Hi Matt, I’m a Life Insurance agent and Advisor and I work for New York Life. Some of your points make sense but saying that whole life is bad is a little off. It is good for savings toward your retirement and will do a lot more than a savings account, money market or cd will ever do. So to agree with you to a certain extent I’ll explain what I do for younger individuals, I’ll sell a whole life policy and later it with term insurance. Basically the whole life will build a cash value with guaranteed returns and the term insurance is in the event of an untimely death. $1,000,000 of term can be as low as $50 a month. Also NY Life has never guaranteed dividends but has paid them out for 159 years, even during the Great Depression. Our company is backed by a $180 billion general account and a $19 billion surplus. So yeah, we guarantee your returns. And we don’t just sell life insurance, that’s why our agents like myself have life, series 6,7,63,66,65 licenses, if our clients, not customers want more than life, we diversify for them into brokerage or anything else they want. Just puttin my 2 cents in.
It is not a valid argument to me to say that the “administrative pain in the ass” is a reason to ignore the tactic. It’s a pretty simple procedure and certainly not worth paying all the extra costs of a whole life approach just to avoid. Yes, you have to be careful if you have Traditional IRAs, but there are ways around that too. No, it’s not for everyone, but I would much rather try to make the backdoor Roth work first than immediately jump to whole life.

It is not a valid argument to me to say that the “administrative pain in the ass” is a reason to ignore the tactic. It’s a pretty simple procedure and certainly not worth paying all the extra costs of a whole life approach just to avoid. Yes, you have to be careful if you have Traditional IRAs, but there are ways around that too. No, it’s not for everyone, but I would much rather try to make the backdoor Roth work first than immediately jump to whole life.
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MetLife has become aware of a recent phishing attack against some of our customers. ‘Phishing’ is a fraudulent attempt to obtain an individual’s personal information, often through a misleading email, text or other online communication. Keeping your personal information secure is a top priority of MetLife. That's why we encourage you to take precautions to protect your personal data, and why we do not ask you to verify your personal or account information by email, text message or online. If you suspect you received a phishing email, please forward it to: phish@metlife.com. Delete the email after you forward it, and do not click on any links it contains. If you believe you entered information into a linked website, change your login information immediately. For helpful hints to protect your personal information, visit the following website: https://www.consumer.ftc.gov/articles/0003-phishing
I had a meeting with a friend/part-time insurance salesman and his upper level salesman yesterday. Prior to the meeting I Googled “Is whole life insurance a good investment?” and read all the articles on the first page of results in their entirety both pro and con. This particular article stuck out for me and I read it twice and feel it has helped me in the process of making an informed decision about the product presented. Today, I read the article once again and all of the above posts and I thank you for taking the time to help the lay-person in their important financial life decisions.
Insurance brokerage is largely associated with general insurance (car, house etc.) rather than life insurance, although some brokers continued to provide investment and life insurance brokerage until the onset of new regulation in 2001. This drove a more transparent regime, based predominantly on upfront negotiation of a fee for the provision of advice and/or services. This saw the splitting of intermediaries into two groups: general insurance intermediaries/brokers and independent financial advisers (IFAs) for life insurance, investments and pensions.
Unlike GEICO, Esurance, and other “direct writers”, independent agents are a part of your community and are there to help whenever you need it. Unlike American Family Insurance, Farmers Insurance, State Farm Insurance, and other “captive” agents, an independent insurance agent works with many different insurance companies. Atlas agents automatically compare quotes from up to 50, which saves you time & money.
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I have only read the comments so far as Feb 2014 (tho i will read them all), but i have to say thank you for the article, but more so for the objectiveness and courteous mannerism in all your responses. While there may sometimes be cause for snarkiness or sarcasm on your part, I have yet to see it in your responses. And the fact that you actually respond to everyone (as far as I have read) deserves a huge KUDOS as well. You have certainly given me much more insight to my family’s planning goals.
State Farm® Life Insurance Company (Not licensed in MA, NY or WI) or State Farm Life and Accident Assurance Company (Licensed in NY and WI) can help you find coverage that's right for you and your loved ones. Our life planning videos and calculator can help you understand your options, and figure out how much and what kind is right for you, before getting your life insurance quote.
1. You are correct that the death benefit is untaxed. But that will not benefit you, only the person receiving it. Beyond that, the savings component within the policy is not taxed as it grows, which is what most salesmen are likely referring to. Any loans you take out are also “tax-free”, but of course there is interest to pay (on YOUR money that YOU contributed). And of course there would first need to be significant growth for any of that to make a difference.
Full Circle, one time I thought whole life insurance was great. Then I cashed it in, bought at least 5 new automobiles, a house, a couple motorcycles and more bullshit. Then I learned how to properly use life insurance as a bank, instead of borrowing money from a bank, I borrow the money from myself and pay myself back what I would have paid banks. I get to collect all the interest I would have paid the banks. I get to grow my money tax free. I get to pass my hard earned money on to my family tax free. The key is understanding Whole life vs creating your own banking system.
Lastly I believe you said your return was only .74% which I agree is low but just because you had a bad experience with a bad policy doesn’t mean all other whole life policies are the same. Different companies provide different returns and even different coverages. You’re being very general when more specific information is much more relevant in my opinion.
Contingent or incentive commissions reward agents and brokers for achieving volume, profitability, growth or retention goals established by the insurer. For example, Elite Insurance promises to pay the Jones Agency an extra 3 percent commission if Jones writes $10 million in new property policies within a certain time frame. If Jones renews 90 percent of those policies when they expire, Elite will pay Jones an addition 2 percent commission.

