What’s up with my age and life insurance?

We know it’s impolite to ask for someone’s age, but when it comes to life insurance, we really need to know.  

Your age is one of the main things used to calculate your life insurance premiums. As you get older, you or your family are generally more likely to make a claim (whether it’s for a death, terminal illness, or any other mishap covered under your policy), so insurance providers need to balance this risk by adjusting premiums.

But don’t go wishing you could roll back the years just yet – there are other things that come into play when calculating your premiums too. Read on to find out more.

First up, it’s important to remember that life insurance policies are all different. This means that your specific policy will look different to someone else’s, which is why premiums often vary as well. 

How your premiums are calculated

The cost of life insurance depends on a few personal traits that you’ll be asked to confirm when you apply.


You might be ageing better than a fine wine, but insurance providers rely on data about your age group. This usually means that if the insurer has had a lot of claims for older generations, they would consider that particular age group to be more likely to pass away or run into health problems and therefore make a claim.

Part of the reason for more claims by older generations may also be that New Zealanders are sticking around for longer than ever before thanks to our great healthcare system. But living longer doesn’t always mean we’re healthier.

Increased life expectancy says more about the amazing work of our doctors and medical innovations than it does about our overall wellbeing.1

As things stand, older adults in New Zealand have higher rates of chronic disease.2 While this may mean life insurance premiums could increase for a policy holder as they age, knowing you have life insurance could give you peace of mind. Look at it this way – with life insurance cover in place, the older you get the more secure you can feel that your loved ones are financially protected should you pass away.

Not a numbers person? Our life insurance calculator can do the math for you

Smoking status

It’s common knowledge that smoking is bad for your health. It’s also bad for your life insurance premiums. If you smoke, you can expect to pay more for your cover.

Even if you don’t smoke regularly, and just consider yourself a social smoker, you could still be hit with higher premiums depending on how your insurance provider assesses your application.

Some providers will simply ask how many cigarettes you’ve had in the past 12 months – anything more than zero could have a direct impact on your premiums so it’s important to be as honest as possible from the start. That means you may need to be clear and dry from all smoking activities for at least a year if you want a lower premium.

The good news is that even if you get classified as a smoker when you sign up, you can usually have your premiums re-assessed if you end up quitting later on.

Level of cover

If you want a policy with all the latest bells and whistles, you can expect to pay more than you would for a basic policy. Some Life Insurance policies come with the option of applying for extra cover for things like Serious Illnesses or Total & Permanent Disability. If you choose to upsize to these benefits, your premiums will increase.

Your premiums will also be affected by your benefit amount. The higher your benefit, the higher your premiums will be. While it might sound tempting to lower your benefit to make your policy more affordable, it can be wise to ensure there’s still enough for your family’s financial needs, so your loved ones are covered when the worst happens.


Need help crunching the numbers?

Since it’s so important to get your cover amount just right, we’re happy to help. Head over to our life insurance calculator to use as a guide to see how much you may need depending on your personal situation. It’s fast, simple, and won’t cost you anything.

  1. Impact of population ageing in New ZealandNZ Institute for Research on Ageing (NZiRA) 
  2. Age profile — Environmental Health Intelligence New Zealand

Make the call

If you’re keen for a chat, call us on 0800 005 819 from 8am to 8pm Monday to Friday. If you’re too busy enjoying life, we can call you instead, or why not request a quote now?