how does insurance companies make money

Insurance companies make money in two ways: by charging the insured premiums and by investing in the insurance premium payments. Sounds easy, doesn’t it? It is both and not.
The fundamentals underlying how insurers make their large bucks are simple. However, the specifics of how they make money can be more complicated. Here’s what you should know.

How Insurance Companies Make Money

There are various kinds of insurance:

  • Health insurance covers a portion or all of an individual’s medical expenses.
  • Life Insurance: When the insured individual dies, life insurance pays out money to one or more selected beneficiaries.
  • Property and casualty insurance covers damage to automobiles, residences, and commercial buildings.
  • Specialty insurance, commonly known as excess and surplus (E&S) insurance, covers risks that regular insurers do not cover.
  • Reinsurance is insurance that allows insurance companies to cover losses in excess of a predetermined level.

Companies that make any of these types of insurance make money in the same methods.

#1. Underwriting

Underwriting profits are often derived from the money collected on insurance policy premiums. However, this excludes funds paid out for business operations and claims.
Assume an insurance business gets £5,000,000 from monthly premiums paid by customers for their policies over the course of a year. Furthermore, suppose the company paid £4,000,000 in claims in the same year.

That means the insurance company made £1,000,000.00. Underwriters work hard to make the numbers work in their favor. Furthermore, the elements considered when determining whether a potential consumer qualifies for an insurance coverage are difficult. Credit history, gender, annual income, age, and health are all measured. These items are rigorously scrutinized in order to get a premium cost level at which the insurer gains the most advantage.

This is critical because the underwriting business model ensures that insurance companies have a high probability of profit by not paying out the policies they sell. That is why insurers go to such efforts to crunch the algorithms and data that estimate the likelihood of needing to pay out a policy.

As a result, if the data suggests that the risk is considerable, the insurance firm will charge the customer more or refuse to sell a coverage. If the risk, on the other hand, is modest, the insurer will gladly give a coverage.
The fact that insurance companies do not put money up front distinguishes them from other types of enterprises. Furthermore, they are only required to pay out if a genuine and reasonable claim is presented.

#2. Investment Income

Investment income is another method insurance companies make money. When a consumer pays their monthly premium, the insurer takes the money and invests it in the financial market to increase their profits.
And, because insurance companies do not have to commit money up front, there is more money to invest. As a result, additional profits are expected. Investment income is a great way for insurers to make money.

Furthermore, if the investments fail, insurance companies often raise their policy prices and pass the losses on to customers.

#3. Expiring term policies

While investment income is a great source of revenue for insurance companies, expiring term contracts can be just as profitable. For example, when an insurance policy expires, the policyholder is no longer obligated to the insurance company.
It means that insurers are not required to pay out benefits on expired policies. However, expired term plans may result in revenue loss because they are no longer being paid for and the cash value cannot be invested.

#4. Cancellations

If, for example, an insurance policyholder realizes that they have amassed substantial funds through dividends and investing in insurance company investments, they may wish to liquidate the account and withdraw the monies. Insurers are usually pleased to comply because all liability is removed.
Even if the consumer receives the cash value, the insurer retains all of the premiums paid. They pay the customer with the interest earned on their investments and keep the remainder of the money.

#5. Reinsurance

In general, insurers can pay for their own claims. However, insurers frequently distribute risk to insurance companies that in turn insure other insurance companies. Reinsurance assists insurance companies in avoiding default and remaining solvent.
Insurers are more aggressive in gaining market share because they can transfer risks.

Furthermore, reinsurance smooths out the inherent oscillations of insurance companies, which can result in considerable differences in losses and profits.
Insurance companies charge customers a premium amount for insurance, and then they receive low rates for reinsuring the policies.

Purchasing Insurance Companies

There are two main reasons why you should think about investing in insurance stocks. First, insurance companies can provide consistent long-term returns. Second, insurers’ business structures tend to make them resilient during economic downturns.

Of course, some insurance companies outperform others on both counts. Over the last decade, health insurance behemoth UnitedHealth Group (NYSE:UNH) has easily outpaced speciality insurer Markel (NYSE:MKL). During the market downturn induced by the COVID-19 pandemic, Markel plummeted substantially more than UnitedHealth Group.

Insurance stocks are typically seen as safe bets for cautious investors. Certain insurance stocks, on the other hand, may appeal to even the most aggressive growth investors. Trupanion (NASDAQ:TRUP) stands out as a potential growth stock for investors. Medical insurance for cats and dogs is provided by the company. As the North American pet medical insurance market took off, its stock surged (though like many other growth stocks, has dropped in 2022).

