Then, when I was excitedly presenting what I saw at the meeting to my skeptical wife at home in front of my two babies, I began to remember what I learned from my reading all the stuff I googled earlier in the day especially the part about comparing this investment to other types of tax advantaged investments. And all of a sudden the excitement began to die down.
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.
Did someone say convenient? Life can be complicated, which is why we make insurance so easy. Our customer service is accessible and personal. You can choose from different payment options, and you’re able to manage your account online for anytime, anywhere access. Just in case you want to view your policy at 2 a.m. while on vacation. Not that you would, but you could.
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.

Good questions. The honest answer is that the only way to know what’s best is to do a review of your personal goals, the policy you have now, the whole life policy you would be changing it to, and the other options available to you. I would highly recommend seeking out a fee-only financial planner who can help you with this, and I would start by looking at the Garrett Planning Network. Their advisors all offer hourly services that would be perfect for this kind of project. NAPFA is another great network of fee-only planners.
The National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC) is the U.S. standard-setting and regulatory support organization created and governed by the chief insurance regulators from the 50 states, the District of Columbia and five U.S. territories. Through the NAIC, state insurance regulators establish standards and best practices, conduct peer review, and coordinate their regulatory oversight. NAIC staff supports these efforts and represents the collective views of state regulators domestically and internationally. NAIC members, together with the central resources of the NAIC, form the national system of state-based insurance regulation in the U.S. For more information, visit www.naic.org.
An insurance broker is experienced in different types of insurance and risk management. They help individuals and companies procure insurance for themselves, their homes, their businesses or their families. Brokers may focus on one particular type of insurance or industry, or they could provide advice on many different types of insurance. They provide a service to their customers in helping them find and buy insurance — usually at no cost to their client.
Third, yes the cash value of your whole life insurance is less susceptible to swings than the stock market. But it comes with far less upside AND you do not have to invest 100% of your money in the stock market. A smart asset allocation allows you to balance the upside of the stock market with the relatively safety of the bond market without all the negatives of a whole life insurance policy.
Hi Jim. A couple of corrections. She’s actually secured a $36,250 asset for $25,000, as that’s what she would walk away with today if she decided to stop paying the premiums. And it would not be tax-free if she surrendered the policy today. Yes she could take tax-free withdrawals from the $36,250 today, but as I discuss above they would be subject to interest which is essentially the same effect as taxation.
Where the life insurance is provided through a superannuation fund, contributions made to fund insurance premiums are tax deductible for self-employed persons and substantially self-employed persons and employers. However where life insurance is held outside of the superannuation environment, the premiums are generally not tax deductible. For insurance through a superannuation fund, the annual deductible contributions to the superannuation funds are subject to age limits. These limits apply to employers making deductible contributions. They also apply to self-employed persons and substantially self-employed persons. Included in these overall limits are insurance premiums. This means that no additional deductible contributions can be made for the funding of insurance premiums. Insurance premiums can, however, be funded by undeducted contributions. For further information on deductible contributions see "under what conditions can an employer claim a deduction for contributions made on behalf of their employees?" and "what is the definition of substantially self-employed?". The insurance premium paid by the superannuation fund can be claimed by the fund as a deduction to reduce the 15% tax on contributions and earnings. (Ref: ITAA 1936, Section 279).[27]
Term life insurance is very simple. You pay a (typically) small premium for financial protection that lasts a specific amount of time, typically 10-30 years. It is pure insurance. The only potential benefit is the payout upon death. And in my opinion, this is the only type of life insurance that most people should consider, since the financial protection provided by the death benefit is the entire purpose of life insurance.

Brokers - Because a broker is solely focused on your unique needs, he or she can help with comparison-shopping, honing in on the best prices for the coverage you need. They can even advise you on how to best bundle or customize your policies in ways that agents might not be able to do (either because they are restricted in their policy offerings, or simply because they lack the insight into your specific needs).

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After reading the entire thread, couldn’t help but add my thoughts. I am a civilian here so no affiliation as an insurance salesman or financial planner in any capacity. I am however, an owner of a WL policy (one year in) which I got through a friend in the business. I admittedly jumped into this without doing the proper due diligence as more of a favor to him. I have had anxiety about this decision since, and am days away from my second annual premium payment and have thus spent a great deal of time researching and thinking about the implications of this asset. I am at a “cut my losses and run crossroads”. Is this a quality asset, or do I cut and run and chalk-up the loss as the cost of a lesson learned in letting others do my independent thinking for me (two implications here are that 1) I do believe that the person who sold me this actually believes in the products and 2) that doesn’t mean that he is right and any person, no matter how financially savvy, who is willing to dedicate the time, can do the research and come up with their own view). I say all of this to admit that I am biased, even if only sub-consciously, as I have tried to think in a balanced manner with regards to this decision. All of that being said, I am currently leaning towards keeping the asset in place and welcome thoughts. My current logic below.
The upshot is that the taxation of a 401(k)/Traditional IRA down the line is often beneficial to being taxed up front. Certainly not always, but often. And in any case, I would challenge you to find a financial planner who does not make money off the sale of whole life insurance who would recommend it as an investment tool before you have maxed out your dedicated retirement accounts.
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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]
3 The above example is based on a scenario for 20‐year term life insurance (domicile state) that includes the following benefit conditions: $50,000 death benefit, $50,000 accidental death benefit, and $12,500 seatbelt benefit. Benefits may vary by state, benefit option, and level of coverage selected. Review your state‐specific brochure below for a “How It Works” scenario customized for your state.
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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The “fixed returns” you talk about from whole life are not the 4-6% you mention in multiple places. Again, as I said in the post, the guaranteed returns are much closer to 1% or less. Yes you might get better returns depending on the dividends the insurance company decides to pay, but that’s not “fixed” or guaranteed. It changes every year. And yes, you can improve those refunds if you vastly overfund the policy in the early years, which again is something I already mentioned in the post. But for 98-99% of the population that really isn’t a viable strategy.

