And if you want protection from premature death, then you get term life insurance. Very few people have a need for life insurance protection throughout their entire lives. And if you do end up needing it, you can convert your term policy at any time. So no, whole life is not a good option for this kind of protection for the vast majority of people.
If someone really does want and need permanent insurance, and that may be especially relevant for those in Canada who own corporations, there are a variety of strategies to which the Minister of Finance is taking the axe for policies issued after January 1, 2017. As it stands now, the absurd inflation of surrender charges in the early years of a policy allow for a maximum funded LCOI (level cost of insurance) Universal Life policy to sock away a small fortune, tax-sheltered. That’s on the way out. But until it’s gone, there are some great applications that take advantage of a policy’s ability to pay out the investment portion of a policy tax free to a beneficiary upon the first death on a joint-last-to-die contract. That’s just one application…this is but one way insurance companies have adapted permanent insurance products to benefit the wealthy and there are many others, but these strategies tend to be offensive to the Canada Revenue Agency and as such their existence is always under threat. Life insurance companies tend to engage in games of cat and mouse in terms of finding and exploiting holes in the Income Tax Act in Canada, such as 10/8 policies or triple back to back arrangements, then the authorities shutter them. Rinse and repeat. This is probably not a bad thing…it exposes and then closes holes in the income taxa act. Frankly, the best use of an insurance policy is as INSURANCE. The death benefit is where the juice was always supposed to be. Not in engaging in elaborate tactics to skirt the rules. This is especially true as what is legal today may not necessarily be legal tomorrow. A lot of highly beneficial strategies amount to playing with fire.
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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.

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There are a number of explanations for this difference, including fees and the way in which the interest rate is applied. But the bottom line is that you can’t take that “guaranteed return” at face value. It is incredibly deceptive. Run the numbers for yourself and see if you’re happy with the result. The reality is that you can often get better guaranteed returns from a savings account or CD that’s also FDIC insured.

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It is not a valid argument to me to say that the “administrative pain in the ass” is a reason to ignore the tactic. It’s a pretty simple procedure and certainly not worth paying all the extra costs of a whole life approach just to avoid. Yes, you have to be careful if you have Traditional IRAs, but there are ways around that too. No, it’s not for everyone, but I would much rather try to make the backdoor Roth work first than immediately jump to whole life. 

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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2. For people who have already maxed out all of their tax-deferred space and have a sizable investment portfolio built up, permanent insurance can potentially offer some diversification along with some benefits of tax-deferral. These people could invest in a permanent insurance product specifically designed to maximize the investment opportunity, which would include significant up-front contributions and a few other bells and whistles. These are not the run-of-the-mill whole life insurance policies sold by your local agent, and they are generally not right for people who don’t already have significant wealth.


Insurance brokers are professionals in the insurance industry who sell, solicit, and negotiate insurance for a living. They are regulated by the state and must meet certain licensing requirements to do business in their state. Insurance brokers are professional advisers, representing and working on behalf of their clients. Brokers help clients understand their risks and advise them on which assets merit insurance and which do not. Insurance brokers may have industry specializations as well. Keep in mind that insurance brokers are not actual insurers; they are the liaisons between the insurance companies and clients and work on the client’s behalf.
Thanks for the insightful article. I agree with the general statement that, in a vacuum, it is better to “buy term and invest the difference.” However, I’m interested to hear your thoughts on using whole life insurance as an investment vehicle in the context of the infinite banking model (assuming you are familiar with the concept). From what I understand, it sounds like a good way to achieve predictable and guarenteed growth on a compounded basis while allowing you to borrow money from your own policy and pay yourself the interest, all while always having access to the funds. I think it might be wise for people, like myself, are looking for guaranteed growth with little risk.
Hi Christine. First of all, thank your for stopping by. Second of all, please don’t beat yourself up over this. Life insurance salesmen are trained to make these policies sound REALLY attractive and their arguments can be quite persuasive. I actually found myself feeling close to convinced about one of these policies a few years ago before coming to my senses.
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”.

I have no idea how the Hiltons manage their money, so I can’t comment/fact check what you’re saying here. But in a broader sense, the right financial moves for the wealthiest 1% of Americans are often much different than the right moves for the other 99%. If you’re already incredibly wealthy, then sure, a well-designed permanent life insurance policy can make a lot of sense. If you’re trying to build wealth, then no it usually doesn’t.


