Is Life Insurance Worth It? (Who Needs It, And Who Doesn't)

Peer reviewed by Tobin Tuff, Certified Life Insurance Advisor
In This Article

Is life insurance worth it for the average Canadian family? Probably, if you have anyone in your life who depends on you financially.

Stay tuned; we'll look at who needs life insurance, who really needs it, and when it's OK not to have life insurance.

Is life insurance worth it in Canada? 

Life insurance is worth it for many Canadians: term life insurance is worth it for Canadians that have people in their lives who temporarily depend on their income, like minor kids or elderly parents. Whole life insurance is worth it for Canadians who have permanent dependents like disabled children, complex estate planning needs or want to protect their business as a contingency plan against the loss of a business partner.

Start by asking yourself if your loved ones be able to provide for themselves if you passed away. If not, it’s worth considering life insurance.

The death benefit your family would receive is significantly more than the premium payments needed to maintain your coverage.

If you pass, life insurance provides a lump sum of cash to your dependents.

This money can be used for anything, including:

  • Everyday expenses
  • Mortgage payments
  • Debts like student loans, credit card balances or car loans
  • Childcare expenses
  • Saving for the kids' post-secondary education
  • Saving for retirement
  • Take time off work (for a surviving partner)

The reality is that some people genuinely need to invest in life insurance, while others can forget about it (for now). There’s no one-size-fits-all answer to this question.

Is there a point to life insurance?

The point of life insurance is to help your family or other loved ones cope with the financial effects of your passing. This could be your premature passing (term life insurance) or your death at any time (permanent life insurance).

Life insurance can help with the following financial needs:

  • Replace income to maintain standard of living
  • Pay for funeral expenses
  • Pay off debts
  • Pass along money to an estate or trust (permanent life insurance)

As personal finance author Dave Ramsey puts it:

Life insurance is a super important part of protecting your family with a long-term financial plan in case anything happens to you. The purpose of life insurance is to replace your income for your family if you die. - Dave Ramsey, personal finance author

Do I need life insurance?

You need life insurance if someone in your life depends on your income, so they'd have financial protection if something happened to you. 

Here's who needs life insurance:

  • Parents of minor children
  • Breadwinners
  • Stay-at-home-parents
  • Married or common-law couples
  • Caretakers with dependents like elderly parents
  • Business owners
  • Homeowners with a mortgage
  • People with debt
  • Near retirees without significant retirement savings
Is life insurance worth it? who should get coverage

Coverage is a good idea for anyone with substantial financial obligations; the case for many Canadians.

For example, a family with young children could benefit from having a life insurance policy in place. The loss of income from the death of a parent would have a financial impact on the remaining family members to cover things like a mortgage, outstanding debts, living expenses, childcare costs, etc.

If you're among those listed above, you might be in a life situation where having a policy to help your beneficiary(ies) with a life insurance payout.

Who really needs life insurance?

You really do need life insurance if you have anyone who depends on you financially, such as a spouse or partner, minor children, permanent dependents like disabled children, elderly parents or a business partner.

These people depend on you financially and if you were to pass away, they might face losing their home, financial stress or a decline in standard of living.

Having a life insurance policy means your dependents have financial security if they need it. This can look like:

  • Paying off the mortgage and keeping the house
  • Knowing final expenses, like funeral expenses, will be taken care of
  • Taking time off work to process grief
  • Paying off debt and avoiding the stress of looming bills
  • Affording childcare, if the primary caregiver passes away
  • Knowing that there'll be money for retirement and post-secondary education costs

The Globe and Mail's personal finance columnist Rob Carrick puts it best:

What would happen to your family if you died suddenly? If you have an up to date will and term life insurance, you can be confident you’ve done your best to provide an answer. - Rob Carrick, The Globe and Mail

Ready to get term life insurance? PolicyMe offers some of the most affordable rates in Canada, and it takes 20 minutes to apply online (on average).

Who doesn't need life insurance?

You likely don't need life insurance if no one is likely to suffer financially if you passed away.

You probably don't need life insurance if any of these scenarios apply to you:

  • Single
  • No one depends on you financially
  • No big debts
  • Have significant wealth built up
  • Own a business or real estate that can be liquidated

In all of these cases, there would be no financial impact on your loved ones if you were to pass away.

There's plenty of money in the bank, no big loans to pay off, assets that can be converted into cash or there's no one who needs your financial support. Which means you don't need life insurance.

Is it OK to have no life insurance?

Yes, it is OK to have no life insurance if there's no one in your life who relies on you financially or if you have sufficient financial assets, like savings and investments.

That said, you'll need to make sure your assets will cover all of your future financial obligations.

Imagine if you weren't there to contribute funds to future financial goals such as:

  • Retirement
  • Post-secondary education for the kids
  • Paying off the mortgage

Would the surviving partner or the kids' guardian have enough money to cover these expenses?

Figuring out how much money your family will need in the future can be a tricky calculation, which is why we recommend our free life insurance calculator.

Term life insurance: is it beneficial?

