Northwestern Mutual

What is Life Insurance?

Life insurance is a way to leave money behind for the people who depend on you for financial support: partner, children, even parents. Maybe they’ll use the funds to cover funeral costs, meet living expenses or pay off any debts you may have.

But life insurance also offers advantages before you die. Permanent life insurance (which includes whole life insurance) accumulates cash value you and your family can use while alive. That makes sense whether you’re married or single, whether you’re young or old, and whether or not you have kids.

Life Insurance: Flip the Myths


I’m too young for life insurance.

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You’re never too young to get life insurance. The younger and healthier you are, the easier it is to qualify and the lower the cost will be. Plus, if you buy permanent life insurance (which includes whole life insurance), the policy grows in value, creating cash value you can use at any age, for any reason. And the earlier you buy, the more time the cash value has to grow.

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I can’t afford life insurance.

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Most people say they can’t afford life insurance, but 80 percent overestimate the cost—44 percent of Millennials even overestimate by five times the actual amount.1 In reality, life insurance can cost far less than what you may spend on a monthly cellphone plan or daily cup of coffee.2

1 2018 Insurance Barometer Study, Life Happens and LIMRA.

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Life insurance is just for paying funeral costs after I die.

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Not necessarily. A permanent life insurance policy does provide money upon your death, but it also builds equity (known as cash value) you can use throughout your lifetime.

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Nobody depends on my income, so I don’t need life insurance.

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Someone will be in charge of taking care of things if something happens to you. Life insurance can cover your funeral arrangements and any debt you leave behind, such as credit card bills and student loans.

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I’ve got all the life insurance I need through my employer.

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Life insurance is a great job perk. But if it only covers one or two times your salary, it’s probably not enough, especially if you are your household’s primary earner. Plus, you can’t take it with you if you leave the company.

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I’m not the sole wage earner, so I don’t need life insurance.

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Everything you contribute to your household has value. If you die, your family could use life insurance to cover childcare or other household expenses. Or your partner may choose to take time off to spend with the kids. Life insurance can help provide that flexibility.

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Term vs. Permanent Life Insurance

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

Click “Term” or “Permanent” to see the difference between these two products over time.

  • Term
  • Permanent


Life Insurance: Benefits You Can Use Today

With permanent life insurance (which includes whole life insurance), as you pay for the policy over time, you’re building a flexible asset you can use while you’re alive—at any age and for any reason. Here are just a few of the ways you can take advantage of permanent life insurance coverage:


Make a Down Payment on a New Home


Fund a New or Existing Business Venture


Pay for a Child’s College Education


Cover Costs of an Unexpected Emergency


Supplement Your Retirement Income

Utilizing the life insurance cash values through policy loans, surrenders of dividend values or cash withdrawals will or could reduce the death benefit, necessitate greater premium outlay than anticipated and/or result in an unexpected and/or adverse taxable event.

What Are You Doing to Protect Your Future?


Why Purchase Life Insurance Now?


It Costs Less

The earlier you start, the lower your premiums will typically be.


You’re Healthy

Good health makes it easier to qualify, with lower cost.


Time to Grow

The sooner you buy permanent insurance, the longer your cash value can grow.


Peace of Mind

You’ll leave your loved ones with funds to pay debts and other expenses.

Go Deeper with Resources from Our Experts

Tips for Saving Money on Insurance

Did you know that what you pay for insurance depends partly on the choices you make? Making small tweaks to your lifestyle could help you lower your premiums on your auto, home, health, disability income and even life insurance. Find out what factors will help you save!

Learn More

Protect Your Family With Term and Permanent Life Insurance

If you’re thinking about buying life insurance, should you buy term or permanent life insurance? Learn why the best approach may be a combination of both.

Read More

Ways to Get Life Insurance

Life insurance is an important purchase—the kind you want to get right, with no regrets or hesitation. That means doing your homework, understanding the options and choosing the solution that fits your one-of-a-kind life. A decision like this deserves expert guidance and a real person to talk to.

Can I get life insurance at work?

If you work full-time, your employer might offer a life insurance benefit. But understand what you’re getting. Usually, employers provide insurance that lasts only as long as you work for them and often with minimal coverage—typically one or two times your salary. To cover all your needs, you might also want a policy of your own.

Can I get a life insurance quote online?

Online quoting sites might help you anticipate the cost of life insurance coverage. But online life insurance quotes are based on simple averages, and most people’s lives aren’t simple or average. Don’t make this important purchase based on guesswork. Research your options—starting with this overview of life insurance solutions—and then talk with a real person who will get to know you and guide you to the right decision.

I’m ready to buy. Where’s the online checkout?

Choosing the right policy takes more than a few checked boxes and a credit card number. Life insurance comes in many types, most of which can be customized in several ways, depending on your needs and budget. The surest way to navigate the options is through honest conversation with a real person. Click the button below to connect with an expert who will help you get the right insurance for your situation.

Work with a Company That Wants to Work with You

Think of Northwestern Mutual as your personal guide. We’ll help you find the right kind of life insurance for the right amount of benefit, for the right length of time, and within your budget. The choice you make today can bring peace of mind for a lifetime, and we’ll be with you all the way.

Reach Goals

We’ve been helping people achieve financial security for more than 150 years. Today, more than 3.7 million Americans have turned to us for life insurance coverage.

Trust Results

The best life insurance company is the kind that will be there when you need it. As the largest direct provider of individual life insurance in the U.S.,3 we’ve earned the trust of our clients—and the highest possible financial strength ratings awarded to any life insurer from the major rating agencies4.

Stick Around

People stay with Northwestern Mutual for a long time. Once they choose a life insurance policy, they keep it—so much so that 96 percent of our policies remain active from year to year.

See Beyond

We care about causes that matter to our clients and their families. Since 2012, our Northwestern Mutual Childhood Cancer Program has donated more than $8 million toward curing childhood cancer, funded nearly 64,000 research hours and provided support to 5,000 families.