With whole life, both the MINIMUM size (your guaranteed cash value or your death benefit, depending on how you’re modeling it) and probability (100% if you keep paying) are known. So it is easy to model out your minimum expected return. And yes, that return stinks. It is usually far less than what you’d expect from investing in stocks. But there is a good reason for that.
To say a life insurance company is not a diversified portfolio is a hard statement to agree with. Life insurance companies own 18% of the corporate bonds issued in the United States. These a multi-billion dollar diversified portfolio’s of fixed income securities WITH NO INTEREST RATE Risk. It is true that it takes time to accumulate cash value, however, there isn’t a passive investment strategy that doesn’t take time to create wealth.
It’s very true that you don’t own the cash value in anywhere near the same way that you own your other investments. You can only access it in certain circumstances, and even then there are big conditions like surrender charges and interest. And you’re also correct that you can’t get the cash value AND the insurance proceeds. It’s either/or. All good points.
Brokers are often able to get better rates on insurance policies for their clients than individuals buying insurance directly from the company. That is because insurance companies know that brokers have the experience to guide their clients to the right policies with the proper level of coverage. Policyholders who used brokers are less likely to make unnecessary claims or to be under insured, which ultimately saves the insurance companies money. The companies usually offer special broker pricing as a result — so that broker clients have lower cost options available to them. While agents may also get special pricing, they are working for the insurance company — not for you. A broker can offer a range of quotes from different insurers to give clients options that fit their needs and their budgets. This ability to shop for the best prices from a number of carriers typically saves clients who use brokers money.

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Though not an absolute separation; an insurance agent is an insurance company's representative by way of agent-principal legal custom. The agent's primary alliance is with the insurance carrier, not the insurance buyer. In contrast, an insurance broker represents the insured, generally has no contractual agreements with insurance carriers, and relies on common or direct methods of perfecting business transactions with insurance carriers. This can have a significant beneficial impact on insurance negotiations obtained through a broker (vs. those obtained from an agent).
The second is that I’ve heard enough horror stories about indexed life insurance in general to be skeptical. It’s not that it can’t work, it’s that there are plenty of examples of it underperforming, having a catch that wasn’t made clear up front, and other instances where it just doesn’t work the way it was sold to work. Any time something is sold as being able to pay for any financial goal no matter the market conditions, it’s usually too good to be true.
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.
Great article Matt. You provide 8 great reasons as to why whole life insurance isn’t the best option for the majority of people. As you noted, there are times when it is advisable such as if you have a disabled child (also a no-lapse universal life policy is another alternative in this instance), but for most term life insurance and investing the rest is the way to go.
Response 2: OK, that’s fair. There is no way to counter this perfectly if you are that skeptical, which it is your right to be. For me, I insure with a company that I have close to zero doubt about delivering on its promises. You should keep in mind that insurance investment portfolios are generally quite boring, if you’ve done your homework and picked a good provider. They take the float from the premiums and invest in a broadly diversified portfolio of fixed income, equities, and alliterative assets. At then end of the day, I suspect it is almost certainly a more conservative portfolio than what you’re financial adviser is running on your behalf if you are a relatively young person with low liabilities.
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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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.
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.
Often a commercial insured's liability insurance program consists of several layers. The first layer of insurance generally consists of primary insurance, which provides first dollar indemnity for judgments and settlements up to the limits of liability of the primary policy. Generally, primary insurance is subject to a deductible and obligates the insured to defend the insured against lawsuits, which is normally accomplished by assigning counsel to defend the insured. In many instances, a commercial insured may elect to self-insure. Above the primary insurance or self-insured retention, the insured may have one or more layers of excess insurance to provide coverage additional limits of indemnity protection. There are a variety of types of excess insurance, including "stand-alone" excess policies (policies that contain their own terms, conditions, and exclusions), "follow form" excess insurance (policies that follow the terms of the underlying policy except as specifically provided), and "umbrella" insurance policies (excess insurance that in some circumstances could provide coverage that is broader than the underlying insurance).[32]
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.

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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]
Once licensed, an insurance broker generally must take continuing education courses when their licenses reach a renewal date. For example, the state of California requires license renewals every 2 years, which is accomplished by completing continuing education courses. Most states have reciprocity agreements whereby brokers from one state can become easily licensed in another state. As a result of the federal Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act, most states have adopted uniform licensing laws, with 47 states being deemed reciprocal by the National Association of Insurance Commissioners. A state may revoke, suspend, or refuse to renew an insurance broker's license if at any time the state determines (typically after notice and a hearing) that the broker has engaged in any activity that makes him untrustworthy or incompetent.
Base commission is the “normal” commission earned on insurance policies. Base commission is expressed in terms of a percentage of premium and varies by type of coverage. For instance, an agent might earn say, a 10 percent commission on workers compensation policies and 15 percent on general liability policies. Suppose that you purchase a liability policy from the Elite Insurance Company through the Jones Agency, an independent agent. Jones earns a 15 percent commission on general liability policies.
I think that post does a good job of showing how the illustrated (non-guaranteed) return from a whole life insurance policy is comparable to one of the most conservative types of traditional investments you can make IF you end up keeping the policy for 30 years. Of course, that conservative traditional investment doesn’t have most of the other downsides discussed here AND doesn’t require you to hold it for 30 years to see a reasonable return. And, of course, you are allowed to put your money into other, less conservative investments outside of a life insurance policy, some of which may even have special tax advantages (401(k), IRA, HSA, 529, etc.).

