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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.
Your comment on term insurance allowing you to convert at anytime is inaccurate. You must read the conversion language as it is designed to protect the insurance company. Met life for example states ” During the conversion period shown in the policy schedule you can convert this policy, while it is in force with all premiums paid, to a new policy–On a plan of permanent insurance, with a level face amount, available on the policy date of the new policy.”. Some term plans won’t let you convert after 10 years or if your over age 65. Imagine having a 20year $1,000,000 term plan and getting cancer in the 19th year. You want to convert but find out the conversion period ended in the 10th year. Also, the company typically determines which plan you can convert to. Maybe its just 2 plans out of the 8 they offer. What is the likelyhood of those being the best 2 plans available? Alas, no one reads the contract or the prospectus for that matter. My dad always said “the big print givith and the small print taketh away.”
My parents had been paying into a whole life policy for many years and did not pay much attention to the cash balance over that time. When they finally had evaluated what they had in the policy, they discovered the ‘cost of insurance’ on the now older policy had increased so much that the premium they had been paying no longer covered the costs of the policy and the balance needed was being withdrawn FROM THEIR CASH VALUE. Needless to say, the insurance company or their agent did not notify them of this, so a policy that they had paid $75,000 into had a cash value of just $12,000 and was actually decreasing in value. Whole life policies are advertised as you paying the same premium amount for the entire life of the policy, but in the small print they are apparently allowed to adjust for the ‘cost of insurance’. It’s a brilliant scam. Pay attention to the policies you have.
And I agree with you Matt. People that just try to make a buck on someone else’s loss or something they truly can’t afford is despicable to me. And I apologize for my “are you licensed?” Comment. Your actually doing a noble thing as a father and informing people that need to hold on to what they can or invest it correctly in this economy. I have a lot of business owners and high end clients and I sell them whole life for a ton of reasons. But for my blue collar average joe or even white collar for that matter, I just wanna take care of them and their families. They’re not my customers their my clients. And that’s drilled into us by New York Life, I hope you have continued success in your Financial Planning career. God bless you.

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1 The Banking Benefits – Deposit Introductory program offers a high yield fixed Introductory Rate during the first 12 statement cycles after opening a new Consumer Money Market Savings account with State Farm Bank. A new Consumer Money Market Savings account means you cannot have an existing Money Market Savings with the same ownership currently open or which closed within the last 12 months. Your Benefit account balance must remain below $5,000,000 to earn the Introductory Rate. If the account balance is $5,000,000 or above, you will earn the Standard Rate on your entire balance. The new Money Market Savings must be a Personal or Trust account. IRA Money Market, Estate, Uniform Transfer to Minors, and Business accounts are NOT eligible.

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Medicare Brokers like Boomer Benefits also often provide simple and easy education to you about how Medicare works. Every year, thousands of Medicare beneficiaries feel frustrated after trying to read the Medicare handbook. At Boomer Benefits, we will educate you by breaking Medicare down into pieces that are easier to understand. This is why we are so well known as the baby boomer’s favorite insurance agency.

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You’re right, there is a guaranteed portion of these policies. And like I say in the post, that guaranteed portion is nowhere near the illustrated return and is much less attractive than how it’s presented (e.g. a 4% “guaranteed” return is not actually anywhere near 4%). So to say that there’s a guarantee and somehow equate that to the numbers you presented earlier is, in my mind, misleading.

I think everyone here that is naysaying Matt’s article needs to realize he is speaking generally to the masses and not the upper middle class/affluent. Matt, perhaps move that paragraph I highlight to the front of the article to disarm some of these people and clarify you are speaking to people whom buying whole life would come at the expense of maxing their 401k, owning their home, having emergency savings, stocks etc… For those that have the aforementioned AND have a life insurance need, a good policy with a quality company may be worth considering. But for young people especially with limited assets, term insurance products are preferable. Perhaps re-title the article “Why Whole Life Is Not Appropriate For Most People”.


