I started Insurance Blog by Chris™ because I have a passion for insurance. Here at the blog, our job is to educate and inform people about the best insurance for them. Since then, we have grown into national brands with a large team of researchers helping people understand all forms of insurance.

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Rachael Brennan has been working in the insurance industry since 2006 when she began working as a licensed insurance representative for 21st Century Insurance, during which time she earned her Property and Casualty license in all 50 states. After several years she expanded her insurance expertise, earning her license in Health and AD&D insurance as well. She has worked for small health insu...

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Reviewed by Rachael Brennan
Licensed Insurance Agent

UPDATED: Mar 24, 2021

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Whole life insurance is one of the most popular, yet least understood financial vehicles. There are definitely times when it makes sense, but you need to know what you’re getting into.

There are a variety of different life insurance policies available for people who want to provide financial security for their family.

Whole Life Insurance is one of your options, but is it a good fit for you?

Let’s take a look at this type of policy and explain how it works, its pros and cons, sample whole life insurance quotes, and who should buy it so you can make an informed decision.

Table of Contents

What Is Whole Life Insurance?

Whole life insurance is a type of cash value life insurance designed to provide death benefit protection for your entire life.

Many individuals and businesses also use it for their tax-favored cash accumulation and access to cash value for you or your loved ones.

Key Features of Whole Life Insurance:

  • Guaranteed Level Payments
  • Guaranteed Tax-free Death Benefit
  • Cash Value Growth with Guaranteed Minimum Interest Rates
  • Tax-free Access to Cash Value via Policy Loan

Cash Value Definition: Whole life policies come with a sort of savings account, known as cash value, which earns a guaranteed minimum interest rate.As it grows, it can be used to pay policy premiums or the funds may be borrowed tax-free.

If you really want to dive deep, a whole life insurance definition is not where to start. It’s all about the benefits.

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Whole Life Insurance Benefits

Whether you’re interested in life insurance protection for your family or your business, whole life offers a few key benefits that help in either situation.

Some of these benefits are a guaranteed death benefit for life, the ability to build cash value, and the opportunity to earn dividends.

#1 Coverage for Your Entire Life

Unlike term, whole life offers guaranteed protection for your loved ones that lasts a lifetime.

Payments (premiums) are guaranteed to stay level as long as you pay on time, and your death benefit is guaranteed for life as well. Your death benefit may even grow if you buy “paid-up additions.” (See further down)

To lock in the best whole life insurance rates for your entire life, we recommend Health IQ.

#2 Tax-Free Death Benefit

While few things in life are truly tax-free anymore, life insurance proceeds to your heirs are one of them.

According to the IRS, “life insurance proceeds you receive as a beneficiary due to the death of the insured person are not generally includable in gross income, and you don’t have to report them.”

Please note if your estate exceeds certain limits, it may owe estate/death taxes, but the limits are generally very high. Currently (2019), at the federal level, your estate must exceed $11.4 million before it owes estate taxes.

… and you can DOUBLE that for married couples.

#3 Cash Accumulation with Loan Access

A portion of your premium is set aside and invested by the insurance company in an interest-bearing account known as your “cash value.”

Over time, the investment portion accumulates in value through the interest earned. Like the death benefit, the interest that accrues is tax-advantaged, as it grows tax-deferred, and even can be withdrawn tax-free if taken as a loan.

The cash value generally has a minimum guaranteed rate of interest and can be borrowed against or used to pay premiums if you find yourself in a stringent financial situation.

Benefits to Your Family:

  • Protection for Life
  • Supplemental Retirement Income
  • Pay Final Bills and Expenses

Benefits to Your Business:

  • Protect Business Income if a Key Person Passes
  • Retain Key Performers
  • Easy Plan Set-Up

Benefits of Cash Value:

  • Grows Tax-Deferred
  • Guaranteed Minimum Interest Rate
  • Tax-Free Access to Funds via a Loan

Types of Whole Life Insurance

Guaranteed Issue

For individuals with a terminal disease, they can buy a policy that is basically guaranteed acceptance. While these are technically whole life policies, they are 100% approval plays and not used for their cash accumulation.

