Whole life insurance is by definition undiversified. You are investing a large amount of money with a single company and relying entirely on their goodwill to give you good returns. The insurance company will make their own investments and then decide what portion of their returns they would like to pass on to their policyholders. You are completely at their whim. If that one company goes bankrupt, has some bad years, or simply changes their outlook on paying out to customers, your return will suffer.
Good questions. The honest answer is that the only way to know what’s best is to do a review of your personal goals, the policy you have now, the whole life policy you would be changing it to, and the other options available to you. I would highly recommend seeking out a fee-only financial planner who can help you with this, and I would start by looking at the Garrett Planning Network. Their advisors all offer hourly services that would be perfect for this kind of project. NAPFA is another great network of fee-only planners.
Finally, everyone who accumulates assets will have a life insurance policy of one type or another. Social Security currently is “a life insurance policy”. Will it be around in 30 years? Who knows…who knows what will be there. All I know is that a good plan will have a guaranteed income source that they can not outlive. Many people with assets take Social Security before age 70 because they want to be sure to get something out of it…this is a life insurance decision. They reduce their life time income by taking payment early. If they owned a permanent life policy, they could reduce their investment risk by spending assets and leverage the insurance policy to replace the assets they use while they delay taking income from SS and the increased payment the benefit provides can increase their life style, pay the premium and create a legacy for their children, grand children or favorite charity. Life insurance “loans” are not income. They are loans. So if a person planned ahead, they could receive 10’s of thousands of dollars from the cash value of their policy (and ROTH IRA money) and not pay a dime of income tax on the social security benefit. If inflation happens and interest rates and taxes increase, the SS benefits will increase and this person will have increasing income that won’t be consumed by an increase in taxes as all their income would be tax free.

3 The above example is based on a scenario for 20‐year term life insurance (domicile state) that includes the following benefit conditions: $50,000 death benefit, $50,000 accidental death benefit, and $12,500 seatbelt benefit. Benefits may vary by state, benefit option, and level of coverage selected. Review your state‐specific brochure below for a “How It Works” scenario customized for your state.
3 The above example is based on a scenario for 20‐year term life insurance (domicile state) that includes the following benefit conditions: $50,000 death benefit, $50,000 accidental death benefit, and $12,500 seatbelt benefit. Benefits may vary by state, benefit option, and level of coverage selected. Review your state‐specific brochure below for a “How It Works” scenario customized for your state.
Thanks for adding to the sea of confusion. Term insurance may be dirt cheap when you are young, but it is deathly expensive by the time you turn 50 or 60. Term or permanent insurance are just tools for different needs. There isn’t a one size fits all solution to life insurance, and just because a few mis-guided and zealous agents have sold the wrong product doesn’t do justice to a great industry that provides a lot of security to families in their time of need.

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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Products underwritten by Nationwide Mutual Insurance Company and Affiliated Companies. Not all Nationwide affiliated companies are mutual companies, and not all Nationwide members are insured by a mutual company. Subject to underwriting guidelines, review and approval. Products and discounts not available to all persons in all states. Nationwide Investment Services Corporation, member FINRA. Home Office: One Nationwide Plaza, Columbus, OH. Nationwide, the Nationwide N and Eagle and other marks displayed on this page are service marks of Nationwide Mutual Insurance Company, unless otherwise disclosed. ©2019. Nationwide Mutual Insurance Company. 

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Our commercial risk team offers a wealth of knowledge and expertise, and has built strong relationships with top insurance carriers. We partner with you to identify potential loss exposures, and help you implement an action plan to reduce them. Having the ability to write all lines of commercial insurance is one part of providing the best insurance and risk management consultation, but our true strength is having the expertise to tailor those products to suit your business needs.
In the United States, the most prevalent form of self-insurance is governmental risk management pools. They are self-funded cooperatives, operating as carriers of coverage for the majority of governmental entities today, such as county governments, municipalities, and school districts. Rather than these entities independently self-insure and risk bankruptcy from a large judgment or catastrophic loss, such governmental entities form a risk pool. Such pools begin their operations by capitalization through member deposits or bond issuance. Coverage (such as general liability, auto liability, professional liability, workers compensation, and property) is offered by the pool to its members, similar to coverage offered by insurance companies. However, self-insured pools offer members lower rates (due to not needing insurance brokers), increased benefits (such as loss prevention services) and subject matter expertise. Of approximately 91,000 distinct governmental entities operating in the United States, 75,000 are members of self-insured pools in various lines of coverage, forming approximately 500 pools. Although a relatively small corner of the insurance market, the annual contributions (self-insured premiums) to such pools have been estimated up to 17 billion dollars annually.[36]
In 2017, within the framework of the joint project of the Bank of Russia and Yandex, a special check mark (a green circle with a tick and ‘Реестр ЦБ РФ’ (Unified state register of insurance entities) text box) appeared in the search for Yandex system, informing the consumer that the company's financial services are offered on the marked website, which has the status of an insurance company, a broker or a mutual insurance association.[50]
As for your question, I don’t believe I’ve ever reviewed a USAA whole life policy so I can’t comment on then specifically. I would simply encourage you to start by clarifying your personal goals and to then evaluate each option based on how well it will help you meet them. With that said, of your main goal is investing for retirement then I would typically encourage you to max out traditional retirement accounts before considering any kind of life insurance. 

