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.

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Hi Matt, I have a question for you. I was sold a whole life policy by a friend 4.5 years ago (before I was married) with the promise that it is a good investment tool. I’ve learned a lot about investing since then. The accumulation value is $6700 the surrender value is about $2700. I’m wondering if I should get out now and take the $2700 and run, or wait until I can pull out what I’ve paid into it which I hear is 10 years.

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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.
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.
We don’t have enough information in these posts to make a recommendation. You should meet with a few advisors and get one you’re on the same page with. If they can’t explain why you “need” whole life (remember, there are other options for permanent insurance, including level-cost T100), dump him…you can do better. You should be requesting a few funding alternatives rather than banking on one strategy with different brokers. You need to really do your homework.

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If one were to buy a long dated bond with a yield of 4%, and interest rates go up, one could actually end up with a loss if bond not held to maturity. On the other hand, if one were to OVERFUND a participating Whole Life policy, the CASH VALUE IRR over 20 years would be around 4% (probably slightly above) based on current dividend scales. Yet if long term rates rise, so will the returns in the policy. As long as premiums are paid, the cash value in any given time will NEVER be less than the cash value a year earlier.
2) With whole life, if you keep paying your premiums, your heirs will ALMOST DEFINITELY GET PAID. For instance, if you have a $1mn policy at $10k/year of premium, you know with near certainty that your spouse and kids will one day get $1mn. Even if you are paying in $10k per year which is a lot of money, then if you start at age 30, you will pay in $500k cumulatively by age 80. If you die at 80, your heirs get $1mn. Also keep in mind that this benefit is generally NON-TAXABLE!

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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.”
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Thanks for reaching out Bob. There’s a lot that goes into this decision with the position that you’re in, and the right choice really depends on your personal financial situation and what you’re trying to achieve. I would lean towards trusting the advice of an advisor who doesn’t get paid to sell whole life, since that advice is likely to be more objective. It sounds like you’re already working with a couple of advisors, but if you’d like another opinion I would search NAPFA and/or Garrett Planning Network to find a fee-only financial planner in your area.

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Full Circle, one time I thought whole life insurance was great. Then I cashed it in, bought at least 5 new automobiles, a house, a couple motorcycles and more bullshit. Then I learned how to properly use life insurance as a bank, instead of borrowing money from a bank, I borrow the money from myself and pay myself back what I would have paid banks. I get to collect all the interest I would have paid the banks. I get to grow my money tax free. I get to pass my hard earned money on to my family tax free. The key is understanding Whole life vs creating your own banking system.
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I really wish you would have stated more clearly the difference between the typical whole life plans with zero overfunding and a participating overfunded whole life policy. But I agree with you: What’s the point of not overfunding? Those policies have such a low cash component that they typically are just a ploy to make money by the agent and it seems as if that was your point all along. Which you should have clarified. Why minimum whole life insurances plans are a scam, especially when sold as a main investment vehicle. But then a little drama drives traffic right?
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.
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 and let the professional community respond to it. It's free, harmless, informative, relatively instant, and a bunch of other good things, too.
Insurance brokers are in any city you would find insurance agents.  The easiest way to locate local insurance broker is online by simply searching independent insurance agents near me or insurance brokers near me.  Most local brokers are licensed in multiple states so if you have property or vehicles others states you can most likely use the same broker.

Oviatt, F. C. "Economic place of insurance and its relation to society" in American Academy of Political and Social Science; National American Woman Suffrage Association Collection (Library of Congress) (1905). Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science. XXVI. Published by A.L. Hummel for the American Academy of Political and Social Science. pp. 181–191. Retrieved 8 June 2011.
As for your question, USAA is a fantastic company and I would happily recommend them for many things, like auto, home, and umbrella insurance. With that said, I have never reviewed one of their whole life insurance policies and therefore can’t really comment on that specifically. I will say that I would be careful about taking that 4.5% return at face value, as I describe in the post. I would encourage you to run the numbers for yourself to see what it really comes out to.
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Any death benefit of the policy will not be payable if the named insured commits suicide or if anyone covered by additional riders commits suicide, while sane or insane, within two years from the policy or rider effective date. All premiums paid will be refunded, less any indebtedness. The following information only applies to the Accelerated Death Payment, Waiver of Premium Benefit Rider, and Accidental-Death Benefit Rider:
2. You have to borrow your own money @ 6-12% and wait up to 6 months contractually to get it. Whhich now increases your already high monthly premiums. If you don’t pay back the loan, they add interest on interest! 3.It takes 3 years to build a dollar of cash value giving you a 0% rate of return for the first 3 years. 4.Any dividends you get back is a return of the money that they over charged you. Bottom Line: Horrible Product that is good for the Whole Life Company and Agent and Bad for the Consumer!
^ Berger, Allen N.; Cummins, J. David; Weiss, Mary A. (October 1997). "The Coexistence of Multiple Distribution Systems for Financial Services: The Case of Property-Liability Insurance" (PDF). Journal of Business. 70 (4): 515–46. doi:10.1086/209730. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2000-09-19. (online draft Archived 2010-06-22 at the Wayback Machine)
Nick this was a terrific overview. You didn’t mention the whole life rip-off, i.e., that the Client is paying for 2 things but in the end only gets 1. If the insured dies the death benefit goes to the beneficiary, the cash goes back to the company. Conversely, if the Client takes the cask the contract is terminated and the death benefit is gone. Bad, bad, bad!