We recommend American National for guaranteed issue whole life.

View Rates with American National

Final Expense

Many companies have policies with small death benefits ($1,000 to $20,000) that require no exam and limited questions to qualify.

These are final expense policies and like guaranteed issue, are not really cash accumulation plays. They’re all about quick and easy approval.

Straight Whole Life

This is your most traditional type of whole life policy. It’s your vanilla policy that covers you for life with level premiums for life.

Note: most policies allow you to stop paying premiums at age 100 but you still get the full death benefit at the insured’s death.

Single-Premium, 10-Pay, 20-Pay

Whole life policies may have various payment plans. You’ll enjoy the same benefits as straight whole life but get “paid-up” faster. This is a good option if you don’t like the idea of paying premiums for the rest of your life.

For exceptional cash value growth using 10-pay and 20-pay strategies, we recommend a Guardian whole life policy via our partner, Policy Genius.

View Rates with Policy Genius

Whole Life Insurance for Children

A valuable gift you can provide to your child or grandchild is the gift of life insurance.

The way many of these policies work is a parent or grandparent pays the premium, the policy grows (providing coverage as well), and at age 18, the child-turned-adult becomes the new owner of the policy.

At this time, she may use the cash values for whatever she wants (down payment for a house, college expenses, etc.). Or she may continue to pay the premium and keep the policy.

It’s really affordable with monthly rates as low as just $2 to $3 bucks and they’re easy to buy since there’s no medical exam.

How Whole Life Insurance Works

When you buy a whole life insurance policy, you need to have a basic idea of how it works and its components.

The first component is easy…

You’ll enjoy lifelong insurance protection as long as you pay your premiums on-time (and don’t deplete the policy of all its cash value.)

But when it comes to the cash value component, it’s a bit trickier.

Premiums, Dividends, Tax Advantages, and Access of Whole Life

It all starts with your payments (premiums).

When you pay into a whole life policy, the money goes to pay:

  • Cost of Insurance
  • Administrative Fees
  • Policy Fees

What’s leftover goes in to fund your cash value, which typically earns a minimum guaranteed interest rate.

Premium Flexibility

While your premium schedule will be fixed either for life or for a set period like 10 or 20 years, there is some flexibility.

If you miss a payment and you have sufficient cash values, the premium will still get paid.

How?

The policy “borrows” the premium out of your cash values.

Note: You’ll be charged interest on this loan, but it’s not as if you miss a premium, your policy cancels and you lose everything. There is some flexibility.

As your cash value grows, you could elect to stop paying premiums out of pocket altogether. As long as the policy has sufficient cash to fund the premium payments, you don’t technically have to pay out of pocket.

If your policy pays dividends, they can also be used to pay part or all of your premium cost.

Last – many policies include special “riders,” policy options that allow you to stop paying premiums (waive your premium payments) if you lose your job or become disabled.

Interest and Dividends

Your policy will earn a guaranteed minimum interest rate, typically around 1.5%-4% but it may (almost always) earn more. This will be applied to your cash value (not distributed to you).

It’s important to know the interest is credited to your cash-value account. Remember that 100% of your premium does NOT make it into your cash value, however. So if you see your policy was credited with, say, 3% in a given policy year, that was 3% earned on your cash value, not your total outlay.

If your policy pays dividends, you’ll generally have these main options using them:

  • Distribute dividends and take the cash (generally income tax-free)
  • Leave them on deposit to earn interest
  • Apply dividends to pay down your premium
  • Purchase paid-up additions – this increases your death benefit without increasing your premium and builds your cash value

Remember, dividends are not guaranteed. But many long-standing companies have paid them for years without fail. So they’re not technically guaranteed, but most policyholders do expect them.

