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Jan. 25, 2022, 5:03 a.m. EST

5 reasons you might have to pay more for life insurance

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By Katia Iervasi

This is reprinted by permission from

It sounds morbid, but when you’re shopping for a life insurance policy, insurers want to know the answer to one question: What’s your life expectancy?

That’s because life insurers take on a financial risk by covering you. The higher the chance of an insurer having to pay out your policy, the more you’ll pay — or the harder it will be to get coverage.

If you fall into one of these five groups, you may be deemed a high risk to insure.

1. You have a pre-existing health condition

“Think cancer, diabetes and any type of autoimmune disorder. Morbid obesity is a big risk, too,” says Jeremy Hallett, CEO of Quotacy, an online insurance brokerage.

However, if you’re managing your  pre-existing condition  well, insurers will take that into account when setting rates.

The reason is simple, says Maureen Shaughnessy, research actuary at LIMRA, a life insurance trade organization.

“The more controlled your health risk is, the more favorable it is for your own mortality — which is good for everybody involved.”

2. You have a dangerous job

If you walk into a risky workplace every day, you can expect to be treated differently from someone with an office job.

The list of “dangerous” jobs is based on specialized tasks. A police officer who works a beat can typically access good rates, but a police officer on the bomb squad could get slapped with a higher premium, Hallett says.

The guidelines for military members are a little blurry. If you’re in the military but not part of active-duty special operations forces, like Army Rangers or Navy SEALs, a broker can normally get you rates based on your health, Hallett explains. However, if you’re deployed to a dangerous part of the world, you probably won’t be approved for a policy until you’re back on U.S. shores, unless you go with an insurer that specifically caters to the military.

These jobs can also cause issues:

  • Piloting, including student pilots, helicopter pilots and crop dusters.

  • Car racing.

  • Certain types of scuba diving, such as wreck diving and cave diving.

The good news? If you leave your hazardous job, you can ask your insurer to re-evaluate your rates.

Read : I’m a 35-year-old father of four with $135,000 saved for retirement. We’ve always lived paycheck to paycheck. ‘What am I doing wrong?’

3. You’re a thrill-seeker

Do you spend your weekends doing extreme sports like car racing, piloting, skydiving, scuba diving or mountain climbing? Unfortunately, you’ll likely end up with higher  life insurance rates .

Insurers will look at the level of risk you’re taking on and how often you participate in these activities.

“Taking your new Porsche /zigman2/quotes/208338327/composite POAHY +2.92% to race around a track: fine. Simply climbing up a mountain: fine. But once you start to use ice picks and go 10,000, 12,000 feet: not fine. If you’re planning to do Everest or K2, they won’t write you until you’re back,” says Hallett.

To avoid committing fraud, it’s important to be upfront with your insurer during the application process. You must disclose your hazardous hobbies, as well as how many times a year you do them.

Also see: The one legal document all seniors need but don’t know it

4. You’re getting drug or alcohol treatment

The type of drug and the length of time you’ve been clean come into play. Insurers carefully consider relapse rates, as well as the likelihood of contracting diseases through drug use, such as hepatitis C.

“Heroin, opioids and meth are problematic. Typically, you can’t get coverage for a year after drug treatment,” says Hallett.

As for alcohol treatment, insurers want to see you sober for one to two years before offering a lower rate.

Also on MarketWatch: 5 ways to avoid tax headaches this year, according to the IRS

5. You have a recent DUI

A DUI is more than a blip on your driving record — it can also affect your ability to get low-cost life insurance.

If you got a DUI in the past year, you can expect a higher premium when you apply for life insurance. If you got multiple DUIs over five years ago, you’ll likely pay more than twice as much for coverage as someone with a clean driving record.

However, your insurer might not penalize you for just one DUI that happened five or more years ago.

Don’t miss: We’re in our 60s, my husband plans to work until he ‘drops dead’ and our medical bills are overwhelming – how can we retire like this?

Boosting your chances of approval

Work with a  life insurance broker or independent agent. These professionals partner with a bunch of life insurance companies, so they can help you navigate your options.

“You need a human being to take your profile to the market, shop it and come back to you with the best offer,” Hallett says.

Read next: Don’t get tripped up by these common estate planning pitfalls

As Shaughnessy says, every insurer has a different risk appetite. To make sure you’re getting the best deal, it’s worth comparing life insurance quotes.

More From NerdWallet

Katia Iervasi writes for NerdWallet. Email: kiervasi@nerdwallet.com.

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