This isn’t entirely accurate. Whole life insurance isn’t a product designed to replace term insurance. It wouldn’t make sense to have a retirement account disappear in the event of someone passing early. This would be irresponsible on the part of an agent to suggest this. Whole life has to be used with the intent of using it as collateral for loans, enhanced retirement and for leaving a legacy. In the early years it should be set up with a term rider to ensure a family’s needs will be met. Yes this is more expensive but it is a tool with an objective and if that’s not the objective then whole life makes no sense at all. It is not right for everyone.
And yes, the “guaranteed” cash value is the minimum growth that the insurance company is promising. When they tell you that there is a guaranteed interest rate, this cash value is the result of that guaranteed interest rate. The non-guaranteed cash value is their projection based on their expected returns, which as the name suggests are not guaranteed.
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.
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I have whole life that I’m not understanding . I’m under the understanding I pay $401 for 7 years I’m done paying on a &135,000 policy that they tell me the more I borrow from the more it grows.But I’m starting to question if the interested charged doesn’t go back to me how it’s it growing. I’m very confused suopose to sit down with agent so he can explain it better. But from talking to other insurance people like my house and car insurance agent he says this is not possible about it growing. HELP
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.
Affordable premium: If the likelihood of an insured event is so high, or the cost of the event so large, that the resulting premium is large relative to the amount of protection offered, then it is not likely that the insurance will be purchased, even if on offer. Furthermore, as the accounting profession formally recognizes in financial accounting standards, the premium cannot be so large that there is not a reasonable chance of a significant loss to the insurer. If there is no such chance of loss, then the transaction may have the form of insurance, but not the substance (see the U.S. Financial Accounting Standards Board pronouncement number 113: "Accounting and Reporting for Reinsurance of Short-Duration and Long-Duration Contracts").
With that said, yes the interest rates are good, but it’s not really appropriate to compare the interest rate on a whole life loan to interest rates from other sources. With whole life, you’re borrowing YOUR OWN money that you already contributed after-tax. That’s very different from borrowing from a bank, where the money was never yours. It’s much more appropriate to compare the long-term, cumulative interest rate to the long-term after-tax returns you could get from other investments. That comparison looks very different and often much less beneficial for whole life.
I have no idea how the Hiltons manage their money, so I can’t comment/fact check what you’re saying here. But in a broader sense, the right financial moves for the wealthiest 1% of Americans are often much different than the right moves for the other 99%. If you’re already incredibly wealthy, then sure, a well-designed permanent life insurance policy can make a lot of sense. If you’re trying to build wealth, then no it usually doesn’t.

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Premiums paid by a policyholder are not deductible from taxable income, although premiums paid via an approved pension fund registered in terms of the Income Tax Act are permitted to be deducted from personal income tax (whether these premiums are nominally being paid by the employer or employee). The benefits arising from life assurance policies are generally not taxable as income to beneficiaries (again in the case of approved benefits, these fall under retirement or withdrawal taxation rules from SARS). Investment return within the policy will be taxed within the life policy and paid by the life assurer depending on the nature of the policyholder (whether natural person, company-owned, untaxed or a retirement fund).
This shift to universal life by insurance companies has made premiums cheaper but removed many of the guarantees that came with traditional whole life insurance like guaranteed face amounts, guaranteed premiums and guaranteed cash values. The result is that there are a lot of underfunded universal life insurance policies out there which aren’t really permanent policies anymore since they can’t support themselves and will lapse instead of paying out.

There are certain instances where whole life can be useful. If you have a genuine need for a permanent death benefit, such as having a disabled child, it can serve a valuable purpose. If you have a large amount of money, have already maxed out all of your tax-deferred savings, and you can afford to front-load your policy with large payments in the first several years, it can provide better returns than was discussed above. So it is a useful product in a limited number of cases.