How Does a Life Insurance Companies Make Money?

Life insurance companies make money on life insurance policies in four ways: by charging premiums, investing those premiums, investing in cash value, and charging policy lapses.

#1. Charging premiums

Paying your coverage premiums keeps your policy active, allowing your beneficiaries to receive the death benefit.
Your insurer carefully calculates premiums to cover your death benefit while also profiting the company. The premium you pay funds: based on the length of your policy’s coverage and your expected life expectancy

  • The death benefit of your policy
  • The expense of administering your policy
  • Profit for the insurance firm

The insurer loses money if too many clients die sooner than projected and they have to pay out more claims than planned, which is why underwriting is so thorough and there are serious penalties for concealing information on your application.

#2. Investing premiums that you have paid

Your insurance invests a portion of the payments in the years before they have to pay out the death benefit. The insurer saves enough money to settle claims in the event of a market downturn and keeps any interest earned.

#3. Profits from cash value investments

Permanent life insurance clients provide an extra investment stream because their premiums pay both their death benefit and an investing-like cash value feature. Your provider determines the rate at which the cash value grows.
The money are invested in a bigger pool of investments handled by your provider, and some of the profits are retained by the company.

#4. Policy Expiration and Lapse

Finally, some insurance policies remain unclaimed. This is possible with term life insurance, which should end when you’ve saved enough money to self-insure. Permanent plans, which have hefty premiums, are frequently relinquished or lapsed when owners are unable to make the payments.

While a policy lapse or surrender relieves the insurer of liability for the policy’s payout, it also results in the loss of premiums that could have been invested. To recuperate some of the lost money, most insurers levy a surrender fee.

A term life policy that has expired is good for providers because it permits them to collect premiums for decades without having to pay out any claims.
These are simply a few of the ways insurers profit from life insurance coverage. Most life insurance companies sell other financial products, such as annuities, [2], allowing them to benefit from more than one product.

How the earnings of an insurer effect your life insurance policy

As long as your insurance business is profitable, how it produces money is unlikely to have an impact on your life insurance coverage. If you have a cash value policy, you may enjoy gains from your provider’s investments, but the guaranteed minimum interest should keep you from losing money.
Your insurance company makes money from premiums and investments, but it’s in an insurer’s best interest to keep premiums low in order to keep your business. Furthermore, if your provider has good financial standing, it can assure that your policy pays out to your loved ones after you die.

When does life insurance stop paying?

The maximum age at which life insurance policies are issued is often determined by the individual life insurance company, therefore there is no common set restriction. However, if you are 85 or older, you may not find many companies ready to give you an insurance.

Are millionaires covered by life insurance?

High-income and wealthy individuals can utilize life insurance to cover estate taxes on a significant inheritance. If you’ve exhausted your typical investment options, cash value life insurance provides an alternative tax-deferred investment account. To optimize your assets, life insurance trusts can be utilized in conjunction with permanent life insurance.

What happens if an insurance business goes bankrupt?

If an insurance firm declares bankruptcy, the IRDA’s involvement becomes significant, and the authority will determine whether to transfer the insurer’s policies to another insurance company or continue to provide coverage for the policyholders itself.

What causes insurance companies to fail?

Multiple regulators and infrequent exams, rapid development in riskier business areas, poor underwriting, extensive underpricing, excessive reinsurance or loan participations, poor management, and insufficient loss reserves are examples of these behaviors.

Is it profitable to start an insurance company?

Opening an insurance office is lucrative, although the pay scale varies. This is determined by whether you work for an insurance company or create your own. Working for an established agency pays roughly $50,000 per year; but, exceptionally successful individuals can earn up to $100,000 per year.

Can your insurance simply drop you?

Car insurance companies have the legal right to dismiss a customer if they become more risky to insure than when they first purchased their policy. But it doesn’t imply they drop customers for any reason – if you drive safely and pay your premiums on time, your chances of losing your auto insurance are small.


Without a doubt, insurance companies have rigged the system in their favor and continue to profit as a result.

According to industry figures, only three out of every hundred insurance customers who pay their premiums each year make a claim. Meanwhile, insurance companies invest all of those premium payments, boosting their profits.
Insurance companies have a clear road to profits with the field heavily stacked in their favor, and they take that way to the bank on a daily basis.

For hundreds of years, it has been a recipe for financial success, and it will continue to be so in the future – and there isn’t much the average insurance customer can do about it except keep paying their premiums and hoping for the best.


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