Term life insurance is likely worth it for the average Canadian that needs life insurance.

As the Canadian Life and Health Insurance Association explains it, “Term insurance provides cost-effective, temporary coverage over an insured's younger years.” 

It’s affordable protection for a fixed period of time – 10, 20 or 30 years – until you anticipate no longer having dependents or significant debts. 

Why a term life policy? Generally, your financial responsibilities will have an end date. Your kids won’t depend on you financially once they grow up. Eventually, you’ll have paid off your mortgage and debts. You’ll also be building up savings and investments during your prime earning years.

Term policies give you just the life insurance coverage you need, so you don’t spend more than you have to.

Want to know how much a term life insurance policy will set you back, month to month? It might be less than you think. PolicyMe has some of the most affordable term policy rates in Canada.

Is whole life insurance worth it?

Whole life insurance is probably not worth it for the average Canadian family. The premiums for any type of permanent life insurance policy, whether whole or universal, are costly, up to 4-5x what you’d pay for a term policy. 

And if you were about to ask if universal life insurance is worth it, unfortunately the answer for that is also "probably not, if you're like 98% of Canadians."

Many whole life insurance or universal life insurance policies have a cash value component or investment option which may seem attractive. But they’re funded by the unnecessarily high premiums you’d pay. 

That money is locked into your policy with limited flexibility for withdrawal, and you risk forfeiting your coverage if you’re unable to continue your payments.

Needless to say, this is not the case for most Canadian families. 

You’d be better off paying into a more affordable term insurance plan and investing the rest of your funds on your own. You will have more control over how the money is managed and also be able to choose how and when to use the funds.

This chart gives you a quick visual of how permanent compares to term life insurance paired with investment, when it comes to growth and returns. 

Employee life insurance: is it beneficial?

An employee (or group) life insurance policy might be worth it for you. But remember that these voluntary life insurance policies usually only pay out the equivalent of about 1-2x your annual salary; likely not even enough to pay off your remaining mortgage. And if you leave your job, your coverage ends.

A term life insurance policy, which can cover your mortgage, debts, and your family’s current and future expenses, is a better bet. 

That said, any coverage is better than none at all. If you can't pay the premiums of a more robust policy, you shouldn’t skip getting life insurance altogether. A policy you can afford, even if it's with a smaller payout, will still help to protect your family. 

At what age should I get life insurance?

The best age for you to get life insurance is when you have a dependent, whether it’s your children, spouse or other family members. For most people, this is when they get married or start having kids.

We know what you’re thinking: “But I just got a mortgage, and kids aren’t cheap! How am I supposed to afford life insurance?”

But the benefit to getting life insurance at a young age is that your life insurance premiums will be much more affordable.

It’s wise to lock in a low monthly rate when you’re young because it’ll stay at that price for the entire term of your policy.

At what age don't you need life insurance?

You probably don't need life insurance by the time you retire; in Canada the average age of retirement was 64 years old in 2021, according to Statistics Canada.

It's hard to pinpoint an exact age when you don't need life insurance, though.

In truth, you don't need life insurance when either scenario applies:

  1. You reach the age where no one relies on your income
  2. You have enough savings to support your dependents if you were to pass away

Those who have retired (or are about to) may still need term life insurance if they have debt or a partner or children who are dependent on them financially.

Unfortunately for those in their 50s or 60s, term life insurance premiums are more expensive than for people in their 30s or 40s.

The table below shows the differences in estimated monthly premiums by age.

Obviously, locking in a policy earlier will save you a lot of money. But, if you need life insurance at that point, it can be better to get the protection you need than nothing at all.

Is Life Insurance Actually Worth It? Chart detailing the average cost of life insurance by age

Real-life examples: who does and doesn’t need life insurance in Canada

Let’s get into some examples involving real-life Canadians who, like you, are wondering whether they need life insurance. Should they join the ranks of the 22 million Canadians holding $5.1 trillion in coverage? 

Certified Life Insurance Advisor, Tobin Tuff, shares his recommendations below.

1. Real-life example #1 - Elena, 31 and Feng, 33, in Burnaby, BC

  • Elena and Feng have been married for 2 years, with a $500,000 mortgage on their home
  • Elena works as a financial controller, while Feng is a coordinator at a non-profit
"Elena and Feng need life insurance: if one of them were to pass away, the other would not be able to afford the daily expenses and the mortgage payment every month."

Read more about mortgage life insurance here.

Real-life example #2 - Nicolette, 37 and Stefan, 38, in Montreal, QC

  • Nicolette and Stefan have been together for 8 years and have 2 kids aged 3 and 5, but have never made it “official” with a trip down the aisle
  • Stefan works full-time in construction, while Nicolette has a part-time job as a medical receptionist, and they rent their home.
"Nicolette and Stefan need life insurance: both their incomes are necessary to support the two kids and their living expenses."

Read more about life insurance for couples here.

