A person’s build, their height and weight and how that is distributed, is probably the biggest bone of contention in life insurance underwriting. Unlike lab results like cholesterol or liver functions, people can try to chase the weight rabbit a few different directions before they have to deal with reality.

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 seekers. One is 5’10”, 185#’s. The other is 5’10”, 240#.

Now I’m a big believer in large boned people. I don’t think they’re lying abut that. While I couldn’t find any reliable articles that actually substantiated the situation, I did some figuring on my own. The following is the big boned facts according to Ed. I’m 5’10”, 175#. Not skinny and not fat. I’m pretty sure I’m not big boned either. I’m thinking “big bones” may add 10% to a person’s body mass. That means that a big boned Me would weigh 192.5#.

On average the people that use the big boned argument are jousting around about 25% above the high average weight for their height. 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 they have also padded their large bones substantially. Wouldn’t want to break a large bone after all. Healing time is probably much longer than a normal bone.

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.

Back to my two examples. 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 $340 a year if you’re the small guy and $630 a year if you’re the large guy.

I have seen a few underwriters allow some slack for the weight lifters, provided they supply body measurements from their doctor and a photo to go with it. They still won’t make it to the best rate with any company, but they will likely fare better than their big boned counterpart. An independent life insurance agent can help you track down the companies that might have a little wiggle room.

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.

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, they will occasionally bend a bit on other rate classes as long as all other risk factors are in your favor.

This post is somewhat dated. Life insurance underwriting is changing and evolving continually. For more updated information check out some of the key word links. If you have a specific question or topic you need information for do a search. If you don’t find the answers you need contact me and we’ll make sure you get the information that is important to you.