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I have calculated a ~4% average annual ROR if the policy is kept for at least 20 years. This is not an IRR as an IRR gives no credit for the value of the death protection. This assumes the current dividend scale and can be defined as essentially the interest rate that accumulates the premiums, less an estimate of the value of the death protection each year, to the policy’s cash surrender value at the end of the period studied. It attempts to answer the question, “What interest rate would I have to earn on an outside investment of the extra premiums for WL to do as well as investing those extra premiums, in the WL policy?” consumerfed.org is a great resource for this analysis and other literature on this subject.

You seem to be suggesting that NO one at all ever needs life insurance past the age of like 55…..seems odd that you wouldn’t want a death benefit when you’re actually statistically more likely to die…..I am a bit confused by that…And if whole life isn’t a good investment then term life certainly isn’t unless you die during the term of course….Term insurance is like renting a home you pay and pay and pay and pay and you potentially never get a return. Except I could argue renting a home and being able to live there is more advantageous than renting insurance and what hoping you will die so your kids will get the money?
Whole life is permanent insurance — you’re insured throughout your lifetime, or until the policy matures, as long as you continue to pay your premiums per terms of the contract. And those premiums will stay level as long as the policy remains in force. Over time, permanent insurance typically accumulates a cash value that can be accessed2 for a variety of purposes while you’re still alive.
Social insurance can be many things to many people in many countries. But a summary of its essence is that it is a collection of insurance coverages (including components of life insurance, disability income insurance, unemployment insurance, health insurance, and others), plus retirement savings, that requires participation by all citizens. By forcing everyone in society to be a policyholder and pay premiums, it ensures that everyone can become a claimant when or if he/she needs to. Along the way this inevitably becomes related to other concepts such as the justice system and the welfare state. This is a large, complicated topic that engenders tremendous debate, which can be further studied in the following articles (and others):

