What Is Supplemental Life Insurance?

By Kelly Boyer Sagert · March 11, 2024 · 8 minute read

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What Is Supplemental Life Insurance?

Supplemental life insurance is typically an additional policy that you can purchase to augment the group life insurance policy obtained via your employer.

These policies can provide extra peace of mind when it comes to protecting your loved ones, but is more insurance always better? You may wonder whether purchasing this kind of policy is a good idea or not worth the added expense. Let’s take a closer look to see whether supplemental life insurance makes sense for your situation.

Understanding Supplemental Life Insurance

Supplemental life insurance is a policy taken out in addition to basic coverage, which might be term or permanent life insurance. You can often purchase a supplemental policy through an employer to augment what they offer as an employee benefit. However, these policies don’t have to be secured through your job. We’ll learn more about that in a minute.

Some of these policies come with a death benefit, a lump sum payment that goes to the beneficiaries you’ve named (the loved ones who will inherit the money). Others may be a different kind of policy; say, one that pays funds that are earmarked to pay for funeral expenses. Depending on the details of your life, these add-ons may be an inexpensive way to boost your protection and sense of security.

💡 Quick Tip: With life insurance, one size does not fit all. Policies can and should be tailored to fit your specific needs.

Do You Need Supplemental Life Insurance?

Deciding whether or not to buy a supplemental policy is a very personal decision. To help figure out the right answer for your situation, it may help to ask yourself and answer a few questions. Let’s consider some of those here.

Does Your Employer Provide Life Insurance?

Because supplemental insurance is meant to enhance the life insurance policies you already have, check to see if your employer offers basic life insurance as a benefit. If so, how much? Many times, employers offering this insurance will provide a multiple of the employee’s current salary. Other times, it’s significantly less — $10,000 to $25,000 worth of coverage is common. Those are figures that many people will find too low to provide the kind of protection they’d like.

If you feel you don’t have enough protection, you may want to look for ways to boost your coverage so that in a worst-case scenario, you know your loved ones will have enough money to cover their expenses. Perhaps your employer offers supplemental policies that will get you to the level of life insurance coverage that you desire. Otherwise, you can also look on the open market for primary or supplemental policies.

Have Your Compared Life Insurance Rates?

If you haven’t compared prices of life insurance rates in a while (or ever), you might want to give it a try. Just because an employer offers life insurance, including supplemental coverage, you may not want to buy it. You may discover that you can get enough life insurance through a standard policy without adding a supplemental one.

You can quickly get quotes by calling an insurance agent or, to save even more time, from a website that provides them from multiple companies. When looking at the quote that gives you the best coverage for the most affordable premiums, would you still need a supplemental policy? The answer may be no. There’s a good deal of competition in the marketplace and great deals to be found.

Recommended: How to Buy Life Insurance in 9 Steps

How Is Your Health?

First, let’s understand that your health rating is a key factor in buying life insurance on the open market. Rates tend to be lower when you are healthier and younger. Health is typically assessed by the insurer asking you questions about your medical status and possibly having you submit to a brief health exam that involves the collection of blood and urine samples.

While plenty of life insurance policies require health exams and/or medical records, many insurers also offer lab-free options that don’t require medical exams (although you’ll almost certainly need to answer health-related questions). These are often the kind employers offer employees. Typically, these policies are for people who fit into certain age groups and other categories in which they’re likely to be healthy. These lab-free policies are often available for up to $1 million.

Now that you know how this works, understand the implications of your health status. If you have an underlying health condition, are a smoker, or have other qualifying factors, you would probably pay more for life insurance if you went shopping on the open market. In these cases, buying a supplemental policy through your job could be a good way to get coverage at a relatively low cost.

Do You Need Portable Coverage?

Before you sign up for a supplemental policy, consider whether it’s portable. “Portability” is your ability to keep certain benefits if you switch your place of employment or leave the workforce entirely — in this case, your life insurance. If you’re thinking about changing jobs or have reason to believe that you may not work at your current employer for much longer, it’s important to know if your life insurance is portable.

How Much Supplemental Life Insurance Should You Buy?

A common recommendation is to carry 10 to 15 times your annual income in life insurance coverage. Your goal is to choose a policy that would replace the income you would have brought in if you weren’t around to provide for your family. So, if you multiply your salary by those numbers and then subtract what you have in your “regular” life insurance policy, that can be a starting point to determine how much supplemental insurance makes sense.

If you make $50,000 a year and multiply by 10 or 12, that’s $500,000 to $600,000 in coverage you want to purchase. (You might want to bump it up a bit to account for inflation.) So, if you have a term life insurance policy for $500,000, you might decide to get a supplemental policy for $200,000.

