Skip to main content

The questions around getting life insurance in your 40s or 50s

Kelly Kowalski, Cliff Noreen, and Bronwyn Shinnick

Posted on May 20, 2022

Our executives and experts team up to write educational articles, covering a variety of financial topics such as life planning, college savings, and retirement.
Life insurance in your 40s

Life insurance in your 40s or 50s; is it necessary? Is it too late? Sure, you may already be on top of wealth management and retirement planning, but does life insurance really need to be a part of that too?

The answer, like most things in life, is “it depends.”

It's not uncommon to be without life insurance. In fact, many people do not yet have a life insurance policy, according to research from LIMRA and Life Happens. The 2021 survey found that 48 percent of respondents did not have any life insurance and 52 percent of those that do only have an individual life insurance policy.1

However, about 70 percent of those answering the survey said that they saw a need for insurance, particularly for those with children.

Whether life insurance benefits are right for you depends on your goals and how much income protection your family needs. (Calculator: How much life insurance do I need?)

Life insurance and your priorities

Life insurance might not be on your radar now, especially if you are younger. Indeed, for many people starting out managing debt, starting retirement savings, or even establishing wealth management tend to be higher priorities. Life insurance, while advisable for many, often isn’t a priority.

But if you are in your 40s or later, life insurance should be a particular consideration.

Why? First of all, life spans are increasing. According to data from the National Center for Health Statistics, average life expectancy for men and women in the United States is into the late 70s, an increase of more than five years since 1980. This means more people have two to three decades of a working career left when they hit their 40s.

Also, most people's finances get more complicated as they enter middle age. By that time, many people have families that depend on them and a significant number of assets that may need protection in the future. So, putting financial plans into action in your 40s or even your 50s is not too late, given the increase in average longevity. (Related: Whole life insurance: Balancing protection and accumulation)

Beyond age and finances are individual circumstances. Let's say, on one hand, you earn more and you have kids. You pay a mortgage and you save for college through a 529 plan. Then you may want to explore the idea of a life insurance policy large enough to cover the potential expenses if you pass away. On the other hand, if your mortgage is nearly paid off and your children all have full-ride scholarships to college, your need for life insurance may be less critical.

Or perhaps you're single with no children. If you're financially stable and relatively debt free, you have less of a need for life insurance. On the other hand, you may want to look into an appropriate life insurance policy to cover your debts and funeral expenses if you are financially unstable and have sizable debt. (Related: Single? 3 reasons you still may need life insurance)

That can get complicated as well. Basic varieties of coverage options range from whole life insurance , term life insurance , and universal life insurance . The task of determining if a life insurance policy is right for you can be challenging. Some people opt to consult a financial professional.

In all scenarios, your decision about life insurance should reflect your current financial situation.

To get a better idea of how life insurance fits into your finances, try MassMutual's life insurance calculator . It may be useful for your retirement planning to check out the retirement calculator as well.

Why people don't buy life insurance

There are a variety reasons why people don't buy life insurance policies beyond notions about age and timing.

Some are emotionally based. The process of finding the best life insurance can be annoying and perplexing. Many people are hesitant to involve agents, and struggle to find the right products or providers. (Your ultimate life insurance guide)

This process becomes even more complex when people try to tailor a life insurance policy toward different purposes such as estate planning, business situations or unique family circumstances.

Misperceptions about costs are also a major obstacle for people, according to the 2021 Insurance Barometer Study by LIMRA and Life Happens. The study found that about more than half of people overestimate the cost of a policy. So, while they may not see the value in foregoing some current expenses to pay the high perceived costs of policy premiums, they may have more money to buy insurance than they expect.

Why people do buy life insurance

The obvious reason is that life insurance can provide cash infusions for dealing with the adverse financial consequences in the event of death.

For instance, your spouse potentially faces several significant financial decisions and responsibilities in your absence. This can become a burden for your family if you are unprepared for expenses such as funeral costs, debt, mortgages, college for your children, and the everyday costs of your household.

Generally speaking, people in their 40s buy a life insurance policy to ensure that these costs are not passed down to their families; or they simply want to minimize estate tax burdens for their heirs.

Is it too late for life insurance?

Short answer: no. The appropriateness of life insurance in general, and what type in particular, varies from individual to individual. These are just some of the pros and cons that affect the decisions of people in their 40s. But that's why some people opt to consult a financial professional.

This advice is coming from an insurance company, of course. Nevertheless, it doesn't change the general wisdom of considering your financial circumstances and the appropriateness of life insurance in your 40s for your retirement planning, wealth management, and estate planning needs.

Discover more from MassMutual...

The logic of life insurance for children

Crowdfunding isn't insurance

Need advice? Contact us


1 LIMRA/Life Happens, “2021 Insurance Barometer Study,” November 1, 2021.

Need a financial professional? Let us know ...

* = required

By submitting this request, I agree to receive e-mails and phone calls using automated technology from MassMutual, its financial professionals, affiliates or vendors on its behalf regarding MassMutual products and services, at the e-mail address and phone number(s) above, even if it is for a wireless phone. I understand I can contact a local financial professional directly to make a purchase without consenting to receive calls from MassMutual.

The information provided is not written or intended as specific tax or legal advice. MassMutual, its employees and representatives are not authorized to give tax or legal advice. You are encouraged to seek advice from your own tax or legal counsel. Opinions expressed by those interviewed are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of Massachusetts Mutual Life Insurance Company.