As every agent knows, life insurance premiums largely depend on the buyer’s health and habits. Smokers, for example, pay two to three times more for life insurance than nonsmokers. The bad news is that, as a result of these habits, some people suffer sticker shock when shopping for life insurance. The good news, of course, is that your clients can get better rates because of the decisions they make every day.
A new NerdWallet study identified the cities where typical residents pay more for life insurance because of lifestyle factors. The study focused on controllable factors that influence premiums: smoking, weight, fitness and the chance of an auto accident to create a score that ranks cities based on residents’ habits that drive up life insurance rates.
Here’s how we weighted the factors used to calculate the score:
Do residents smoke? This is 50 percent of the score. On average, smokers live 10 years less than nonsmokers, so life insurance companies charge them much more for coverage. For example, a 35-year-old man who doesn’t smoke pays an average of $239.89 a year for a 20-year term life policy for $500,000, but a smoker will pay $665.41 annually for the same coverage.
[For more information about life insurance rates, check out NerdWallet’s life insurance comparison tool.]
Are residents physically healthy? This is 40 percent of the score. Exercise and a healthy diet can help prevent high blood pressure and diabetes, which drive up life insurance rates. Depending on an applicant’s health profile, rates can jump even if they don’t smoke. According to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 36 percent of Americans are overweight and 23 percent don’t engage in physical activity. Most of the cities on our list have higher rates of obesity and physical inactivity than the rest of the U.S.
What is the likelihood that residents will get in a car accident? This is 10 percent of the score. One factor that life insurance companies often consider is a customer’s driving record. Although driving records are a function of a driver’s skill and other drivers, some cities are more dangerous for drivers than others. In our analysis, we looked at Allstate’s statistics on the likelihood that drivers will get in an accident relative to the national average.
Read on to find out which cities topped the list. Or click here to view the full original study.
10. New Orleans, Louisiana
The number of overweight people in New Orleans is on par with the national average. However, New Orleans residents exercise less and smoke more than the rest of the country: 23 percent of New Orleans residents smoke, compared with 19 percent nationally. New Orleans did recently institute a smoking ban in restaurants, bars, casinos and other spots, which studies show will eventually decrease the number of smokers.
Likelihood of auto accident: 40%
Residents who don’t do physical activity: 27%
Overweight residents: 37%
Residents who smoke: 23%
Life insurance score: 24.605
9. Moreno Valley, California
In Moreno Valley, there’s more smoking and less exercise than other places in the U.S. Here, 23 percent of residents smoke, which is about 4 percent above the national average. Residents also exercise at a lower rate: nearly a third, 30 percent, reported that they don’t do physical activity, which is about 7 percent above the national average. Smoking dramatically increases life insurance rates and the University of California, Riverside provides a list of resources, such as Nicotine Anonymous, for those planning to quit.
Likelihood of auto accident: 6%
Residents who don’t do physical activity: 30%
Overweight residents: 34%
Residents who smoke: 23%
Life insurance score: 24.596
8. Madison, Wisconsin
On average, Madison residents smoke more and exercise less than the rest of the country. Both habits will increase life insurance rates. Even though Wisconsin has smoke-free laws, 24 percent of Madison residents smoke, which is higher than the national average.
Likelihood of auto accident: -18%
Residents who don’t do physical activity: 31%
Overweight residents: 33%
Residents who smoke: 24%
Life insurance score: 23.803
7. Fort Wayne, Indiana
Even though Fort Wayne has laws that ban smoking in public places, 26 percent of people smoke here. Quitting smoking can help residents save money on life insurance premiums, and there are programs to help them quit. Indiana University-Purdue University Fort Wayne offers the Freedom from Smoking program.