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Life insurance policies often have hidden costs, such as fees and large commissions, that you may not find out about until after you purchase the policy. There are so many different kinds of life insurance, and so many companies that offer these policies, that you should use a fee-only insurance adviser who, for a fixed fee, will research the various policies available to you and recommend the one that best suits your needs. To ensure objectivity, your adviser should not be affiliated with any particular insurance company and should not receive a commission from any policy.
*Quotes based on a composite of participating carriers which have at least an "A-" rating by A.M. Best. Rates current as of 12/19/2017 for a Guaranteed 10-year term life policy, $250,000 in coverage issued at each company's best-published rates. Sample rate is for a preferred plus, non-tobacco user, male and female age 18-34. Rates and the products available may vary by state. All policies are subject to underwriting approval.
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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):
Good question. My first response is that if you’re looking for pure life insurance protection, it’s likely that term insurance will be a better product for you than whole life. It can depend on exactly what kind of protection you need, but that’s generally the case. Second, I have an entire series on life insurance that will help you figure out how much you need, and it does factor in inflation. Here’s the link: New Parent’s Guide to Life Insurance.
Naturally, the float method is difficult to carry out in an economically depressed period. Bear markets do cause insurers to shift away from investments and to toughen up their underwriting standards, so a poor economy generally means high insurance premiums. This tendency to swing between profitable and unprofitable periods over time is commonly known as the underwriting, or insurance, cycle.[25]
Mores also gave the name actuary to the chief official—the earliest known reference to the position as a business concern. The first modern actuary was William Morgan, who served from 1775 to 1830. In 1776 the Society carried out the first actuarial valuation of liabilities and subsequently distributed the first reversionary bonus (1781) and interim bonus (1809) among its members.[7] It also used regular valuations to balance competing interests.[7] The Society sought to treat its members equitably and the Directors tried to ensure that policyholders received a fair return on their investments. Premiums were regulated according to age, and anybody could be admitted regardless of their state of health and other circumstances.[9]
I’ll start with the whole life policy a financial planner is currently trying to sell me on. It does seem to be too good to be true, so I’m trying to figure out what’s wrong with it. He claims that I put $1k in it each month for 20 years. At around the 10 year mark, the “cash value” meets the amount of money I’ve put into it, and begins to exceed it. After 20 years, I’ve put $240k in, and it’s worth around $550k. That’s the amount I could take out if I wanted to close the thing. And I *believe* he said that’s tax free, but maybe I’m wrong about that… he also may have said something about instead withdrawing a set amount of around $55k each year and that’s tax free? Not sure. But just looking at these numbers and ignoring the death benefit, is that not a good investment? I’ve been maxing out my 401k and investing in mutual funds for more than 10 years and I’d estimate for every dollar I’ve put in, I now have about $1.20. I’m sure some of that has been poor allocation of funds, but even taking that into consideration, it seems pretty pathetic compared to the option of more than doubling my money in 20 years (looking at the $550k out with $240k in). What am I missing?
I am 34 and someone just sold me 4 policies (50 Whole Life, 50 Whole Life, 100 Whole Life, and 50 Term). The annual total premium is $2600. Everything he said sounded good. I just received the policies this week. Is it a good idea to cancel them? I realize that I may not get a refund for them; I paid for them this week. I am a musician and I have not learned very much about finances. I have a ROTH that is up 11% YTD with Scottrade.
Unlike GEICO, Esurance, and other “direct writers”, independent agents are a part of your community and are there to help whenever you need it. Unlike American Family Insurance, Farmers Insurance, State Farm Insurance, and other “captive” agents, an independent insurance agent works with many different insurance companies. Atlas agents automatically compare quotes from up to 50, which saves you time & money.
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]
THE MATERIALS AND INFORMATION IN THIS SITE ARE PROVIDED "AS IS" AND WITHOUT WARRANTIES OF ANY KIND EITHER EXPRESSED OR IMPLIED.SelectQuote Insurance Services and its related, affiliated and subsidiary companies disclaim all warranties, express or implied, including, but not limited to, implied warranties of merchantability and fitness for a particular purpose.
Collision and comprehensive only cover the market value of your car, not what you paid for it—and new cars depreciate quickly. If your car is totaled or stolen, there may be a “gap” between what you owe on the vehicle and your insurance coverage. To cover this, you may want to look into purchasing gap insurance to pay the difference. Note that for leased vehicles, gap coverage is usually rolled into your lease payments.
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.

