Hi Matt – my 3 kids (now all in their 20’s) had whole life policies opened for them by Grandpa 20 years ago. He has been paying a fixed annual payment of $240, but it’s now up to me (the kids are just starting out and don’t have a cent to spare). My first thought is to have them cancel and take the cash value (~7k each), but in looking at the policies (for the first time) it looks like at this point they are getting a decent cash value return – each of the last 3 years it’s been about 4.2% PLUS the $240. AND the dividend the last few years has been almost as much as the annual payment – but has been buying more insurance (that they don’t need). Is it possible that if you suffer through the first 20 years, it then becomes a good investment? especially if I redirect the dividends to the cash value or a premium reduction? Great article by the way.
5The monthly rate shown is for Preferred Elite based on a Male, age 37. Whole Life Advantage® is a whole life insurance policy issued by Allstate Life Insurance Company, 3075 Sanders Rd, Northbrook IL 60062. Whole Life Advantage is available in most states with series LU11040 or form ICC12A1. In New York, issued by Allstate Life Insurance Company of New York, Hauppauge, NY, and is available with contract NYLU796.
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Hey Mark. Thanks for the kind words and you make a great point! That’s a big reason for #5 in the article. With the speed at which life can change, locking yourself into paying those premiums for decades is just so limiting. And you go even further than that here with simply wanting to invest the money you’ve already put in differently, and I couldn’t agree with you more. It adds a lot of inflexibility to your planning which can make figuring out the other pieces a lot more difficult.
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/
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)).
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.
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.
An early form of life insurance dates to Ancient Rome; "burial clubs" covered the cost of members' funeral expenses and assisted survivors financially. The first company to offer life insurance in modern times was the Amicable Society for a Perpetual Assurance Office, founded in London in 1706 by William Talbot and Sir Thomas Allen.[3][4] Each member made an annual payment per share on one to three shares with consideration to age of the members being twelve to fifty-five. At the end of the year a portion of the "amicable contribution" was divided among the wives and children of deceased members, in proportion to the number of shares the heirs owned. The Amicable Society started with 2000 members.[5][6]
First, it is not a very good college savings vehicle. Yes, it removes assets from your estate, which is helpful for financial aid. BUT only 5.6% of assets at a maximum are counted for financial aid purposes anyways (see here), so the impact is small. On the other hand. 50% of income is counted against you, and loans from life insurance plans count as income. Not good. Something like a 529 plan is almost always a much better idea.
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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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The bottom line is that I feel that the insurance industry has adapted to the negative stigma attached to whole life insurance polices and are introducing some variants that do not look at all like the whole life insurance that is described in the above article. They have found ways to counter some of the Reasons not to invest in whole life insurance mentioned in the article above (such as the interest rate). I read about another variant called EIULs and I think there are many other similar products out there. But they can not counter all of the Reasons mentioned in the article above. So buyer beware and do your due diligence!
I have calculated a ~4% average annual ROR if the policy is kept for at least 20 years. This is not an IRR as an IRR gives no credit for the value of the death protection. This assumes the current dividend scale and can be defined as essentially the interest rate that accumulates the premiums, less an estimate of the value of the death protection each year, to the policy’s cash surrender value at the end of the period studied. It attempts to answer the question, “What interest rate would I have to earn on an outside investment of the extra premiums for WL to do as well as investing those extra premiums, in the WL policy?” consumerfed.org is a great resource for this analysis and other literature on this subject.

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.
Well the cash value in life insurance is counted as an asset for Medicaid purposes as well, so unfortunately it doesn’t help you there. If leaving an inheritance is a priority, then buying some type of permanent life insurance policy could be a good way to do that. But only if you but the right type of policy and only if it doesn’t negatively affect the rest of your financial plan.
It’s a great point about the cost causing people to be underinsured. I have no idea if there are any statistics on that, but intuitively it would seem to make sense. It’s a shame if someone with a real need for life insurance is under-protected because a salesman could make a bigger commission off the more expensive product. But I’m sure it happens.

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After reading the entire thread, couldn’t help but add my thoughts. I am a civilian here so no affiliation as an insurance salesman or financial planner in any capacity. I am however, an owner of a WL policy (one year in) which I got through a friend in the business. I admittedly jumped into this without doing the proper due diligence as more of a favor to him. I have had anxiety about this decision since, and am days away from my second annual premium payment and have thus spent a great deal of time researching and thinking about the implications of this asset. I am at a “cut my losses and run crossroads”. Is this a quality asset, or do I cut and run and chalk-up the loss as the cost of a lesson learned in letting others do my independent thinking for me (two implications here are that 1) I do believe that the person who sold me this actually believes in the products and 2) that doesn’t mean that he is right and any person, no matter how financially savvy, who is willing to dedicate the time, can do the research and come up with their own view). I say all of this to admit that I am biased, even if only sub-consciously, as I have tried to think in a balanced manner with regards to this decision. All of that being said, I am currently leaning towards keeping the asset in place and welcome thoughts. My current logic below.

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Retrospectively rated insurance is a method of establishing a premium on large commercial accounts. The final premium is based on the insured's actual loss experience during the policy term, sometimes subject to a minimum and maximum premium, with the final premium determined by a formula. Under this plan, the current year's premium is based partially (or wholly) on the current year's losses, although the premium adjustments may take months or years beyond the current year's expiration date. The rating formula is guaranteed in the insurance contract. Formula: retrospective premium = converted loss + basic premium × tax multiplier. Numerous variations of this formula have been developed and are in use.
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I am looking at it all from the perspective of an inheritance. In my line of work, I see pensions and IRA’s taken by healthcare and Medicaid all the time. Heirs are left with nothing and it is sad. Im researching and researching but cannot find something that is safe enough, can grow to at least $100,000 for thirty so years, and cannot be taken touched aside from….life insurance. I have elderly grandfathers who left their families w/ something because of life insurance. My veteran grandfathers
2. My analogy to a house wasn’t intended to compare the merits of an investment. It was simply a way to explain the Cash Value of a policy, in terms that people could understand better. We many times hear the argument about Whole Life Cash value: “It’s my money. Why do I have to borrow against it?” Giving the analogy of a home (or for that matter any asset of value, be it real estate, or stocks, bonds or mutual funds held in an account that allows for margin loans) helps people understand the difference between an asset that has value, to actual cash. It also helps people understand why sometimes it is preferable to borrow against an asset, rather than liquidate the asset.
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It’s a great point about the cost causing people to be underinsured. I have no idea if there are any statistics on that, but intuitively it would seem to make sense. It’s a shame if someone with a real need for life insurance is under-protected because a salesman could make a bigger commission off the more expensive product. But I’m sure it happens.
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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But a question for you. Do you have clients that have had an overfunded life policy when markets are tanking and can use that cash to float their business and still earn money while their money is loaned out? Talk about a winner. I have a lot of clients that are in business today because of their policies (and the people still employed). Especially when the interest can be written off. But then again some super conservative clients love them. I guess I’m just bummed you didn’t go any further but I am on a site not geared for my clientele. So here is another free post to build up the conversation and the controversy so you can cash in on the traffic.

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