Your point about eventually not having to pay premiums is a common one used by agents, and in some cases that does happen. But in many cases it doesn’t, or at least it doesn’t happen as early as is illustrated and the policyholder is left paying premiums for longer than they had anticipated. The point is that this is not a guarantee, and it’s important for people to understand that.
Insurance companies earn investment profits on "float". Float, or available reserve, is the amount of money on hand at any given moment that an insurer has collected in insurance premiums but has not paid out in claims. Insurers start investing insurance premiums as soon as they are collected and continue to earn interest or other income on them until claims are paid out. The Association of British Insurers (gathering 400 insurance companies and 94% of UK insurance services) has almost 20% of the investments in the London Stock Exchange.[24]
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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.

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Now, it turns out that we have higher, broader family obligations than I anticipated 20-27 years ago. My wife and I plan to possibly keep working past 65 (which I hadn’t anticipated) and would like to be able to fund these obligations even if we were to die before our now planned time to stop working (that goes past the periods anticipated by the terms of our term policies). Our term policies and term coverage are beginning to expire and due to certain issues, at best, we would have to pay very high premiums for anything I would try to purchase now, if we would qualify at all.

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2) With a portfolio of risky assets, the LONG-TERM RETURN is expected to be higher, but the variability around that is MUCH higher. In pretty much all of the “expected return” analyses that people on the internet show to compare whole life to term life + investing the difference, they are just comparing annualized returns or an IRR on a zero-volatility return stream. What they don’t account for are situations where the market crashes and you panic, wanting to move money into cash, or having to draw down on assets because they’re liquid and you can. This is normal behavioral stuff that occurs all the time, and reduces the power of your compounding. If you and your adviser are sure you can avoid these common pitfalls, then that is great and you might want to go for it. But don’t dismiss the reality. Also when running your simulations, make SURE to tax all of your realized capital gains and interest income along the way, and unrealized cap gains at the end. It can make a big difference.
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.

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Social insurance can be many things to many people in many countries. But a summary of its essence is that it is a collection of insurance coverages (including components of life insurance, disability income insurance, unemployment insurance, health insurance, and others), plus retirement savings, that requires participation by all citizens. By forcing everyone in society to be a policyholder and pay premiums, it ensures that everyone can become a claimant when or if he/she needs to. Along the way this inevitably becomes related to other concepts such as the justice system and the welfare state. This is a large, complicated topic that engenders tremendous debate, which can be further studied in the following articles (and others):
On your questions about your specific offer, I would both say that most of the points from this post apply and that without knowing the specifics of the policy you’re being offered I can’t really give any concrete feedback. One thing I will say is that you wouldn’t simply be able to withdraw the $550k you mention tax-free. You would have to borrow from the policy, which would come with interest and potentially other fees and conditions. If you chose to surrender the policy and withdraw the money, the amount above what you have put in would be considered taxable income.
I noted that the returns on the simulations were set at 8%, which was the average for this product from a respected company. In real life, the return for this product is variable guaranteed at minimum 0.75% with a 15% cap. However, I thought about the simulation result tables presented and from my memory it did not seem like money was going up by the promised compounded 8% every year. As a matter of fact, the first few years, there appeared to be negative returns and even at the 20 year mark the return did not appear from my memory to be 8% higher compared to the prior year. Where did the money go? I believe it was commission and fees, which were not mentioned during the meeting. So compared to other investment options out there, it did not seem like such a good deal after all.
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.
And yes, it is nice for children who develop chronic illnesses to have some amount of life insurance, potentially. But is the amount you purchase going to be enough? Yes they will have that amount but in most cases if they want more their health will still cause it to either be more expensive or unobtainable. So it isn’t exactly guaranteed insurability for life for whatever needs they have. It’s mostly limited to the amount you purchased, which is probably helpful but also probably wouldn’t meet their full needs. And again I would argue that you could buy term to cover their needs for a number of years while additionally saving in other ways if you really want to give them money they can use in the event of a chronic illness. Having it in accessible accounts would actually give them more options in that situation rather than having to wait till death.
Response 1: This has to be the most common objection. I understand it, but I don’t totally agree with it, so please give it a LOT of thought and decide for yourself. Let’s begin with the idea that insurance is not an investment. That is false. It is absolutely an investment. You spend money in expectation of a financial return, the size of which is usually known but the probability of which is oftentimes unknown (because many people cancel term policies or cannot renew them before they pass away).
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.
Rates quoted are subject to change and are set at the company's sole discretion. Rates for other underwriting classifications would be higher. Further underwriting restrictions may apply. Other face amounts and guaranteed premium terms are available but will have different rates than those shown here. Premium may be paid annually, semi-annually, quarterly or monthly; premium paid may differ based on payment mode selected. A medical exam may be required depending on age, health or amount of coverage requested.
An insurance company may inadvertently find that its insureds may not be as risk-averse as they might otherwise be (since, by definition, the insured has transferred the risk to the insurer), a concept known as moral hazard. This 'insulates' many from the true costs of living with risk, negating measures that can mitigate or adapt to risk and leading some to describe insurance schemes as potentially maladaptive.[51] To reduce their own financial exposure, insurance companies have contractual clauses that mitigate their obligation to provide coverage if the insured engages in behavior that grossly magnifies their risk of loss or liability.[citation needed]
In my experience it is rare to find a policy for which the cash value growth by year 6 doesn’t exceed the annual premium (except for policies purchased at older ages, or policies of low face amounts, which have inherently higher costs), that is more than likely to hold true by year 9 or 10! Catching onto some words in my statement, while ignoring the facts presented, doesn’t make you more credible. I challenge you to post images of inforce illustrations where cash value growth is less that the annual premium by year 6.

