Insurance companies have in recent years developed products for niche markets, most notably targeting seniors in an aging population. These are often low to moderate face value whole life insurance policies, allowing senior citizens to purchase affordable insurance later in life. This may also be marketed as final expense insurance and usually have death benefits between $2,000 and $40,000. One reason for their popularity is that they only require answers to simple "yes" or "no" questions, while most policies require a medical exam to qualify. As with other policy types, the range of premiums can vary widely and should be scrutinized prior to purchase, as should the reliability of the companies.

For term life, I’d agree that it is usually a really bad investment. Why? Because a lot of people only pay in their premiums and never get any return. If you have term, then by the time you are older and your kids are self-sufficient (hopefully), your incentive to keep renewing will be pretty low. You may indeed just stop paying in and let the insurance lapse. Or, also quite possible, you will have to renew your policy but the premiums will be way too high because you are now much older and your health is worse. In some cases, you won’t be able to renew it at all.

From a pure insurance standpoint, whole life is generally not a useful product. It is MUCH more expensive than term (often 10-12 times as expensive), and most people don’t need coverage for their entire life. The primary purpose of life insurance is to ensure that your children have the financial resources they need to get themselves to the point where they can provide for themselves, so coverage that lasts your entire life doesn’t make a lot of sense except for a minority of cases that are the subject of another discussion.
And your conclusion at the end is spot on: the insurance industry ABSOLUTELY knows about the negative stigma associated with these kinds of products and is ALWAYS looking for new ways to package things to make them sound attractive. Whether it’s variable life, universal life, equity-indexed universal life, or whatever this new thing is that they were trying to sell to you (I’ve honestly never heard of FFIUL), there’s always a new angle and the sales pitch is always going to sound good.
When I was at the meeting yesterday with my parents also present, I was really impressed at the product, which was basically a variation of whole life insurance called FFIUL. I was also impressed with the upper level salesman and the presentation. I saw the simulation that was shown and the resulting table of yearly returns looked impressive at first. I left the meeting with a smile on my face and was really thinking about making the investment especially considering that my friend (an accountant whose house I was at) said that he had invested in the same product.
James, be very careful about blanket advice to roll your pension into an IRA. A lot of financial professionals can make money through a transaction like that and you’d likely be giving up guaranteed income for the rest of your life. To be clear, it’s certainly possible that this would be a good move, but you would only know that after a careful and detailed analysis of your specific pension, your specific goals, and the rest of your financial situation.
Your statements are somewhat misleading. The policies that Kim are describing are likely Universal Life policies, not true whole life policies. True whole life policies have set premiums, not increasing. And the cash value is built off of a dividend being paid by the insurance companies. Many insurance companies (Ohio National Northwestern ?Mutual, ect.) have been around for over 100 years and have literally paid a dividend every single year. Which means that the policy holder is paying the same premium every single year and is also experience growth in their cash value account very single year. When Kim says that her “cash value was not making good returns” she is referring to a policy that is tied to the market, not based off of dividend payments. Whole life is an amazing product that you are confusing with Universal Life
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Adjusting liability insurance claims is particularly difficult because there is a third party involved, the plaintiff, who is under no contractual obligation to cooperate with the insurer and may in fact regard the insurer as a deep pocket. The adjuster must obtain legal counsel for the insured (either inside "house" counsel or outside "panel" counsel), monitor litigation that may take years to complete, and appear in person or over the telephone with settlement authority at a mandatory settlement conference when requested by the judge.
As far as buying term and investing the difference the company I bought from has produced far better risk adjusted returns when compared to my analysis over the last twenty years of buying term and investing the difference in the S&P. I don’t mean to say we should not invest but I view my permanent policy as a great place to take some risk off the table and also to have some long term safe dollars. I agree that unless you die early, this is not a good short term idea. Also the fact that is not considered an asset as you mention, gives it very favorable treatment. I asked myself, if I were a beneficiary would I want to inherit a portfolio worth 2.5 million a house worth a million or a 3.5 million tax free check. For me, it was the latter. For high net worth people I would argue it is better than a muni allocation. I don’t view the discussion as one or the other invest and buy term or just buy whole life but rather as a synergy of assets that can produce a great value. As you say, it’s all quite subjective. Is whole life your best “investment”? No, but I do think it is a fantastic tool.
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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%.
First, THE PROBABILITY OF GETTING THE PAYOUT IS SUPPOSED TO BE 100%! It is a GUARANTEED return, so long as your insurer lives up to its obligations (more on that below). So it is a much less risky investment than almost anything other than cash. But CD rates will often look better than the whole life return, so why not invest your money there? Well..
The best thing to compare permanent life insurance policy to is to another similar type permanent life insurance policy. And you don’t want to focus on the interest rate specifically but on the actual values in each policy that are “guaranteed” – not projected. All things being equal, this tells you which permanent policy is less expensive and provides a higher net interest rate instead.
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.

