We were sold a whole life policy from Mass Mutual for my husband, but we also have term insurance on both of us. We are on a 10 year track to pay off the policy and have three years left. Is it still a “bad investment” once the policy is paid off? Should we be expecting those 0.74% yearly returns for a fully paid-off policy? Or does that apply only if one is paying premiums on it for the next 30+ years? Whole life insurance appealed to me because I am extremely squeamish about the stock market and don’t want to pay a financial planner on a regular basis. I’d rather have low (but not 0.74%), steady returns than high risk/high reward investments. Did we still make a mistake by buying whole life?
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.
Also, it depends on the policy, but for many policies out there the principal does not remain untouched while you have a loan out against the policy. A loan will actually decrease the dividends, and therefore the return, you receive, because you have less equity in the policy. Some policies work differently, but you definitely shouldn’t assume that the policy will continue to grow unchecked while you have an outstanding loan against it.
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]
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Insurance can influence the probability of losses through moral hazard, insurance fraud, and preventive steps by the insurance company. Insurance scholars have typically used moral hazard to refer to the increased loss due to unintentional carelessness and insurance fraud to refer to increased risk due to intentional carelessness or indifference.[20] Insurers attempt to address carelessness through inspections, policy provisions requiring certain types of maintenance, and possible discounts for loss mitigation efforts. While in theory insurers could encourage investment in loss reduction, some commentators have argued that in practice insurers had historically not aggressively pursued loss control measures—particularly to prevent disaster losses such as hurricanes—because of concerns over rate reductions and legal battles. However, since about 1996 insurers have begun to take a more active role in loss mitigation, such as through building codes.[21]

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You may find that your out-of-pocket costs for whole life insurance seem daunting compared to term life insurance. This is because the dollars you pay into term life insurance premiums are only there to provide a death benefit to your beneficiaries if you die during a specified term, while money you invest in whole life insurance premiums builds cash value that you can use later in life or that will add to the death benefit payout. The percentage of your costs that go into your cash accrual account increases with passing years, as many of the administrative costs associated with setting up the policy and associated investments occurs early in the life of the policy.
Matt, may I ask you a question? I have a 25-year old $100K whole life policy with a surrender value of $43K, of which $21K is taxable. I’m 43 years old. Dividends now more than cover the $900/yr premium. Does it make sense to hold on to this? I am torn! I could surrender it and pay off a second mortgage which is at 7.6%… Thank you in advance. Love your site!
You seem to be suggesting that NO one at all ever needs life insurance past the age of like 55…..seems odd that you wouldn’t want a death benefit when you’re actually statistically more likely to die…..I am a bit confused by that…And if whole life isn’t a good investment then term life certainly isn’t unless you die during the term of course….Term insurance is like renting a home you pay and pay and pay and pay and you potentially never get a return. Except I could argue renting a home and being able to live there is more advantageous than renting insurance and what hoping you will die so your kids will get the money?
Burial insurance is a very old type of life insurance which is paid out upon death to cover final expenses, such as the cost of a funeral. The Greeks and Romans introduced burial insurance c. 600 CE when they organized guilds called "benevolent societies" which cared for the surviving families and paid funeral expenses of members upon death. Guilds in the Middle Ages served a similar purpose, as did friendly societies during Victorian times.
Insurance brokers represent the insurance buyer – you the consumer or business owner.  They are appointed or contracted with multiple insurance companies.  They have the flexibility to discuss many options and companies that meet your needs and budget. Insurance brokers have been around as long as insurance agents.  In many cases people will refer to insurance brokers as independent insurance agents.
One point I would like to counter is the idea that whole life “is insurance that CANNOT BE TAKEN AWAY”. It can be taken away if you are not able to keep up with your premium payments, which is pretty common given that people’s lives and financial situations are constantly changing. With some policies, the premium can even go up depending on the performance of the policy, forcing you to pay more than expected if you want to keep the coverage in place. So it’s not quite as simple as saying that the death benefit is a sure thing.

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Regarding insuring the pensioner in a spousal benefit enabled pension: Sure, this is a popular strategy. For an identical monthly benefit, you can compare the cost of a Joint-Last-to-Die annuity (basically a pension) vs an individual annuity on the pensioner. Let’s say the difference is $400/month. Well, if you can buy enough life insurance benefit to support the spouse for life (insured is still the pensioner in this case) and the cost is less than $400/month (or whatever the cost differential is between the two scenarios), you may just do an individual annuity for the pensioner and then if he dies first, the insurance proceeds can support the spouse. If the cost of life insurance is greater than $400/month (or whatever the cost differential is between the two scenarios), then do a joint-last annuity and you’re covered for life.

After insurance has been selected and purchased, most insurance brokers will continue to provide service to their clients. This includes advising clients on technical issues that may be helpful in the event that a client has to file a claim, helping clients decide if they should change their insurance policies or coverage, and even making sure that clients comply with their policy’s requirements.