Yes, backdoor Roths are capped at $5,500 per year. Still, I think they’re a better first option than whole life for all of the reasons mentioned in the post. Exposure to market risk is not an inherent problem, and is also not a characteristic of Roth IRAs. A Roth IRA is just a type of account within which the individual can invest however they want. If they want to be exposed to market risk (something that many people deem desirable), they can be. If not, they don’t have to be. It’s up to them.
None of the below should be taken as actionable advice. You should consult someone who you know and trust before making any important financial decisions. This is just a window into how I made my decision, so you can see some things I considered. I might be wrong about some of these things, but everything I’ve written below is what I believe today based on my current understanding and the guidance of my own advisers. Please note that I do also max out my 401k and IRAs and keep a modest taxable account as well, so whole life is just one piece (albeit a fairly sizable one) of my portfolio.
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In the United States, insurance is regulated by the states under the McCarran-Ferguson Act, with "periodic proposals for federal intervention", and a nonprofit coalition of state insurance agencies called the National Association of Insurance Commissioners works to harmonize the country's different laws and regulations.[42] The National Conference of Insurance Legislators (NCOIL) also works to harmonize the different state laws.[43]
Second, I used the policy illustration I received as an example of the kinds of policies I see all the time. Of course every policy is different and needs to be evaluated on its own merits, but the truth is that most of these policies behave similarly. The policy I evaluated personally was actually one of the good ones and was backed by one of the companies that many people look to as the “gold standard”. So it was not a “bad policy”. It was typical of one of the “better” policies.
Another reason occurred to me as I was reviewing the sales pitch from our agent. Maybe others have mentioned this in the comments, I haven’t read them all. Basically, it’s lack of flexibility, and the fact that you have to “marry” your life insurance policy for it to work the way it’s intended. This is similar to Point #1 but from a different angle. Obviously Whole Life / Universal policies get “better” over time (supposedly)…usually after decades. Even the agents would mostly agree you need to keep it for life for it to work.

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.


