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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.


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Insurance companies have in recent years developed products for niche markets, most notably targeting seniors in an aging population. These are often low to moderate face value whole life insurance policies, allowing senior citizens to purchase affordable insurance later in life. This may also be marketed as final expense insurance and usually have death benefits between $2,000 and $40,000. One reason for their popularity is that they only require answers to simple "yes" or "no" questions, while most policies require a medical exam to qualify. As with other policy types, the range of premiums can vary widely and should be scrutinized prior to purchase, as should the reliability of the companies.
Many people have a 401(k) or other retirement plan with their employer. Just about everyone has the option of contributing to an IRA. Then there are regular taxable accounts. All of these options allow you to choose your investments, control your costs (though employer plans will be more limited here), diversify, and avoid the downsides of whole life insurance we’ve just gone over.
Separate insurance contracts (i.e., insurance policies not bundled with loans or other kinds of contracts) were invented in Genoa in the 14th century, as were insurance pools backed by pledges of landed estates. The first known insurance contract dates from Genoa in 1347, and in the next century maritime insurance developed widely and premiums were intuitively varied with risks.[3] These new insurance contracts allowed insurance to be separated from investment, a separation of roles that first proved useful in marine insurance.
Then, for whatever year you want to calculate the return for, you enter the projected cash surrender value on that date as the cash flow on that line (as a positive number). Keep in mind that your projected cash value at the start of year 10 is actually the cash value they show on the year 9 row (that’s the projected cash value at the END of year 9, which is equivalent to the start of year 10).
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.
Good question Eski. I would encourage you to look into long-term disability insurance as a potentially more effective way to provide coverage for the exact risk you’re talking about. In general you’ll get better, more comprehensive coverage from a disability insurance policy that’s specifically designed for this than from a life insurance policy that includes it as a limited add-on.
In any case, I thought I might chime in given that I disagree with your statement about all of these policies being legal robbery. As a disclaimer, I should point out that I agree that unscrupulous life insurance agents definitely do have a tendency to oversell these policies where term life would do, and I do not disagree that commissions are often the likely motivation in many of these cases.
Here is my analagy of the whole life deal. I am 53 the whole life minimum quaranty is 4%. if the guaranty says I pay $8,000 a year for 15 years and stop making payments I’ve paid $120,000. if this policy is for $400,000 then I have that policy to leave as a legacy for my 2 children tax free. If the past gains from the last 30 years happen then I would pay $120,000 for $550,000 of legacy that is also at this time tax free. That would be closer to $700,000 to the kids. I am going to price term for 30 years at my age but have a feeling its pricey but probably less than $8,000 per year. Thoughts from a young person?
You’re welcome Helen. If you have already surrendered the policy, the best thing you can do is simply make a good decision with the money you get back. If you are still considering whether or not you should surrender the policy, you need to ignore what the policy has done for you (or not done) in the past and focus only on what it should do going forward and compare that to the other options available to you. That’s something I can help you with if you’d like, and you can email me at matt@momanddadmoney.com if you want to learn more about that.

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.

An insurance underwriter's job is to evaluate a given risk as to the likelihood that a loss will occur. Any factor that causes a greater likelihood of loss should theoretically be charged a higher rate. This basic principle of insurance must be followed if insurance companies are to remain solvent.[citation needed] Thus, "discrimination" against (i.e., negative differential treatment of) potential insureds in the risk evaluation and premium-setting process is a necessary by-product of the fundamentals of insurance underwriting. For instance, insurers charge older people significantly higher premiums than they charge younger people for term life insurance. Older people are thus treated differently from younger people (i.e., a distinction is made, discrimination occurs). The rationale for the differential treatment goes to the heart of the risk a life insurer takes: Old people are likely to die sooner than young people, so the risk of loss (the insured's death) is greater in any given period of time and therefore the risk premium must be higher to cover the greater risk. However, treating insureds differently when there is no actuarially sound reason for doing so is unlawful discrimination.
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.
Large loss: The size of the loss must be meaningful from the perspective of the insured. Insurance premiums need to cover both the expected cost of losses, plus the cost of issuing and administering the policy, adjusting losses, and supplying the capital needed to reasonably assure that the insurer will be able to pay claims. For small losses, these latter costs may be several times the size of the expected cost of losses. There is hardly any point in paying such costs unless the protection offered has real value to a buyer.
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

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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.

