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.
There are a number of explanations for this difference, including fees and the way in which the interest rate is applied. But the bottom line is that you can’t take that “guaranteed return” at face value. It is incredibly deceptive. Run the numbers for yourself and see if you’re happy with the result. The reality is that you can often get better guaranteed returns from a savings account or CD that’s also FDIC insured.

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MetLife Auto & Home is a brand of Metropolitan Property and Casualty Insurance Company and its affiliates: Economy Fire & Casualty Company, Economy Premier Assurance Company, Economy Preferred Insurance Company, Metropolitan Casualty Insurance Company, Metropolitan Direct Property and Casualty Insurance Company (CA Certificate of Authority: 6730; Warwick, RI), Metropolitan General Insurance Company, Metropolitan Group Property and Casualty Insurance Company (CA COA: 6393; Warwick, RI), and Metropolitan Lloyds Insurance Company of Texas, all with administrative home offices in Warwick, RI. Coverage, rates, discounts, and policy features vary by state and product, and are available in most states to those who qualify. Policies have exclusions, limitations, and terms under which the policy may be continued in force or discontinued. For costs and complete details of coverage, contact your local MetLife Auto & Home representative or the company.  
Let’s consider th facts. Over the last 25 Years , SunLife participating WL Insurance has been consistent around 9.7% interest. That’s compounding annually. 25 year old male , Guaranteed minimum death benefit $150,000 . At age 65 the death benefit will likely be $650,000 , potentially $700,000 and if the market went way downhill and crashed $350,000. Guess how much he paid over the 20 year premium payment period (20pay WL) =$79,980 . That’s a contractually guaranteed – total cost for that $150,000 guarantees death benefit . It’s already much over 100% of his money back. With cash value , with loan ability (tax – free policy loan interest rates are on average in Canada right now 3.5%) . Ok? Making sense at all? Seeing any benefits to this concept anybody? So tell me , an investment of let’s just round up and say $80,000 that a 25 year old male will pay over 20 years. Guarantees him a minimum cash value of $68,900 contractually guarantees minimum. But , with the additional dividends he will actually have something like $129,000 . If he died two months into it the death benefit is $150K . When he turns 65 his investment grew on a tax sheltered basis from $80K to $390K , then if he does die they pay the $150K plus the cash value of $390K all tax free entirely to his family or his estate.

For example, most insurance policies in the English language today have been carefully drafted in plain English; the industry learned the hard way that many courts will not enforce policies against insureds when the judges themselves cannot understand what the policies are saying. Typically, courts construe ambiguities in insurance policies against the insurance company and in favor of coverage under the policy.


A Roth IRA certainly gives you a lot more investment options, with the added benefit of not starting with an account balance of essentially $0. It’s important to understand though that there are always risks involved with investing, and you could lose money within a Roth IRA too. Still, while I don’t know the specifics of your situation it will generally be a good idea to go with something like a Roth IRA before considering any kind of life insurance.

Hi Matt – my 3 kids (now all in their 20’s) had whole life policies opened for them by Grandpa 20 years ago. He has been paying a fixed annual payment of $240, but it’s now up to me (the kids are just starting out and don’t have a cent to spare). My first thought is to have them cancel and take the cash value (~7k each), but in looking at the policies (for the first time) it looks like at this point they are getting a decent cash value return – each of the last 3 years it’s been about 4.2% PLUS the $240. AND the dividend the last few years has been almost as much as the annual payment – but has been buying more insurance (that they don’t need). Is it possible that if you suffer through the first 20 years, it then becomes a good investment? especially if I redirect the dividends to the cash value or a premium reduction? Great article by the way.
In determining premiums and premium rate structures, insurers consider quantifiable factors, including location, credit scores, gender, occupation, marital status, and education level. However, the use of such factors is often considered to be unfair or unlawfully discriminatory, and the reaction against this practice has in some instances led to political disputes about the ways in which insurers determine premiums and regulatory intervention to limit the factors used.
I think that post does a good job of showing how the illustrated (non-guaranteed) return from a whole life insurance policy is comparable to one of the most conservative types of traditional investments you can make IF you end up keeping the policy for 30 years. Of course, that conservative traditional investment doesn’t have most of the other downsides discussed here AND doesn’t require you to hold it for 30 years to see a reasonable return. And, of course, you are allowed to put your money into other, less conservative investments outside of a life insurance policy, some of which may even have special tax advantages (401(k), IRA, HSA, 529, etc.).

