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Les Masterson of Insure.com: “Figure out what you want from a life insurance policy”

Figure out what you want from a life insurance policy. Do you want money to pay off the mortgage if you were to die? Do you want to protect your family during your peak earning years? Do you want a smaller policy to take care of final expenses? Figuring out what you want from life […]

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Figure out what you want from a life insurance policy. Do you want money to pay off the mortgage if you were to die? Do you want to protect your family during your peak earning years? Do you want a smaller policy to take care of final expenses? Figuring out what you want from life insurance will lead you to the type of policy that works best for your situation.


As a part of our series about the “5 Things You Should Ask Before You Purchase a Life Insurance Policy” I had the pleasure of interviewing Les Masterson.

Les Masterson is managing editor for Insure.com, Insurance.com and Carinsurance.com, which is owned by QuinStreet. Masterson covers multiple insurance types for the websites and focuses on health and life insurance.


Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dig in, our readers would love to get to know you a bit. Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?

I was a news reporter and editor before covering health insurance for HealthLeaders Media. After a few years covering health care and health insurance, I returned to journalism for a five-year period before going back to covering insurance and working with QuinStreet.

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting in the industry? Can you tell us what lesson or takeaway you learned from that?

Not a mistake, but I was surprised how many different types of insurance are available. I’ve come to the conclusion that if you can lose money on something (like a wedding), there’s insurance for it!

Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?

We’re always looking for ways to better educate consumers on our sites through pages, articles and tools. We added a Health Plan Chooser tool to our sites recently to help people figure out their plan eligibility. We have annual Best Insurance Companies pages, too, that help people find top insurers. We’ll continue to look for ways to better educate consumers and answer their insurance questions.

Are you able to identify a “tipping point” in your career when you started to see success? Did you start doing anything different? Is there a takeaway or lessons that others can learn from that?

Learning about insurance takes research, reading and talking to experts.

We focus on auto, home, health and life, but our sites also have pages on disability, mortgage, job loss, pet and other types of insurance. So, staying on top of all of them takes some juggling.

Most types of insurance don’t change that much over time. Auto, home and life are usually pretty similar from year to year. That’s not the case with health insurance, which can change drastically depending on which party controls the White House and Congress. So, staying on top of health insurance takes staying on top of health care and political news.

Ok, thank you for that. Let’s now shift to the main focus of our discussion. As an “insurance insider”, you know much more about insurance than most consumers. I think many of us have a vague sense about how it works, but we’d love to flesh out the details with you. Let’s start at the beginning. How does life insurance work and what does it cover?

Life insurance provides a death benefit to your beneficiaries when the policyholder dies. The policyholder pays premiums for coverage.

If your loved one wanted to buy a policy from another person, which 5 things would you advise them to find out about before committing to a policy? Can you give an example or story for each?

  • Compare quotes from multiple companies. Don’t just go with your parents’ or friends’ life insurance company.
  • Figure out what you want from a life insurance policy. Do you want money to pay off the mortgage if you were to die? Do you want to protect your family during your peak earning years? Do you want a smaller policy to take care of final expenses? Figuring out what you want from life insurance will lead you to the type of policy that works best for your situation.
  • Check the insurer’s financial stability. One place to start is AM Best’s financial strength rating. You want to make sure the company is still around when you need it, so check its financial standing.
  • Read consumer reviews. On Insure.com, we have an annual Best Life Insurance Companies survey that asks members their thoughts about their insurers. Check out those survey results and other consumer feedback to make determine which company you like best and trust.

Who should have a life insurance policy? Teenagers? People in their twenties? Thirties?

Life insurance is a good idea if you’re married and/or have children. If someone depends on your salary or if you care for someone, you should get life insurance.

If you have a mortgage, it’s vital to have life insurance coverage to help your loved ones pay the mortgage and stay in the home if you were to die.

What are the different types of life insurance? (i.e., term life, whole life, universal life)?

There are two overarching types of life insurance: term and permanent life insurance.

Term life insurance is for a period, such as 20 years. These policies are usually cheaper and have bigger payouts than permanent life plans. However, term life doesn’t guarantee you a death benefit. You can outlive your policy. People often get term life policies for their peak earning years. So, if they were to die, loved ones would get a death benefit to pay a mortgage, cover a child’s college expenses, etc.

Permanent life, such as whole life and universal life policies, guarantees a death benefit when you die, as long as you pay your premiums. They also let you gain cash value on your salary, which you can tap into while you’re still alive.

In many cases a nurse comes to your home when you want to buy life insurance. Can you get a life insurance policy without a medical exam?

Yes, you can get a life insurance policy without an exam, but they cost more money than a standard life insurance policy. Life insurers charge more for these policies since they take on more risk.

Here are two types:

  • Guaranteed issue — These life policies don’t require a medical exam and don’t ask you health-related questions.
  • Simplified issue — You don’t have a medical exam, but you answer a handful of health-related questions.

How is COVID-19 affecting life insurance policies? Can I get life insurance If me or a family member has COVID?

You could still get a life insurance policy — though an insurer may exempt coverage for COVID specifically.

Can you benefit from a life insurance policy while you’re still alive?

Whole life policies build cash value, which lets you tap into the policy while you’re still alive.

Also, life insurance policies can add policy riders that let you benefit from the policy while you’re alive. For instance, you can get a rider to help pay for long-term care or if you have a critical illness. These riders can allow you to create a plan that works best for you.

Can you get a small life insurance policy to just pay for your funeral and final expenses?

Yes, you can get a small permanent life policy. These are sometimes called funeral insurance or final expense insurance. These policies often don’t require a medical exam.

What are the best ways to save on life insurance?

  • Shop around. Get quotes for the same level of coverage from multiple companies.
  • Don’t wait until you’re middle aged or elderly. Age is a key part of life insurance costs. It’s wise to get a policy when you’re in your 20s or 30s.
  • Avoid life insurance policies without medical exams if you can. These policies are expensive. If you have a health issue and can’t get a standard life insurance policy, guaranteed issue policies could be a wise decision. If you’re healthy, stick with a policy with a medical exam.
  • Quit smoking. Smokers pay twice or three times more than nonsmokers. Try to quit the habit so you can benefit from lower rates. Insurers usually demand you quit smoking for at least one year (and sometimes as long as five years) before giving you nonsmoker rates.
  • Don’t buy too much coverage. It might sound good to get a 1 million dollars policy, but do you really need it? Figure out how much is left on your mortgage, how much college may cost for your children, what you want to set aside for funeral costs, etc. By figuring out that information, you can get a policy that meets your specific needs without getting too expensive.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?

One of my first editors, Joe Gibbs, had the biggest influence on me as a journalist, writer and editor. I was a young journalist in my first news job in a high-maintenance community. Joe helped me learn the ropes and avoid the pitfalls along the way. He was patient, set up his people to succeed and was incredibly supportive.

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

It would be great if people learned a musical instrument. It’s a big stress reliever and just improves your mood.

I began playing the ukulele and guitar over the past couple of years. I get so much joy playing the ukulele and have met some fantastic ukulele people online. My instruments have helped me through the pandemic. If everyone learned to play that little instrument, I think the world would be a better, happier place!

How can our readers follow you on social media?

You can follow Insure, Insurance.com and Carinsurance.com on Facebook or Twitter.

Thank you so much for joining us. This was very inspirational.

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