How do you feel about Single Premium Index Life? I am 65 years old with no need for life insurance as my grown son will already be well taken care of with my other assets. The ability to care for myself in my retirement outweighs my desire for an additional legacy. this policy is being sold to me more like a long-term care policy where I can use the death benefit, if needed, for nursing home or chronic care. The single premium is $100K with the death benefit to go no lower than $182K. This is money sitting in saving accounts now because I value the feeling of liquidity. I may, or may not, need part of this money during my retirement. This policy is being presented to me by an insurance salesman who presented himself in a seminar as an expert in Social Security to target his audience. Thanks.

Good question Pixley. Evaluating a policy that’s been in place for 7 years, as it sounds like yours has, is very different from evaluating a new policy. The key is to ignore everything that’s happened in the past and evaluate it only based on how you expect it to perform going forward. I would suggest getting an in-force illustration and running the numbers for yourself based on both the guarantees and projections. Every policy is different, especially those that have been in place for a while, so I really can’t say what you should expect.
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.
The “fixed returns” you talk about from whole life are not the 4-6% you mention in multiple places. Again, as I said in the post, the guaranteed returns are much closer to 1% or less. Yes you might get better returns depending on the dividends the insurance company decides to pay, but that’s not “fixed” or guaranteed. It changes every year. And yes, you can improve those refunds if you vastly overfund the policy in the early years, which again is something I already mentioned in the post. But for 98-99% of the population that really isn’t a viable strategy.

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Hi Christine. First of all, thank your for stopping by. Second of all, please don’t beat yourself up over this. Life insurance salesmen are trained to make these policies sound REALLY attractive and their arguments can be quite persuasive. I actually found myself feeling close to convinced about one of these policies a few years ago before coming to my senses.

Cash value increases within the policy are not subject to income taxes unless certain events occur. For this reason, insurance policies can be a legal and legitimate tax shelter wherein savings can increase without taxation until the owner withdraws the money from the policy. In flexible-premium policies, large deposits of premium could cause the contract to be considered a modified endowment contract by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), which negates many of the tax advantages associated with life insurance. The insurance company, in most cases, will inform the policy owner of this danger before deciding their premium.
First, there are your regular whole life policies that are non-{articipating and then there are those that are Participating. Participating policices earn dividends which is called a “return of premium” however with that dividend it purchases more insurance and the coverage keeps going on as long as a dividend is paid, the more coverage the more dividend, the more dividend the more coverage etc. After 25-30 years a person can stop paying for the policy and take reduced paid up insurance and keep the insurance enforced for the rest of their lives without paying a single cent. This is one of the features I absolutely love about participating whole life.
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? 

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Business insurance can take a number of different forms, such as the various kinds of professional liability insurance, also called professional indemnity (PI), which are discussed below under that name; and the business owner's policy (BOP), which packages into one policy many of the kinds of coverage that a business owner needs, in a way analogous to how homeowners' insurance packages the coverages that a homeowner needs.[27]

