Also, you said whole life is not an investment. But by definition, it is an investment. An investment is simply where you put money into something expecting a return in the future. And whole life insurance does provide that. Plus if it is a mutual company as mine is then you become a partial owner which means you get to vote and help the business make good business decisions.

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Underfunded whole life insurance may have only performed 4%. However, designed with additional premiums they have actually earned closer to 7% in the 30 years from 1984-2013. Even during the period between 1977 and 1982 where interest rates shot through the roof and bond holders didn’t recapture their losses for several years, over funder whole life returned 35% after the cost of insurance is considered.
The primary purpose of life insurance is to protect the people who are financially dependent upon you. Once those people are no longer dependent upon you (e.g. your kids grow up), you no longer have the need for that protection. Term life insurance is like having car insurance for as long as you own a car. Whole life insurance is like having car insurance forever, even when you no longer own a car.
One point I would like to counter is the idea that whole life “is insurance that CANNOT BE TAKEN AWAY”. It can be taken away if you are not able to keep up with your premium payments, which is pretty common given that people’s lives and financial situations are constantly changing. With some policies, the premium can even go up depending on the performance of the policy, forcing you to pay more than expected if you want to keep the coverage in place. So it’s not quite as simple as saying that the death benefit is a sure thing.

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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.).
Global insurance premiums grew by 2.7% in inflation-adjusted terms in 2010 to $4.3 trillion, climbing above pre-crisis levels. The return to growth and record premiums generated during the year followed two years of decline in real terms. Life insurance premiums increased by 3.2% in 2010 and non-life premiums by 2.1%. While industrialised countries saw an increase in premiums of around 1.4%, insurance markets in emerging economies saw rapid expansion with 11% growth in premium income. The global insurance industry was sufficiently capitalised to withstand the financial crisis of 2008 and 2009 and most insurance companies restored their capital to pre-crisis levels by the end of 2010. With the continuation of the gradual recovery of the global economy, it is likely the insurance industry will continue to see growth in premium income both in industrialised countries and emerging markets in 2011.
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It’s a very fair point, especially coming from someone with so much first-hand experience. Your earlier point about long-term care diminishing assets, even if you’ve saved for those expenses, is a good one too. Thanks for the input. I’m going to do some digging on the cost of a trust vs. the cost of whole life. I definitely think it’s important to make sure you don’t leave your family members with a huge bill when you die.
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?

The proceeds of a life policy will be included in the estate for death duty (in the UK, inheritance tax) purposes. Policies written in trust may fall outside the estate. Trust law and taxation of trusts can be complicated, so any individual intending to use trusts for tax planning would usually seek professional advice from an Independent Financial Adviser and/or a solicitor.


I have a few whole life policies. I was older when I really started to save and have the ability to pay into these accounts now (one I paid $95,000 right at start) and started late on a 401K. I max out my 401K contributions every year (I’m in the 50+ catch up department) so I believe the thinking was that these policies were the best option given my late start. Is that true? It seems your article is geared toward the young investor.
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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.
Large number of similar exposure units: Since insurance operates through pooling resources, the majority of insurance policies are provided for individual members of large classes, allowing insurers to benefit from the law of large numbers in which predicted losses are similar to the actual losses. Exceptions include Lloyd's of London, which is famous for insuring the life or health of actors, sports figures, and other famous individuals. However, all exposures will have particular differences, which may lead to different premium rates.
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Great article Matt. You provide 8 great reasons as to why whole life insurance isn’t the best option for the majority of people. As you noted, there are times when it is advisable such as if you have a disabled child (also a no-lapse universal life policy is another alternative in this instance), but for most term life insurance and investing the rest is the way to go.
But here is the key: the most astute line in the article is “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. It is a useful product in a limited number of cases.”

Lets also not forget a very important aspect of whole life INSURANCE. It provides guaranteed insurance, for life. Term policies are nice, and serve a purpose, but they eventually end and the cost to continue term as you get older can be way too expensive for most people. Whole Life allows you to lock in a guaranteed premium, that will never increase.


I’m in the process of evaluating a whole life insurance with an Early Critical Illness Advance cover. The reason for doing so is that I’ve come across many cases of colleagues with failing health in my work recently, and was told that there is a 33% that anyone can get cancer. And I fear, I could be in that statistics. So, the insurance is to give me a payout, in the event I can no longer work and earn a salary, so that at least I could still live comfortably.
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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Analysis: That just means that your incumbent insurer’s underwriter won’t approve that coverage. The broker isn’t willing to do what’s needed to get the deal done, which is shopping the coverage to other insurers — exactly what brokers are supposed to do. It’s clear that this is the case, because on occasions when a second broker appears to bid on your business, you’ll find that suddenly the coverage you wanted becomes available after all.
Terrorism insurance provides protection against any loss or damage caused by terrorist activities. In the United States in the wake of 9/11, the Terrorism Risk Insurance Act 2002 (TRIA) set up a federal program providing a transparent system of shared public and private compensation for insured losses resulting from acts of terrorism. The program was extended until the end of 2014 by the Terrorism Risk Insurance Program Reauthorization Act 2007 (TRIPRA).

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