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We’ve talked a lot about obesity and overweight issues and how build affects life insurance rates. A person’s build, their height and weight and how that is distributed, is probably one of the biggest sore spots in life insurance underwriting, at least to clients. Unlike lab results like cholesterol or liver functions, or medical tests like blood pressure measurements, people can jump on the denial train with weight in a few different ways. You won’t generally find them running to a BMI chart for help.

The most common argument thrown about to justify weight is that “I’m a large boned person”. To kind of put this in context let’s draw a couple of pictures of life insurance applicants. One is 5’10”, 185#’s. The other is 5’10”, 240#.

Personally I think the large boned thing is real. I don’t think they’re lying abut that, maybe just using it a bit beyond reality. While I couldn’t find any reliable articles that actually substantiated the the big bone theory, I did some figuring on my own. The following is the big boned facts according to Ed, one of the luxuries of having your own blog. I’m 5’10”, 175#. Not skinny and not fat. I’m pretty sure I’m not big boned either. Just for the sake of argument, and I’m pretty sure I’ll start one, let’s say that “big bones” may add 10% to a person’s body mass. That means that if I was big boned I might weigh 192 pounds or so.

The problem is that generally the folks trying to use the big boned theory are trying to explain away a lot more than 10%. In other words, what life insurance underwriters hear a lot of, is someone 5’10” and 230#’s saying they are large boned. I guess the bottom line from my unscientific best guesses is that they may very well be large boned, but those large bones are also very well protected. Wouldn’t want to break a large bone after all. Bigger bones seem like they might take a lot longer to heal.

The other argument thrown out there for larger than average builds is that the person is a weight lifter, a body builder. Now this is a tough argument. There isn’t any doubt that a true body builder has substantially extra muscle mass and weight. 5’10” and 230#’s might very well be the optimal weight for the true body builder. That’s just a guess, so if you are a body builder and that is really fat or skinny, I didn’t mean to offend you. It still won’t get you to the same rate class as your tiny counter part though.

Back to my two examples though. At 5’10, 185#’s a person, absent any health issues, should qualify for the best rates with most insurance companies. At 240#’s a person would qualify for a standard rate at best. The difference for a 45 year old buying $500,000 of 20 year term insurance is $610 a year if you’re the small guy and $1110 a year if you’re the large guy.

There used to be a lot of wiggle room when it came to the issue of rate. Most of us agents that have been around for a while remember that as the good old days. It’s a different underwriting world than it was three years ago.

As for the big boned person. Well, a build chart is a build chart and every life insurance company has one. They have to draw the line somewhere and absent a dissection to prove the big boned theory…….honestly even with the dissection, the underwriter will stick to the build chart.

Bottom line. Now take heart. Not all companies use the same chart and an independent agent can often find you a better rate class than you might otherwise be stuck with. While there is very little wiggle room on a company’s best rate class, and these aren’t the good old days, they will occasionally bend a bit as long as all other risk factors are in your favor.