Real-life example #3 - Matt, 20, in London, ON

  •  Currently halfway through a 4-year university degree, Matt lives with a couple of roommates to save on costs.
  • Between his parents and his part-time job, his tuition and living expenses are covered, he has no other debts and no dependents. He also has a small chunk of change as an emergency fund.
"Matt doesn’t need life insurance: he doesn’t have people that count on his income to make ends meet."

Read more about life insurance in Ontario.

Real-life example #4 - Asma, 33, in Calgary, AB

  • Asma works as a business analyst and owns her 2 bedroom condo with a mortgage of $250,000
  • Although she lives on her own and makes all the payments herself, her mother co-signed her mortgage loan
"Asma needs life insurance: if she passes, her mother would need to continue payments for the condo and pay for Asma’s funeral expenses. This is a burden Asma does not want to leave behind for her mom."

Read more about life insurance in Alberta.

Real-life example #5: Laila, 24, in Regina, SK

  • Laila is a few months away from completing her studies.
  • To make sure she can start her life debt-free, she chose an affordable program, lives at home and commutes to school a few days a week. 
  • Her parents are still working and can comfortably provide for their own needs.
"Laila probably doesn’t need life insurance: she has no debts or dependents."

Real-life example #6: Ian, 44, in Moncton, New Brunswick

  • Ian is a senior manager at a credit union and lives on his own in an apartment that’s mortgage-free.
  • He financially supports his mother, who has been unable to work for over 7 years due to an injury she sustained in a car accident.
"Ian needs life insurance: Even though he’s paid off his mortgage, he helps pay his mother’s bills and living expenses. He wants to ensure she would be taken care of financially if he were to pass."

Real-life example #7: Barb, 58 and John, 62, in Barrie, ON

  • Barb and John had kids early on in their relationship, and now they’re grown and have moved out to start their own families.
  • They’re both still working, but with an eye on topping off their retirement accounts - they’re hoping to pay off the mortgage before quitting for good!
"Barb and John need life insurance: they still have an outstanding balance on their mortgage. Financially, their children are just starting out and may not have the money to support the surviving parent." 

Do any of these scenarios ring a bell? You can see how much a life insurance policy might cost you in a few minutes, no commitment required.

In summary: Life insurance is worth it for some Canadians

Everyone will have a different answer for why life insurance matters to them. If you were to pass, your family deserve the peace of mind knowing the finances will be taken care of. And having this peace of mind may be less pricey than you think. 

  • The earlier you secure a life insurance policy, the more affordable the premiums tend to be
  • Some coverage is better than nothing. If you can’t afford a policy that will fully cover your obligations, a smaller policy will still protect your family.
  • In most cases, term life insurance is all you need as it’s much more affordable than permanent life insurance.
  • The best life insurance in Canada for you will depend on your unique needs.

Learn more at: What is Life Insurance? Everything You Need to Know

FAQ: Is life insurance worth it in Canada?

Is life insurance a good investment?

Life insurance is a good investment for Canadians with people that rely on them financially — in the sense that it's a wise purchase. But life insurance should not be used as an investment vehicle for cash value, as it isn't the most efficient way to invest (versus things like the stock market or an RRSP). There are very specific scenarios in which a life insurance policy might be a worthwhile investment vehicle, but for the average Canadian family, this isn't the case.

The main reason you would use life insurance for investment purposes would be for tax benefits. But if your TFSA and RRSP isn't maxed out, you're better off putting your money there.

At what age is life insurance no longer needed?

There is no particular age when life insurance is no longer needed. Your need for a life insurance policy largely depends on your financial obligations. For example, if your mortgage is paid off, if your kids no longer depend on you financially, if you've paid off your debts or if you've already set up a retirement plan.

Life insurance reduces the risk of leaving your family with financial issues. As a regular practice, you should reassess the "risk" regularly to see if your obligations have changed.

What is the main reason for having life insurance?

The main reason for having life insurance is to protect your loved ones from financial issues if you were to pass away. Buying a life insurance policy makes sure that the people that rely on you for financial support don't have to face monetary losses if you passed away. A death benefit would give them the gift of financial security in a difficult time.

Is life insurance a good idea?

Life insurance is a good idea if someone financially depends on you, like your spouse/partner, kids or aging parents. Only some Canadians need life insurance. If you're single, financially independent and don't have large debts like a mortgage, you can probably skip a life insurance policy. But if your financial situation has changed recently, it may be time to reevaluate your need for a policy.

How long do I need coverage for?

You need life insurance for as long as you have someone financially dependent on you. That length of time is different for everyone, but your answer likely won't stay the same forever. That's why we tend not to recommend permanent life insurance.

Term life insurance lets you choose the term length that suits you and your family the best. So you can save money by only getting the amount of life insurance than you need.

How much is my life insurance policy worth?

Your life insurance policy's worth will depend on the type of life insurance you have. Permanent and universal life insurance tends to have a cash value component, which will change over time. If this question is in the context of selling your life insurance policy to someone else, take note that you are only able to sell your policy in Quebec, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia and Saskatchewan.

Learn more: Is Critical Illness Insurance Worth It? 

Laura McKay

COO & Co-Founder

About the Author

What to read next