There are people who like living on the edge. They have nerves of steel and boundless energy. They have more lives than a cat and are likely to be as nimble as one. Understandably, the rest of us often cast a wary eye on these risk-takers; after all why would anyone want to jump out of perfectly good airplane or race down a quarter mile track at speeds that defy logic? Not surprisingly, your life insurer may be asking these questions as well.
When it comes to life insurance, high-risk recreational activities come with more than just a healthy dose of adrenaline. With life insurance, there's more at play than just your age, overall health, family history and whether or not you smoke; your lifestyle matters too.
On The Edge: What Counts As An Extreme Hobby?
No two life insurance companies are the exact same in what they define as a dangerous pastime. Where one life insurer may consider your hobby high risk, another may not. Also, it may not be readily apparent if it's a "hazardous activity" from the get go; often life insurers will take into consideration how often you participate and where, geographically, this hobby takes you before deciding. If you regularily take part in any of the following activities (there are others, these are just a few of the most common), your life insurance company's ears will perk up and they'll want to learn more.
Many speed loving enthusiasts spend their weekends testing their reaction and driving skills against other like-minded racers. Whether it's auto, motorcycle, power boat or snowmobile racing, speedways, tracks and courses can be found all over Canada to fulfill the need for speed.
If you're a speed demon, when getting life insurance you'll likely be asked about: the type of vehicle you race, types of tracks (oval courses, cross country, drag etc.), the years you've been racing, where you race, whether the races are club sanctioned, your average speed, how often you've raced in the last year, as well as your future racing plans.
- Sky Diving and Parachuting
Many people believe there is a good reason for the winglessness of humans but the adrenaline rush that comes from sky diving is unmatched by any other sport. The view is spectacular (or so I'm told).
If having the wind in your hair at 14,000 feet is a good look for you, then a life insurer will likely ask: if you belong to a club affiliated with the Canadian Sport Parachuting Association, how long you've been sky diving, how many jumps you've logged in the last year, how many jumps you're planning in the next year, and whether or not you take part in exhibitions or competitions.
- Flying, Ballooning and Hang Gliding
Ever since the Wright Brother's successfully flew their Flyer 120 feet in 1903, people have been taking to the skies. (Sidebar: Did you know there's debate that the Wright brothers were actually first? Check out the publication, Jane's All the World's Aircraft and then check out the Smithsonian's rebuttal.)
If you like to takeoff and peer down on your neighbours, pilots will be asked questions from a life insurer like: the type of licence you hold, the type of aircraft you're authorized to fly, when and where you learned to fly, your flying hours, if you've ever been grounded and why, who owns and maintains the aircraft, and where you fly to and from. For those into ballooning and hang gliding you can expect questions around: the construction (home assembled, factory assembled, motorized etc.), the types of terrain you fly over, and whether or not you hold a pilot's licence.
- Rock-climbing and Mountaineering
Legends abound of rugged adventurers who conquer the most daunting peaks under adverse conditions. The achievements of John Clarke in British Columbia's Coast Range mountains and Laurie Skreslet in Mount Everest continue to inspire many to explore rough terrain as a hobby.
If scaling the side of a cliff or trekking up the side of a mountain takes you to new heights, then you'll be asked questions like: the type of climbing you enjoy (trail, rock, snow, ice or glacier), how often you climb, how long you've been doing it, whether or not you climb alone, geographic regions you've tackled or plan to, the time of year you typically go out, the type of equipment normally carried, and how many hours/days typically make up your average climb.
- Scuba Diving and Surfing
The city of Tofino, British Columbia may be surf central for Canadian surfers, but there are many top surf spots that make surfing in Canada increasingly popular. Same goes for scuba diving, and you don't need to live on the east coast or west coast to get your feet wet; the Great Lakes region is a world-renowned Canadian scuba diving destination if you enjoy wreck diving.
If a wetsuit is a key article of clothing in your wardrobe and you spend more time in the water than on land, knowing where to catch the next big wave or dive for the best underwater experience isn't all that your life insurance company will ask of you. For example, scuba divers may be asked: the type of diving activity (ice, night, salvage etc.), the locations (lakes, rivers, ocean beaches), whether or not you dive alone, are certified, part of an organized club, as well as your diving history for the last year (number of dives, duration underwater, depth) and the dives you plan for the upcoming year.
No need to play it safe to play it smart with life insurance
Everyone should be free to follow their bliss, whatever that might be, and just because you enjoy living closer to the edge than most doesn't mean you're uninsurable.
Now some people might be inclined to say, "why tell them I skydive? They don't need to know." It is never a good idea to withhold information because it will affect the validity of your policy. Whether you choose mortgage life insurance or term life insurance, you don't want to put your loved ones into a situation where there is a potential for a denied claim if you die as a result of an extreme hobby accident. Withholding information, or misleading the life insurer, about your adrenaline-inducing hobbies is a risk, no one should take.
Life on the edge and your life insurance
If a life insurance company considers your hobby high risk, they'll approach it in one of three ways:
- Offer you coverage at a rate higher than the standard life insurance rate. If you're charged more for your coverage, you may be able to save in other ways, read up on some tips to save money on life insurance to help you get more bang for your buck.
- Offer you coverage, but exclude your at-risk hobby. What this means, is if you die for a reason unrelated to your extreme hobby, they'll pay out the death benefit, but won't if it is related.
- Opt not to offer you a life insurance policy.
It is because of this variability that makes it important to do your research; compare life insurance quotes, policies and companies, and speak with a licensed life insurance advisor who can help you make a well-informed decision. They'll also be able to point you in the right direction with respect to which companies will cover your activity, tell you about different types of popular life insurance products available and provide you with the best deal. Get more tips and info about life insurance related topics at our life insurance information centre.