The IRS regulation on how much can be put in over 7 year period to not cause a whole life policy to be considered a Modified Endowment Contract. Additionally, many long standing highly rated institutions will limit the amount of OPP that can be dumped into the policy over a given period. Why is that? Because people will use whole life in low interest environments with the intention of withdrawing in the event of a market change.
They cannot provide you with any final answers. Calculators only allow you to perform "hypotheticals," recalculating and generating new results as you make and input new assumptions. Using these tools and educating yourself on the workings of life insurance and other financial products, however, can help you feel more comfortable when discussing your needs with professionals like a New York Life agent.
I, 22 year old male, can pay ~$13,000 into a universal life policy throughout the next 20 years (~$650/yr, ~55/mo), never touch it again, and that will provide a death benefit of $100,000 until I’m at least 75 years old (I will put more money in of course since I plan on living past 75). That’s also a flexible premium policy with one of the most financially stable companies, so I would say that’s a good investment for my future children/grandchildren. Maybe not for myself, but at least my premiums won’t be more than $100/month when I’m old, assuming I still have excellent health and am insurable. With term I can get it insanely cheap now, but what about when I’m 50-60 and closing in on retirement? My premiums would hopefully be under $200/mo. at that point assuming I have excellent health or guaranteed insurability.
According to the section 80C of the Income Tax Act, 1961 (of Indian penal code) premiums paid towards a valid life insurance policy can be exempted from the taxable income. Along with life insurance premium, section 80C allows exemption for other financial instruments such as Employee Provident Fund (EPF), Public Provident Fund (PPF), Equity Linked Savings Scheme (ELSS), National Savings Certificate (NSC), health insurance premium are some of them. The total amount that can be exempted from the taxable income for section 80C is capped at a maximum of INR 150,000.[26] The exemptions are eligible for individuals (Indian citizens) or Hindu Undivided Family (HUF).
Any person acting as an insurance agent or broker must be licensed to do so by the state or jurisdiction that the person is operating in. Whereas states previously would issue separate licenses for agents and brokers, most states now issue a single producer license regardless if the person is acting on behalf of the insured or insurer. The term insurance producers is used to reference both insurance agents and brokers.
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Insurance agents typically represent only one insurance company. As a result, they are often referred to as "captive" agents. Insurance brokers represent multiple insurance companies. Thus, brokers are free to offer a wider range of products to their clients. They can search the market and obtain multiple price quotes to fit their clients' budgets. You might say that agents work for the insurance company while brokers work for their clients.

Disability- what happens to your retirement plan contributions if you want to work but can’t? Your employer can’t even contribute for you… It’s illegal. Oh, a life insurance company will pay the premium for you along with any additional money that you scheduled to dump in… And continue to contribute forever if your remain disabled (if done right). That is called a “self-completing retirement plan.”
But I love how you talk about it here, being excited by the sales pitch before grounding yourself in some of the things you had read prior to the meeting. Whether it’s insurance, investing, buying a car or anything else, all of us get excited in the moment when we’re being presented with a new opportunity. The real challenge is in doing exactly what you were able to do so successfully: stepping back from the moment and reflecting on your real goals here, what you really set out to do, and then analyzing the facts objectively. You did a terrific job there and in the end were able to make the best decision for you and your family.
I really wish you would have stated more clearly the difference between the typical whole life plans with zero overfunding and a participating overfunded whole life policy. But I agree with you: What’s the point of not overfunding? Those policies have such a low cash component that they typically are just a ploy to make money by the agent and it seems as if that was your point all along. Which you should have clarified. Why minimum whole life insurances plans are a scam, especially when sold as a main investment vehicle. But then a little drama drives traffic right?
Also, it depends on the policy, but for many policies out there the principal does not remain untouched while you have a loan out against the policy. A loan will actually decrease the dividends, and therefore the return, you receive, because you have less equity in the policy. Some policies work differently, but you definitely shouldn’t assume that the policy will continue to grow unchecked while you have an outstanding loan against it.
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You will find independent insurance agents represent many of the same insurance companies offered by local insurance agents.  The biggest benefit is the time savings individuals and business will find.  Because the selection of insurance companies for personal, commercial and life insurance is so comprehensive you don't have to contact several agents for quotes.  An independent insurance agent may represent 5 to 10 insurance companies. 
Policies not available in all states. Suicide, misstatement and misrepresentation restrictions may apply. All applications for insurance are subject to underwriting qualification by the specific insurance company to which the application is submitted. Availability of premium rates and policy forms may be changed by each insurer without prior notice. Florida residents, please review carrier and product details here.

