I signed up for $1 million of life insurance before I ever had kids, and I'd tell any 20-something to do the same

how i chose life insuranceLayland Masuda/Getty ImagesThe best time to get life insurance is well before you need it. The author is not pictured.Layland Masuda/Getty Images

If you are single without kids, life insurance is probably the farthest thing from your mind. While I briefly looked at life insurance when I was 22, I didn't get serious about it until about a half-decade later, when I bought $1 million in life insurance coverage before I had my children.

That delay likely cost me a little bit every single month for 30 years.

The cheapest time to get life insurance is usually right now

Life insurance is an important financial protection for your loved ones. With most life insurance policies, if you pass away, your chosen beneficiaries will receive a payment called a death benefit. You can choose the death benefit you want for your family when applying for a new life insurance policy.

The best type of life insurance for most people is term life insurance. With this kind of insurance, you pay a fixed monthly payment every month. If you pass away, your beneficiary gets the benefit. If you outlive the policy's term, you don't get any payment at the end. Term life often comes with a relatively low cost compared to a very large benefit. I pay about $78 per month for a $1 million policy, for example.

The cost of life insurance generally goes up as you get older. You'll pay less per month if you sign up at 25 than 35. You'll pay less today than you will in the future in almost all cases. Not only do you get older, which can cause prices to go up, but you may also discover a new health condition or family history that could drive up monthly costs. When you sign up and start paying for a term life insurance policy, your monthly cost is locked in for the entire term.

Plan years ahead when deciding on life insurance

Life insurance isn't usually about something that will happen in a year or two. Term life insurance usually lasts for decades. The most common terms are for 10, 15, 20, and 30 years. You'll pay more for a longer term than a shorter one, as there is a higher risk you would pass away within a longer period of time.

While you may be more concerned about weekend partying or backpacking around Europe today, if you plan on having kids at some point in the future, term life insurance is a good idea. Locking in a high-value policy for the longest possible term gives your future family extensive financial protection at the lowest cost.

I have a 30-year term life insurance policy from before having kids

While I wasn't wise enough to get my own life insurance policy the first time around, I did sign up before having kids. After I met my wife and knew kids were on the horizon, I decided it was time and got my own life insurance policy outside of work.

In my late 20s, I chose a 30-year term that would last until shortly before I turn 60. Hopefully, I'll have enough in savings and investments that I won't need life insurance for my family at that point. My kids should be grown and on their own and I plan to have enough retirement savings to support two people for 30 or 40 years. That should easily be enough to cover my wife if something happens to me after the policy ends.

But for now, if I pass away for nearly any reason, my wife would get a $1 million payment that should cover the mortgage, groceries, and a lot more for at least a decade or two if used wisely.

Lock in your rates now before they go up for good

According to data from Quotacy, a $100,000 term life insurance policy for a healthy 30-year-old male is just $12 per month, on average. At age 40, it goes up to $20 per month. At age 50, it's $36 per month. The longer you wait, the more you'll pay.

You are not getting any younger, so even if you don't have kids yet, it's probably the best time to get life insurance. You can always cancel it later, but you can't go back and find a new policy at a lower rate. Lock it in now and you're set for decades to come.

Policygenius can help you compare life insurance policies to find the right coverage for you, at the right price »

Disclosure: This post is brought to you by the Personal Finance Insider team. We occasionally highlight financial products and services that can help you make smarter decisions with your money. We do not give investment advice or encourage you to adopt a certain investment strategy. What you decide to do with your money is up to you. If you take action based on one of our recommendations, we get a small share of the revenue from our commerce partners. This does not influence whether we feature a financial product or service. We operate independently from our advertising sales team.

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