How does life insurance work?

Life insurance pays a tax-free cash sum to your loved ones, which can help replace income or pay off debts when you die. Have you got yours sorted?

how does life insurance work

How does life insurance work?

Life insurance is a way to transfer your risk to an insurance company, in order to survive any unexpected financial losses. In exchange for a regular payment called premiums, the insurance company takes the risk from you, usually for a fixed term. If you die during this term, the policy will pay out a tax-free cash lump sum to your dependants. 

Do I need life insurance?

Maybe someone told you to get life insurance – but how does life insurance work?

Your loved ones receive a taxfree one-off cash benefit – called the death benefit, if you die prematurely or if you are diagnosed with a terminal illness and expected to die within 12 months, you receive the payout.

The paradox with buying life insurance is we hope we never use it.

What does life insurance cover?

Life insurance pays out the death benefit for most causes of death including illness, accident, or natural causes.

The insurer may reduce or not pay the death benefit claim if it’s caused by suicide within the first 13 months, an intentional self-inflicted act or if it’s discovered the applicant has withheld substantial information that would have changed the offer of insurance.

How much life insurance do I need?

Our unique financial planning software takes into consideration any outstanding debt, assets, possible inheritance, KiwiSaver, end-of-life costs and future day-to-day expenses while having fixed life insurance cover in place simultanously until your longest financial obligations are over.

Our interactive graphs show your lifetime cash flow and current financial position. Not having enough cover in place might mean a budget surplus moves into deficit area. Or your family and loves ones will end up liable for your debt.

A good rule of thumb is 10-15 times your annual income.

Life insurance terminology

Life insurance policies can differ widely. There is the basic off the shelf policy from the supermarket, often has inferior policy wording compared with insurance companies. Yet all policies have some common characteristics.

  • Premiums are the regular payments you make to the insurance company. For level or fixed life policies, premiums stay the same throughout the whole term. With a stepped or rate for age, premiums increase every year.

  • Indexation gives you the option to increase the amount of cover (premiums will increase equally) you have on an annual basis with inflation, to help combat the effects of inflation.
  • Beneficiaries are the people who receive money when the covered person dies or is diagnosed as terminally ill. Choosing life insurance beneficiaries is an important step in planning the impact of your life insurance. Beneficiaries are often spouses, children or parents, but you can choose anyone you like.
  • Death benefit refers to the total amount of money the beneficiaries will be paid when the covered person dies. There are two pays the tax-free benefit can be paid out: all in one, or as a tax-free monthly benefit over a period of time, for instance, 10 years.