Life insurance applications for Americans have jumped in 2020 as the COVID-19 pandemic has made us more aware of our own mortality.

No one has been more interested in their own life insurance gaps than the under-45 crowd.

Application activity has grown almost twice as fast this year for Americans 44 and younger as for those 45-59, according to research through September from MIB Group, a data-sharing service for insurance companies.

Younger buyers are often first-time applicants, digging into the details to understand how life insurance works. If you’re looking for a policy, here’s how to ease your way through the application process and get the most out of your new coverage.

Plan for tomorrow, not today. Faisa Stafford, president and CEO of industry group Life Happens, recommends focusing on two main issues: replacing your income and repaying your debts if you die. That means thinking ahead to cover your growing financial commitments as your life changes.

For example, a new homeowner can skip mortgage protection insurance, which pays off your loan if you die, and choose a term life policy instead, suggests Roslyn Lash, a financial educator in North Carolina.

Skip the medical exam while you can.

In a growing practice called “accelerated underwriting,” many insurers now rely on your prescription drug use, data about you from MIB Group and electronic health records to speed the process, according to the Society of Actuaries.

Accelerated applications can cut approval times down from weeks to hours, according to the National Association of Insurance Commissioners, with no medical exam required.

Don’t assume life insurance is expensive.

Research by the life insurance trade group LIMRA shows that half of millennials overestimate the cost of coverage. Only 52% own life insurance, even though 80% recognize they need it, according to LIMRA.

But the 2020 pandemic is providing new motivation. In October, nearly 1 in 3 millennials said they feel an increased need for life insurance due to COVID-19, according to consumer research from LIMRA.

To get started, all you have to figure out is how much you need and for how long you need it. Think about the people who depend on you. How much money would they need to pay off the house? How long would they need to finish school or find a job?

Stafford suggested starting with a general guide to determine your coverage need: 10 times your annual salary.

 

Andrew Marder is a writer at NerdWallet. E-mail: amarder@nerdwallet.com.