Matt; Thank you for the thought provoking information you have taken the time to post here. My question: I am 66 and my wife 54. We got a whole life policy several years ago. We wanted insurance that would extend into our 70’s and 80’s (if we are so blessed), because we experienced how end of life costs for elderly parents can add up and be a possible burden to the children. we also want the surviving spouse to be assured of not being cleaned out financially. When I looked at the numbers; Cash value plus death benefit plus a long-term care rider, it seems to be a pretty good return, after all, we know for sure that we will die. I am not aware of term insurance policies for people much past the age of 70 for $200,000 or more. Am I looking in the wrong places or is my think askew?

Your premise is that whole life insurance is a bad investment. Fine, however, it is not a bad purchase. It is insurance and when thinking about the defined purpose of insurance then it can be a different story. Your electric service is a bad investment but think of the difficulty in living without electricity. Sure you could invest the bill amount each month into a nice Roth IRA but we seek the benefits of the service and willingly pay the bill. I suggest that people look at insurance the same. In my case and for my intent, whole life insurance was prudent. Like any car lease deal or stock purchase, there can be good and bad deals; one should not declare all forms at all points in time to be definitive. I gifted my child a whole life policy. The rates for a young person are as good as they get; she will never have insurance bills nor be without insurance. There is much left to explain but in short her $25,000 baby policy is growing $1,000 per yea. She will never have to pay a premium but will have $225,000-$350,000 payout one day while providing some protection also during the income/mortgage/child rearing adult years because I purchased it for her at the cost of $120.25 per year! No way could a poor farm kid without inheritance or wealth and limited income but high student loan debt create that kind of wealth for his children in the immediate or most vulnerable time period. To leave her in the same boat, as my parents did, is in no way wealth building. I got married and had mortgage, student loans, and large term life insurance bills because to go without any seemed irresponsible having no wealth but whole life was too expensive. So yes, it is far from a great investment but it is the most responsible gift I ever gave my child. It will not depreciate like a car and it is more certain than lottery tickets! Could I really produce that protection for her with liquidity via investing for only $120 per year? Tip: an insurance agent once told me (he should not have mentioned it) they have NEVER paid out on a life insurance policy because people always eventually let them expire and quit paying on them. Rates are so cheap for young healthy people because they are not likely to die. So this is also an exercise in discipline and responsibility not just finding the right stream to pan for gold.
Also, during your life if the policy pays 4% and you take a loan against the policy (for any reason) the net effect is that you are paying yourself the 4%, and perhaps 1 or 2% to the insurance company. CSV collateral loans typically are cheaper than unsecured loans, or auto loans. Used properly the whole life insurance contract is one of the most versatile wealth building tools.
Protected self-insurance is an alternative risk financing mechanism in which an organization retains the mathematically calculated cost of risk within the organization and transfers the catastrophic risk with specific and aggregate limits to an insurer so the maximum total cost of the program is known. A properly designed and underwritten Protected Self-Insurance Program reduces and stabilizes the cost of insurance and provides valuable risk management information.

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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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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.
Property insurance as we know it today can be traced to the Great Fire of London, which in 1666 devoured more than 13,000 houses. The devastating effects of the fire converted the development of insurance "from a matter of convenience into one of urgency, a change of opinion reflected in Sir Christopher Wren's inclusion of a site for 'the Insurance Office' in his new plan for London in 1667."[4] A number of attempted fire insurance schemes came to nothing, but in 1681, economist Nicholas Barbon and eleven associates established the first fire insurance company, the "Insurance Office for Houses," at the back of the Royal Exchange to insure brick and frame homes. Initially, 5,000 homes were insured by his Insurance Office.[5]
Second, when it comes to investing, my experience shows that most insurance companies charge MUCH higher fees than are necessary. And since cost is quite possibly the most important factor when it comes to investing, that matters a lot. I would much rather see people using a simple, low-cost index investing strategy that’s both easy to implement and backed by all the best research we have as the most likely route to success.
First, there are your regular whole life policies that are non-{articipating and then there are those that are Participating. Participating policices earn dividends which is called a “return of premium” however with that dividend it purchases more insurance and the coverage keeps going on as long as a dividend is paid, the more coverage the more dividend, the more dividend the more coverage etc. After 25-30 years a person can stop paying for the policy and take reduced paid up insurance and keep the insurance enforced for the rest of their lives without paying a single cent. This is one of the features I absolutely love about participating whole life.

Analysis: That just means that your incumbent insurer’s underwriter won’t approve that coverage. The broker isn’t willing to do what’s needed to get the deal done, which is shopping the coverage to other insurers — exactly what brokers are supposed to do. It’s clear that this is the case, because on occasions when a second broker appears to bid on your business, you’ll find that suddenly the coverage you wanted becomes available after all.


