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.

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Because brokers work with a variety of insurance companies, they tend to have a broader understanding of companies’ offerings and key benefits. They are commission-based, which is a double-edged sword: they may be more motivated to earn your business year after year by getting you the best deal possible; or they may try to sell you a policy with unnecessary bells and whistles since that would pay them a higher commission. Regarding the double-edged sword: the best way to nail down the best deal possible is the annual review and re-shopping of coverage. The best way to avoid unnecessary “bells and whistles” is to remember that your needs guide what you purchase. If you don’t need “bells and whistles”, don’t purchase them. Approaching insurance this way is always the best way forward. Consider this: having options placed in front of you and explained in detail allows you the opportunity to hear about the newest “bells and whistles,” some of which may be just what you need or were looking for, but simply never asked about. Policies change, and new options are added by carriers all the time.
2Partial withdrawals and surrenders from life policies are generally taxed as ordinary income to the extent the withdrawal exceeds your investment in the contract, which is also called the "basis." In some situations, partial withdrawals during the first 15 policy years may result in taxable income prior to recovery of the investment in the contract. Loans are generally not taxable if taken from a life insurance policy that is not a modified endowment contract. However, when cash values are used to repay a loan, the transaction is treated like a withdrawal and taxed accordingly. If a policy is a modified endowment contract, loans are treated as a taxable distribution to the extent of policy gain. On a modified endowment contract, loans, withdrawals and surrenders are treated first as distributions of the policy gain subject to ordinary income taxation, and may be subject to an additional 10% federal tax penalty if made prior to age 59½. Loans, if not repaid, and withdrawals reduce the policy's death benefit and cash value.
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.
Retrospectively rated insurance is a method of establishing a premium on large commercial accounts. The final premium is based on the insured's actual loss experience during the policy term, sometimes subject to a minimum and maximum premium, with the final premium determined by a formula. Under this plan, the current year's premium is based partially (or wholly) on the current year's losses, although the premium adjustments may take months or years beyond the current year's expiration date. The rating formula is guaranteed in the insurance contract. Formula: retrospective premium = converted loss + basic premium × tax multiplier. Numerous variations of this formula have been developed and are in use.
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.
OK, I made the mistake of getting whole life insurance policy for $25000 when I was in my late 20’s. I’m now 63 & have been paying $126/month since then. What happens to the amount over the $25000 I’ve already paid in? Do my beneficiaries get back more than the $25000 death benefit? Should I quit making payments &, if so, what does that mean for my death benefit?
The problem a lot of people run into is that they sink all of their money into an over the top whole life policy and use that as their sole investment property which is insane. HOWEVER, I thoroughly believe that whole life insurance is a powerful tool when it comes to funding a comfortable retirement, because whole life’s cash value helps serve as a way to hedge the down markets as a non-correlated asset.

OK, I made the mistake of getting whole life insurance policy for $25000 when I was in my late 20’s. I’m now 63 & have been paying $126/month since then. What happens to the amount over the $25000 I’ve already paid in? Do my beneficiaries get back more than the $25000 death benefit? Should I quit making payments &, if so, what does that mean for my death benefit?


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.