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.
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.
With that said, I honestly think that the best thing you can do for your son is work as hard as you can to put the money you do make to work building a solid financial foundation for yourself and, when he’s old enough, involve him in the process so that he can learn real world money lessons at a young age and be more prepared to deal with it when he’s on his own.
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Finally, IF you decide that these are not the right policies for you, it’s generally better to cancel sooner rather than later in order to minimize the amount of premiums you pay. You should even look at your policy to see whether you’re still within an initial period where you could get all your payments back. Again, I’m not saying that you should cancel, just that if you do want to cancel it’s better to act quickly.
In the United States, insurance brokers are regulated by the individual U.S. states. Most states require anyone who sells, solicits, or negotiates insurance in that state to obtain an insurance broker license, with certain limited exceptions. This includes a business entity, the business entity's officers or directors (the "sublicensees" through whom the business entity operates), and individual employees. In order to obtain a broker's license, a person typically must take pre-licensing courses and pass an examination. An insurance broker also must submit an application (with an application fee) to the state insurance regulator in the state in which the applicant wishes to do business, who will determine whether the insurance broker has met all the state requirements and will typically do a background check to determine whether the applicant is considered trustworthy and competent. A criminal conviction, for example, may result in a state determining that the applicant is untrustworthy or incompetent. Some states also require applicants to submit fingerprints.

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I on the other hand, got married and moved to England,I m not working at the moment, since I have to wait for my spouse documents to be legalized before looking for work, about 6, 7 months, and don t think it s useful for me over there, my husband or even for my son, since I didn t realize that it s only for him to collect it if i die, I would be more open to having something for ME while living, I m not worried about my son so much anymore now that I am married to a wonderful man and through his job, I m fully covered on a number of things.Would u mind replying to my email and letting me know if I should stop payments,and if so, do I get penalized, do I pay any fee for canceling it,surprising enough, I can t reach anyone at the Insurance co that will give me any straight answer or honest, easy to understand reply, and I just don t want to pay another month if I don t have to.Thank you so much for all of your input, clarity and dedication to everyone, you are obviously in love with your work,your calling!All my best!
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.
As to me, I am a commercial, non-insurance attorney who tries to be an “informed” consumer of financial products. 27 years ago, when I already was carrying no credit card balances and was funding my IRAs and 401ks in appropriate amounts, I, along with other of the partners in our then small law firm, purchased a Universal Life policy on my wife with Manufacturer’s Life (a mutual company) purchased now by John Hancock. Over the next 7 years, I purchased laddered term life insurance policies for my wife and I with terms designed to expire between our ages 55 and 72 (so our coverage would drop as our savings increased). The universal life coverage was for about 8-10% of our total aggregate insurance coverage.

1. You are correct that the death benefit is untaxed. But that will not benefit you, only the person receiving it. Beyond that, the savings component within the policy is not taxed as it grows, which is what most salesmen are likely referring to. Any loans you take out are also “tax-free”, but of course there is interest to pay (on YOUR money that YOU contributed). And of course there would first need to be significant growth for any of that to make a difference.
Pre-need life insurance policies are limited premium payment, whole life policies that are usually purchased by older applicants, though they are available to everyone. This type of insurance is designed to cover specific funeral expenses that the applicant has designated in a contract with a funeral home. The policy's death benefit is initially based on the funeral cost at the time of prearrangement, and it then typically grows as interest is credited. In exchange for the policy owner's designation, the funeral home typically guarantees that the proceeds will cover the cost of the funeral, no matter when death occurs. Excess proceeds may go either to the insured's estate, a designated beneficiary, or the funeral home as set forth in the contract. Purchasers of these policies usually make a single premium payment at the time of prearrangement, but some companies also allow premiums to be paid over as much as ten years.
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.
I’ve found from my experience, people either plan, save and invest or they don’t. Those that procrastinate and nitpick over which investment may be better than another are wasting valuable time and usually aren’t that successful. If someone starts saving and investing EARLY and accumulates a diversified retirement portfolio they will never look back and wish they had done differently.
The best part of the cash value? You have access to it at any time, for any reason, without taxes or penalties. This is probably the best benefit of whole life and is what is most attractive to my high net clients who are already maximizing contributions to IRA’s, 401k’s etc. Also, whole life does not carry the same penalties for withdrawals as these other accounts do

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