weisbart said.
Most individuals can obtain life insurance though the cost may increase as they mature. About 5 to 7 percent of applicants are rejected, but that rejection generally has little to do with age and almost entirely to do with the current state of health.
As individuals enter a more advanced state of maturity, life insurance becomes harder to obtain.
“Most insurers will not sell life insurance to a person over age 85, no matter how good their health and family history is,” Weisbart said.
Even insurances such as travel and pet insurance take age into account when determining the cost of a policy.
For travel insurance, rates are determined by a number of factors including age, whether or not you are traveling alone, where you are traveling to, how long you are staying and the time of year you are traveling, Worters said.
“Also, older travelers pay more attention to their health before deciding to go on a trip and are less likely to risk injury by going scuba diving, rocking climbing or skiing while traveling,” Worters said.
These factors are used to determine the risk, or overall likelihood, an incident may occur that will force the insurance company to pay a claim. Also, travel insurers have to evaluate the risks associated with someone who might have a serious medical condition. If any emergency health issues occur and the policyholder has to be flown out of the country for treatment, this could be pricey.
Pet insurers also take age into account, and as with human health insurance, costs rise as the insured matures. For example, a 1-year-old female Bison Frise is about $55 a month for full coverage with a $100 deductible, Worters said. The same animal at age 12 will cost about $67 a month.
“At a certain point, pets can only get insurance for basic coverage for accidents such as broken bones, insect bites, poison ingestion, etc., because they are at risk for more serious illnesses or injuries at an older age,” Worters said.
LIFE AND HEALTH INSURANCE FOR THOSE AGE 65 AND OLDER
Older individuals looking for life insurance or health insurance may find they are not out of luck for coverage—they just have to look harder.
Weisbart said that while most life insurers will not write policies for people who are age 85 and older, there are other options to consider.
“Some life insurance companies will sell life insurance in small death benefit amounts, such as $10,000 and possibly up to $50,000, with no medical exam and very few questions on the application,” Weisbart said.
The amounts are not designed to replace future anticipated lost income but more to help cover end-of-life expenses. Many groups also offer the same type of coverage, such as fraternities and auto clubs.
Older employed individuals may also be eligible for life insurance offered through their workplace.
Len Barend, president of the Barend Agency Inc., in Henderson, Nev., and a member of the senior Medicare advisory group of the National Association of Health Underwriters, advised older individuals to research their options and learn about Medicare deadlines to maximize their insurability and lower their costs.
There are also a few steps older individuals can take to help increase their insurability.
“The best tip is to improve your health,” Weisbart said.
Stop smoking, start a program of regular exercise that includes cardio, weight and flexibility training, monitor blood sugar, lose weight if needed and maintain blood pressure. Also keep up with the regular maintenance by getting an annual medical checkup and visit a dentist and eye doctor at least once a year.