How Much Do Life Insurance Agents Make?

Written by Matthew King, time it takes to read this article is  minute(s).

Did you know that insurance sales is one of the highest-paying careers that don’t require a college degree? It’s also ranked as the #3 best marketing and sales job. 

Moreover, life insurance agents earn some of the highest commissions in the industry. However, life insurance is a notoriously tough sell.

While it comes with high commissions, there are a few secrets to unlocking them.

Are you thinking of becoming a life insurance agent? If so, you’re probably curious about what life insurance agents typically earn and what it takes to become a top-performing agent.

Keep reading to find out the average income life insurance agents make in a year, the maximum income, and a few vital tips for success. 

Independent vs. Captive Life Insurance Agents

Before we get into how much life insurance agents earn, it’s essential to understand the difference between captive insurance agents and independent agents. Feel free to jump to the next section if you already know the difference.

Captive Insurance Agents

Captive life insurance agents, also known as captive agents, work for carriers. They are only allowed to sell products from the carrier they’re employed by.

Captive insurance agents don’t usually earn a salary. Instead, they earn mostly via commissions.

However, some carriers do offer agents a small retainer. Agents may also receive certain benefits and complimentary or discounted insurance for themselves.

Captive agents’ commissions are usually much lower than independent agents’ commissions. 

Independent Insurance Agents

Independent insurance agents don’t work for carriers. Instead, they are self-employed and contract with carriers of their choice to sell their products. Independent agents can pick and choose what carriers to contract with and what products to sell.

They can also contract with multiple carriers. This allows them to offer clients a more comprehensive range of products. 

But one of the most significant differences between independent and captive agents is how much they can earn. 

Independent agents take home a much higher percentage of commission from their sales. In some cases, independent agents can earn up to 50% higher commissions than captive agents. 

Besides earning higher commissions, independent agents may also be more driven to pursue success. If you’re someone who thrives not having a boss, becoming an independent agent is the way to go.

Not only will you be able to call the shots and build up a business for yourself, but you’ll also be able to serve your customers better. As an independent agent, you can cherry-pick the products that will fit your clientele’s needs instead of forcing overpriced, disadvantageous life insurance products onto them. 

Average Salaries for Captive Life Insurance Agents

Current salary estimates show that the average salary for a captive life insurance agent in the US is between $35,699 to $41,775 per year.

However, remember that specific salaries can vary widely depending on location, experience, carrier, etc. Because captive agents’ income primarily depends on commissions, individual sales ability is also a significant factor.

Are you wondering what the maximum income you can earn as a captive life insurance agent is? Estimates show that the top 10% of captive life insurance agents can make above $66,668.

Average Salaries for Independent Life Insurance Agents

As we said above, independent agents typically earn higher commissions than captive agents. The national average salary for independent life insurance agents in the US is currently $91,500 per year

This equates to $44 per hour, which is more than what roughly 87% of people in the US earn. It’s also more than the average hourly wage for accountants.

What’s more, a large portion of independent life insurance agents earn an even better income than this. Salary data shows that 24% of independent life insurance agents earn between $98,500 and $110,999. 

Curious to know what the maximum income is that life insurance agents earn? Between $136,000 and $150,000.

These income numbers are impressive, especially considering you don’t need a college education to sell insurance. However, keep in mind that independent agents do have certain expenses to meet.

While there’s definitely more earning potential for independent agents, not all the commission they make is take-home pay. Some of their revenue will have to go towards things like marketing and software tools.

Other Factors That Influence How Much You Can Earn as a Life Insurance Agent

As we said above, the amount you can earn as a life insurance agent can depend on a variety of factors. Below are some of the things that can influence the amount of commission you earn.

Your Available Time

If you’re trying to determine how much income you can earn as an independent life insurance agent, consider how much time you can spend actively selling insurance and building your business.

This will have a direct impact on your earnings.

However, if you only want to sell insurance part-time, you can still earn a good income for the number of hours you work. This is one of the big benefits of selling insurance and being an independent agent.

You can do it on the side, after hours, or combined with a part-time job or other responsibilities such as child care. If you want to shift to insurance sales full-time, you can do so without having to consult anybody or anything except your own calendar. 

Where You Live

Your location can also play a role in how much you earn as an insurance agent. In times gone past, the location was a big factor.

Thanks to online marketing, you’re no longer restricted to just selling life insurance to folks within your immediate surroundings.

Instead, you can branch out to neighboring cities across your state or even take out an additional license and target prospects from another state.

However, if you want to personally meet with most of your clients, and the cost or disruption of travel is a limiting factor, then you will be confined to some extent by your geographical location.

Some clients like to have face-to-face meetings, especially those in older demographics. Younger demographics, however, tend to be very comfortable with online interactions. Younger clients are also more likely to have tight schedules which don’t allow for many in-person meetings. 

Your Sales Skills

Another big factor in an insurance agent’s income is their sales skills. The more you can hone your ability to close sales, the more commission you will earn, simple as that.

Some people have a natural knack for sales. They strike just the right note with clients and could practically sell them insurance for their pantry supplies.

