Skip to Main Content

Learn about basic life insurance terms and phrases

You might already know why you should get life insurance, but the research is making things more confusing by the second.
June 14, 2023
3 min read
A couple views their insurance policy on a tablet and discusses it

We know just how confusing and complicated life insurance can be. We also know it’s our responsibility to pass on that knowledge to you and help you understand the ins and outs of your policy. Let's breakdown common words and phrases in life insurance.


Common words and phrases in life insurance


The beneficiary of a life insurance policy is the person, organization or trust that you define as receiving the life insurance payout. If you take out a $10,000 policy and name your child the sole beneficiary, when you die, they get $10,000.

You can also assign multiple beneficiaries to your policy and define just how much of the policy they’ll receive. For example: John takes out a $25,000 life insurance policy. He names his wife and his two sons as the beneficiaries of his policy, but he specifies that his wife will receive 50% of the payout and each of his sons will receive 25% of the payout. John dies, and his wife gets $12,500, while each son gets $6,250.

Death Benefit

A death benefit is the money paid upon the death of the insured. It’s usually a payout of the full coverage amount defined in the policy (a $10,000 policy pays a $10,000 death benefit).

Face Value

The face value of the policy is simply the coverage amount the policy is worth. So, the face value of a $10,000 policy is $10,000. This is usually the same amount as the death benefit.

Cash Value

For most whole life insurance policies, when you pay your premiums some of that money goes into an investment account. The money in this account is the cash value of that life insurance policy. If you cancel a policy, you can receive the cash value of the policy as payment instead of the face value.


Types of life insurance

There are two major kinds of life insurance: term and whole. The biggest difference is how long they last, although there are some smaller differences like premium rates and loan options.

Term life insurance

Term life policy provides coverage for your family for a period of time and then ends. It lasts a certain number of years—usually 10, 20 or 30—or until you reach a certain age—say 80 years old, and it tends to be cheaper than whole life. If you pass away during the term, your beneficiaries may get the money from your death benefit. People often choose term life so that their family is covered during the period of time when they expect their bills and expenses to be at their highest—for example, while kids are going to school and college.

Whole life insurance

Whole life coverage is designed to last—you guessed it—your whole life, as long as you keep paying your bill. When you pass away, your beneficiaries may receive the death benefit payment. People often choose whole life insurance because they want to be certain their families will be covered no matter when they die and because the price they pay for whole life insurance doesn’t go up as they grow older. Most whole life insurance policies accumulate cash value, unlike term, so you sometimes have the option to take out a loan against it if you need to.

If you already have a term policy and are reaching its end, it may be possible to convert it to whole life so you aren’t left without life insurance if you outlive your policy.

Got a minute?

Get a life insurance quote - it won't take long.
Get pricing