16 Commonly Misunderstood Insurance Words
Underwriting, premiums, contestability period—terms like these can make insurance words seem like a foreign language.
Fortunately, a good insurance professional can help you make sense of it all. So can the definitions below. We explained them in recognition of Financial Literacy Month. Read on to understand some commonly misunderstood insurance words.
16 Commonly Misunderstood Insurance Words
- Accelerated death benefit: An accelerated death benefit, often as a rider (see below) to a policy, lets you use some of the life insurance death benefit before you die. This is an option if you’re terminally ill. People often use the accelerated death benefit to pay off debt, cover hospice costs or take a special trip with their families.
- Annuity: These are financial instruments that some insurance companies offer that allow you to save money on a tax-favored basis and create an income for life. You choose one that meets your needs, such as how you will pay for it (immediately or over time) and when you will start taking your payments and for how long. Annuities are popular among retired people because they can offer protected income for life.
- Contestability period: A contestability period is a set amount of time after a life insurance company issues your policy. During this time, the company can review your application to make sure you didn’t misrepresent anything. The contestability period starts as soon as the policy is issued. It usually lasts one to two years. Its purpose is to protect the life insurance company from fraud.
- Conversion right: Some term life insurance policies let you convert them into permanent life insurance policies later on. This is a great way to keep your coverage and build wealth. (Learn more about permanent life insurance below.)
- Death benefit: The death benefit is the amount of money your beneficiaries receive from the life insurance policy. You typically don’t have to pay taxes on the death benefit.
- .Disability: A disability is more than just an injury or illness in the world of disability insurance. Many companies’ maternity leaves are covered by short-term disability, for instance. Some disability policies cover lost wages due to depression, mental illness and complications from drug and alcohol abuse. It all depends on the policy, so make sure to read yours carefully. Learn more about disability insurance.
- Grace period: Like many credit cards, some insurance policies may offer a grace period. This is the amount of time your policy remains in force if you don’t pay your premium before the due date. The grace period usually only lasts about a month.
- Insurable interest: Life insurance policies require you to have an insurable interest in the person named in the policy. This means that you would suffer some kind of financial harm if that person were to die.
- Living benefits: Some life insurance policies provide benefits while you’re still alive. Some of the most common living benefits are accelerated death benefits, long-term care benefits and policy loans. Learn more about the living benefits of life insurance.
- Long-term care insurance: Long-term care insurance steps in if you can no longer care for yourself for an extended period of time. It can cover nursing home, adult day care or home health care costs. There are several different policy options for long-term care. Learn more about long-term care insurance.
- Permanent life insurance: Permanent life insurance pays a death benefit just like term life insurance. But unlike term life insurance, permanent life insurance provides lifelong protection for as long as you pay the premiums. It also accumulates cash value on a tax-deferred basis. You can use this money to buy a home, supplement your retirement income, cover an emergency expense and more. It’s a great option if you’re looking to build your wealth while also protecting your family financially. Learn more about permanent life insurance.
- Preferred rates: A preferred rate is a less expensive rate for life insurance. It’s offered to applicants who are at a lower risk of dying. Some of the factors life insurers consider when offering preferred rates are a person’s health history, smoking habits, gender and lifestyle.
- Premium: A premium is the payment an insurance company requires in order to keep your policy in force. Depending on the policy, you might pay your premium annually, quarterly, monthly or some other frequency.
- Rider: A rider is an additional amount of coverage you can add to your main insurance policy. It gives you extra coverage for your exact needs. Common insurance riders are long-term care riders and accelerated death benefit riders. (Check out the definitions of long-term care insurance and accelerated death benefits above.)
- Term life insurance: Term life insurance is the most common and affordable type of life insurance. It provides coverage for a specific amount of time (the term). The term is usually 10, 20 or 30 years. Your beneficiaries receive a payout (known as a death benefit) if you pass away during the term. Learn more about term life insurance.
- Underwriting: Underwriting is the process an insurance company uses to decide two things: if they want to offer you a policy and at what rate. A professional called an underwriter does the underwriting. When it comes to life insurance, the underwriter looks at factors like a person’s age, health, lifestyle and more to make those decisions.
Amanda Austin is a freelance writer who has worked in the insurance industry. She lives in Erie, Penn., and holds the CPCU, AINS, and AIS designations.