Term life insurance pays a specific lump sum to your loved ones for a specified period of time – usually from one to 20 years. If you stop paying premiums, the insurance stops. Term policies pay benefits if you die during the period covered by the policy, but they do not build cash value. They may also give you the option to port. That is, you can take the coverage with you if you leave your company.

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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.
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Thanks so much for the great article! My husband has a whole life insurance plan that was set up for him by his dad when he was a teenager, so he’s always had it. It’s expensive, though, and we’ve often talked about discontinuing it because it’s so pricey. Still not sure what the best route to take is, but I appreciate the very informative article!
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.

Thanks for the insightful article. I agree with the general statement that, in a vacuum, it is better to “buy term and invest the difference.” However, I’m interested to hear your thoughts on using whole life insurance as an investment vehicle in the context of the infinite banking model (assuming you are familiar with the concept). From what I understand, it sounds like a good way to achieve predictable and guarenteed growth on a compounded basis while allowing you to borrow money from your own policy and pay yourself the interest, all while always having access to the funds. I think it might be wise for people, like myself, are looking for guaranteed growth with little risk.


Moreover, with hindsight, because I suspect that the conversion options in the term policies, as I look into them, won’t prove all that attractive, I am thinking that it would have been optimum to have had universal or whole life coverage for closer to 20% of our aggregate, total original insurance coverage, rather than 10%. Still, while I am pretty satisfied that my prior decision-making was close to right, I do wonder if you see this all very differently.
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To be completely honest, I didn’t go into more detail about the things you talk about here because I don’t personally believe it’s relevant for the vast majority of the population, and certainly not for my audience. I am aware that if you have a certain level of income and net worth, an overfunded policy may be a good decision for you, which is why I even mention it at all. But for most people, even an overfunded policy would represent far too big a percentage of their overall asset allocation to make sense. You’d get into the lack of diversification issue, so it’s just not worth it.
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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.
Whole life insurance is by definition undiversified. You are investing a large amount of money with a single company and relying entirely on their goodwill to give you good returns. The insurance company will make their own investments and then decide what portion of their returns they would like to pass on to their policyholders. You are completely at their whim. If that one company goes bankrupt, has some bad years, or simply changes their outlook on paying out to customers, your return will suffer.

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Good question Pixley. Evaluating a policy that’s been in place for 7 years, as it sounds like yours has, is very different from evaluating a new policy. The key is to ignore everything that’s happened in the past and evaluate it only based on how you expect it to perform going forward. I would suggest getting an in-force illustration and running the numbers for yourself based on both the guarantees and projections. Every policy is different, especially those that have been in place for a while, so I really can’t say what you should expect.
Of course, it’s always more efficient to just save the money themselves. However, many people don’t and people often want to make sure that the money will be there when they are old and can no longer make decisions for themselves. Whole life is one way to do that. We chose term because it made more sense for us and it was so cheap since we were young when we bought. However, I’m just presenting the alternate viewpoint coming from someone who has filed many, many whole life policies on behalf of grateful families.
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).

