Term Life Insurance: The 101 and More

by Alfred Alonso | August 09, 2021

3 Minute Read

Life insurance, the ultimate adulting to-do (and the motive behind many investigations in our favorite true crime podcasts).

While we all get it’s important to have, few of us actually buy our own individual policy for various reasons. But did you know that term life insurance is actually the simplest and least expensive of all life insurance products?

You’ve probably heard of at least a few other types (whole, universal, variable, etc.), but for the purposes of this article, we’ll just focus on term life insurance and why it’s a great choice for many Americans.

What is Term Life Insurance?

Term life insurance is designed to protect your dependents should you pass away unexpectedly. It’s also the life insurance product of choice for financial gurus like Dave RamseySuze Orman, and Clark Howard.

The three main components that make up a term life policy are:

1. Your Term

You pick a specific time period, usually 10, 15, 20, 25, or 30  years. A 10-year term life insurance policy means you’re covered for 10 years. 20-year term for 20 years, and so forth.

2. Your Coverage

You pick a coverage amount, usually between $50,000 and $1.5 Million. This is the death benefit, the amount your beneficiary would receive if they ever have to file a claim.

Good to know: It’s tax free so if you opted for a 10-year term with $1 Million in coverage, that’s the exact amount your beneficiary would receive, regardless of when the claim is filed during the term. Meaning, it doesn’t matter whether your beneficiary files a claim on day 11 or day 3,654 of a 10-year term policy. The coverage amount is the same.

3. Your Premium

Once you buy your policy, your premium (the amount you pay for the coverage) doesn’t change throughout the duration of your term. Premium is usually paid in monthly installments.

Main takeaways: Fixed term. Fixed coverage. Fixed premium.

What Isn’t Term Life Insurance?

Term life policies don’t have a cash value — meaning the money you pay for coverage won’t be returned to you at the end of your term if a claim is never filed and paid.

Term life insurance isn’t an investment vehicle. (If that’s what you’re after, there are other more expensive, more complicated life insurance products out there in the market that a licensed agent would be thrilled to talk to you about.)

But don’t think of this as a negative. In fact, it’s actually a positive because this makes term life policies much more simple and affordable. You don’t need to worry about paying more or investing to build up the coverage amount over the years. What you buy is what you get. Period.

How Much Life Insurance Do I Need?

Well, that’s a personal question. Some families opt for one year’s salary while others opt for five or more. We can’t provide an exact answer, but here are just a few things you should definitely consider — beyond funeral costs:

Loss of Income

  • Does your spouse depend on your income for monthly expenses?
  • Do you have a mortgage, car loans, or other kind of debt?


  • Do you have children? (Think about childcare, housekeeping, college costs, and more.)
  • Do you have aging parents who require financial assistance?


  • How long will your family/beneficiaries require financial assistance after you’re gone?

Every situation is different, so take time to evaluate your family’s needs and buy the appropriate amount of coverage.

Term life insurance is a great option for many families, especially if you choose a smarter life insurance provider. 😉