Thanks for reaching out Bob. There’s a lot that goes into this decision with the position that you’re in, and the right choice really depends on your personal financial situation and what you’re trying to achieve. I would lean towards trusting the advice of an advisor who doesn’t get paid to sell whole life, since that advice is likely to be more objective. It sounds like you’re already working with a couple of advisors, but if you’d like another opinion I would search NAPFA and/or Garrett Planning Network to find a fee-only financial planner in your area.
2. For people who have already maxed out all of their tax-deferred space and have a sizable investment portfolio built up, permanent insurance can potentially offer some diversification along with some benefits of tax-deferral. These people could invest in a permanent insurance product specifically designed to maximize the investment opportunity, which would include significant up-front contributions and a few other bells and whistles. These are not the run-of-the-mill whole life insurance policies sold by your local agent, and they are generally not right for people who don’t already have significant wealth.
True, but what’s not accounted for is the rolling geometric average. Trailing returns only assume you invest at the beginning of a period and hold to the end. The rolling average (if done correctly) assumes you invest over time…say monthly…like almost everyone does. I remember reading several pieces by Dan Wiener (who is an advocate for index fund investing, and specifically Vanguard) mention this. 

Crop insurance may be purchased by farmers to reduce or manage various risks associated with growing crops. Such risks include crop loss or damage caused by weather, hail, drought, frost damage, insects, or disease.[29] Index based crop insurance uses models of how climate extremes affect crop production to define certain climate triggers that if surpassed have high probabilities of causing substantial crop loss. When harvest losses occur associated with exceeding the climate trigger threshold, the index-insured farmer is entitled to a compensation payment[30].

Hi Matt. Read your posts and comments on Whole Life and the overfunding options available. I have a different situation involving a policy with Prudential called Variable Appreciable Life. I am looking for a safe haven for some available cash with a minimum return of 4%. Agent/Financial Planner has suggested I overfund the balance of that VAL policy. Yes, I am quite conservative but have enough invested in 401k, Stocks, Funds etc. Policy is 50K and issued in 1990. Wife and I are in mid seventies and looking to have 30-40K of available liquid cash. Can add/withdraw the overfunding $ at any time. Interest guarantee is 4.0%.
I noted that the returns on the simulations were set at 8%, which was the average for this product from a respected company. In real life, the return for this product is variable guaranteed at minimum 0.75% with a 15% cap. However, I thought about the simulation result tables presented and from my memory it did not seem like money was going up by the promised compounded 8% every year. As a matter of fact, the first few years, there appeared to be negative returns and even at the 20 year mark the return did not appear from my memory to be 8% higher compared to the prior year. Where did the money go? I believe it was commission and fees, which were not mentioned during the meeting. So compared to other investment options out there, it did not seem like such a good deal after all.
Well, first of all, I know nothing about how things work in Canada so I’m definitely not qualified to advise you on this. Given the same situation in the US though, I would say that it’s something you could consider. I would just make sure that you work with a fee-only financial planner who specializes in this kind of thing, can evaluate all of your options in the context of your specific goals, and, if this ends up being a good option, can help you find a policy specifically structured to minimize costs and maximize growth. That’s really the only way I would consider it.
I’ll start with the whole life policy a financial planner is currently trying to sell me on. It does seem to be too good to be true, so I’m trying to figure out what’s wrong with it. He claims that I put $1k in it each month for 20 years. At around the 10 year mark, the “cash value” meets the amount of money I’ve put into it, and begins to exceed it. After 20 years, I’ve put $240k in, and it’s worth around $550k. That’s the amount I could take out if I wanted to close the thing. And I *believe* he said that’s tax free, but maybe I’m wrong about that… he also may have said something about instead withdrawing a set amount of around $55k each year and that’s tax free? Not sure. But just looking at these numbers and ignoring the death benefit, is that not a good investment? I’ve been maxing out my 401k and investing in mutual funds for more than 10 years and I’d estimate for every dollar I’ve put in, I now have about $1.20. I’m sure some of that has been poor allocation of funds, but even taking that into consideration, it seems pretty pathetic compared to the option of more than doubling my money in 20 years (looking at the $550k out with $240k in). What am I missing?
For example, life insurance companies may require higher premiums or deny coverage altogether to people who work in hazardous occupations or engage in dangerous sports. Liability insurance providers do not provide coverage for liability arising from intentional torts committed by or at the direction of the insured. Even if a provider desired to provide such coverage, it is against the public policy of most countries to allow such insurance to exist, and thus it is usually illegal.[citation needed]

This brings me to my next point. It is not a bad idea to consider annuitizing a portion of your retirement income. If you can annuitize enough to provide you with funds to meet your income “needs” (spousal annuities are available for lifetime income security) with the remainder invested to provide for your “wants”, you can still have the security offered by a pension without actually having the pension itself.

