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Whenever I do an initial interview with a life insurance client we always touch on “avocation” questions, the dangerous hobby thing. In general the life insurance underwriter wants to know if you are actively increasing your mortality experience by having a good time.

I remember my wife grilling me about my own life insurance when I insisted on a sky diving experience for my 54th birthday. “Are you sure you’re covered?” In my case that was easy. My insurance was already in force and at the time I took the policies that I have out, I didn’t have any plans on skydiving. A distant dream maybe. Something from the “bucket list”, but no plans. In that situation, even if you take up skydiving as a regular hobby, you’re covered. The hinge question is really whether you took out the insurance knowing that you were going to take up skydiving.

Now, as for the other 80-100 folks out there that day all suited up and ready to bail out of a perfectly good airplane, they might not have been in the same situation. So what happens if you’re a skydiver and then, say, get married and have kids and feel like you really ought to be owning some life insurance? I know I harp on this a lot, but this is when you had best find an independent agent that is willing to shop it for you. Going through one of the big on line agencies or going through a local auto and home owner’s agent is going to give you a bad experience, guaranteed.

So, two ways to look at this. You can decide that there is nothing dangerous about sky diving and there are companies that will allow an aviation exclusion that includes skydiving. Think this one through carefully. They aren’t going to buy “the dive didn’t kill him, it was the sudden stop”. Also, because all of the companies I found tie the sky diving to an aviation exclusion, you also won’t be covered if you take up flying as a private pilot. You’re still covered if you’re a passenger, just not as pilot in command. Personally and professionally I don’t recommend putting all of your life insurance eggs in that basket. Consider carrying at least some portion of your life insurance with full coverage.

Full coverage as a skydiver means you will pay what is called a “flat extra” charge, an additional amount per thousand dollars of coverage per year. This will be an additional charge added to what your life insurance would cost if you didn’t do “Dangerous things”. The majority of companies charge a flat extra of $2.50 to $3.00 per thousand for recreational sky divers. So, on $100,000 you would pay $250 to $300 extra per year to be covered. One company really tries to paint you into a box with this breakout “If 50 or less jumps per year tentative $3.00 per $1,000 flat extra. If 51-100 jumps per year tentative $5.00 per $1,000 flat extra. If 101-200 jumps per year tentative $7.50 per $1,000. If over 200 jumps per year tentative $10.00 per $1,000 extra”. Essentially the more exposure the higher the cost.

So, it doesn’t hurt all that bad if you need $100,000, but what if you really need $500,000 and that flat extra is going to add $1250 per year. If budget isn’t an issue I say cover yourself completely. If budget is an issue, consider carrying two policies. One policy could have a sky diving exclusion and the other could have full coverage. If you die from anything other than sky diving, the death benefit is $500,000. If you die from the sudden stop, it’s $250,000. It may not be having your cake and eating it too, but your widow won’t be nearly as ticked as if you had completely excluded it.

Scuba diving, comparatively, is a piece of cake. If you are a truly certified recreational diver there are several companies that will hang in there with their best rate as long as you’re not diving below 100′, 130′ with one of them. You also need to resist the temptations of wreck and cave diving. Once you break the barrier into deep, wreck, cave or ice diving, hold on to your flat extra wallet.

Cliff diving? I have no idea. If you’re doing it professionally I suspect the insurance companies will freak out and charge some monstrous flat extra. If you are doing it recreationally at the lake, it will probably come down to how you answer the question on the application that says, “and any other dangerous hobbies?” If you don’t consider it dangerous the answer is no and it shouldn’t be discussed any further. I’ve never seen an application that specifically asks about cliff diving.

Bottom line. If you’re not sure if your hobbies are covered, ask a life insurance agent to review your coverage. It really hinges on when you took out the coverage and when you took up the hobby.