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Example (Comprehensive): You park your car outside during a major hailstorm, and it's totaled. If you have comprehensive, we'll pay out for the full value of your car (minus your deductible amount). Example (Collision): You back out of your garage, hit your basketball hoop, and cause $2,000 worth of damage to your vehicle. If you have collision, we'll then pay for your repairs (minus your deductible amount).
As for the specifics of the infinite banking model, I’ll admit that I don’t know a lot of details. It’s always seemed to me to mostly be a clever marketing ploy more than anything else, but if you want a more informed opinion I would check out this article here: http://www.mypersonalfinancejourney.com/2013/04/infinite-banking-concept-whole-life-insurance.html.
Coverage that suits you. Comprehensive and collision coverage is just the beginning. Our policies also give you the flexibility to dial up (or down) your peace of mind. Choose from new car replacement2, special parts replacement3, enhanced rental car damage coverage4, and more. And because there’s only one you, receive identity theft protection5 at no extra cost.
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.
One other point. You emphasize the “tax free” nature of whole life here. I feel like I was pretty clear about that in the post and would be interested to hear your thoughts. Just blindly calling it “tax free” ignores the presence of interest (on your own money, by the way) which over extended periods of time can actually be more detrimental than taxes.
Hi Jim. A couple of corrections. She’s actually secured a $36,250 asset for $25,000, as that’s what she would walk away with today if she decided to stop paying the premiums. And it would not be tax-free if she surrendered the policy today. Yes she could take tax-free withdrawals from the $36,250 today, but as I discuss above they would be subject to interest which is essentially the same effect as taxation.
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.
Good question Steve. The full answer is that I don’t know exactly what options you have and it likely makes sense to talk to a good independent agent. But you are right that it is much harder to find affordable term life insurance as you get older, and in your case some kind of permanent insurance may make sense if you have an insurance need. Just make sure that you are only getting the features you need, and none that you don’t, so that your premium is being used as efficiently as possible. For example, if you are only buying it for the death benefit, do you need the cash value?

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So I should have guessed that this was some form of equity-indexed universal life, both because of the “IUL” in the acronym and because they are all the rage right now with insurance salesmen. They claim to provide stock-market returns without the risk, which is of course impossible. You did an excellent job here of laying out exactly why that minimum 0.75% return is nowhere near as attractive as it sounds, and one of the other big issues with many of these policies is that they don’t count dividends as part of the formula that determines your return, which is a pretty significant thing to leave out!
Brokers - Because a broker is solely focused on your unique needs, he or she can help with comparison-shopping, honing in on the best prices for the coverage you need. They can even advise you on how to best bundle or customize your policies in ways that agents might not be able to do (either because they are restricted in their policy offerings, or simply because they lack the insight into your specific needs).

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Weiner was talking about rolling returns for Vanguard. So, it’s his argument, not mine. And, this is a different issue from what you’re talking about anyway regarding annual returns based on monthy savings. So I’m not sure where you’re going with this or why you think it’s misleading. I believe Weiner got his figures from Vanguard…so…that would mean Vanguard is misleading itself? Doesn’t make sense man.
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If one were to buy a long dated bond with a yield of 4%, and interest rates go up, one could actually end up with a loss if bond not held to maturity. On the other hand, if one were to OVERFUND a participating Whole Life policy, the CASH VALUE IRR over 20 years would be around 4% (probably slightly above) based on current dividend scales. Yet if long term rates rise, so will the returns in the policy. As long as premiums are paid, the cash value in any given time will NEVER be less than the cash value a year earlier.
Life insurance helps you plan ahead and provide long-term financial security for your family when they would need it most. You can't put a dollar amount on your loved ones, but a term life insurance policy can help ensure their future is protected. Determine how much coverage you need and how long it's needed, and the GEICO Insurance Agency, Inc. and Life Quotes, Inc. can provide an affordable life insurance policy that is the perfect fit for you and your family. Get a life insurance quote online or call us at (888) 532-5433 and get the satisfaction of knowing your loved ones are protected.
Brokers - Because a broker is solely focused on your unique needs, he or she can help with comparison-shopping, honing in on the best prices for the coverage you need. They can even advise you on how to best bundle or customize your policies in ways that agents might not be able to do (either because they are restricted in their policy offerings, or simply because they lack the insight into your specific needs).
Calculable loss: There are two elements that must be at least estimable, if not formally calculable: the probability of loss, and the attendant cost. Probability of loss is generally an empirical exercise, while cost has more to do with the ability of a reasonable person in possession of a copy of the insurance policy and a proof of loss associated with a claim presented under that policy to make a reasonably definite and objective evaluation of the amount of the loss recoverable as a result of the claim.

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.


With whole life, both the MINIMUM size (your guaranteed cash value or your death benefit, depending on how you’re modeling it) and probability (100% if you keep paying) are known. So it is easy to model out your minimum expected return. And yes, that return stinks. It is usually far less than what you’d expect from investing in stocks. But there is a good reason for that.

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