Brokers may be either retail or wholesale. A retail broker interacts directly with insurance buyers. If you visited a broker, who then obtained insurance coverages on your behalf, he or she is a retail broker. In some cases, your agent or broker may be unable to obtain insurance coverage on your behalf from a standard insurer. In that event, he or she may contact a wholesale broker. Wholesale brokers specialize in certain types of coverage. Many are surplus lines brokers, who arrange coverages for risks that are unusual or hazardous.


Beyond that, I do agree that whole life insurance can be useful in certain situations when structured properly. But those situations are few and far between and they require the help of someone who both knows the ins and outs of these policies AND is willing to put the client’s interests over their own financial interests (i.e. minimizing commissions and other costs on the policy). That kind of person is also difficult to find.

Life insurance companies in the United States support the Medical Information Bureau (MIB),[17] which is a clearing house of information on persons who have applied for life insurance with participating companies in the last seven years. As part of the application, the insurer often requires the applicant's permission to obtain information from their physicians.[18]
Third, yes the cash value of your whole life insurance is less susceptible to swings than the stock market. But it comes with far less upside AND you do not have to invest 100% of your money in the stock market. A smart asset allocation allows you to balance the upside of the stock market with the relatively safety of the bond market without all the negatives of a whole life insurance policy.
Response 1: This has to be the most common objection. I understand it, but I don’t totally agree with it, so please give it a LOT of thought and decide for yourself. Let’s begin with the idea that insurance is not an investment. That is false. It is absolutely an investment. You spend money in expectation of a financial return, the size of which is usually known but the probability of which is oftentimes unknown (because many people cancel term policies or cannot renew them before they pass away).
Also a comment on the “non-guaranteed” argument. Yes if you do business with a company not named Mass Mutual, Northwestern Mutual, or New York Life, you are likely getting ripped off. But if you work with a reputable company, they have paid dividends every year for 150+ years. So yes, legally speaking, returns are not guaranteed, but every year for 150 years sounds pretty good to me. Just as asset class diversification is important, so is tax and risk diversification, which permanent insurance provides.
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?
First, there are your regular whole life policies that are non-{articipating and then there are those that are Participating. Participating policices earn dividends which is called a “return of premium” however with that dividend it purchases more insurance and the coverage keeps going on as long as a dividend is paid, the more coverage the more dividend, the more dividend the more coverage etc. After 25-30 years a person can stop paying for the policy and take reduced paid up insurance and keep the insurance enforced for the rest of their lives without paying a single cent. This is one of the features I absolutely love about participating whole life.
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Stranger-originated life insurance or STOLI is a life insurance policy that is held or financed by a person who has no relationship to the insured person. Generally, the purpose of life insurance is to provide peace of mind by assuring that financial loss or hardship will be alleviated in the event of the insured person's death. STOLI has often been used as an investment technique whereby investors will encourage someone (usually an elderly person) to purchase life insurance and name the investors as the beneficiary of the policy. This undermines the primary purpose of life insurance, as the investors would incur no financial loss should the insured person die. In some jurisdictions, there are laws to discourage or prevent STOLI.

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My parents had a whole life insurance policy with Colonial Penn since the late 80’s. My father was handling my mother and his financial affairs until he was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. Little did I know his policy lapsed. I contacted the company to find out how much in the rear they were. Well, I was told that my dad could be reinstated if the payments were brought up to date but I would have to fill out a health questionnaire for my mom. Unfortunately my mom was recently diagnosed with stage 4 lung cancer so I’m quite sure they will not accept her again. At this point neither has any life insurance. I honestly do not know what else to do. Can a policy that has lapse be paid out? Do you have any suggestions? Is there anything that I can do?

Our Management Liability specialists average 15 years of experience in structuring risk management programs that protect against various types of executive risk and management liability. Strong relationships with insurance carriers and familiarity with current government legislation and case law mean we can effectively manage your risks in real time—an imperative in this ever-changing business environment.

So let’s do a quick comparison. Let’s take that $527 annual premium and invest it instead. From 1963 to 2013, the US stock market earned a 10.22% annual return (source), but let’s assume that this person also put some money into bonds (smart) and earned a more conservative 8% annual return. Over those 50 years, at that 8% return, that money would have grown to $327,231. I don’t know about you, but I would rather have my money that way than locked inside a whole life insurance policy.