For many others, sales might not be second nature but rather an acquired skill. No matter your personality, with the right insurance sales training, you can learn how to sell insurance effectively and help your clients find the right products. 

Your Product Understanding

Along with sales skills, it’s also essential to have a solid understanding of the life insurance products you’re selling. This will allow you to isolate the best ones for your clients.

If you know the products you’re selling like the back of your hand, you’ll also be able to easily explain and compare them to clients. 

Your Experience

Experience is another factor that can influence your income as an independent insurance agent. If you’re driven and organized, you can enter the industry and start making decent commissions within your first year.

However, the longer you hone your skills and gain experience, the more you can expect to earn. If you take a look at this list of the top-producing agents, you’ll see that 33 of them have been in the industry for between 11-20 years.

The Type of Life Insurance You Sell

The specific type of life insurance you sell can also have an impact on your earnings.

Whole life insurance pays out the highest commissions and is one of the most profitable types of insurance to sell across the board. Universal life insurance comes in at a close second.

However, these types of insurance are also harder to sell as they are more expensive products.

Your Expenses

As we mentioned earlier, independent insurance agents also have certain costs they have to cover. These might include things like:

  • Website-related expenses (hosting, design, and SEO services)
  • Marketing expenses such as paid ads, content marketing, social media marketing, etc.
  • Other professional services, such as bookkeeping and accounting
  • Office space
  • Payroll and staff expenses

That said, you don’t need a lot of capital to get started as a life insurance agent. You should definitely prioritize your marketing budget, but you can easily start from a home office.

At a later stage, you can expand and lease premises and hire assistants and other staff. But this is not a requirement.

Tips for Maximizing Your Earnings as a Life Insurance Agent

At the end of the day, your income as an independent life insurance agent depends mostly on your own performance and strategies.

This can feel daunting in the beginning, but it’s also one of the big advantages of selling insurance. Most traditional jobs, and even some businesses, come with an earning cap. With insurance sales, there isn’t a hard earnings ceiling. 

The more time and energy you invest in training, marketing, prospecting, and truly helping clients, the more you will get out of it. 

Here are a few of the ways you can supercharge those sales numbers as an independent agent.

Invest in Training

Selling life insurance is highly lucrative, but the amount you take home depends very much on your strategies and skills.

Whether you’re entirely new to insurance sales, or an established insurance agent, it can pay tenfold to invest in training. The right training can catapult your growth, supercharge your sales, and steadily multiply your income.

Now here’s the rub. One of the biggest issues in the insurance industry is a lack of accessible, affordable, comprehensive training that moves the needle for agents.

Here at InsuranceSales101, we’ve witnessed firsthand the challenges and frustrations agents face around getting access to the training they need. 

Often, training is restricted by uplines that:

  • Won’t give training to new or unregistered agents
  • Won’t give training to agents with lower sales numbers
  • Only offer face-to-face training (which is usually costly and inconvenient)
  • Don’t offer one-on-one support and mentorship
  • Charge recurring fees and offer no flexibility around training bundles
  • Charge steep commission cuts

These restrictions around training stifle agent growth and leave many new agents feeling like they’ll never gain the key to the kingdom of insurance sales.

We know that the right training at the right price is just about all you need to excel at insurance sales, and we don’t believe in the outdated models that uplines funnel agents through. 

We’re proud to say that InsuranceSales101 turns these stifling models on their heads. By offering on-demand, one-on-one, affordable training with no entry requirements, no recurring fees, and no commission cuts, we’re empowering new and seasoned agents alike.

Not only is our training convenient, cost-effective, and accessible, but it’s designed to equip agents with everything they need for success. Including proven sales techniques and discounts on tools and overhead costs. 

Focus on the Customer

Gone are the days when hard selling was the way to wealth and success. Today’s consumers respond far better when they realize agents are genuinely out to help them.

If you want to earn a maximum income from selling life insurance, you need to focus on the customer and put their needs above all else.


Life insurance is a lucrative product type to focus on, but this doesn’t mean you shouldn’t expand your offerings to include other insurance types, such as annuities, Medicare, and final expense. 

The more types of insurance you offer, the wider your target market. You’ll also have more opportunities for cross-selling.

For instance, some prospects might want to purchase life insurance and final expense insurance.

Practice Cross-Selling

If you have a book of business filled with happy clients, cross-selling can be a low-cost way to increase your sales numbers. 

For instance, if you’ve already helped a client identify the right life insurance, why not help them in their Medicare insurance journey?

Are You Looking To Become a Top Earning Life Insurance Agent?

Selling life insurance as an independent agent can allow you to carve out a financially rewarding career, gain independence from a boss, and truly help clients..

But, to be able to do this, you need the right strategies, techniques, and sales toolkits. Unfortunately, most uplines fall very short in this area.

Are you feeling overwhelmed as a new agent or underwhelmed and discouraged as a seasoned agent by the costly, cumbersome, and non-agile training your upline offers?

We’re here to fix that. 

Take a look at our training program for life insurance agents to enjoy a low, fair, non-recurring cost in exchange for everything you need to catapult your sales numbers. 

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