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Insurance brokers are professionals in the insurance industry who sell, solicit, and negotiate insurance for a living. They are regulated by the state and must meet certain licensing requirements to do business in their state. Insurance brokers are professional advisers, representing and working on behalf of their clients. Brokers help clients understand their risks and advise them on which assets merit insurance and which do not. Insurance brokers may have industry specializations as well. Keep in mind that insurance brokers are not actual insurers; they are the liaisons between the insurance companies and clients and work on the client’s behalf.
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]
Insurance is just a risk transfer mechanism wherein the financial burden which may arise due to some fortuitous event is transferred to a bigger entity called an Insurance Company by way of paying premiums. This only reduces the financial burden and not the actual chances of happening of an event. Insurance is a risk for both the insurance company and the insured. The insurance company understands the risk involved and will perform a risk assessment when writing the policy. As a result, the premiums may go up if they determine that the policyholder will file a claim. If a person is financially stable and plans for life's unexpected events, they may be able to go without insurance. However, they must have enough to cover a total and complete loss of employment and of their possessions. Some states will accept a surety bond, a government bond, or even making a cash deposit with the state.[citation needed]
Many institutional insurance purchasers buy insurance through an insurance broker. While on the surface it appears the broker represents the buyer (not the insurance company), and typically counsels the buyer on appropriate coverage and policy limitations, in the vast majority of cases a broker's compensation comes in the form of a commission as a percentage of the insurance premium, creating a conflict of interest in that the broker's financial interest is tilted towards encouraging an insured to purchase more insurance than might be necessary at a higher price. A broker generally holds contracts with many insurers, thereby allowing the broker to "shop" the market for the best rates and coverage possible.
Although insurance brokers work for their clients, they aren’t paid by them. Instead, they make commissions based on their sales. The commission is a percentage of the premium cost and varies by state law. It usually is between two and eight percent of the premium. If you work with a broker to buy homeowners, automobile, health, business, life or any other type of insurance, you will not pay them a fee for the services they provide.

“In the policy that was attempted to be sold to me, the “guaranteed return” was stated as 4%. But when I actually ran the numbers, using their own growth chart for the guaranteed portion of my cash value, after 40 years the annual return only amounted to 0.74%. There are a number of explanations for this difference, including fees and the way in which the interest rate is applied.”
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The best thing to compare permanent life insurance policy to is to another similar type permanent life insurance policy. And you don’t want to focus on the interest rate specifically but on the actual values in each policy that are “guaranteed” – not projected. All things being equal, this tells you which permanent policy is less expensive and provides a higher net interest rate instead.
Matt; Thank you for the thought provoking information you have taken the time to post here. My question: I am 66 and my wife 54. We got a whole life policy several years ago. We wanted insurance that would extend into our 70’s and 80’s (if we are so blessed), because we experienced how end of life costs for elderly parents can add up and be a possible burden to the children. we also want the surviving spouse to be assured of not being cleaned out financially. When I looked at the numbers; Cash value plus death benefit plus a long-term care rider, it seems to be a pretty good return, after all, we know for sure that we will die. I am not aware of term insurance policies for people much past the age of 70 for $200,000 or more. Am I looking in the wrong places or is my think askew?