Overall, you can expect to earn between 2-4% growth of your policy on your total premium outlay.

Tax Advantages

Some of the tax advantages you would enjoy in a whole life policy are as follows:

1. No Max Annual Contribution:

The IRS imposes a max contribution limit to qualified plans such as IRA’s and 401K’s. If you exceed the limit, your additional investment may no longer qualify for tax-favored status.

However, you can pay as much as you like into a whole life policy, provided that the policy is set up properly, and enjoy all the benefits below.

2. Tax-Deferred Growth

As your cash value grows, you won’t receive 1099 for the interest credited to your account each year, as you do in a taxable account. This helps your cash value to grow without getting hit by taxes in its accumulation phase.

3. Tax-Free Dividends

The IRS treats dividends as a return of premium, and are therefore not generally taxable. Some exceptions do exist.

4. Potential Tax-Free Access to Cash Values

If your policy has sufficient cash values to sustain it, you can access your cash for any reason in the following two ways:

  • Withdrawal – Cash value withdrawals can be taken tax-free up to your “cost basis,” or the amount of premium outlaid. If you take more than your basis, withdrawals of gains will be taxed as ordinary income.
  • Policy Loan – Loans are not considered income by the IRS, so you could potentially access your cash values (even the growth) tax-free via a policy loan
5. Income Tax-Free Death Benefit

We have also already discussed the tax-free death benefit above. As you can see, there are several tax advantages you can enjoy in a whole life policy.

Monitoring Your Policy

Keep in mind accessing cash values (especially by loan) will affect your policy’s cash value, and may dramatically impact the long-term growth of your policy.

It’s also a tricky business. You can’t take too much cash value or your policy could implode. If you have gains in the policy, you could owe taxes on all the gains!

Be sure to run frequent illustrations with the company to be sure your policy will remain in good standing with no risk of lapsing, before withdrawing or borrowing!

Depending on its growth, you may need to modify plans to borrow money down the line or make other adjustments.

If all goes according to plan, however, your policy will earn interest (and possibly dividends), grow in cash value on a tax-deferred basis, and you may be able to access your funds for things like:

  • A Business Venture
  • Down Payment on a House
  • College Tuition for your Children
  • Supplemental Retirement Income

3 Types of Costs Paid by Your Premiums

When you decide on the amount of coverage, your premium is used by the insurance company and divided between the following costs:

  1. Administrative Costs – For administering the policy
  2. Mortality Cost – Applied toward the death benefit coverage
  3. Investment or Savings Portion – Applied toward the savings/investment feature after the above costs have been applied

Most policies offer a guaranteed minimum interest rate that your savings portion (cash value) earns, such as 1.5%, but keep in mind that only that is not a guaranteed interest on your gross payments.

You’ll only earn your guaranty on the premium directed into your cash value (what’s leftover after expenses).

Non-guaranteed dividends also play a big part in whole life cash value gains.

“Participating companies” also pay dividends. You can use your dividends (not guaranteed, but the companies pay them out just about every year like clockwork) to pay down your premium, or you can take them to buy what are called “paid-up additions,” which increase your cash value and death benefit.

Or, you can take them as cash like a stock dividend and use them to supplement your income.

You can also borrow from your cash value, which most people do, as this is typically a form of tax-free income (since it’s a loan). This is easy to screw up, so be sure to speak to a tax advisor.

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Whole Life Insurance Pros and Cons

While financial advisers argue about the merit of buying whole life insurance, we’ll take a non-biased look at some of its key pros and cons here.

Whole life insurance is especially strong in its predictability and consistency, due to its guarantees. However, critics argue it’s overpriced and offers low returns.

Pros of Whole Life Insurance

We’ve already discussed key benefits such as its fixed death benefit, payment schedule, tax-free access to cash values, and tax-free death benefits.

But here are some other advantages you may have not considered.