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

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Full Circle, one time I thought whole life insurance was great. Then I cashed it in, bought at least 5 new automobiles, a house, a couple motorcycles and more bullshit. Then I learned how to properly use life insurance as a bank, instead of borrowing money from a bank, I borrow the money from myself and pay myself back what I would have paid banks. I get to collect all the interest I would have paid the banks. I get to grow my money tax free. I get to pass my hard earned money on to my family tax free. The key is understanding Whole life vs creating your own banking system.

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Finally, the loan that I mentioned in my above post as interest free and tax free after the 11th year are a little more complicated than a “free loan”. First, the rate may increase in the future (at the discretion of the management) to a max 0.25% so that over time would add up if you took out a loan for retirement and had no intention of paying it back. Also, the loan balance is actually transferred to a loan reserve account where interest is charged at 2%, but at the same time the money in the loan reserve account earns interest of 2% which is credited to the Policy Value. So this is how they achieve an “interest and tax free” loan. I actually did not understand the specifics of this transaction or any IRS consequences that you could potentially have.

Muslim scholars have varying opinions about life insurance. Life insurance policies that earn interest (or guaranteed bonus/NAV) are generally considered to be a form of riba[60] (usury) and some consider even policies that do not earn interest to be a form of gharar (speculation). Some argue that gharar is not present due to the actuarial science behind the underwriting.[61] Jewish rabbinical scholars also have expressed reservations regarding insurance as an avoidance of God's will but most find it acceptable in moderation.[62]
Thanks Jason! Your question is a good one, and the truth is that it really depends on the specifics of your situation. What are your college savings goals? What does the policy look like now? What is it expected to look like when you need the money? What other funds do you already have in place? I’m not asking you to answer those questions here, just want to give you a sense of the kinds of things I would consider.
Regarding pension vs registered accounts: It is hard to know what is better, relying on your pension or relying on an individually held mutual fund account (or some variation thereof using other securities). This would require a close reading of the pension and securities legislation in your region. For us in Canada, a defined benefit pension (prescribed benefits upon retirement based on a formula where the employer is responsible for funding any shortfall) can be incredibly enticing due to the guarantees attached to them. It is the preferred pension and stacks up really well against defined contribution pensions (where employers match the contributions of employees to at least a certain degree and where the account grows until retirement and the pensioner draws down the account and is burdened with any shortfall) but defined benefit plans are going the way of the dodo over here. It’s still available to government employees but most private employers don’t want to take on the risk of having to meet funding requirements. That’s a huge liability on the balance sheet. In any case, pensions have a few benefits over individual savings vehicles. First, they benefit from reduced management fee pricing, thereby improving returns marginally over the course of fund accumulation. Second, they benefit from a longer investment horizon since they are always looking many years in the future as their pension liabilities are long-term by definition. Third, actuaries are required to evaluate pensions regularly to make sure funding targets are established and followed.
However, there may be areas where your pension doesn’t stack up to individual plans. For example you can leave your individual account to a beneficiary but that may not be possible with your pension. Also, survivor benefits may be insufficient or altogether absent. The nice thing about transferring your pension to an individual account today is that with interest rates at all-time lows, the amount the pension has to provide you on exit (the commuted value) is inflated to reflect the larger pool of capital required to fund your retirement years. This means you can leave with a bigger pool of dough than you could in an era where interest rates were much higher and so if things turn around and we find ourselves in a rising rate environment with improved fixed income opportunities, you can make out like a bandit. Of course, things could slide into negative interest rate territory and you could be left years left to live and no cash to live it on.

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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.
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.

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Cash value increases within the policy are not subject to income taxes unless certain events occur. For this reason, insurance policies can be a legal and legitimate tax shelter wherein savings can increase without taxation until the owner withdraws the money from the policy. In flexible-premium policies, large deposits of premium could cause the contract to be considered a modified endowment contract by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), which negates many of the tax advantages associated with life insurance. The insurance company, in most cases, will inform the policy owner of this danger before deciding their premium.

Add to this, when a younger person owns whole life (or cash value fixed universal life) they have the life insurance coverage they need, are building a tax free bond portfolio for the future (which as most people realize is what older investors shift into as the age) but also have a accumulation vehicle that can “self complete” if they become disabled. 401k’s can’t provide this…they don’t even match the long term return of the do nothing stock markets because of the fee’s they charge. That is to say…there is no “alpha”

Know when to cut coverage. Don’t strip away coverage just for the sake of a lower price. You’ll need full coverage car insurance to satisfy the terms of an auto loan, and you’ll want it as long as your car would be a financial burden to replace. But for older cars, you can drop comprehensive and collision coverage, which only pay out up to your car’s current value, minus the deductible.
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I have a Dividend Option Term Rider that will expire soon. I am 57 years old. New York life wrote to me stating I can change over to whole life insurance without having to answer health questions or take a physical exam. What are the advantages or disadvantages of this for someone of my age? I currently have a 401K. Would my money be better invested in that or elsewhere? Thanks.

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