4. If the monthly premium is within your budget and and individual has saved money into other forms of retirement savings. Then why not get the benefit of having the safety net that the whole life insurance gives you then Surrendering that policy when you no longer need it and receiving (what I believe to be tax free) money for having that safety net in place


^ Anzovin, Steven, Famous First Facts 2000, item # 2422, H. W. Wilson Company, ISBN 0-8242-0958-3 p. 121 The first life insurance company known of record was founded in 1706 by the Bishop of Oxford and the financier Thomas Allen in London, England. The company, called the Amicable Society for a Perpetual Assurance Office, collected annual premiums from policyholders and paid the nominees of deceased members from a common fund.
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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Internationally known financial adviser Suze Orman strongly believes that if you want insurance, buy term; if you want an investment, buy an investment, not insurance. Don't mix the two. Unless you're a very savvy investor and understand all the implications of the various types of life insurance policies, you most likely should purchase term life insurance.

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

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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.


A few comments… You shouldn’t ever be buying whole life insurance for purely for the reason of investing, you buy any life insurance because you need life insurance, the investment component is secondary. So not sure why we are analyzing it purely as an investment (I actually do know why, because some agents try to sell it this way, and Matt is trying to help them avoid a pitfall).
In fact, he sort of torpedoes his argument by saying policy loans are legit, with the implication being policyholders are going to get into trouble if they don’t understand how to use policy loans. …but people already get into trouble by not being financially responsible so…again…nothing new. The problem isn’t borrowing or insurance. It’s financial education.
Thanks for reaching out Kendra. To be quite honest this is a complicated question without a simple answer. It depends very much on your father’s need for life insurance, his current health status, and the specifics of this policy. It may very well be that the policy you have is your best option going forward. Or it may be that there’s a better one. But it’s impossible to know without a more thorough evaluation.

Save your money… don’t invest it… unless you’ve first insured that even if those investments don’t work out. Life is a big enough investment as it is… especially if others are dependent on you and particularly if you become wealthy. Term insurance won’t cut it. It will almost certainly be lapsed by the time you really need it. Too many opportunities over a lifetime to miss a payment and then poof… it’s gone.


What you are telling people in this post is irresponsible and bad advice. You are correct that term is a lot cheaper than whole life, but you are leaving out the problems with term insurance that whole life policy can fix at any age. Did you know only 2% of term policies are ever paid a death benefit on? You can buy a 20 year term at age 30 but what happens when you turn 51? Buy more term at your current health at 51? What if you get cancer or other health problems that cause you to become uninsurable? Would you rather pay $100 a month for a $100,000 permanent policy and earn cash value, or would you rather pay $40 a month for 20 years on the same policy and then have to buy a new term policy at age 51 that will be $200-$300 a month and even then if you don’t die during that term then what do you have when your 80? Nothing, because no one is going to sale you life insurance at age 80. I don’t think buying term at a young age is a bad idea, but the longer you wait to transfer some of that to permanent insurance you are digging yourself and your family a deeper hole when you live past that term policy and have nothing to leave them with.
Gap insurance covers the excess amount on your auto loan in an instance where your insurance company does not cover the entire loan. Depending on the company's specific policies it might or might not cover the deductible as well. This coverage is marketed for those who put low down payments, have high interest rates on their loans, and those with 60-month or longer terms. Gap insurance is typically offered by a finance company when the vehicle owner purchases their vehicle, but many auto insurance companies offer this coverage to consumers as well.
The second is that I’ve heard enough horror stories about indexed life insurance in general to be skeptical. It’s not that it can’t work, it’s that there are plenty of examples of it underperforming, having a catch that wasn’t made clear up front, and other instances where it just doesn’t work the way it was sold to work. Any time something is sold as being able to pay for any financial goal no matter the market conditions, it’s usually too good to be true.

