2) With a portfolio of risky assets, the LONG-TERM RETURN is expected to be higher, but the variability around that is MUCH higher. In pretty much all of the “expected return” analyses that people on the internet show to compare whole life to term life + investing the difference, they are just comparing annualized returns or an IRR on a zero-volatility return stream. What they don’t account for are situations where the market crashes and you panic, wanting to move money into cash, or having to draw down on assets because they’re liquid and you can. This is normal behavioral stuff that occurs all the time, and reduces the power of your compounding. If you and your adviser are sure you can avoid these common pitfalls, then that is great and you might want to go for it. But don’t dismiss the reality. Also when running your simulations, make SURE to tax all of your realized capital gains and interest income along the way, and unrealized cap gains at the end. It can make a big difference.
I see what you mean, but it also varies from insurer to insurer. From a purely investment standpoint whole life doesn’t make any sense. Someone’s insurance needs also differ. I’ve been with All state and NYL. With each there were major differences with not just price, but how the cash value accrual and withdrawing worked. I ultimately stuck with NYL as the rate of return had the biggest impact on premium payments. It reached a point where the cash value being added out-weighed the yearly premium. I haven’t had to pay for insurance for a few years but am still insured. My reason for going about it this way is because I don’t want to pay for it for the rest of my life. Plus the death benefit increases over time and the premiums stay the same. I’m running into people outliving the retirement benefits they got at work. You need to think for the future, but not just from one perspective. Are you interested in a rate of return? Than go for investment accounts. If you want something you eventually don’t have to keep paying for, whole life can be a great option but REMEMBER! Not all companies are the same and avoid universal indexed whole life. Those have increasing premiums. I know Dave Ramsey wants us to buy term and invest the difference, but you’re talking about renewing even some of the longest terms available 2 – 3 times before you’re of retirement age resulting in massive premiums to stay insured before you can dip into your investment accounts, unless you want to deal with early withdrawal penalties and huge surrender charges
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.
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. 

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I read the comments about the topic of my article and I see that some responses touch on the "middleman" in ways that suggest some things about those who reside "in the middle." One plus for us "middle" people is that we get to hear things from carriers that those on the retail buying end may not ever hear. Sometimes, when dealing with us "middle" people, you get a behind the scenes look at things that may have a bearing on your coverage. With life insurance through a broker vs an agent, you get to know that impaired risk underwriting (for unhealthy applicants) has a particular kind of nuance. For instance, carriers may decline your application because they take on a set number of impaired risk clients, and then they decline those coming after that. You might think, after being declined, that what they are telling you is "you are done, no life insurance for you." But, what I know from experience is that another carrier or two have not hit the limit yet on declines - and that might be the avenue of approach to get you approved. As a broker, I know things that apply across a broad spectrum of carriers, not just the playbook of one carrier. As a result, the market intelligence of this "middleman" can improve the experience of buyers by finding a way forward for them that is outside the boundary of what a retail buyer might ever know. One thing that I did not mention in the article is that I have been both a captive and a broker, and the experience allows me to see the pluses and minuses in both. Thank you for your responses, and if you have a question about insurance of any type (my specialties are life, Health, Disability, and Annuities) you may post it at MoneyTips.com and let the professional community respond to it. It's free, harmless, informative, relatively instant, and a bunch of other good things, too.
Life insurance provides a monetary benefit to a decedent's family or other designated beneficiary, and may specifically provide for income to an insured person's family, burial, funeral and other final expenses. Life insurance policies often allow the option of having the proceeds paid to the beneficiary either in a lump sum cash payment or an annuity. In most states, a person cannot purchase a policy on another person without their knowledge.
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.
Most of the time people selling against whole life state ” the guaranteed portions never materialize so assume no dividends are paid and let’s assumes you’ll get a 9 percent return in a mutual fund had you invested the difference”. This reasoning is total BS , all major mutuals have paid dividends over the last 150 + years and if you are in a mutual fund getting a higher return than 6 percent it is incredibly high risk and unrealistic long term. Also whole life tends to do much better in market downturns. they also make their money on forfeited policies, loans and pool payouts so their returns are not “totally” tied to the market performance.
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.
Regarding pension vs registered accounts: It is hard to know what is better, relying on your pension or relying on an individually held mutual fund account (or some variation thereof using other securities). This would require a close reading of the pension and securities legislation in your region. For us in Canada, a defined benefit pension (prescribed benefits upon retirement based on a formula where the employer is responsible for funding any shortfall) can be incredibly enticing due to the guarantees attached to them. It is the preferred pension and stacks up really well against defined contribution pensions (where employers match the contributions of employees to at least a certain degree and where the account grows until retirement and the pensioner draws down the account and is burdened with any shortfall) but defined benefit plans are going the way of the dodo over here. It’s still available to government employees but most private employers don’t want to take on the risk of having to meet funding requirements. That’s a huge liability on the balance sheet. In any case, pensions have a few benefits over individual savings vehicles. First, they benefit from reduced management fee pricing, thereby improving returns marginally over the course of fund accumulation. Second, they benefit from a longer investment horizon since they are always looking many years in the future as their pension liabilities are long-term by definition. Third, actuaries are required to evaluate pensions regularly to make sure funding targets are established and followed.
In July 2007, The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) released a report presenting the results of a study concerning credit-based insurance scores in automobile insurance. The study found that these scores are effective predictors of risk. It also showed that African-Americans and Hispanics are substantially overrepresented in the lowest credit scores, and substantially underrepresented in the highest, while Caucasians and Asians are more evenly spread across the scores. The credit scores were also found to predict risk within each of the ethnic groups, leading the FTC to conclude that the scoring models are not solely proxies for redlining. The FTC indicated little data was available to evaluate benefit of insurance scores to consumers.[54] The report was disputed by representatives of the Consumer Federation of America, the National Fair Housing Alliance, the National Consumer Law Center, and the Center for Economic Justice, for relying on data provided by the insurance industry.[55]
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]
In managing the claims handling function, insurers seek to balance the elements of customer satisfaction, administrative handling expenses, and claims overpayment leakages. As part of this balancing act, fraudulent insurance practices are a major business risk that must be managed and overcome. Disputes between insurers and insureds over the validity of claims or claims handling practices occasionally escalate into litigation (see insurance bad faith).

