Federal employees may take their Federal Employees’ Group Life Insurance (FEGLI) benefits into retirement if they’ve been in the program for at least five years, as most have been. But it can pay off to think about FEGLI in retirement well before that date arrives.

Your FEGLI insurance coverage may be adequate for your needs now. However, remember that FEGLI offers only term insurance and term insurance rates are extremely competitive, especially for multi-year contracts. You might be able to find term insurance on the open market at a better price per dollar of coverage, as well as insurance for larger amounts than the maximum allowed for you under FEGLI. You might get better rates on the open market if you qualify as a preferred rather than a standard risk. Factors that determine this include smoking, driving records, blood pressure, history of illness, weight problems, cholesterol level and others.

Of course, if you want life insurance with an investment account, you’ll have to look beyond FEGLI. The FEGLI program does not provide coverage that builds cash value.

If your children have completed their education and have become independent, your life insurance may be in place solely for the benefit of your surviving spouse—both for your spouse’s ongoing expenses and to provide funds to settle your estate, including paying any estate taxes due. In addition to your life insurance proceeds, your surviving spouse may get a civil service survivor annuity and/or Social Security benefits plus any other earned annuity. Would that, combined with your savings, be enough? That depends on how high your estate taxes will be and the lifestyle you desire for your surviving spouse.

If you think your spouse will be able to settle your estate and live comfortably on such assets after your death, you may have life insurance overage you no longer need.

If you believe you should have more insurance, though, several factors come into play. First of all, remember that you can’t add to your FEGLI coverage after retirement. However, you can add to it before retirement, most commonly (unless there happens to be one of the rare FEGLI open seasons or you experience a life event such as marriage) through going through an application process that requires medical underwriting.

If you find after retirement that you need more coverage, you will have to buy it through the private sector. Insurability can become a key issue. This is not a factor with FEGLI insurance but it is with privately purchased insurance. Your health will determine if you’ll be able to get coverage at all and if so, how much you’ll have to pay. In many cases, it may be that you would have been better off adding FEGLI coverage before retirement—but by then it will be too late.