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.
Now, it turns out that we have higher, broader family obligations than I anticipated 20-27 years ago. My wife and I plan to possibly keep working past 65 (which I hadn’t anticipated) and would like to be able to fund these obligations even if we were to die before our now planned time to stop working (that goes past the periods anticipated by the terms of our term policies). Our term policies and term coverage are beginning to expire and due to certain issues, at best, we would have to pay very high premiums for anything I would try to purchase now, if we would qualify at all.
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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.
In his memoir “Am I Being Too Subtle?” Sam Zell, a billionaire investor and chairman of Equity International, writes, “I’m always on the lookout for anomalies or disruptions in an industry, in a market or in a particular company…. Any event or pattern out of the ordinary is like a beacon telling me some new interesting opportunity may be emerging.”

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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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That’s a healthy viewpoint and I wish more agents shared it. However, I still don’t believe that it’s a helpful product for most people. There are many ways that those premiums could be put to use that would provide the flexibility to use the money for a funeral, etc., or to use it for other needs along the way, all without the rigidness of having to continue paying the premiums or else see the entire benefit disappear.
4. If you end up wanting permanent life insurance when you get older, you have plenty of options other than buying whole life insurance as an investment when you’re young. You could convert a term policy. You could buy guaranteed no-lapse universal life. There are plenty of options that don’t require you lock yourself into a poorly-performing policy at a young age when that cash flow would be better used elsewhere.
All points have merit but, like any service, unprofessional service can be punished by walking. However, point #4, “market blocking” is a particularly confounding practice in P&C (I don’t think this occurs in LIfe & Health). Market blocking is a matter which Insurance Commissioners could easily correct nationwide to the immediate benefit of the customer.
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In Jordan’s case, assuming that all those numbers will stay consistent and that there aren’t any scenarios in which he might need to put significantly more into the policy in order to keep it active (which is possible), then it’s a relatively small price to pay for security that sounds like is important to him. I wouldn’t personally take out the policy because I would rather put that money to work elsewhere, but I could understand the appeal.
Hey Mark. Thanks for the kind words and you make a great point! That’s a big reason for #5 in the article. With the speed at which life can change, locking yourself into paying those premiums for decades is just so limiting. And you go even further than that here with simply wanting to invest the money you’ve already put in differently, and I couldn’t agree with you more. It adds a lot of inflexibility to your planning which can make figuring out the other pieces a lot more difficult.
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Also, during your life if the policy pays 4% and you take a loan against the policy (for any reason) the net effect is that you are paying yourself the 4%, and perhaps 1 or 2% to the insurance company. CSV collateral loans typically are cheaper than unsecured loans, or auto loans. Used properly the whole life insurance contract is one of the most versatile wealth building tools.
Often a commercial insured's liability insurance program consists of several layers. The first layer of insurance generally consists of primary insurance, which provides first dollar indemnity for judgments and settlements up to the limits of liability of the primary policy. Generally, primary insurance is subject to a deductible and obligates the insured to defend the insured against lawsuits, which is normally accomplished by assigning counsel to defend the insured. In many instances, a commercial insured may elect to self-insure. Above the primary insurance or self-insured retention, the insured may have one or more layers of excess insurance to provide coverage additional limits of indemnity protection. There are a variety of types of excess insurance, including "stand-alone" excess policies (policies that contain their own terms, conditions, and exclusions), "follow form" excess insurance (policies that follow the terms of the underlying policy except as specifically provided), and "umbrella" insurance policies (excess insurance that in some circumstances could provide coverage that is broader than the underlying insurance).[32]
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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.
Matt, may I ask you a question? I have a 25-year old $100K whole life policy with a surrender value of $43K, of which $21K is taxable. I’m 43 years old. Dividends now more than cover the $900/yr premium. Does it make sense to hold on to this? I am torn! I could surrender it and pay off a second mortgage which is at 7.6%… Thank you in advance. Love your site! 