A corollary to the liquidity issue is the concept of flexibility of your contributions. Even with a 401(k) or IRA, where you can’t access your money without penalty, you can always choose to stop contributing for a period of time if you need that money for other purposes. In the meantime, your account stays intact, steadily earning tax-deferred returns on the money you’ve already put in.


Your point about eventually not having to pay premiums is a common one used by agents, and in some cases that does happen. But in many cases it doesn’t, or at least it doesn’t happen as early as is illustrated and the policyholder is left paying premiums for longer than they had anticipated. The point is that this is not a guarantee, and it’s important for people to understand that.
State Farm® Life Insurance Company (Not licensed in MA, NY or WI) or State Farm Life and Accident Assurance Company (Licensed in NY and WI) can help you find coverage that's right for you and your loved ones. Our life planning videos and calculator can help you understand your options, and figure out how much and what kind is right for you, before getting your life insurance quote.
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.
Many great points and counterpoints. My two points against cash value in general is the monthly cost and the “investment”. Very few people can afford that monthly premium. It is good that you can borrow from the cash value because you will need to at times to make ends meet. Because once you try to make monthly premiums over and over on cash value, you realize the extra $200 to $300 per month that is going out could be in you pocket helping to pay basic living expenses. Then the investment that does have healthy returns. I can look at historical returns for Invesco, American Funds, Fidelity, etc. that go back to the 1960s and 1970s that return an average of 10% + since inception. Why would I pass that up for returns of 5% or lower? Plus, if the policy holder is not careful, their investment can go back to the insurance company. I want my investment to go to me and then my heirs. I strongly oppose cash value as it only benefits a small percentage of the population. The vast majority of the middle class cannot afford it. Once my investments reach a certain amount, I am dropping my term policy because I am now self-insured. Pay as little for insurance(premiums) and get the most coverage (death benefit). If cash value were so good, the investment portion would pop-up in other types of insurance (automotive, disability, etc.) Life insurance is the only type of insurance where it is located and is oversold to so many people that it will not help. Anybody reading the posts in this forum are already doing them selves a service by seeking to understand. Understand that Dave Ramsey and Suze Orman are on the side of the consumers. Base don the tone of my post, you can determine who I sell life insurance for and I am proud to do it. My commission is 1/10 of what a whole life agent makes. Also, we are the only life insurance company that encourages policy holders to drop their policy with us once they have financial independence. Our whole goal is get people out of insurance premiums and direct them to investment vehicles that build wealth. BTID. Buy term and invest the difference.
Then, when I was excitedly presenting what I saw at the meeting to my skeptical wife at home in front of my two babies, I began to remember what I learned from my reading all the stuff I googled earlier in the day especially the part about comparing this investment to other types of tax advantaged investments. And all of a sudden the excitement began to die down.
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.

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Underfunded whole life insurance may have only performed 4%. However, designed with additional premiums they have actually earned closer to 7% in the 30 years from 1984-2013. Even during the period between 1977 and 1982 where interest rates shot through the roof and bond holders didn’t recapture their losses for several years, over funder whole life returned 35% after the cost of insurance is considered.
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This is a very helpful example of why WL insurance IS a good investment: http://www.mypersonalfinancejourney.com/2013/04/infinite-banking-concept-whole-life-insurance.html. Also, Paradigm Life has several very good models to show how WL policies can out pace “buy term and invest the difference” products long term. One size does not fit all. I have Term Life insurance supplementing my WL policies right now, but they are all convertible. So I will be able to lump in money later and convert them into permanent policies with all of the borrowing and tax sheltered benefits.
On your questions about your specific offer, I would both say that most of the points from this post apply and that without knowing the specifics of the policy you’re being offered I can’t really give any concrete feedback. One thing I will say is that you wouldn’t simply be able to withdraw the $550k you mention tax-free. You would have to borrow from the policy, which would come with interest and potentially other fees and conditions. If you chose to surrender the policy and withdraw the money, the amount above what you have put in would be considered taxable income.

The ~4% ROR initially feels like an acceptable return given limited principal risk, tax advantages and the current returns on alternative safe investments. I personally feel that the market will be more susceptible to bouts of volatility and higher levels of inter-asset correlation in the future. The idea of a fixed investment with stable returns in the distribution phase of retirement is important to me.
Wow, what a great article, Matt. A couple of nights ago, I was listening to Clark Howard on the radio, and to my dismay, heard him start talking about one of the worst investments for college. He continued, and when he actually said whole life insurance, my heart dropped, because about ten years ago, my wife and I were talked into this “investment” for paying for our kids college.
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.
In the United States, life insurance companies are never legally required to provide coverage to everyone, with the exception of Civil Rights Act compliance requirements. Insurance companies alone determine insurability, and some people are deemed uninsurable. The policy can be declined or rated (increasing the premium amount to compensate for the higher risk), and the amount of the premium will be proportional to the face value of the policy.