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Crop insurance may be purchased by farmers to reduce or manage various risks associated with growing crops. Such risks include crop loss or damage caused by weather, hail, drought, frost damage, insects, or disease.[29] Index based crop insurance uses models of how climate extremes affect crop production to define certain climate triggers that if surpassed have high probabilities of causing substantial crop loss. When harvest losses occur associated with exceeding the climate trigger threshold, the index-insured farmer is entitled to a compensation payment[30].

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There are certain instances where whole life can be useful. If you have a genuine need for a permanent death benefit, such as having a disabled child, it can serve a valuable purpose. 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. So it is a useful product in a limited number of cases.


Insurance brokers specialize in insurance and risk management. Unlike insurance agents, brokers work for you rather than the insurance companies. An insurance broker uses his knowledge and experience to help you assess your unique insurance needs, find the best coverage and value, and can assist you when making a claim. As insurance brokers work directly with insurance buyers, you can rest assured that an expert is available to receive your calls and answer any insurance questions you have.

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.”
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.
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.
I only read the first couple of paragraphs here but so far what you are talking about is universal insurance, not whole life. Whole life builds cash value but the policy holder doesn’t get that money….they can take it out on a loan but they have to pay it back with a small interest rate…the cash value a whole life policy collects is what keeps the policy going and it is why they are able to pay out everything they promised you. No one anywhere ever would say hey how about you pay me ten dollars and I will give you twenty in a week….the whole life policy builds up cash value and between that and your premiums they are able to make the money to cover the whole cost. Term life is exactly what its name says…it only last for a term and will be terminated within a set period of time (usually like 20 years) so when you buy it at 20 and live till 50 you don’t get the money you just paid almost 2,000 a year for nothing….but whole life has to pay out it covers you for your whole life. The reason that the term is so much cheaper is that statistically the person will not die in that set time so they are able to make money off the people who don’t die to cover the select few that do and when you are 50 trying to buy term it is crazy expensive. Everyone has their own opinions and I understand that I am just 99% sure that you are talking about universal insurance which is a mix of term and whole and will soon be illegal because of how shady it is.
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. 

Interesting read, I certainly agreed with the lack of transparency and fees associated with some policies. I would disagree though that it is undiversified. Take Northwestern Mutual, an almost 300 billion dollar general portfolio that you participate in as a policy owner. Most is bonds, like all other companies, but the remaining investments are private equity deals that as individual investors, we would have no access to. Also keep in mind that the equity in policies are extremely safe. Look at any market crash, and compare what dividends we’re paid out by the top companies. The equity in the policies do not go backwards which makes it very attractive when you’re retired because you’ll have no other sources of money so well protected and still growing at 4%.

3 The above example is based on a scenario for 20‐year term life insurance (domicile state) that includes the following benefit conditions: $50,000 death benefit, $50,000 accidental death benefit, and $12,500 seatbelt benefit. Benefits may vary by state, benefit option, and level of coverage selected. Review your state‐specific brochure below for a “How It Works” scenario customized for your state.


Term assurance provides life insurance coverage for a specified term. The policy does not accumulate cash value. Term insurance is significantly less expensive than an equivalent permanent policy but will become higher with age. Policy holders can save to provide for increased term premiums or decrease insurance needs (by paying off debts or saving to provide for survivor needs).[25]
Any person acting as an insurance agent or broker must be licensed to do so by the state or jurisdiction that the person is operating in. Whereas states previously would issue separate licenses for agents and brokers, most states now issue a single producer license regardless if the person is acting on behalf of the insured or insurer. The term insurance producers is used to reference both insurance agents and brokers.

Through these educational requirements and experience in the field, brokers gain a significant level of knowledge in insurance. They are well informed about specific types of insurance and how claims of a particular type are covered. For example, a broker can explain to an individual exactly what types of risks a homeowner’s insurance policy will cover and what it will exclude (such as acts of god, intentional acts, negligent acts, slip and falls, loss of theft of valuable items, etc.). With this knowledge, clients can make better informed choices about what type of insurance they need, along with how much coverage is necessary. This is a broker’s job: to help clients understand the liabilities that they have and how those risks can be adequately managed through insurance. Brokers can then help clients review a number of insurance options to pick the policy and premium that best fits their needs and budget.