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Burial insurance is a very old type of life insurance which is paid out upon death to cover final expenses, such as the cost of a funeral. The Greeks and Romans introduced burial insurance c. 600 CE when they organized guilds called "benevolent societies" which cared for the surviving families and paid funeral expenses of members upon death. Guilds in the Middle Ages served a similar purpose, as did friendly societies during Victorian times.
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.

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I bought a whole life insurance policy for my daughter when she was 4! What a mistake to make! Now that the policy is 21 years old, I am undecided whether to continue paying the annual premium or surrender the policy.I have paid $25,126 over the years, and will walk away with $36,250 if I surrender it now. The policy covers has a $100,000 coverage and the annual premium is now $1179. I would appreciate your advice!


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
It is wise to note that as a business owner or individual that the cash values of WLI can serve as collateral (via assignment) when otherwise collateral may not be available. This can help greatly with loan rates that may be needed in the future for a variety of reasons. Banks realize they are protected against insolvency, liens, and lawsuits (another benefit of WLI) ( yes trusts can do this but why pay 8-15k in legal fees to structure them).
Are you asking about people with terminal illnesses? If so, then I’ll admit that my knowledge in that particular area is limited. But my understanding is that a term policy would be very difficult if not impossible to find and there are some special kind of whole life policies you may be able to get. If that’s the situation you’re asking about, then it’s really not a whole life vs. IRA decision. It’s a decision on whether you should invest or whether you should insure. That’s a very different question than what’s being discussed in this article.

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.
One other point. You emphasize the “tax free” nature of whole life here. I feel like I was pretty clear about that in the post and would be interested to hear your thoughts. Just blindly calling it “tax free” ignores the presence of interest (on your own money, by the way) which over extended periods of time can actually be more detrimental than taxes.