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Qualifying status is determined at the outset of the policy if the contract meets certain criteria. Essentially, long term contracts (10 years plus) tend to be qualifying policies and the proceeds are free from income tax and capital gains tax. Single premium contracts and those running for a short term are subject to income tax depending upon the marginal rate in the year a gain is made. All UK insurers pay a special rate of corporation tax on the profits from their life book; this is deemed as meeting the lower rate (20% in 2005–06) of liability for policyholders. Therefore, a policyholder who is a higher-rate taxpayer (40% in 2005-06), or becomes one through the transaction, must pay tax on the gain at the difference between the higher and the lower rate. This gain is reduced by applying a calculation called top-slicing based on the number of years the policy has been held. Although this is complicated, the taxation of life assurance-based investment contracts may be beneficial compared to alternative equity-based collective investment schemes (unit trusts, investment trusts and OEICs). One feature which especially favors investment bonds is the '5% cumulative allowance'—the ability to draw 5% of the original investment amount each policy year without being subject to any taxation on the amount withdrawn. If not used in one year, the 5% allowance can roll over into future years, subject to a maximum tax-deferred withdrawal of 100% of the premiums payable. The withdrawal is deemed by the HMRC (Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs) to be a payment of capital and therefore, the tax liability is deferred until maturity or surrender of the policy. This is an especially useful tax planning tool for higher rate taxpayers who expect to become basic rate taxpayers at some predictable point in the future, as at this point the deferred tax liability will not result in tax being due.
The information on this site is general in nature. Any description of coverage is necessarily simplified. Whether a particular loss is covered depends on the specific facts and the provisions, exclusions and limits of the actual policy. Nothing on this site alters the terms or conditions of any of our policies. You should read the policy for a complete description of coverage. Coverage options, limits, discounts, deductibles and other features are subject to individuals meeting our underwriting criteria and state availability. Not all features available in all states. Discounts may not apply to all coverages and/or vehicles. 
In cases where the policy owner is not the insured (also referred to as the celui qui vit or CQV), insurance companies have sought to limit policy purchases to those with an insurable interest in the CQV. For life insurance policies, close family members and business partners will usually be found to have an insurable interest. The insurable interest requirement usually demonstrates that the purchaser will actually suffer some kind of loss if the CQV dies. Such a requirement prevents people from benefiting from the purchase of purely speculative policies on people they expect to die. With no insurable interest requirement, the risk that a purchaser would murder the CQV for insurance proceeds would be great. In at least one case, an insurance company which sold a policy to a purchaser with no insurable interest (who later murdered the CQV for the proceeds), was found liable in court for contributing to the wrongful death of the victim (Liberty National Life v. Weldon, 267 Ala.171 (1957)).
Whole life is permanent insurance — you’re insured throughout your lifetime, or until the policy matures, as long as you continue to pay your premiums per terms of the contract. And those premiums will stay level as long as the policy remains in force. Over time, permanent insurance typically accumulates a cash value that can be accessed2 for a variety of purposes while you’re still alive.

1. Cash Value. Yes, you can borrow it. Bad Idea. But did you know that if you die, you do not get your cash value, only the Face Amount of the Policy? If you live to age 100, your cash value is paid up and the policy is matured. If you die, again, your heirs do not get the cash value. It disappears magically. You cannot get both the cash value and the face amount of the policy. If you borrow it and don’t pay it back, it is subtracted from the amount paid to heirs at death.
Nice write up. I personally have been able to save with an independent agent. A big concern of mine was finding an agent that worked with more reputable insurance carriers. There seems to be alot of agents who will use non-standard insurance carriers to provide cheaper coverage. I've heard some horror stories about customer service, sub-par adjustments, and claims services. I'd definitely do alot of research into the insurance companies the independent agent is appointed with.
I mentioned investment allocations earlier. There are other ways to get stock market returns with Whole life insurance as well. I am not talking about “Variable Life Insurance” either. Those who purchase these policies loose the benefit of having an insurance company retain some of their investment risk. To obtain market returns, a person simply invests in long call options on the broad market. In doing this, an investor earns stock market returns but transfers their downside risk to the owner of the index (SPY or SPX). The options will be worthless or appreciate (sometimes 500%). Coupled with the guarantees of the over funded cash value life policy, their portfolios will not decrease below a certain point in any given time but they can destroy the market in up years. This all takes 10 minutes to manage and about $20 in cost (compared to an asset manager charging a percentage,) Because life insurance is guaranteed to maintain its value, it protects the remaining money that is not tied up when directly invested in stocks and is available to that an investor can be “greedy when others are fearful” (Warren Buffet) or “buy low while others are selling”.

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