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.
First, you compare whole life as a retirement vehicle to a savings account or CD. I’ll get to whether or not it’s actually better than those vehicles next, but regardless that’s an improper comparison. When people save for retirement, they generally do so with things like stocks, bonds and real estate. Savings accounts and CDs are not very good long-term investment tools. So whether it’s better than those things for retirement or not, the point is irrelevant.
Like any other type of insurance, you're in control of your life insurance policy. You determine how much coverage you need (from $50,000 up to a $1 million policy), how long you need it, who's covered and when you make your payments (called premiums). Usually, you can choose to pay monthly, annually or quarterly for 10, 20, 30 years or over your lifetime to maintain the coverage. When you die, if your policy is still active, the people you've listed on your policy (called your beneficiaries) get paid the death benefit. In most cases, this payment is paid in one lump sum to an individual or family.
First, although there are no taxes, there is interest. When you borrow from your policy, interest starts accruing from day 1 and keeps accruing until you pay back the loan. If you’re using it for retirement purposes, are you going to pay back the loan? Of course not. So the interest keeps accruing. And that interest applies to all money withdrawn, including your contributions, which were already taxed.

Ally or Matt, Can I ask what you used(formula?) to calculate their colorful presentation of the long term growth plan? I was recently presented with this Whole life idea from a Salesman or “Wealth Planner” and he made it sound really good but deep down inside, I don’t feel right, i felt the need to research more because i know there’s more to it than pretty graphs and colorful numbers…until i found this article which explains A LOT so thanks Matt:)
Insurance brokers specialize in insurance and risk management. Unlike insurance agents, brokers work for you rather than the insurance companies. An insurance broker uses his knowledge and experience to help you assess your unique insurance needs, find the best coverage and value, and can assist you when making a claim. As insurance brokers work directly with insurance buyers, you can rest assured that an expert is available to receive your calls and answer any insurance questions you have.

In the United States, the most prevalent form of self-insurance is governmental risk management pools. They are self-funded cooperatives, operating as carriers of coverage for the majority of governmental entities today, such as county governments, municipalities, and school districts. Rather than these entities independently self-insure and risk bankruptcy from a large judgment or catastrophic loss, such governmental entities form a risk pool. Such pools begin their operations by capitalization through member deposits or bond issuance. Coverage (such as general liability, auto liability, professional liability, workers compensation, and property) is offered by the pool to its members, similar to coverage offered by insurance companies. However, self-insured pools offer members lower rates (due to not needing insurance brokers), increased benefits (such as loss prevention services) and subject matter expertise. Of approximately 91,000 distinct governmental entities operating in the United States, 75,000 are members of self-insured pools in various lines of coverage, forming approximately 500 pools. Although a relatively small corner of the insurance market, the annual contributions (self-insured premiums) to such pools have been estimated up to 17 billion dollars annually.[36]

Progressive Home Advantage® policies are placed through Progressive Specialty Insurance Agency, Inc. with affiliated and third-party insurers who are solely responsible for claims, and pay PSIA commission for policies sold. Prices, coverages, privacy policies, and PSIA's commission vary among these insurers. How you buy (phone, online, mobile, or independent agent/broker) determines which insurers are available to you. Click here for a list of the insurers or contact us for more information about PSIA's commission. Discounts not available in all states and situations.
Fifth, if you have maxed out all your tax-advantaged investment accounts, you are on track for all your other financial goals, you are able to enjoy a lifestyle that makes you happy, and you still have money leftover, then yes, some kind of permanent life insurance policy could possibly make sense. But it would need to be a policy that was specially designed to minimize fees and maximize growth, and you need to work with a certain kind of agent in order to have that done.

If you are in the market for insurance for your business, home, vehicle, or your family, a broker can help you determine what your insurance needs are and what insurance is right for you. Because a broker works for you — not for an insurance company — you can be assured that your insurance broker has your best interests in mind when shopping for insurance policies. Contact an insurance broker today to learn more about how he or she can help you buy the best possible insurance for your needs.


What you are telling people in this post is irresponsible and bad advice. You are correct that term is a lot cheaper than whole life, but you are leaving out the problems with term insurance that whole life policy can fix at any age. Did you know only 2% of term policies are ever paid a death benefit on? You can buy a 20 year term at age 30 but what happens when you turn 51? Buy more term at your current health at 51? What if you get cancer or other health problems that cause you to become uninsurable? Would you rather pay $100 a month for a $100,000 permanent policy and earn cash value, or would you rather pay $40 a month for 20 years on the same policy and then have to buy a new term policy at age 51 that will be $200-$300 a month and even then if you don’t die during that term then what do you have when your 80? Nothing, because no one is going to sale you life insurance at age 80. I don’t think buying term at a young age is a bad idea, but the longer you wait to transfer some of that to permanent insurance you are digging yourself and your family a deeper hole when you live past that term policy and have nothing to leave them with.
Health questions can vary substantially between exam and no-exam policies. It may be possible for individuals with certain conditions to qualify for one type of coverage and not another.[citation needed] Because seniors sometimes are not fully aware of the policy provisions it is important to make sure that policies last for a lifetime and that premiums do not increase every 5 years as is common in some circumstances.[citation needed]

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