  • Estate Planning – Whole life is a good policy for estate planning because it covers you for life, and provides a death benefit and cash value which are both income tax-exempt.
  • Convenience – This is an excellent type of policy if you are primarily concerned about providing both a fixed death benefit and an investment feature, but have little understanding about investments.
  • *Possibly Exempt from Creditors – The cash value and death benefit may be exempt from creditors in the event you are sued, as the money is intended for your beneficiary.

* This is not legal advice. Please seek legal counsel for your state regarding the protection from creditors life insurance may or may not provide.

Cons of Whole Life Insurance

A few disadvantages of whole life are its higher cost in comparison to other types of life insurance, its rigid premium requirements, and its meager returns.

  • Little Premium Flexibility – Your premium is fixed and you cannot change it for the life of the policy. If you miss a premium, the cost of insurance will be deducted from your policy’s cash value and charged interest until the loan is repaid.
  • More Expensive – Because of the investment and administration costs, your monthly premium is much more expensive than term insurance, which covers death benefits only.
  • Repayment of Cash Value – If you borrow against the cash value, you have to pay it back and are also charged interest, as it is treated much like a loan.
  • Conservative – The interest you earn is conservative and the investment returns may be much less had you invested the money yourself.

We will discuss each of these in more detail below in our section “5 Reasons (Some) Financial Advisors Frown Upon Whole Life.”

Whole Life Insurance Quotes – How Much Does it Cost?

Let’s be honest — because of the superior benefits it offers, the cost of whole life insurance is considerably higher than term, a temporary type of coverage, or even its permanent alternative, universal life insurance, which doesn’t usually grow cash value as well as whole life policies.

That said, we recently collected whole life insurance quotes from five of the top whole life insurance providers in the industry, so we could provide you with an average cost of whole life insurance by age compared to 30-year  term insurance.

Sample Whole Life Insurance Quotes vs 30 Year Term

Age 30 Year Term Whole Life
30 Years Old $390 $5,376
40 Years Old $618 $8,006
50 Years Old $1,555 $12,726

*Sample quotes above for a male, non-tobacco user, in “preferred” health and are not to be construed as an offer for insurance. Actual rates based on underwriting approval, and change based on the state of residence. Subject to change.

Premium Options Affect the Cost of Whole Life

Limited Payment Options

When you purchase a whole life insurance policy, your agent will likely ask you if you want to pay level premiums for life (the lowest cost way to go) or, if you don’t want to be paying insurance premiums into your 70’s and 80’s, you could elect to buy a policy that gets paid in full in a shorter period of time.

For example, a “10-pay” will only require premiums for 10 years, and a “20-pay” will only require payment for 20 years, and so on.

Keep in mind choosing a limited pay option will increase your premium, so if you’re comparing quotes with other companies, be sure it’s an apple to apple comparison!

Dividends

If you have a policy that pays dividends, you could choose for your dividends to be applied to your cost of insurance, thereby reducing your premiums. Remember dividends are not guaranteed, so it’s hard to illustrate how your payments will be affected in future years by dividends.

Flexible Paid-Up Additions (PUA’s)

Most whole life policies have an option to buy “paid-up additions.” This will buy additional coverage (adding to the death benefit) and increases the accumulation value. It can be paid with dividends or out of pocket.

Some companies offer the choice to buy flexible PUA’s. For example, you might have a base premium of $250 per month but could actually pay $750 per month if you are able to. The additional $500 would go to purchase PUA’s, which would increase your cash value and death benefit.

The best part?

If you can’t afford the full $750 payment, you can always revert back to your base pay, and just not buy any PUA’s.

Again, many agents will give you whole life insurance quotes that include PUA’s because it’s great for cash accumulation, so if you’re comparing two policies with the same death benefit, and one is quoting the inclusion of PUA’s and the other isn’t, the payments will be VERY different.

For exceptional cash value growth using flexible PUA’s, we recommend a Guardian whole life policy via our partner, Policy Genius.

Know before you go.