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Great read (http://momanddadmoney.com/insurance-and-investing-dont-play-well-together/ as well). Really taught me a lot. I’m a growing professional and a ‘friend’ tried to sell me a whole life participating life insurance. Like I believe you mention several times, all the ‘pros’ sounded really attractive. It actually made it sound stupid not to buy it. However, this alone made me hesitate as we all know what usually happens when something is too good to believe. I did a number of searches and read a few articles before stumbling on to yours. Excellently written providing a comprehensive explanation in terms that even a layman (i.e. me) could understand. Thank you as you just saved me from making a very big mistake. I hope others are lucky enough like me to happen upon your article before they make their decisions.
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I’m glad those policies worked out for you, and I agree that the simple act of saving money is more important than the specific investments you choose, especially at the beginning. With that said, it’s also a good idea to invest that money as efficiently as possible and I do not think that whole life insurance provides that efficiency for the vast majority of people.
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.
As a financial planner I find this article very misleading. Whole life insurance can be an excellent way for someone to save for the long term. 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  (tax free municipal bonds also but these have a lot of risk especially with interest rates going up). A properly designed whole life insurance policy with a good company like a New York Life,  Mass Mutual,  Northwestern etc which have always paid dividends since the mid 1800s can easily earn NET of fees and taxes 4-5% over a 25-30 year period. Which means in a taxable brokerage account for example or a bank account you would have to GROSS 6% or so to match this over that same period every year on average? On a virtually guaranteed basis this is tough to do. This doesn’t even speak to the point that you have a tax free permanent death benefit. When a client’s 20 year term runs up they almost always still want and need some life insurance,  and what if they aren’t insurable anymore? Getting some whole life when young and healthy,  savings/cash value aside,  assures them they’ll always have coverage which can someday go to kids,  grandkids etc which is a nice option. Whatever cash you pull out reduces the death benefit dollar for dollar, but if set up properly there will always be more than enough death benefit even after most of cash is taken out tax free in retirement, when the stock market is down (this is especially when you appreciate having a non correlated asset like whole life for when the market crashes and you can tap into your whole life cash so you don’t have to touch your investments in that downturn OR take advantage of the opportunity and but stocks when things are down with cars value). Interest does accrue on policy loan which is why the tax is cash free and the loop hole exists. But often the dividend more than offsets the policy loan interest which doesn’t have to be repaid and just comes off of the death benefit which is often just a bonus anyways. A client should make sure they have enough coverage of course which is why people often get a large term life insurance which is “cheap”  in addition to a smaller whole life which is a dual savings,  dual coverage to be in place when the term expires.
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]

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]
The bottom line is that I feel that the insurance industry has adapted to the negative stigma attached to whole life insurance polices and are introducing some variants that do not look at all like the whole life insurance that is described in the above article. They have found ways to counter some of the Reasons not to invest in whole life insurance mentioned in the article above (such as the interest rate). I read about another variant called EIULs and I think there are many other similar products out there. But they can not counter all of the Reasons mentioned in the article above. So buyer beware and do your due diligence!
Each type of life insurance product has its advantages and disadvantages. You can’t say term life is the best, whole life is the best or universal life is the best. It depends on what an individual client need and his or her situation. As a client, they should know all the advantages and disadvantages but of course, they are under the supervision of a certain type of insurance agent that can be biased and try to sell what they have to offer to form their companies. Avoid an agent that focuses on selling one type of product. Talk to an agent who can provide the knowledge of each type and you can choose what best for you.
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3. I do understand that most investors are earning significantly less than what the market actually returns. That’s from behavioral errors and I don’t have any reason to believe that those errors disappear when you invest in a whole life insurance policy. In fact, my experience seems to show that whole life insurance tends to make the underperforance even worse, as it often takes 1-3 years before someone realizes just how poorly the product is performing. At that point, they’re even further behind than when they started.
Hi, Matt. My parents are actually talking to an agent to get the whole life insurance and their premium monthly is about $1000 so which makes them to pay $120000 (since it’s the 10 yr plan) and the agent presented that the guaranteed value will be $250000. I have very little knowledge about the whole life insurance plan but wouldn’t it be easier for them to just get it and be insured with that guaranteed value if they are not the type to find where to invest and all that? or is it something that they shouldn’t relay on.. they are doing it for more their retirement and asked me for help but i am very confused about this whole life plan. Thanks!
Thank you for your article and really speaking to the “lay person.” A lot of things in your article really make sense! I only wish I had read it before my husband and I both purchased whole life policies just last week fronting nearly $20,000 with annual payments of $10,000 for the next 24-years. Shame on us for not understanding the details better!

When comparing car insurance quotes, it helps to compare apples to apples; in other words, you want to be sure that the quotes you get are for identical - or at least very similar - auto insurance policies. Once you have a better idea of the type of coverage you’re looking for in a policy, this will be easy. To better understand coverage types start here
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.

The above is meant as general information and as general policy descriptions to help you understand the different types of coverages. These descriptions do not refer to any specific contract of insurance and they do not modify any definitions, exclusions or any other provision expressly stated in any contracts of insurance. We encourage you to speak to your insurance representative and to read your policy contract to fully understand your coverages.
Good question Steve. The full answer is that I don’t know exactly what options you have and it likely makes sense to talk to a good independent agent. But you are right that it is much harder to find affordable term life insurance as you get older, and in your case some kind of permanent insurance may make sense if you have an insurance need. Just make sure that you are only getting the features you need, and none that you don’t, so that your premium is being used as efficiently as possible. For example, if you are only buying it for the death benefit, do you need the cash value?