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MetLife has become aware of a recent phishing attack against some of our customers. ‘Phishing’ is a fraudulent attempt to obtain an individual’s personal information, often through a misleading email, text or other online communication. Keeping your personal information secure is a top priority of MetLife. That's why we encourage you to take precautions to protect your personal data, and why we do not ask you to verify your personal or account information by email, text message or online. If you suspect you received a phishing email, please forward it to: phish@metlife.com. Delete the email after you forward it, and do not click on any links it contains. If you believe you entered information into a linked website, change your login information immediately. For helpful hints to protect your personal information, visit the following website: https://www.consumer.ftc.gov/articles/0003-phishing
Insurance brokers play a significant role in helping companies and individuals procure property and casualty (liability) insurance, life insurance and annuities, and accident and health insurance. For example, research shows that brokers play a significant role in helping small employers find health insurance, particularly in more competitive markets. Average small group commissions range from two percent to eight percent of premiums. Brokers provide services beyond procuring insurance, such as providing risk assessments, insurance consulting services, insurance-related regulatory and legislative updates, claims assistance services, assisting with employee enrollment, and helping to resolve benefit issues.[3] However, some states consider the provision of services that are unrelated to the insurance procured through the broker to be an impermissible rebate or inducement.
My current blended Whole Life policy breaks even with premium paid in year 5, and together with my Indexed Universal Life policies, my permanent insurance policies constitute my entire fixed income allocation. No need for bonds, as these policies give me a decent long-term growth of between 4.5-6% that is virtually risk free, tax free and dummy proof…and provides a giant tax free death benefit upon my passing.

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.


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.
His disciple, Edward Rowe Mores, was able to establish the Society for Equitable Assurances on Lives and Survivorship in 1762. It was the world's first mutual insurer and it pioneered age based premiums based on mortality rate laying "the framework for scientific insurance practice and development"[7] and "the basis of modern life assurance upon which all life assurance schemes were subsequently based".[8]
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.

You’re right, there is a guaranteed portion of these policies. And like I say in the post, that guaranteed portion is nowhere near the illustrated return and is much less attractive than how it’s presented (e.g. a 4% “guaranteed” return is not actually anywhere near 4%). So to say that there’s a guarantee and somehow equate that to the numbers you presented earlier is, in my mind, misleading.
Universal life insurance addresses the perceived disadvantages of whole life—namely that premiums and death benefits are fixed. With universal life, both the premiums and death benefit are flexible. With the exception of guaranteed-death-benefit universal life policies, universal life policies trade their greater flexibility off for fewer guarantees.
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?
Limited risk of catastrophically large losses: Insurable losses are ideally independent and non-catastrophic, meaning that the losses do not happen all at once and individual losses are not severe enough to bankrupt the insurer; insurers may prefer to limit their exposure to a loss from a single event to some small portion of their capital base. Capital constrains insurers' ability to sell earthquake insurance as well as wind insurance in hurricane zones. In the United States, flood risk is insured by the federal government. In commercial fire insurance, it is possible to find single properties whose total exposed value is well in excess of any individual insurer's capital constraint. Such properties are generally shared among several insurers, or are insured by a single insurer who syndicates the risk into the reinsurance market.

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Back to guaranteed growth…. Whole Life policies are interest rate driven based on the economy, but your “Cash Account” will increase every year, regardless of the market. Compound, tax-free growth. The dividends paid to the policy owners are also not taxable. Dividends are not guaranteed, but take a look at the dividend history for companies like Mass Mutual, Penn Mutual and Guardian. They might as well be guaranteed.
I am an agent with one of the top companies and have been for 5 years. The “buy term and invest the rest” sounds like a great idea but here’s what I have found. People don’t actually do it. You cannot change human behavior. I try to hold my clients accountable and want them to do the same for me. If a client is a spender, they will never stop being a spender. For those people we design a savings plan that let’s them spend their money guilt free, as long as they hit their monthly savings goal, they can spend what they wish.