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1. Almost ANYONE can benefit from a well designed overfunded Participating Whole Life policy. Are you saying that the vast majority of the population has no place in their investment portfolio for a guaranteed fixed asset that provides long-bond like returns (coupled with a few other bells and whistles)? I would even argue that single people with no children might benefit from this product in the right amount and the proper structure (not to mention that some policies now have the option to pay for long-term-care). EVERY PERSON that cares for someone or something (be it a spouse, a child, a charity, or anything else) can benefit even more, by virtue of having a guaranteed death benefit. Such a benefit allows the comfort (and better cash flow with lower taxation) of spending down assets, rather than relying solely on returns on assets.
I can’t honestly comment on whether you made the right decision for your personal situation because there are many variables I don’t know. I will say that even if you are happy with the way it turned out, which in the end is really all that matters, it is still possible that other routes could have worked out better. I will also restate my position that while some kind of permanent life insurance coverage can be useful in rare and specific circumstances, it is generally not a good idea for most people in most situations.
Your “rent” analogy is a classic one used by life insurance salesmen when selling whole life, but it is a poor analogy. After all, insurance has nothing to do with renting vs. owning. Would you say that most people are simply “renting” auto insurance? Do you think people should buy auto insurance policies that will pay them the full price of a new car whenever their car dies, even if they drive it into the ground? Because that’s essentially what whole life insurance is. The main purpose of life insurance is to provide financially for dependents in the case that you die early, just as the main purpose of car insurance (beyond the liability portion) is to provide the financial value of your car in case it dies early. Once that financial protection is no longer needed, the insurance need is gone. Term insurance protects you while you need it and goes away once you don’t. It is insurance in the purest sense of the word and is by far the more effective way to go about it for the vast majority of the population.
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Then I would try to find a good, honest, independent life insurance agent who could help you evaluate the policy and show you what your options are. If the death benefit is valuable to you, you may be able to exchange it for a different policy that eliminated or reduced the need for premium payments, which might be a huge help. If you would like some help finding an agent, email me at matt@momanddadmoney.com.
First, a term life insurance policy will cost much less than a whole life insurance policy with the same death benefit, often around 12 times less. So your example of a $30,000 whole life policy with a $20 premium compared to a $30,000 term life policy with that same $20 premium is not a valid comparison. The term life premium would be a fraction of the whole life premium.
Matt, the illustration does have a guaranteed element to it, the guaranteed keeps going up every year whether the company issues a dividend or not, obviously the guarantees are less. Like I said the purpose of this type of life insurance is not to “invest” its to have something that you wont other wise have. with 30 year term, the term is guaranteed to expire in 30 years. anyhow I wont debate you on that as I can see where you are coming from. I understand that when a person gets into a plan to pay off debt and invest heavily they will have “no need” for life insurance after they’ve paid debt and their children have grown. I’m more conservative therefore I like to make sure I have something despite having debt paid for etc.. I’d like to leave an article for you to read, its an actual case study of a gentlemen who opened a small 29000 participating whole life policy back in the mid 60’s. in 2013 he now had $166,424 in Coverage and had only paid $26,186. Anywho not bad for the guy. heres the article for anyone interested in reading the case study.

Your comment on liquidity and guaranteed returns is tough to agree with too. Life insurance returns have continued to decrease since interest rates have decreased from all time highs to all time lows. Life insurance is a long term fixed income asset. There are both guaranteed returns and maximum charges in both Universal Life and Whole life. These are lower than the “current illustrations” but the are guaranteed to never fall below those points. This can not be said about any other fixed income investment other than short term treasury notes. This is why banks hold 10-15% of their deposits in cash value life insurance…billions of dollars I might add. It is a tax free fixed income asset that they do not need to “mark to market.”
Additionally, this can be a great way to compliment a financial plan that is linked to the markets performance. When I am in my 60’s nearing retirement and have a good amount of cash value in my policy–I will not be terribly worried about the market performance (401(k)s/mutual funds/ IRA/ stocks). I know that flucuations in the market will occur and if a recession happens when I am 62, I will use my cash and policy cash value to hold me over until the markets recover. Again, my aim is not to buy high and sell low, it is to buy low and sell high.
There is a lot of good information here, however when I think of what my father-n-law did to himself I have to disagree about whole life insurance. My father-n-law use to sell life insurance in the 1960s and only believed in term and that is all that he has ever had. However, now in his 70s, the only thing he is eligible for is a 3 year term policy and I’m sure that once this expires he will age out and no longer be eligible for coverage. He will not admit the exact amount of his monthly premium, but its over then $150 a month. He has contacted many companies for alternatives, but he is either not eligible, or the cost is too high. I’m not looking for “investment”, I’m looking to protect my family, and I refuse to back myself into the corner that he did. We may loose the house in case we can figure something out.