Some communities prefer to create virtual insurance amongst themselves by other means than contractual risk transfer, which assigns explicit numerical values to risk. A number of religious groups, including the Amish and some Muslim groups, depend on support provided by their communities when disasters strike. The risk presented by any given person is assumed collectively by the community who all bear the cost of rebuilding lost property and supporting people whose needs are suddenly greater after a loss of some kind. In supportive communities where others can be trusted to follow community leaders, this tacit form of insurance can work. In this manner the community can even out the extreme differences in insurability that exist among its members. Some further justification is also provided by invoking the moral hazard of explicit insurance contracts.
The commissions a life insurance agent earns selling a whole life policy is tiny compared to the ongoing commission a fee based asset manager charges to manage a portfolio. These asset managers use bonds to manage stock market volatility. A consumer who hires one of these managers is paying 1-2% annual fee’s for someone to add an asset that reduces long term stock returns and has the potential to drop 20% or more when interest rates rise. It takes 10 minutes to set an allocation and if an investor can stomach the volatility, they need to let it do its thing. More on this in a minute.
Recently, viatical settlements have created problems for life insurance providers. A viatical settlement involves the purchase of a life insurance policy from an elderly or terminally ill policy holder. The policy holder sells the policy (including the right to name the beneficiary) to a purchaser for a price discounted from the policy value. The seller has cash in hand, and the purchaser will realize a profit when the seller dies and the proceeds are delivered to the purchaser. In the meantime, the purchaser continues to pay the premiums. Although both parties have reached an agreeable settlement, insurers are troubled by this trend. Insurers calculate their rates with the assumption that a certain portion of policy holders will seek to redeem the cash value of their insurance policies before death. They also expect that a certain portion will stop paying premiums and forfeit their policies. However, viatical settlements ensure that such policies will with absolute certainty be paid out. Some purchasers, in order to take advantage of the potentially large profits, have even actively sought to collude with uninsured elderly and terminally ill patients, and created policies that would have not otherwise been purchased. These policies are guaranteed losses from the insurers' perspective. 

In the United States, life insurance companies are never legally required to provide coverage to everyone, with the exception of Civil Rights Act compliance requirements. Insurance companies alone determine insurability, and some people are deemed uninsurable. The policy can be declined or rated (increasing the premium amount to compensate for the higher risk), and the amount of the premium will be proportional to the face value of the policy.
Social insurance can be many things to many people in many countries. But a summary of its essence is that it is a collection of insurance coverages (including components of life insurance, disability income insurance, unemployment insurance, health insurance, and others), plus retirement savings, that requires participation by all citizens. By forcing everyone in society to be a policyholder and pay premiums, it ensures that everyone can become a claimant when or if he/she needs to. Along the way this inevitably becomes related to other concepts such as the justice system and the welfare state. This is a large, complicated topic that engenders tremendous debate, which can be further studied in the following articles (and others):
INSURANCE COMPANIES DO NOT TAKE FROM THE CASH VALUE I HAVE NOT IN 30 YEARS IN THE BUSINESS EVER SEE A CASH VALUE GO DOWN. It goes up. And you can count on it . It has to be the most valueable , and reliable form of insurance that ever existed and lucky for us in Canada the insurance companies are tightly monitered and re-insured . It’s as safe as investing gets.
An entity which provides insurance is known as an insurer, insurance company, insurance carrier or underwriter. A person or entity who buys insurance is known as an insured or as a policyholder. The insurance transaction involves the insured assuming a guaranteed and known relatively small loss in the form of payment to the insurer in exchange for the insurer's promise to compensate the insured in the event of a covered loss. The loss may or may not be financial, but it must be reducible to financial terms, and usually involves something in which the insured has an insurable interest established by ownership, possession, or pre-existing relationship.

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They cannot provide you with any final answers. Calculators only allow you to perform "hypotheticals," recalculating and generating new results as you make and input new assumptions. Using these tools and educating yourself on the workings of life insurance and other financial products, however, can help you feel more comfortable when discussing your needs with professionals like a New York Life agent.


A good agent will figure out how much insurance is needed, and if a whole life policy would make sense without causing the policy to MEC within the constraint of one’s human life value. As for surrenders and loans against the policy, good agents discuss how to structure these options for supplemental retirement income to maintain a reasonable death benefit given a retirement age. There are institution(s) that have always paid a dividend and have been top rated every year.
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Second, I would say that it’s debatable whether whole life insurance is actually better than a savings account or CD, in terms of a savings vehicle. You mention the guaranteed return. Well, as I mention in the post, my policy had a “4% guaranteed return”, but when I ran the numbers it only actually amounted to 0.74% event after 40 years. It was less before that. And this was from one of the top mutual life insurers in the country. Not only is that incredibly misleading (and that’s being kind), I can get a better guaranteed rate than that right now from an online savings account, even though interest rates are at an all-time low. And my online savings account doesn’t have any of the other huge drawbacks that are also mentioned in the article.
Death benefits are generally received income tax-free by your beneficiaries. In the case of permanent life insurance policies, cash values accumulate on an income tax-deferred basis. That means you would not have to pay income tax on any of the policy’s earnings as long as the policy remains in effect. In addition, most policy loans and withdrawals are not taxable (although withdrawals and loans will reduce the cash value and death benefit).2

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