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Insurance brokers perform a plethora of duties for individuals and businesses in search of the right insurance for them. When you contact an insurance broker for a quote, he will acquire some information and assess your individual needs. An insurance broker will compare the coverage of various insurers to get you the best conditions and rates. A broker will also search for opportunities to combine different types of insurances to obtain discounts or reduce premiums. As brokers do not work for the insurance companies, their recommendations are unbiased and in favor of the insurance buyer.
Insurance can be a complex concept that is not always easy to understand. While we know that we need insurance to protect our health, our house and car, and to ensure that our loved ones are protected, the finer details often become blurred. An insurance broker can help you navigate the process of finding, comparing, and acquiring insurance by breaking it down into terms and conditions the average Joe can understand. Insurance brokers pride themselves on providing their clients with the best value in insurance coverage. Having an experienced insurance broker represent you is also a wise way to safeguard yourself and your business.
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.
First, yes there is a surrender value. It’s right there in any illustration you look at. Second, it takes much longer than 5 years for what you’re talking about to happen, excluding the premium paid in. In fact, it usually isn’t until about year 6-7 where the cash value starts increasing by even as much as the premium paid. Before then, every premium payment is losing you money.
Actually, you can easily “surrender” the money from a whole life contract and not pay tax. Life insurance is treated “First in; First Out” for accounting and tax purposes. You can easily surrender the cash value that is considered growth too. However, if this is done, then the policy owner would be taxed. The “loan” is a way for the insurance company to give your money to you and the income tax free death benefit can pay the “loan” back. Yes, there is interest charged however, most of the time it is the same amount that the policy continues to earn because remember, the money is still in the policy. This is known as a “wash loan”.
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In the United States, the tax on interest income on life insurance policies and annuities is generally deferred. However, in some cases the benefit derived from tax deferral may be offset by a low return. This depends upon the insuring company, the type of policy and other variables (mortality, market return, etc.). Moreover, other income tax saving vehicles (e.g., IRAs, 401(k) plans, Roth IRAs) may be better alternatives for value accumulation.

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Death benefits are generally received income tax-free by your beneficiaries. In the case of permanent life insurance policies, cash values accumulate on an income tax-deferred basis. That means you would not have to pay income tax on any of the policy’s earnings as long as the policy remains in effect. In addition, most policy loans and withdrawals are not taxable (although withdrawals and loans will reduce the cash value and death benefit).2
3. Why don’t you mention the 4-5% ROR on CV to premium? You state it’s a bad investment – it’s not it’s life insurance. But what bond does 4-5% now? And did you know the pubic’s ACTUAL ROR in the market is less than 4%? Look it up – google will work – try “Why Investors May be Fooling Themselves” – from the Wall Street Journal – I think they know what they speak!!!
I agree that it isn’t a good investment. However, that doesn’t make whole life a bad insurance policy. As I mentioned before, I realized a lot of things in my years working for a mortuary. First, the vast majority of life insurance policies that we filed were whole life (I would guess 80-90%). Why? Because people who are in their 70’s, 80’s, and 90’s don’t have term policies anymore. And I’ve seen all kinds of things happen to people who have planned well financially. Getting old and having to go into a nursing home generally means depleting one’s assets. With nursing homes in my area costing $5000 per month (and more in some areas), it may not take long to go through someone’s savings. Once they go through all of their assets, Medicaid will pick up the tab for the nursing home bill. Having whole life leaves money at the end regardless of what unforeseen circumstances happen. I’ve seen it happen hundreds of times….I’m guessing that those families didn’t think it was such a bad deal.

So let me ask, does she have a need for life insurance? That is, what would the insurance proceeds actually be used for? It may be that she no longer has a need and could simply unload the policy. If that’s the case, I have heard of people having some luck selling these policies to a third party. It’s not something I have experience with, but I could ask around for you if you’d like.
In my experience it is rare to find a policy for which the cash value growth by year 6 doesn’t exceed the annual premium (except for policies purchased at older ages, or policies of low face amounts, which have inherently higher costs), that is more than likely to hold true by year 9 or 10! Catching onto some words in my statement, while ignoring the facts presented, doesn’t make you more credible. I challenge you to post images of inforce illustrations where cash value growth is less that the annual premium by year 6.
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).

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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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!


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The benefit to you is enormous. Boomer Benefits provides back-end policy support that you cannot get directly from an insurance company and that none of our competitors offer: a dedicated Client Service Team for our existing policyholders only with 10 full-time employees on call to immediately fix very common Medicare hiccups which are otherwise stressful for you.
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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.

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.

My argument is based on the fact that whole life insurance is often sold as an investment, and therefore many people buy it as an investment. I am well aware that there are other reasons people buy it, and those are explicitly acknowledged in the article. The rest of your questions have already been addressed in both the article and other comments.

Annuity

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