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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
This is a very helpful example of why WL insurance IS a good investment: http://www.mypersonalfinancejourney.com/2013/04/infinite-banking-concept-whole-life-insurance.html. Also, Paradigm Life has several very good models to show how WL policies can out pace “buy term and invest the difference” products long term. One size does not fit all. I have Term Life insurance supplementing my WL policies right now, but they are all convertible. So I will be able to lump in money later and convert them into permanent policies with all of the borrowing and tax sheltered benefits.
Accidental death insurance is a type of limited life insurance that is designed to cover the insured should they die as the result of an accident. "Accidents" run the gamut from abrasions to catastrophes but normally do not include deaths resulting from non-accident-related health problems or suicide. Because they only cover accidents, these policies are much less expensive than other life insurance policies.

Your point is valid in that everyone has different risk tolerances objectives etc. so what is good for me is not good for someone else. As for, is the insurance enough for my children; I added an additional purchase benefit where they can add ten times as much coverage no matter what health issues they have. They don’t have to go through a medical. So of they develop juvenile diabetes and they want to add more coverage when they are 18, the company still looks at them in perfect health. They don’t need a medical exam when they add more coverage.

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In most countries, life and non-life insurers are subject to different regulatory regimes and different tax and accounting rules. The main reason for the distinction between the two types of company is that life, annuity, and pension business is very long-term in nature – coverage for life assurance or a pension can cover risks over many decades. By contrast, non-life insurance cover usually covers a shorter period, such as one year.

7. The withdrawals you took out in the (distant) future was marketed as a tax free alternative to a 401k or 529 payout for retirement or college or for any expense really. And at 0% interest (after 10 years), you don’t really have to pay back the loan. It can basically be used as your personal piggy bank. The salesman said that the advantage over 401k/IRA was that you did not have to wait for a certain age. The advantage over 529 was that, if your kid got a scholarship, then the money in your FFIUL would not cause any conflicts in receiving the scholarship money similar to a 529 where the government would tell you to spend the money in the 529 first before cashing in the scholarship.
Second, when it comes to investing, my experience shows that most insurance companies charge MUCH higher fees than are necessary. And since cost is quite possibly the most important factor when it comes to investing, that matters a lot. I would much rather see people using a simple, low-cost index investing strategy that’s both easy to implement and backed by all the best research we have as the most likely route to success.

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Example (Comprehensive): You park your car outside during a major hailstorm, and it's totaled. If you have comprehensive, we'll pay out for the full value of your car (minus your deductible amount). Example (Collision): You back out of your garage, hit your basketball hoop, and cause $2,000 worth of damage to your vehicle. If you have collision, we'll then pay for your repairs (minus your deductible amount).

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.”
I chose not to discuss the difference between stock and mutual companies here because I don’t think it’s very relevant to the conversation. You aren’t clear why you think it’s important, but my best guess is that you think your returns are more guaranteed with a mutual company. I would agree that you’re better off with a mutual company, but you’re still hinging a large amount of money on the prospects and policies of a single company. It is still undiversified and still exposes you to a lot of unnecessary risk. If you have a different reason for bringing up this distinction I would be interested to hear it.
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.
That being said there are merits to the latter, which should really be sold as “cash building” tools for people that want to diversify their tax exposure, that’s it. But like you said most agents have no clue about real financial planning. Which would obviously include some degree of IRA’s, 401K’s, ROTH’s, Taxable accounts, hard assets, etc. Like you stated earlier. But have you considered an overfunded cash value policy as a way to diversify within your cash bucket assuming you believe in asset allocation, max 10-20% of total investment? More as an alternative cash bucket? But then that comes to income and the type of individual. I probably recommend them more than most, working with business owners and corporate managers. But for them they need more future tax diversification if taxes are headed north in the future. And the company I use which sadly I’m not going to talk about since I don’t even want anyone to know I wrote this “compliance would massacre me”. But those can be used by a business owner to leverage their cash and actually write off interest paid while said cash is still earning 100% dividend treatment, but of course only a few of those types of companies out there.

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