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.
The beneficiary receives policy proceeds upon the insured person's death. The owner designates the beneficiary, but the beneficiary is not a party to the policy. The owner can change the beneficiary unless the policy has an irrevocable beneficiary designation. If a policy has an irrevocable beneficiary, any beneficiary changes, policy assignments, or cash value borrowing would require the agreement of the original beneficiary.
Special exclusions may apply, such as suicide clauses, whereby the policy becomes null and void if the insured commits suicide within a specified time (usually two years after the purchase date; some states provide a statutory one-year suicide clause). Any misrepresentations by the insured on the application may also be grounds for nullification. Most US states specify a maximum contestability period, often no more than two years. Only if the insured dies within this period will the insurer have a legal right to contest the claim on the basis of misrepresentation and request additional information before deciding whether to pay or deny the claim.
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.
True, but what’s not accounted for is the rolling geometric average. Trailing returns only assume you invest at the beginning of a period and hold to the end. The rolling average (if done correctly) assumes you invest over time…say monthly…like almost everyone does. I remember reading several pieces by Dan Wiener (who is an advocate for index fund investing, and specifically Vanguard) mention this.
The above is meant as general information and as general policy descriptions to help you understand the different types of coverages. These descriptions do not refer to any specific contract of insurance and they do not modify any definitions, exclusions or any other provision expressly stated in any contracts of insurance. We encourage you to speak to your insurance representative and to read your policy contract to fully understand your coverages.
Advanced economies account for the bulk of global insurance. With premium income of $1.62 trillion, Europe was the most important region in 2010, followed by North America $1.409 trillion and Asia $1.161 trillion. Europe has however seen a decline in premium income during the year in contrast to the growth seen in North America and Asia. The top four countries generated more than a half of premiums. The United States and Japan alone accounted for 40% of world insurance, much higher than their 7% share of the global population. Emerging economies accounted for over 85% of the world's population but only around 15% of premiums. Their markets are however growing at a quicker pace.[40] The country expected to have the biggest impact on the insurance share distribution across the world is China. According to Sam Radwan of ENHANCE International LLC, low premium penetration (insurance premium as a % of GDP), an ageing population and the largest car market in terms of new sales, premium growth has averaged 15–20% in the past five years, and China is expected to be the largest insurance market in the next decade or two.[41]
These reviews are all from Medicare beneficiaries just like you. Our clients consistently rate us 5 stars for both our up-front help, but also the phenomenal back-end support you get from our Client Service Team. We have some of the very best Medicare supplement agents in the country. These independent Medicare advisors truly care. You can read our reviews here. Notice how many of them are from clients who called us when Medicare denied their claim or rejected their bills or their doctor mis-codes a service or when they are standing at the pharmacy and can’t get their medication. Normally you would call the insurance company yourself to try to figure out how to fix these things.

Assuming you’re already maxing out your regular retirement accounts, have a full emergency fund, are comfortably saving for other short and medium-term goals, are able to spend money comfortably on things you enjoy, AND still have money left over to save, AND expect that to continue indefinitely without any big risk of disruption, then you don’t have to worry too much about the slow growth in the beginning, the complications of accessing the money, or the rigidity of having to pay the premium.
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).

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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)).
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.
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]
Hi Matt. Read your posts and comments on Whole Life and the overfunding options available. I have a different situation involving a policy with Prudential called Variable Appreciable Life. I am looking for a safe haven for some available cash with a minimum return of 4%. Agent/Financial Planner has suggested I overfund the balance of that VAL policy. Yes, I am quite conservative but have enough invested in 401k, Stocks, Funds etc. Policy is 50K and issued in 1990. Wife and I are in mid seventies and looking to have 30-40K of available liquid cash. Can add/withdraw the overfunding $ at any time. Interest guarantee is 4.0%. 

It is wise to note that as a business owner or individual that the cash values of WLI can serve as collateral (via assignment) when otherwise collateral may not be available. This can help greatly with loan rates that may be needed in the future for a variety of reasons. Banks realize they are protected against insolvency, liens, and lawsuits (another benefit of WLI) ( yes trusts can do this but why pay 8-15k in legal fees to structure them).
Thanks for the insightful article. I agree with the general statement that, in a vacuum, it is better to “buy term and invest the difference.” However, I’m interested to hear your thoughts on using whole life insurance as an investment vehicle in the context of the infinite banking model (assuming you are familiar with the concept). From what I understand, it sounds like a good way to achieve predictable and guarenteed growth on a compounded basis while allowing you to borrow money from your own policy and pay yourself the interest, all while always having access to the funds. I think it might be wise for people, like myself, are looking for guaranteed growth with little risk.

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