How Life Insurance Companies Make Money: Explained


Life insurance is a contract between an insurer and a policyholder, where the insurer guarantees payment of a death benefit to named beneficiaries upon the death of the insured person. People buy life insurance to ensure that their dependents are taken care of after their death. In this article, we will discuss how life insurance companies generate revenue and make profits.

Types of life insurance policies and revenue generation

There are two main types of life insurance policies: term life and permanent life. Term life insurance provides coverage for a specific term, usually 10-20 years, and has a fixed premium rate. Permanent life insurance provides coverage for life, and premium rates can vary depending on the type of permanent life insurance policy.

Insurance companies generate revenue from premiums paid by policyholders. With term life insurance, policyholders pay premiums for a fixed term, and the insurance company invests these premiums to earn interest. In contrast, permanent life insurance policies have a cash value component that earns interest, in addition to the death benefit. Insurance companies also charge fees and commissions when selling life insurance policies to generate additional revenue.

For example, if a policyholder pays $500 annually for a term life insurance policy, the insurance company can invest these premiums in stocks, bonds, and other investments to generate returns. If the policyholder dies during the policy term, the insurance company pays out the death benefit, which is often higher than the accumulated premiums, generating a profit for the insurer.

With permanent life insurance policies, premiums can be invested and earn interest, similar to term life insurance. Additionally, policyholders can access the cash value component of the policy through loans or withdrawals, which can also generate revenue for insurance companies.

Importance of actuarial science

Actuarial science is the mathematical and statistical analysis of risk, used by insurance companies to determine premium rates and manage financial risk. Insurance companies rely on actuarial science to calculate risks and set premium rates, ensuring that the premiums charged are sufficient to cover expected payouts and generate profits.

Actuaries use complex mathematical models to analyze risks, predict events such as death or disability, and determine the likelihood of claims being made. Insurance companies then use this information to set premium rates and manage risk. Actuarial science is essential for the life insurance industry, and its proper use can help insurance companies stay profitable.

Investment strategies

Life insurance companies invest in a variety of securities, such as stocks, bonds, and real estate. These investments allow insurance companies to earn returns on premiums in addition to generating revenue from policy sales.

Insurance companies use a combination of asset classes to diversify their portfolios and manage financial risk. For example, stocks provide high returns, but also come with high volatility and risk. Bonds, on the other hand, provide lower returns but are less risky than stocks. Real estate investments provide rental income and capital appreciation potential.

Investment returns are an essential component of life insurance company profits, and successful investment strategies can generate significant revenue. For example, Northwestern Mutual, one of the largest life insurance companies in the US, earned over $12 billion in investment income in 2020.

Mortality risk and reinsurance

Mortality risk is the risk that a policyholder will die before the end of the policy term, resulting in a payout by the insurance company. This risk is of particular concern for life insurance companies, as unexpected payouts can impact their profitability.

Insurance companies hedge against mortality risk by purchasing reinsurance, which transfers some of the risk to another insurance company. Reinsurance provides protection and manages risk for insurance companies, ensuring that they can still pay out claims even if there are unexpected deaths.

For example, Swiss Re, one of the largest reinsurers in the world, helps protect life insurers from mortality risk through its life and health reinsurance business. By managing mortality risk through reinsurance, insurance companies can focus on generating profits instead of worrying about unexpected payouts.

Disruptive technologies and adaptation

The life insurance industry is rapidly evolving, and new technologies, such as AI and blockchain, are disrupting the traditional ways that insurance companies operate. AI is used to automate underwriting and claims processing, while blockchain can be used to improve data security and streamline processes.

Insurance companies are adapting to these changes by investing in new technologies and exploring innovative business models. For example, MetLife has invested in LumenLab, a research and development hub focused on disruptive technologies, while AXA has launched a blockchain-based platform for flight delay insurance.

Adapting to new technologies is crucial for insurance companies to remain competitive and profitable in a rapidly changing industry.


In conclusion, life insurance companies generate revenue by selling policies, investing premiums, and generating returns on investments. Actuarial science is crucial for insurance companies to calculate risks and set premium rates, while successful investment strategies and management of mortality risk through reinsurance play a significant role in generating profits.

Consumers should research and compare various insurance companies before purchasing a policy, as understanding how these companies generate revenue is essential to identifying the best options.

Webben Editor

Hello! I'm Webben, your guide to intriguing insights about our diverse world. I strive to share knowledge, ignite curiosity, and promote understanding across various fields. Join me on this enlightening journey as we explore and grow together.

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