As much as it might be thrilling to be an adrenaline junky or party hard on the edge, some of your lifestyle choices will leave you paying more for life insurance. While some of the most common causes for sky-high insurance rates are the easiest to fix, keep in mind that those rates aren’t simply determined by your current state of health.
A little excess weight hanging from your frame can cause big problems, especially when it comes to life insurance rates. Insurers look at your height and compare it to your weight to determine if you have an unhealthy weight problem. For a typical adult, a healthy Body Mass Index is between 18.5 and 24.9. Anything over 24.9 is considered overweight, so you might want to rethink that double-decker burger with a side of fries.
Smoking Two Packs a Day
Even the occasional cigarette can increase your insurance rates, but heavy smokers will suffer even higher premiums. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports smoking increases the risk of coronary heart disease, stroke, lung cancer in men and women, and death from bronchitis and emphysema.
In addition to increasing a person’s risk for lung cancer, it also puts smoker’s at risk for developing leukemia, bladder cancer, cervical cancer, esophageal cancer, cancer of the larynx, mouth cancer, throat cancer and cancer of the uterus.
If this isn’t enough to convince someone to quit smoking, it also doubles the cost of your life insurance rates.
Lack of Physical Activity
Leading a lifestyle where the only track you’ve walked is the loop from your couch to your fridge can contribute to obesity and a number of chronic health problems including diabetes, sleep apnea and high blood pressure.
Increasing one’s physical activity cannot only improve one’s health but qualify them for a lower life insurance premium.
Risky, Dangerous Activities
If your thrills come from risky activities – such as skydiving, scuba diving, mountain climbing, piloting an airplane or traveling to foreign lands, expect to pay more for insurance. Companies will categorize you as a high-risk client due to your alternative lifestyle.
And if you answer “no” to certain lifestyle questions during the underwriting process, but in fact participate in such activities, companies can find out.
“All policies are contestable for two years. That is mandated by federal guidelines,” said Samantha Roberts, a State Farm Insurance agent. “If a policyholder does die the company will thoroughly review the circumstances.”
Driving History Report
Even past traffic incidents like a DUI or driving with a suspended license will come into play when figuring out how much coverage you can get and for what price. Smoking marijuana or being under the influence of any mind-altering substance while driving still counts as a DUI and will be counted in a life insurance assessment.
White Lies or Quick Fixes
If you think you can quit smoking for a month, clean up your diet for a week or lie about your regular pulse-pounding adventures to get a better rate, think again. Insurance companies are thorough in their evaluation of potential policyholders.
Most companies require medical testing, usually in the form of a blood test. Tests will measure cholesterol levels, liver enzymes, body mass index—the measure of body fat based on your height and weight—blood pressure and heart rate. All this information is calculated to determine your level of risk.
Insurance companies will often check liver enzymes to rule out alcoholism. Since alcoholism contributes to a number of serious health problems, it is considered a risk to be a heavy drinker.
Aging Not So Gracefully
No matter how you look, age affects insurance rates. Age and family history are also taken into consideration with special attention paid to heart disease and cancer.
The reason higher rates get applied to those who fall into the above categories is quite simple, says Cathy Bajkowski owner of Illinois-based CB Health Insurance that also offers life insurance coverage.
“The higher the risk, the higher the mortality rate,” said Bajkowski.
But hope is not lost, Bajkowski adds, if you can change your lifestyle and quit smoking for at least 12 months, lose the weight and start exercising, you can request to have your rates reviewed.
“If you aren’t happy with the new rates, you can always switch companies,” said Bajkowski. “An insurance company is not going to care what you were rated the first time around. They will evaluate based on your risk that day.”
Other factors for a potential life insurance denial or rate-up can include:
Your Online Presence
Posting about your hazardous or risky lifestyle on social media sites such as Facebook or Twitter is never a good idea. Insurance companies are becoming more industrious than ever when it comes to finding out information.
Everyone who has a free e-mail account can also have a Facebook or Twitter account. So beware and be sure to watch what you post on your profile because it may cost you in the long run.
The Word is Out
If several life insurance companies have rejected you for coverage, it may be difficult to approach potential life insurers because some life insurance applications ask if you’ve ever been denied coverage. Because insurance companies have ways of finding out if you applied for life insurance recently, you cannot lie or omit information on a life insurance application.
This is why it is best to make sure you answer all of the application questions as truthfully as possible.
Ignoring Your Mounting Debt
Credit scores play a large role in how much a life insurance company will charge you for a policy. A bad credit score is considered a risk and will likely cause higher insurance premiums.
There are roughly 8,724 life insurance companies in the United States, according to www.manta.com, a business news and research site. This fact alone dramatically increases your chances of finding a life insurance policy at an affordable rate – even if you consider yourself a risk taker. Every insurance company is different when it comes to their underwriting criteria. This is why shopping around for a policy is better than simply giving up on getting coverage after speaking to one or two life insurers.
A simple change in lifestyle can make all the difference when it comes to how much you pay for a policy.