Actually, there is one case which I use which is beneficial for whole life. As you get older, if you set up a Charitable Remainder Trust along with an Irrevocable Life Insurance Trust for your children, it is a win-win. You get the income from the trust, the charity/charities gets the benefit of the assets upon your death, and the ILIT (Irrevocable Life Insurance Trust) pays your kids while removing these assets from your estate. I think this particular situation is a win for all. Early in life though, I would definitely not do this and choose a Level Term Policy instead.
This article was 100% devoted to the investment component, but I do agree that there are circumstances where the insurance component can be very valuable. I was actually recently thinking about your previous comment, which was along the same lines as this one. I haven’t run the numbers, as it’s very difficult, if not impossible to find online quotes for whole life insurance where you don’t have to give out your contact information. But if you’re truly worried about having money available for funeral expenses, I wonder if it would be more cost efficient to set up an irrevocable trust with terms that the money in the trust could only be used for funeral expenses. Anything left over could go to the estate. I have a hunch that the one-time cost involved there would in most cases be less than the ongoing cost of a whole life policy. Like I said, I haven’t run the numbers to be sure, but it would certainly be worth considering. This is actually something I could find out pretty easily with a couple of emails. Sounds like a future post!

There have been enough people screwed over by stock insurance company agents to justify this article. However, before jumping to conclusions about Whole Life, I would recommend everyone research the business structure of a “Mutual Insurance Company” such as MassMutual or Northwest Mutual. These companies are literally owned by the policyholders and have historically paid dividends that equal the premiums of a whole life policy within 1.5 decades. They also typically perform better than the illustrations. It’s not necessarily an “Investment,” but sacrificing higher returns for security in the form of liquid cash and life insurance coverage seems like a wise decision to me.
You’re typically asked about your current and past health conditions, and your family health history. The insurer may ask for your consent to get your medical records and may ask you to take a life insurance medical exam. Insurers will also check other data sources to determine term life insurance quotes. More: What you need to apply for term life insurance
Well, actually, that was a fairly slanted article from someone who is advocating in his best interest from his point of view. Most Brokers are highly ethical and Brokers (not agents) DO have a fiduciary responsibility to their clients. Most CFO’s also do not allow their Brokers to “last minute” them nor have an uncontrolled process. One of the biggest problems is not the Broker or Agent, but divisional reluctance to co-ordinate safety and loss prevention efforts WITH the CFO so that the CFO has a basis to negotiate with first of all, and for the organization to take a portion of it’s risk and self-insure where financially appropriate. For example, the adoption of telematics in fleets has moved very slowly and their is no good reason for proactive management to have allowed that to happen. That takes proactive risk management and coordination which is why many CFO’s have a risk manager position in their department.
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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.
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.
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This isn’t entirely accurate. Whole life insurance isn’t a product designed to replace term insurance. It wouldn’t make sense to have a retirement account disappear in the event of someone passing early. This would be irresponsible on the part of an agent to suggest this. Whole life has to be used with the intent of using it as collateral for loans, enhanced retirement and for leaving a legacy. In the early years it should be set up with a term rider to ensure a family’s needs will be met. Yes this is more expensive but it is a tool with an objective and if that’s not the objective then whole life makes no sense at all. It is not right for everyone.
I am an agent with one of the top companies and have been for 5 years. The “buy term and invest the rest” sounds like a great idea but here’s what I have found. People don’t actually do it. You cannot change human behavior. I try to hold my clients accountable and want them to do the same for me. If a client is a spender, they will never stop being a spender. For those people we design a savings plan that let’s them spend their money guilt free, as long as they hit their monthly savings goal, they can spend what they wish.