Now, factor in your outstanding debt. Life insurance payouts can be used to pay them off, including mortgage loans, car loans, student loans, credit cards, and so forth. So, if you have these debts, you can add their outstanding balances up and consider adding those amounts to your life insurance needs. If, for example, these debts total $300,000, you might bump up the supplement policy example above to $500,000.

Recommended: Life Insurance Definitions

Types of Supplemental Life Insurance

We’ve been focusing on one kind of supplemental insurance, a popular option that lets you increase the overall life insurance coverage you own. This kind of policy would pay a lump-sum death benefit to your beneficiaries. If you purchase this, it’s an employee benefit that can increase the amount of coverage that you own (although you may be responsible for part of all of those premiums albeit at a group rate).

But let’s consider some other possibilities that may be offered:

•   Supplemental spouse life insurance. This kind of insurance provides a death benefit if the employee’s spouse dies and may also be called supplemental family life insurance. Employees may also have the option to buy supplemental child life insurance to cover the death of a child or other dependent who qualifies.

•   Accidental death and dismemberment. This provides coverage to your beneficiaries if you are killed or lose physical function in a type of accident that’s covered in the policy. Depending on the kind of work you do or the pastimes you pursue, this may or may not suit your needs. With AD&D insurance, you could receive a benefit, say, if you were to lose your eyesight, your hearing, or limb in an accident. But it won’t provide any benefit if you die due to other medical conditions, which are more likely to occur.

•   Final expenses. These policies pay a small benefit (typically between $5,000 and $35,000) to cover end-of-life expenses, such as funeral and burial costs. Some people like to have this kind of coverage, which means your loved ones wouldn’t have to pay out of pocket for these charges.

How Much Coverage Can You Get Through Work?

It’s worthwhile to evaluate what life insurance options are available through your work. Employers may offer lower rates since they get a group insurance rate. Also, it’s also possible that your employer would pay part of your premiums. It’s typically easier to get insured through a group plan. While you may need to answer medical questions, it’s less likely that you’ll need a medical exam for group insurance.

Group plans through your employer, though, are usually not portable. This means that if you leave that employer, the coverage ends and then you’ll need to shop around again — now at an older (although not necessarily old) age and perhaps with new health conditions. Plus, these plans aren’t as customizable as you might get on your own.

How Much Does Supplemental Life Insurance Cost?

If your employer offers this benefit as part of a group policy, the cost may be minimal, especially if the workplace subsidizes the premiums.

Otherwise, it can make sense to get personalized quotes, given that age, gender, health conditions, amount of the policy, term, and more can impact the price. There are online calculators that can help you do the math and see how the numbers add up.

💡 Quick Tip: Term life insurance coverage can range from $100K to $8 million. As your life changes, you can increase or decrease your coverage.

The Takeaway

To recap: What is supplemental life insurance? It’s a policy that enhances a person’s primary life insurance policy. It helps to ensure that they have enough financial benefit to protect their loved ones if they weren’t there to provide for them.

While supplemental policies through your employer can be affordable, they may not deliver the level of coverage you need. Take a close look at your options, and take advantage of the simple online tools that can help you find the kind of policy you need at the right price.

SoFi has partnered with Ladder to offer competitive term life insurance policies that are quick to set up and easy to understand. Apply in just minutes and get an instant decision. As your circumstances change, you can update or cancel your policy with no fees and no hassles.

Explore your life insurance options with SoFi Protect.

Photo credit: iStock/Kemal Yildirim

Coverage and pricing is subject to eligibility and underwriting criteria.
Ladder Insurance Services, LLC (CA license # OK22568; AR license # 3000140372) distributes term life insurance products issued by multiple insurers- for further details see ladderlife.com. All insurance products are governed by the terms set forth in the applicable insurance policy. Each insurer has financial responsibility for its own products.
Ladder, SoFi and SoFi Agency are separate, independent entities and are not responsible for the financial condition, business, or legal obligations of the other, Social Finance. Inc. (SoFi) and Social Finance Life Insurance Agency, LLC (SoFi Agency) do not issue, underwrite insurance or pay claims under Ladder Life™ policies. SoFi is compensated by Ladder for each issued term life policy.
SoFi Agency and its affiliates do not guarantee the services of any insurance company.
All services from Ladder Insurance Services, LLC are their own. Once you reach Ladder, SoFi is not involved and has no control over the products or services involved. The Ladder service is limited to documents and does not provide legal advice. Individual circumstances are unique and using documents provided is not a substitute for obtaining legal advice.

Financial Tips & Strategies: The tips provided on this website are of a general nature and do not take into account your specific objectives, financial situation, and needs. You should always consider their appropriateness given your own circumstances.


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