Disability- what happens to your retirement plan contributions if you want to work but can’t? Your employer can’t even contribute for you… It’s illegal. Oh, a life insurance company will pay the premium for you along with any additional money that you scheduled to dump in… And continue to contribute forever if your remain disabled (if done right). That is called a “self-completing retirement plan.”
All points have merit but, like any service, unprofessional service can be punished by walking. However, point #4, “market blocking” is a particularly confounding practice in P&C (I don’t think this occurs in LIfe & Health). Market blocking is a matter which Insurance Commissioners could easily correct nationwide to the immediate benefit of the customer.
The specific uses of the terms "insurance" and "assurance" are sometimes confused. In general, in jurisdictions where both terms are used, "insurance" refers to providing coverage for an event that might happen (fire, theft, flood, etc.), while "assurance" is the provision of coverage for an event that is certain to happen. In the United States, both forms of coverage are called "insurance" for reasons of simplicity in companies selling both products.[citation needed] By some definitions, "insurance" is any coverage that determines benefits based on actual losses whereas "assurance" is coverage with predetermined benefits irrespective of the losses incurred.

Social insurance can be many things to many people in many countries. But a summary of its essence is that it is a collection of insurance coverages (including components of life insurance, disability income insurance, unemployment insurance, health insurance, and others), plus retirement savings, that requires participation by all citizens. By forcing everyone in society to be a policyholder and pay premiums, it ensures that everyone can become a claimant when or if he/she needs to. Along the way this inevitably becomes related to other concepts such as the justice system and the welfare state. This is a large, complicated topic that engenders tremendous debate, which can be further studied in the following articles (and others):


Typically, life insurance is chosen based on the needs and goals of the owner. Term life insurance generally provides protection for a set period of time, while permanent insurance, such as whole and universal life, provides lifetime coverage. It's important to note that death benefits from all types of life insurance are generally income tax-free.1
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Premiums paid by the policy owner are normally not deductible for federal and state income tax purposes, and proceeds paid by the insurer upon the death of the insured are not included in gross income for federal and state income tax purposes.[28] However, if the proceeds are included in the "estate" of the deceased, it is likely they will be subject to federal and state estate and inheritance tax. 

Any reputable source will report mutual fund and stock returns as “annualized” figures, which takes the sequence of returns into account. Another term for this is “geometric average”, which again accounts for the order in which returns are received. So while there are some financial “experts” out there touting average returns (cough, Dave Ramsey), for the most part what you’re talking about here is not a factor.
Except for the very wealthy, most people could benefit from a combination of a highly overfunded Whole Life Insurance policy, and a term policy to make up for the difference. For example, let’s say a 25 year old determines that he needs $3,000,000 of insurance. He might purchase a $1,000,000 Whole Life with an annual premium of $12,000, but overfund it buy paying $30,000. He would also get a term policy of $2,000,0000, which he might convert partially down the road, after the first Whole Life policy is well seasoned.
An insurance broker is experienced in different types of insurance and risk management. They help individuals and companies procure insurance for themselves, their homes, their businesses or their families. Brokers may focus on one particular type of insurance or industry, or they could provide advice on many different types of insurance. They provide a service to their customers in helping them find and buy insurance — usually at no cost to their client.
The author of this article has obviously not been exposed to the details, and perhaps unaware of the Canadian versions of whole life. His comments are just wrong on so many levels, it would take a book to refute them. To make such a blanket statement that all whole life policies are bad, is equivalent of saying because one BMW 750 was a lemon, don’t but one because they are probably all lemons. It is the application of these policies that is critical to understand, and yes they can be sold by inexperienced or crooked advisors looking after their own interests, but whole life has many positive applications both for individuals and especially for corporations.
MetLife has become aware of a recent phishing attack against some of our customers. ‘Phishing’ is a fraudulent attempt to obtain an individual’s personal information, often through a misleading email, text or other online communication. Keeping your personal information secure is a top priority of MetLife. That's why we encourage you to take precautions to protect your personal data, and why we do not ask you to verify your personal or account information by email, text message or online. If you suspect you received a phishing email, please forward it to: phish@metlife.com. Delete the email after you forward it, and do not click on any links it contains. If you believe you entered information into a linked website, change your login information immediately. For helpful hints to protect your personal information, visit the following website: https://www.consumer.ftc.gov/articles/0003-phishing