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I wish I did my research 6 years ago before getting a $2 Million Dollar NYLIFE Whole Life policy. I was paying $1,000/month into it and 2 years ago lowered it to a 1.5M policy and was paying $500/month. In total my Cost Basis is $55K and my Cash Value is just $24k. A LOSS of over $30K! **CRINGE** And there is nothing I can do about it so I’m going to cash out and put towards my existing index funds. This $h!t should be ILLEGAL! My research shows that the insurance agent ate up 90% of my monthly premiums for the first couple years. Family/friends referred him for this ‘Investment’. He ate up all their premiums as well even though their policies were lower than mine. He passed away last year at the age of 60 due to a heart attack. Karma?
First, a term life insurance policy will cost much less than a whole life insurance policy with the same death benefit, often around 12 times less. So your example of a $30,000 whole life policy with a $20 premium compared to a $30,000 term life policy with that same $20 premium is not a valid comparison. The term life premium would be a fraction of the whole life premium.
Many institutional insurance purchasers buy insurance through an insurance broker. While on the surface it appears the broker represents the buyer (not the insurance company), and typically counsels the buyer on appropriate coverage and policy limitations, in the vast majority of cases a broker's compensation comes in the form of a commission as a percentage of the insurance premium, creating a conflict of interest in that the broker's financial interest is tilted towards encouraging an insured to purchase more insurance than might be necessary at a higher price. A broker generally holds contracts with many insurers, thereby allowing the broker to "shop" the market for the best rates and coverage possible.
Hi James. Sorry for the late reply! So I’ll be honest that I’m not an expert on this exact strategy, but my understanding is that it’s generally something you might look to implement later in life, closer to when you’re actually making the decision about what type of pension payout you want. That’s simply because there are a lot of variables involved that could make it either more or less advantageous, and if you’re in your early 30s it’s just hard to know what all of those variables will look like 30 years down the line.
Analysis: In what other circumstance do customers sign contracts without seeing them? The full policy language is not presented as part of the proposal. And don’t count on the broker to know, or be able to negotiate, the terms. A broker proposal typically contains language like “Your review of these documents and any review you may seek from legal counsel or insurance consultants is expected and essential.”
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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Actually I’m satisfied with your response. Because it makes sense, people without the money shouldn’t purchase whole life. We only tell our clients if they can afford it to purchase it. That’s common sense. And if you need something that will take care of your expenses when you are gone and don’t have a lot of money, then term is the way to go. If you have the money whole life is a good tool for tax diversification. But there is too much to talk about that those of us that are in the industry and are actually licensed to help people in these areas and it would take up too much space. We’d be having this discussion for months. But you make valid points, but to say whole life is a bad investment just seems wrong, because of the percentage of people that can use it, it works perfect. I have a friend who makes $80,000 a month who recently came into oil and was discouraged by blogs like this. After I explained to her how ridiculous blogs like this are for her situation she was actually calm and more receptive. I appreciate you informing the public. And in our jobs we do that well enough, I think instead of trying to be Dave Ramsey, you should just title it, “Why Whole Life is a Bad investment for the average Joe or 98% of the population.
Keep in mind, not all insurance companies use agents. You can do business directly with many companies by purchasing coverage online. These policies may be less expensive since the company doesn't have to pay the agent's commission. Regardless of how you buy the policy, make sure the company is licensed in your state, is financially stable and check to see if they have complaints. 

I, 22 year old male, can pay ~$13,000 into a universal life policy throughout the next 20 years (~$650/yr, ~55/mo), never touch it again, and that will provide a death benefit of $100,000 until I’m at least 75 years old (I will put more money in of course since I plan on living past 75). That’s also a flexible premium policy with one of the most financially stable companies, so I would say that’s a good investment for my future children/grandchildren. Maybe not for myself, but at least my premiums won’t be more than $100/month when I’m old, assuming I still have excellent health and am insurable. With term I can get it insanely cheap now, but what about when I’m 50-60 and closing in on retirement? My premiums would hopefully be under $200/mo. at that point assuming I have excellent health or guaranteed insurability.

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