Hi Christine. First of all, thank your for stopping by. Second of all, please don’t beat yourself up over this. Life insurance salesmen are trained to make these policies sound REALLY attractive and their arguments can be quite persuasive. I actually found myself feeling close to convinced about one of these policies a few years ago before coming to my senses.

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!

So what happens at 65 or so after the term policy ends? It will renew but at what rate? What if the payout isnt enough to cover funeral costs and any remaining debt? The average American can barely retire and be comfortable let alone have enough money stashed away in a bank or in investments to help with any costs or debts after he/she has passed away. Term life is great for those who have had good careers most of their life and have a nice savings and investments to cash in on in the later stages of life. Unfortunately, that is not the average American. You only presented one side of the coin.


If you need life insurance (which in order to find out , you must ask yourself one question : am I going to die ?) a Whole Life Insurance policy is a non-risky , non-volitile way of earning a high rate of return with a very conservative risk portfolio. A whole life policy is part of a healthy financial portfolio. It grows with preferential tax treatment and pays tax free to your beneficiary or estate. In nearly every case of par Whole life if you are under 50 you will have a cash surrender value equal to 100% and up to 800% of the premiums paid.
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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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Also a comment on the “non-guaranteed” argument. Yes if you do business with a company not named Mass Mutual, Northwestern Mutual, or New York Life, you are likely getting ripped off. But if you work with a reputable company, they have paid dividends every year for 150+ years. So yes, legally speaking, returns are not guaranteed, but every year for 150 years sounds pretty good to me. Just as asset class diversification is important, so is tax and risk diversification, which permanent insurance provides.

Are you asking about people with terminal illnesses? If so, then I’ll admit that my knowledge in that particular area is limited. But my understanding is that a term policy would be very difficult if not impossible to find and there are some special kind of whole life policies you may be able to get. If that’s the situation you’re asking about, then it’s really not a whole life vs. IRA decision. It’s a decision on whether you should invest or whether you should insure. That’s a very different question than what’s being discussed in this article.

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Thanks for reaching out Wanda. The answer really depends on the specifics of your policy, your personal goals, and your overall financial situation. To be completely honest, if you’re already 13 years in and continuing to pay the premiums isn’t too much of a burden, keeping the policy may actually be the best choice going forward. But the only way to know for sure is by doing a detailed review. That is something I could do for you, and if you’re interested you can email me at matt@momanddadmoney.com to get the conversation started.

The mortality of underwritten persons rises much more quickly than the general population. At the end of 10 years, the mortality of that 25-year-old, non-smoking male is 0.66/1000/year. Consequently, in a group of one thousand 25-year-old males with a $100,000 policy, all of average health, a life insurance company would have to collect approximately $50 a year from each participant to cover the relatively few expected claims. (0.35 to 0.66 expected deaths in each year × $100,000 payout per death = $35 per policy.) Other costs, such as administrative and sales expenses, also need to be considered when setting the premiums. A 10-year policy for a 25-year-old non-smoking male with preferred medical history may get offers as low as $90 per year for a $100,000 policy in the competitive US life insurance market.

Although insurance brokers work for their clients, they aren’t paid by them. Instead, they make commissions based on their sales. The commission is a percentage of the premium cost and varies by state law. It usually is between two and eight percent of the premium. If you work with a broker to buy homeowners, automobile, health, business, life or any other type of insurance, you will not pay them a fee for the services they provide.


Auto insurance isn’t only great protection for your vehicle, it’s also the law. All states require some degree of insurance for your vehicle to protect you and other motorists. Coverage requirements will vary based on your financial responsibility for your car and your state’s requirements. Some states even require you to have liability insurance before you even get a license.

Now, it turns out that we have higher, broader family obligations than I anticipated 20-27 years ago. My wife and I plan to possibly keep working past 65 (which I hadn’t anticipated) and would like to be able to fund these obligations even if we were to die before our now planned time to stop working (that goes past the periods anticipated by the terms of our term policies). Our term policies and term coverage are beginning to expire and due to certain issues, at best, we would have to pay very high premiums for anything I would try to purchase now, if we would qualify at all.
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.
Once you write the check, it’s insurance company money. After some time, you may have the right,to borrow some money from them. They decide how much insurance they will pay and how much you can borrow. Let’s take a look at what they have named a universal policy. Let’s say you want to get the savings started right out the door. So you write them a check for $5000. Next month you have an emergency an ,you kneed $25.0/0. Too bad! In a few years, you’ll have a few dollars in cash value. First year or two – none! Now let’s say they have have a guaranteed return of 4%. N ow if you actually have a “cash value” of some kind, don’t you think there would be something there? 4% of WHAT = $0 ??? It’s all insurance company money – they said so to the US government in 1985.
2. Term life insurance WILL cover funeral expenses, but only for as long as it is in place. Whereas whole life insurance does not expire and could therefore cover those costs indefinitely. But in most cases it’s more prudent to simply build up your general savings, which could then be used for anything, including funeral expenses, and only keep the insurance around as long as you really need it. It’s not an incredibly cost efficient way to pay for final expenses.
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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.

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Add to this, when a younger person owns whole life (or cash value fixed universal life) they have the life insurance coverage they need, are building a tax free bond portfolio for the future (which as most people realize is what older investors shift into as the age) but also have a accumulation vehicle that can “self complete” if they become disabled. 401k’s can’t provide this…they don’t even match the long term return of the do nothing stock markets because of the fee’s they charge. That is to say…there is no “alpha”
Finally, IF you decide that these are not the right policies for you, it’s generally better to cancel sooner rather than later in order to minimize the amount of premiums you pay. You should even look at your policy to see whether you’re still within an initial period where you could get all your payments back. Again, I’m not saying that you should cancel, just that if you do want to cancel it’s better to act quickly.

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The insurance company calculates the policy prices (premiums) at a level sufficient to fund claims, cover administrative costs, and provide a profit. The cost of insurance is determined using mortality tables calculated by actuaries. Mortality tables are statistically based tables showing expected annual mortality rates of people at different ages. Put simply, people are more likely to die as they get older and the mortality tables enable the insurance companies to calculate the risk and increase premiums with age accordingly. Such estimates can be important in taxation regulation.[10][11]
I mentioned investment allocations earlier. There are other ways to get stock market returns with Whole life insurance as well. I am not talking about “Variable Life Insurance” either. Those who purchase these policies loose the benefit of having an insurance company retain some of their investment risk. To obtain market returns, a person simply invests in long call options on the broad market. In doing this, an investor earns stock market returns but transfers their downside risk to the owner of the index (SPY or SPX). The options will be worthless or appreciate (sometimes 500%). Coupled with the guarantees of the over funded cash value life policy, their portfolios will not decrease below a certain point in any given time but they can destroy the market in up years. This all takes 10 minutes to manage and about $20 in cost (compared to an asset manager charging a percentage,) Because life insurance is guaranteed to maintain its value, it protects the remaining money that is not tied up when directly invested in stocks and is available to that an investor can be “greedy when others are fearful” (Warren Buffet) or “buy low while others are selling”.

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