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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.
Here are a few more important items to keep in mind when dealing with Agents and Health Insurance: * There is no cost to using a Broker or Independent agent. If an agent helps a client purchase a plan with a specific company, the insurance company will pay the agent a small stipend each month in which the health insurance plan is kept in place. * With Affordable Care Act - ACA in effect insurance companies are dropping the multiple network option for more specific smaller networks, or only one network. Agents, whom do their job correctly, will help to make sure that your doctor is in network with the insurance company that you choose. * If you work with a Captive Agent make sure to check other options with non-captive agents so that you have all the information you need to make an informed decision. * Using an Agent as your personal representative should go beyond just purchasing a plan. When you have an issue with if a doctor is on a plan or if your medications are covered you should be able to refer back to your agent for help in getting these issues answered or resolved. A good agent will go above and beyond just "selling" a plan to you. * Agents are aware of the Open Enrollment times in which you can change plans. A good agent will send an email out reminding their clients each year that now is the time to move plans or insurance companies since there is only a small period of time (Open Enrollment in the Fall) in which you may move to a different insurance company each year for a Jan 1st effective date. * Each year when rates increase Brokers and Independent Agents will be able to see all the companies rates and plans for the new year and help you decide if you should move to a new insurance company or plan for the new year *Agents are aware of what a Qualifying Event is and if you can change plans each year, how to do that and what is required. With all the knowledge agents possess...why not take advantage of free!

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In the United States, brokers are regulated by the state (or states) in which they work. Most brokers are required to have an insurance broker license, which involves taking courses and passing an examination. Each state has different requirements for insurance brokers, which a broker must meet to be licensed in that state. Most states require insurance brokers to take continuing education courses in order to maintain their license. 

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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.
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.
Here are a few more important items to keep in mind when dealing with Agents and Health Insurance: * There is no cost to using a Broker or Independent agent. If an agent helps a client purchase a plan with a specific company, the insurance company will pay the agent a small stipend each month in which the health insurance plan is kept in place. * With Affordable Care Act - ACA in effect insurance companies are dropping the multiple network option for more specific smaller networks, or only one network. Agents, whom do their job correctly, will help to make sure that your doctor is in network with the insurance company that you choose. * If you work with a Captive Agent make sure to check other options with non-captive agents so that you have all the information you need to make an informed decision. * Using an Agent as your personal representative should go beyond just purchasing a plan. When you have an issue with if a doctor is on a plan or if your medications are covered you should be able to refer back to your agent for help in getting these issues answered or resolved. A good agent will go above and beyond just "selling" a plan to you. * Agents are aware of the Open Enrollment times in which you can change plans. A good agent will send an email out reminding their clients each year that now is the time to move plans or insurance companies since there is only a small period of time (Open Enrollment in the Fall) in which you may move to a different insurance company each year for a Jan 1st effective date. * Each year when rates increase Brokers and Independent Agents will be able to see all the companies rates and plans for the new year and help you decide if you should move to a new insurance company or plan for the new year *Agents are aware of what a Qualifying Event is and if you can change plans each year, how to do that and what is required. With all the knowledge agents possess...why not take advantage of free!

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To sell insurance products on behalf of a particular insurer, an agency must have an appointment with that insurer. An appointment is a contractual agreement that outlines the specific products the agency may sell. It also specifies the commissions the insurer will pay for each product. The contract usually describes the agency's binding authority, meaning its authority to initiate a policy on the insurer’s behalf. The agent may have permission to bind some types of coverage but not others.
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”.
1. Almost ANYONE can benefit from a well designed overfunded Participating Whole Life policy. Are you saying that the vast majority of the population has no place in their investment portfolio for a guaranteed fixed asset that provides long-bond like returns (coupled with a few other bells and whistles)? I would even argue that single people with no children might benefit from this product in the right amount and the proper structure (not to mention that some policies now have the option to pay for long-term-care). EVERY PERSON that cares for someone or something (be it a spouse, a child, a charity, or anything else) can benefit even more, by virtue of having a guaranteed death benefit. Such a benefit allows the comfort (and better cash flow with lower taxation) of spending down assets, rather than relying solely on returns on assets.
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Now that you have a better picture of the difference between term and whole life policies, you probably want to compare term life versus whole life insurance costs. To do so, you will need to directly compare the short and long term costs of a whole life policy and a term policy, based on factors like your age, the face value of the policy you want to buy, and whether or not you are a smoker.

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