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Of course, it’s always more efficient to just save the money themselves. However, many people don’t and people often want to make sure that the money will be there when they are old and can no longer make decisions for themselves. Whole life is one way to do that. We chose term because it made more sense for us and it was so cheap since we were young when we bought. However, I’m just presenting the alternate viewpoint coming from someone who has filed many, many whole life policies on behalf of grateful families.
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.
When the market experiences “down years” you will want to used a fixed investment to take your distributions in order to give your market-exposed vehicles time to recoup losses. This is one of the best pieces I have seen regarding “Taming a Bear Market” where one uses whole life insurance to supplement 401(k) distributions in bad years: http://www.becausewearewomen.com/documents/LEGACY10-RETIREMENTSUPP.pdf
*Payoff Protector is not an insurance product. Subject to the terms, conditions, and restrictions of the Payoff Protector provision in your State Farm Bank Promissory Note and Security Agreement. If your vehicle is determined to be a total loss before the loan is paid off, State Farm Bank will cancel the difference between the insurance payout and the unpaid principal balance due on the loan. Certain restrictions apply. For example, your loan must be in good standing.
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.
Any person who uses permanent insurance should be out of debt and have the discipline to maintain a long term approach. There aren’t any get rich quick schemes and any plan can work as long as an investor looks to get the maximum value for the money they pay. Cash Value Life insurance provides values that promises you or I can’t keep unless we partner with one of these companies.

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Ally or Matt, Can I ask what you used(formula?) to calculate their colorful presentation of the long term growth plan? I was recently presented with this Whole life idea from a Salesman or “Wealth Planner” and he made it sound really good but deep down inside, I don’t feel right, i felt the need to research more because i know there’s more to it than pretty graphs and colorful numbers…until i found this article which explains A LOT so thanks Matt:)

Holly, I just turned seventy years old and retired and constantly looking and applying for jobs because my monthly income is only 1,206.00. I am divorce for only twenty eight years and have a learning disabled adult son who has never work. I need a life insurance policy to be around $30,000 to cover funeral expenses and some money for my son to cope. What life insurance company should I chose and should I chose term or whole life? I would greatly appreciate your response. I have no savings. Thank you. Diahann Cambridge


I only read the first couple of paragraphs here but so far what you are talking about is universal insurance, not whole life. Whole life builds cash value but the policy holder doesn’t get that money….they can take it out on a loan but they have to pay it back with a small interest rate…the cash value a whole life policy collects is what keeps the policy going and it is why they are able to pay out everything they promised you. No one anywhere ever would say hey how about you pay me ten dollars and I will give you twenty in a week….the whole life policy builds up cash value and between that and your premiums they are able to make the money to cover the whole cost. Term life is exactly what its name says…it only last for a term and will be terminated within a set period of time (usually like 20 years) so when you buy it at 20 and live till 50 you don’t get the money you just paid almost 2,000 a year for nothing….but whole life has to pay out it covers you for your whole life. The reason that the term is so much cheaper is that statistically the person will not die in that set time so they are able to make money off the people who don’t die to cover the select few that do and when you are 50 trying to buy term it is crazy expensive. Everyone has their own opinions and I understand that I am just 99% sure that you are talking about universal insurance which is a mix of term and whole and will soon be illegal because of how shady it is.
Any death benefit of the policy will not be payable if the named insured commits suicide or if anyone covered by additional riders commits suicide, while sane or insane, within two years from the policy or rider effective date. All premiums paid will be refunded, less any indebtedness. The following information only applies to the Accelerated Death Payment, Waiver of Premium Benefit Rider, and Accidental-Death Benefit Rider:
Auto insurance isn’t only great protection for your vehicle, it’s also the law. All states require some degree of insurance for your vehicle to protect you and other motorists. Coverage requirements will vary based on your financial responsibility for your car and your state’s requirements. Some states even require you to have liability insurance before you even get a license.
What will you need the life insurance for at that point? Would you be able to save $10,000 in a savings account between now and age 70 instead of paying for whole life insurance? If you take the $26.50 difference in premiums that you mention here and put it into a savings account each month, you’ll have about $7,782 by age 70, assuming 1.5% interest. If you can increase that monthly contribution to $34.25, you’ll reach just over $10,000 by age 70. And that money will be available for whatever you or your family need, any time you want.
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.
In other words, if you put a dollar into the market, and then the market drops resulting in a panic and you pull out what you put in, you’re more than likely pulling out .65 cents as opposed to the dollar. You’ve lost money, because you pulled out in a low market. However, if you have 3 to 4 years worth of living expenses in a non-correlated asset (I.E. Whole Life) you can use that as an effective way to bridge the gap until the market comes back up again. Sure it may cost a little more, but in the end you’re making a lot more money, since you’re selling your dollar for a dollar or more, as opposed to selling it for .65 cents.
Once you write the check, it’s insurance company money. After some time, you may have the right,to borrow some money from them. They decide how much insurance they will pay and how much you can borrow. Let’s take a look at what they have named a universal policy. Let’s say you want to get the savings started right out the door. So you write them a check for $5000. Next month you have an emergency an ,you kneed $25.0/0. Too bad! In a few years, you’ll have a few dollars in cash value. First year or two – none! Now let’s say they have have a guaranteed return of 4%. N ow if you actually have a “cash value” of some kind, don’t you think there would be something there? 4% of WHAT = $0 ??? It’s all insurance company money – they said so to the US government in 1985.

Although some aspects of the application process (such as underwriting and insurable interest provisions) make it difficult, life insurance policies have been used to facilitate exploitation and fraud. In the case of life insurance, there is a possible motive to purchase a life insurance policy, particularly if the face value is substantial, and then murder the insured. Usually, the larger the claim, and the more serious the incident, the larger and more intense the ensuing investigation, consisting of police and insurer investigators.[30]

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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