Here is my analagy of the whole life deal. I am 53 the whole life minimum quaranty is 4%. if the guaranty says I pay $8,000 a year for 15 years and stop making payments I’ve paid $120,000. if this policy is for $400,000 then I have that policy to leave as a legacy for my 2 children tax free. If the past gains from the last 30 years happen then I would pay $120,000 for $550,000 of legacy that is also at this time tax free. That would be closer to $700,000 to the kids. I am going to price term for 30 years at my age but have a feeling its pricey but probably less than $8,000 per year. Thoughts from a young person?
I don’t fault the salesman for wanting/needing a commission for their work. It’s their livelihood. But understanding where your money is going is an important part of making smart decisions as a consumer. In the same way I wouldn’t intentionally overpay for a toothbrush just so that the toothbrush company could make some money, I’m not going to intentionally overpay for insurance purely for the salesman’s sake. There are plenty of circumstances where paying a commission is worth it for the value of the product. And there are plenty of circumstances where it is not. Understanding the difference is important.
I have worked in the Banking Business for over 7 years. After years of working for a company/corporation, I decided to start my own business in the same business field. I am now a Financial specialist with New York Life Insurance Company for almost 2 years. I get to do the same thing as before but now I’m running my own business. Trust is everything and I make it my mission to earn my clients trust.

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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”.
You’re welcome Helen. If you have already surrendered the policy, the best thing you can do is simply make a good decision with the money you get back. If you are still considering whether or not you should surrender the policy, you need to ignore what the policy has done for you (or not done) in the past and focus only on what it should do going forward and compare that to the other options available to you. That’s something I can help you with if you’d like, and you can email me at matt@momanddadmoney.com if you want to learn more about that.
Analysis: When a broker says that, it means another broker has made a submission to the insurer in your name. That’s most likely the incumbent broker. In fact, the incumbent may have submitted your name to 10 insurers — often, without your approval or even your knowledge. This is a disguise. The incumbent appears to be shopping for a better deal on your behalf, while the actual motive is to freeze out competitors.

Awesome article Matt! Couldn’t agree more – unfortunately not enough people know that whole life insurance should only be purchased in very limited circumstances and should not be considered for investment purposes. Thanks for joining the #wholeliferebellion. I created a Term v. Whole Life Insurance comparison calculator so people can crunch the numbers: http://www.insuranceblogbychris.com/term-vs-whole-life-insurance-comparison-calculator/
As for actually wanting coverage in case of the death of a child, I would say that the choice is here slightly more personal preference. You are of course correct that children can die and that there would be costs involved. Whole life insurance can help with that. I would personally prefer to insure against these unlikely scenarios with regular savings and investments because I think it’s less costly and also gives you more options for what to do with the money.
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.
People in the tobacco category typically have to pay higher premiums due to the higher mortality. Recent US mortality tables predict that roughly 0.35 in 1,000 non-smoking males aged 25 will die during the first year of a policy.[22] Mortality approximately doubles for every extra ten years of age, so the mortality rate in the first year for non-smoking men is about 2.5 in 1,000 people at age 65.[22] Compare this with the US population male mortality rates of 1.3 per 1,000 at age 25 and 19.3 at age 65 (without regard to health or smoking status).[23]
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Of course, the other way to get that death benefit is with term insurance. Look, if you want to make sure your children receive money no matter what and you don’t want to save the money yourself, then whole life insurance could be a good option. But you can get term insurance with a 30 year term that should be more than able to cover your children during the period of their life when they depend on you financially. If you go all 30 years and don’t die, you didn’t “get nothing” as you say. You protected your children and any other beneficiaries for that entire period of time. That is very much something. Any argument otherwise is a misunderstanding of how insurance is supposed to work.
In the United Kingdom, The Crown (which, for practical purposes, meant the civil service) did not insure property such as government buildings. If a government building was damaged, the cost of repair would be met from public funds because, in the long run, this was cheaper than paying insurance premiums. Since many UK government buildings have been sold to property companies, and rented back, this arrangement is now less common and may have disappeared altogether.
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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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.
An entity which provides insurance is known as an insurer, insurance company, insurance carrier or underwriter. A person or entity who buys insurance is known as an insured or as a policyholder. The insurance transaction involves the insured assuming a guaranteed and known relatively small loss in the form of payment to the insurer in exchange for the insurer's promise to compensate the insured in the event of a covered loss. The loss may or may not be financial, but it must be reducible to financial terms, and usually involves something in which the insured has an insurable interest established by ownership, possession, or pre-existing relationship.
In the United States, insurance brokers are regulated by the individual U.S. states. Most states require anyone who sells, solicits, or negotiates insurance in that state to obtain an insurance broker license, with certain limited exceptions. This includes a business entity, the business entity's officers or directors (the "sublicensees" through whom the business entity operates), and individual employees. In order to obtain a broker's license, a person typically must take pre-licensing courses and pass an examination. An insurance broker also must submit an application (with an application fee) to the state insurance regulator in the state in which the applicant wishes to do business, who will determine whether the insurance broker has met all the state requirements and will typically do a background check to determine whether the applicant is considered trustworthy and competent. A criminal conviction, for example, may result in a state determining that the applicant is untrustworthy or incompetent. Some states also require applicants to submit fingerprints.
Your statements are somewhat misleading. The policies that Kim are describing are likely Universal Life policies, not true whole life policies. True whole life policies have set premiums, not increasing. And the cash value is built off of a dividend being paid by the insurance companies. Many insurance companies (Ohio National Northwestern ?Mutual, ect.) have been around for over 100 years and have literally paid a dividend every single year. Which means that the policy holder is paying the same premium every single year and is also experience growth in their cash value account very single year. When Kim says that her “cash value was not making good returns” she is referring to a policy that is tied to the market, not based off of dividend payments. Whole life is an amazing product that you are confusing with Universal Life
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.