The first is that, as you say, no one invests all their money at the beginning of the period and cashes out at the end. Usually you invest some at the beginning and more at various points along the way. For example, someone who contributes part of their monthly paycheck. And since the stock market generally goes up, that means that you will inherently get lower returns than if you had invested all of your money at the beginning, simply because some of your money will not have been invested for the entire ride.
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Any reputable source will report mutual fund and stock returns as “annualized” figures, which takes the sequence of returns into account. Another term for this is “geometric average”, which again accounts for the order in which returns are received. So while there are some financial “experts” out there touting average returns (cough, Dave Ramsey), for the most part what you’re talking about here is not a factor.
Universal life insurance is a type of permanent life insurance designed to provide lifetime coverage. Unlike whole life insurance, universal life insurance policies are flexible and may allow you to raise or lower your premium payment or coverage amounts throughout your lifetime. Additionally, due to its lifetime coverage, universal life typically has higher premium payments than term.
Thanks for reaching out Jean! The truth is that there are a lot of variables in play here that make it hard to give you a direct answer. On the one hand, a $43k surrender value after 25 years is not a great return, assuming that you haven’t taken any loans out and there haven’t been any other interruptions in your premium payments. A guaranteed 7.6% return is also really appealing. But the answer also depends on your overall insurance needs, your other goals, the expected performance of this policy going forward, and other investment opportunities available to you. Those are the things I would look at if I were you. And if you’d like, I would be happy to talk things over in more detail. In any case, I wish you the best of luck!
The author of this article has obviously not been exposed to the details, and perhaps unaware of the Canadian versions of whole life. His comments are just wrong on so many levels, it would take a book to refute them. To make such a blanket statement that all whole life policies are bad, is equivalent of saying because one BMW 750 was a lemon, don’t but one because they are probably all lemons. It is the application of these policies that is critical to understand, and yes they can be sold by inexperienced or crooked advisors looking after their own interests, but whole life has many positive applications both for individuals and especially for corporations.
Mortgage life insurance insures a loan secured by real property and usually features a level premium amount for a declining policy face value because what is insured is the principal and interest outstanding on a mortgage that is constantly being reduced by mortgage payments. The face amount of the policy is always the amount of the principal and interest outstanding that are paid should the applicant die before the final installment is paid.
There are also companies known as "insurance consultants". Like a mortgage broker, these companies are paid a fee by the customer to shop around for the best insurance policy amongst many companies. Similar to an insurance consultant, an 'insurance broker' also shops around for the best insurance policy amongst many companies. However, with insurance brokers, the fee is usually paid in the form of commission from the insurer that is selected rather than directly from the client.

I have a AARP New York life policy . I began this policy in 2000 term life. My son-in law was working in insurance and told me whole life was better. I didn’t listen for about 5 years more . I then told them I wanted to borrow a certain amount they told me I hadn’t put enough in the policy as I had just changed to whole life a few months ago.they had also told me I couldn’t borrow on the term life anyway ! So I lost over ten years on permenent life
3. Why don’t you mention the 4-5% ROR on CV to premium? You state it’s a bad investment – it’s not it’s life insurance. But what bond does 4-5% now? And did you know the pubic’s ACTUAL ROR in the market is less than 4%? Look it up – google will work – try “Why Investors May be Fooling Themselves” – from the Wall Street Journal – I think they know what they speak!!!
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.

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