B cells maintain homeostasis by balancing cell viability and cell death. B lymphocytes are susceptible to mitochondria- and receptor-initiated cell death at various stages of peripheral differentiation and during immune responses. The inducible transcription factor NF-kappaB enhances cell viability by activating genes that counteract both cell-death pathways. This review uses characteristic features of NF-kappaB activation and downregulation to provide insight into the regulation of B cell apoptosis in the periphery. In particular, the temporal patterns of NF-kappaB induction, differences between Rel family members, and the intersection between canonical and noncanonical signaling pathways in keeping B cells alive are discussed.