Most people are familiar with or have worked with an insurance agent at some point in their lives. However, a broker has an entirely different role from an insurance agent. Unlike insurance agents, insurance brokers do not work for an insurance company. They work for their clients, providing advice on the best insurance options for their clients’ needs. Their goal is to support their clients’ interests — not to sell a particular policy on behalf of an insurance company.

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Hi Matt, Enjoyed the article. I agree with a lot of what I have seen up here, both by you and other commenters. I believe that a lot of the typical Dave Ramsey advice applies to the vast majority of the population, who can’t afford to pay $500 month premiums w/$500 month overfunds. Yeah, if you’re in a position where that amount is no more than 20% of your savings, wow & congrats, and it could possibly be a good idea. But that’s like 50% of mine. As someone who is new to investing and just a year out of school, I recently sat down with a guy from one of the more respectable companies in the WLI market. I truly believe it would have been a good deal for a very select group of individuals, but for me, there were two main turn-offs. First, I simply couldn’t commit to send such a large portion of my savings for the next 10, 20, or 30 years. But secondly, I just didn’t fully understand the policy. From other comments, I think others are in the same boat. These things are confusing, I asked lots of questions but still it just didn’t make sense what was going on with every level. I’ve done my research on saving/investing, and gotten a pretty good grasp so far of my strategy, but my mind still just hasn’t fully grasped WLI. So I backed off. And I’d encourage everyone to do the same – if you don’t know exactly what it is that you’re doing and can’t understand or explain it, then don’t get in to it.

Agents and brokers act as intermediaries between you (the insurance buyer) and your insurers. Each has a legal duty to help you obtain appropriate coverage at a reasonable price. Each must have a license to distribute the type of insurance he or she is selling. An agent or broker must also adhere to the regulations enforced by your state insurance department.
Insurance can be a complex concept that is not always easy to understand. While we know that we need insurance to protect our health, our house and car, and to ensure that our loved ones are protected, the finer details often become blurred. An insurance broker can help you navigate the process of finding, comparing, and acquiring insurance by breaking it down into terms and conditions the average Joe can understand. Insurance brokers pride themselves on providing their clients with the best value in insurance coverage. Having an experienced insurance broker represent you is also a wise way to safeguard yourself and your business.
6The monthly rate shown is for Preferred Elite based on a Male, age 37. Allstate Lifetime UL® is a flexible premium universal life insurance policy issued by Allstate Assurance Company, 3075 Sanders Rd., Northbrook IL 60062 and is available in most states with contract series AC13-12. In New York, issued by Allstate Life Insurance Company of New York, Hauppauge, NY with contract series NYLU676.

The first life insurance policies were taken out in the early 18th century. The first company to offer life insurance was the Amicable Society for a Perpetual Assurance Office, founded in London in 1706 by William Talbot and Sir Thomas Allen.[7][8] Edward Rowe Mores established the Society for Equitable Assurances on Lives and Survivorship in 1762.


In the United States, the tax on interest income on life insurance policies and annuities is generally deferred. However, in some cases the benefit derived from tax deferral may be offset by a low return. This depends upon the insuring company, the type of policy and other variables (mortality, market return, etc.). Moreover, other income tax saving vehicles (e.g., IRAs, 401(k) plans, Roth IRAs) may be better alternatives for value accumulation.
Hi Christine. First of all, thank your for stopping by. Second of all, please don’t beat yourself up over this. Life insurance salesmen are trained to make these policies sound REALLY attractive and their arguments can be quite persuasive. I actually found myself feeling close to convinced about one of these policies a few years ago before coming to my senses.
4 If your rental car were damaged in a covered loss, this coverage would provide additional protection under your policy’s Physical Damage Coverage (subject to deductible). We would pay the expenses to the rental agency for: loss of use (the rental agency’s loss of rental income); reasonable fees and charges (e.g., storage fees incurred by the rental agency); and loss of market value of the damaged rental.   Not available in NC.
In the United States, economists and consumer advocates generally consider insurance to be worthwhile for low-probability, catastrophic losses, but not for high-probability, small losses. Because of this, consumers are advised to select high deductibles and to not insure losses which would not cause a disruption in their life. However, consumers have shown a tendency to prefer low deductibles and to prefer to insure relatively high-probability, small losses over low-probability, perhaps due to not understanding or ignoring the low-probability risk. This is associated with reduced purchasing of insurance against low-probability losses, and may result in increased inefficiencies from moral hazard.[52]

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