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.

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.

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1. What I mean by that is why not buy a whole life policy carry the policy for 20/30 years, just as you would a term life. Then once you have paid down all debt, built wealth, and self funded funeral expenses you surrender your policy. (Making sure my policy has no surrrender fees past year 30) Walking away with more Money than you paid in premiums. To me this also gives me options once I hit that 30 year mark to possibly keep the money in the whole life policy to continue to increase at a conservative and somewhat safe rate.
Your “rent” analogy is a classic one used by life insurance salesmen when selling whole life, but it is a poor analogy. After all, insurance has nothing to do with renting vs. owning. Would you say that most people are simply “renting” auto insurance? Do you think people should buy auto insurance policies that will pay them the full price of a new car whenever their car dies, even if they drive it into the ground? Because that’s essentially what whole life insurance is. The main purpose of life insurance is to provide financially for dependents in the case that you die early, just as the main purpose of car insurance (beyond the liability portion) is to provide the financial value of your car in case it dies early. Once that financial protection is no longer needed, the insurance need is gone. Term insurance protects you while you need it and goes away once you don’t. It is insurance in the purest sense of the word and is by far the more effective way to go about it for the vast majority of the population.
Your “rent” analogy is a classic one used by life insurance salesmen when selling whole life, but it is a poor analogy. After all, insurance has nothing to do with renting vs. owning. Would you say that most people are simply “renting” auto insurance? Do you think people should buy auto insurance policies that will pay them the full price of a new car whenever their car dies, even if they drive it into the ground? Because that’s essentially what whole life insurance is. The main purpose of life insurance is to provide financially for dependents in the case that you die early, just as the main purpose of car insurance (beyond the liability portion) is to provide the financial value of your car in case it dies early. Once that financial protection is no longer needed, the insurance need is gone. Term insurance protects you while you need it and goes away once you don’t. It is insurance in the purest sense of the word and is by far the more effective way to go about it for the vast majority of the population.

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Policy benefits are reduced by any outstanding loan or loan interest and/or withdrawals. Dividends, if any, are affected by policy loans and loan interest. Withdrawals above the cost basis may result in taxable ordinary income. If the policy lapses, or is surrendered, any outstanding loans considered gain in the policy may be subject to ordinary income taxes. If the policy is a Modified Endowment Contract (MEC), loans are treated like withdrawals, but as gain first, subject to ordinary income taxes. If the policy owner is under 59 ½, any taxable withdrawal may also be subject to a 10% federal tax penalty.

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