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.
I’ll be up front that I am not an expert on life insurance and long term care for people in your situation and therefore don’t have a great answer for you. I have heard good things about certain hybrid policies like you’re describing, but I would be very careful about who you’re buying it from and how exactly the policy works. If you would like a referral to a fee-only financial planner who specializes in this kind of decision, just let me know and I would be happy to help.
State Farm Bank, F.S.B. Bloomington, Illinois, is a Member FDIC and Equal Housing Lender. NMLS ID 139716. The other products offered by affiliate companies of State Farm Bank are not FDIC insured, not a State Farm Bank obligation or guaranteed by State Farm Bank, and subject to investment risk, including possible loss of principal invested. Contact State Farm Bank toll-free at 877-SF4-BANK (877-734-2265).
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.
1) I believe that when done correctly, it is insurance that CANNOT BE TAKEN AWAY. One of the most important things about whole life is that the annual premium is FIXED at a constant level FOREVER and the death benefit cannot be taken away if you continue paying in (these are the basics but I think worth repeating). I bought my policy at age 32. If I get heart disease, diabetes, or any of thousands of exclusionary conditions over the rest of my life, it does not matter. My insurance will not go away. If you rely on term insurance, then even if you get a 20 year policy as a 30 year old, then at age 50 there is a good chance you will either i) have to pay MUCH higher premiums to continue your coverage or ii) not be able to get coverage at all. It is just like health insurance before ACA. If you think you can keep rolling over term life, you are taking a very big gamble. This is probably fine if you are only insuring to protect your family in your early working years. But if you want to make sure your heirs eventually get a benefit on your death, term life is a bad gamble. Which leads into #2…

Between 7/1/15 and 9/30/15,, the average estimated savings off MSRP presented by TrueCar Certified Dealers to users of TrueCar powered websites, based on users who configured virtual vehicles and who TrueCar identified as purchasing a new vehicle of the same make and model listed on the certificate from a Certified Dealer as of 10/31/2015, was $3,279. Your actual savings may vary based on multiple factors including the vehicle you select, region, dealer, and applicable vehicle specific manufacturer incentives which are subject to change.  The Farmers Car Shopping Service website is owned and operated by TrueCar, which is not affiliated with any of the companies comprising the Farmers Insurance Group of Companies.
Certain insurance products and practices have been described as rent-seeking by critics.[citation needed] That is, some insurance products or practices are useful primarily because of legal benefits, such as reducing taxes, as opposed to providing protection against risks of adverse events. Under United States tax law, for example, most owners of variable annuities and variable life insurance can invest their premium payments in the stock market and defer or eliminate paying any taxes on their investments until withdrawals are made. Sometimes this tax deferral is the only reason people use these products.[citation needed] Another example is the legal infrastructure which allows life insurance to be held in an irrevocable trust which is used to pay an estate tax while the proceeds themselves are immune from the estate tax.
The first life table was written by Edmund Halley in 1693, but it was only in the 1750s that the necessary mathematical and statistical tools were in place for the development of modern life insurance. James Dodson, a mathematician and actuary, tried to establish a new company aimed at correctly offsetting the risks of long term life assurance policies, after being refused admission to the Amicable Life Assurance Society because of his advanced age. He was unsuccessful in his attempts at procuring a charter from the government.
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You may find that your out-of-pocket costs for whole life insurance seem daunting compared to term life insurance. This is because the dollars you pay into term life insurance premiums are only there to provide a death benefit to your beneficiaries if you die during a specified term, while money you invest in whole life insurance premiums builds cash value that you can use later in life or that will add to the death benefit payout. The percentage of your costs that go into your cash accrual account increases with passing years, as many of the administrative costs associated with setting up the policy and associated investments occurs early in the life of the policy.
Anyway, there are many complexities to the whole life insurance variant plan that I was presented with, which make it unattractive to me as an investment option. I would suggest that anyone who is looking at whole life insurance as an option take a close look at the investment results and compare them to other options available on the market. Also take a close look at the fees and the structure of the loans that you will take out in the future. My conclusion is that, I would like to get a term life policy for now and maximize my other tax advantaged investments first prior to delving into the world of whole life insurance. And, by the time I actually get around to maximizing my other investments, I probably will be much older and not get a favorable premium any more.

Annuities provide a stream of payments and are generally classified as insurance because they are issued by insurance companies, are regulated as insurance, and require the same kinds of actuarial and investment management expertise that life insurance requires. Annuities and pensions that pay a benefit for life are sometimes regarded as insurance against the possibility that a retiree will outlive his or her financial resources. In that sense, they are the complement of life insurance and, from an underwriting perspective, are the mirror image of life insurance.


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.

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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