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.
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.
When you say “If you earn too much for a Roth IRA especially (180K plus for a household roughly) then whole life insurance is literally the only place to get tax free savings on growth”, I assume you mean other than a 401(k), health savings account, Backdoor Roth IRA, 529 savings plan, or self-employed retirement accounts. Otherwise that’s a pretty misleading/misinformed comment.
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.
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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!

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A very good article. Congruent to the philosophy in which our company was built: Buy Term, Invest the Difference. I am a crusader at heart and I am peeved every time I see these products in the hands of people who can barely afford it and whose life will be completely damaged for merely owning it because they are grossly under-insured when they could have well purchase a proper term amount for the time they need it.

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.


1. Alex hasn’t reviewed your policy, nor does he know anything about your personal goals or situation. Neither do I, which is why I didn’t give any concrete advice in my initial response. All of which is simply to say that any opinion about this policy based on what we know from your comment, whether it’s coming from me, Alex, or anyone else, cannot possibly be informed enough for you to rely on.
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.
An early form of life insurance dates to Ancient Rome; "burial clubs" covered the cost of members' funeral expenses and assisted survivors financially. The first company to offer life insurance in modern times was the Amicable Society for a Perpetual Assurance Office, founded in London in 1706 by William Talbot and Sir Thomas Allen.[3][4] Each member made an annual payment per share on one to three shares with consideration to age of the members being twelve to fifty-five. At the end of the year a portion of the "amicable contribution" was divided among the wives and children of deceased members, in proportion to the number of shares the heirs owned. The Amicable Society started with 2000 members.[5][6]
It depends on the type of policy and the agent’s contract level with the insurance company. A Medicare insurance broker may have different commission levels with different insurance companies as well. A large Medicare insurance broker who has been in the market for a number of years is not likely to care about small differences. Here at Boomer Benefits, we enroll our clients in the insurance plan that is right for them regardless.

The insured receives a contract, called the insurance policy, which details the conditions and circumstances under which the insurer will compensate the insured. The amount of money charged by the insurer to the insured for the coverage set forth in the insurance policy is called the premium. If the insured experiences a loss which is potentially covered by the insurance policy, the insured submits a claim to the insurer for processing by a claims adjuster. The insurer may hedge its own risk by taking out reinsurance, whereby another insurance company agrees to carry some of the risk, especially if the primary insurer deems the risk too large for it to carry.
Using a broker can also simplify the process of picking insurance. There are so many different choices for insurance, with different limits and exclusions for each policy. It can be difficult to know which insurance and what level of coverage is right for you or your business. This is where an insurance broker can help. Using their experience in the field, a broker can analyze your risks and liabilities to determine exactly what coverage you need. With access to a variety of technology-based tools, brokers can make it simple to compare various options to determine which policies would best fit your needs. Using a broker eliminates the stress of learning about different types of insurance, and makes it easy to figure out what insurance will work for you.

We were sold a whole life policy from Mass Mutual for my husband, but we also have term insurance on both of us. We are on a 10 year track to pay off the policy and have three years left. Is it still a “bad investment” once the policy is paid off? Should we be expecting those 0.74% yearly returns for a fully paid-off policy? Or does that apply only if one is paying premiums on it for the next 30+ years? Whole life insurance appealed to me because I am extremely squeamish about the stock market and don’t want to pay a financial planner on a regular basis. I’d rather have low (but not 0.74%), steady returns than high risk/high reward investments. Did we still make a mistake by buying whole life?


In any case, once when I was younger, I used to think like the author, that you can overcome your risk tolerance and become a better investor if only you can control yourself and learn to love the equities roller coaster ride…now that I am in my mid-40s, I realize that I’m old school and conservative. I am happy with 5-6% return that is tax free risk free and doesn’t involve me making any decisions except how much I want to save this year.
But a question for you. Do you have clients that have had an overfunded life policy when markets are tanking and can use that cash to float their business and still earn money while their money is loaned out? Talk about a winner. I have a lot of clients that are in business today because of their policies (and the people still employed). Especially when the interest can be written off. But then again some super conservative clients love them. I guess I’m just bummed you didn’t go any further but I am on a site not geared for my clientele. So here is another free post to build up the conversation and the controversy so you can cash in on the traffic.

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