Pro Tip: To keep costs down, many insurance advisors recommend blending term and whole life insurance for ample coverage in your earlier years, with some additional coverage guaranteed to last for life and cash accumulation. Best of both worlds!

Who Should Buy Whole Life?

The first rule of buying whole life insurance is that you really do need life insurance.

We are not big advocates for buying life insurance purely for investment purposes.

However, if you match with one of following then you’re an ideal buyer:

  • Have an actual insurance need
  • Can easily afford the premium
  • Like the idea of growing some additional cash (as part of a comprehensive financial plan)

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When Is Whole Life The Best Option?

Whole life can also be a Godsend in the following scenarios:

Business Insurance

Millions of big businesses fund executive compensation plans with whole life. It cuts through a lot of red tape and administrative issues that other plans carry.

On top of that, it’s great for retaining key employees, and can be structured to protect the business from a potential death while the employee is still working.

Resources:

Final Expense Coverage

Many policies offered over age 70 or 75 are only available as whole life policies.

These are typically small amounts of coverage, like $5,000 to $20,000, designed to cover funeral and burial expenses.

Buying a final expense policy is NOT typically an investment play. Our list of top final expense companies reviews some of the best policies.

Individuals with Health Concerns

In some instances, people can only qualify for a “guaranteed issue” policy due to health issues. These are often types of cash value whole life policies and could be a good choice if options like universal life or term are not available.

Our number one choice for whole life insurance with health issues is Health IQ.

View Rates with Health IQ

Estate Planning

There are situations when an estate may require life insurance for liquidity or estate tax purposes, and depending on the setup, it may be advantageous if the policy is a cash value plan.

Tax-Advantaged Investment Needed

If someone is seeking tax shelter investment opportunities after maxing out contributions to their 401(K) and IRA, (and they need life insurance), whole life obviously can help.

3 Tips for Buying Whole Life

If you are considering buying a whole life plan, the most important rule is to buy from a reputable, long-standing company with good financials.

Whole life insurance cash values are not FDIC insured (although some of the funds may be insured by your state guarantee fund). Still, you want to be sure your company will have the financial wherewithal to pay out any death claims or make good on withdrawals and other benefits.

For example, through our partner, Policy Genius, you have access to companies like Mass Mutual and Guardian.

Both have been in business for 100+ years and hold A++ financial ratings with A.M. Best. (Superior – Top category of 15 ratings) Either of those would be an excellent place to start.

Besides company strength, here are three other important tips to remember when considering whole life insurance.

#1  Use an Independent Agent

Independent agents can “shop the market” for the best policy to suit your needs.

If cash accumulation is your primary goal, you might use a different company than if your primary goal is getting approved for coverage with a high-risk medical issue like heart disease.

An experienced, independent agent will know which company is best for your particular needs.

For a quote from our #1 recommended independent agency, please visit Health IQ.

View Rates with Health IQ

#2 – Don’t Bite Off More Than You Can Chew

Remember this statistic if a whole life agent is trying to push you to buy a policy with a hefty premium.

Did you know that up to 40% of whole life policies are canceled within the first 10 years after purchase?

A study which was performed by the Society of Actuaries revealed that 20% of whole life policies are canceled with the first 3 years, and as many as 39% are canceled within 10 years of being purchased – because of the extreme cost of maintaining these policies!

If you do buy whole life insurance, be sure your premiums are easily affordable. Remember — life happens!

Perhaps a family member will need your financial support. Maybe you’ll decide to go back to school. Maybe, well, lots of things could happen…

But you don’t want to miss whole life payments (especially in the early years) as it can be very detrimental to the policy.

#3 – Diversify

Just One Piece of the Overall Financial Plan

Whole life insurance is best utilized in an overall diversified financial plan.

You should also be considering qualified plans like a 401k and IRA, taxable accounts, real estate and business assets, and more.

For example:

Say you’re nearing retirement and need income. If the market is down, it’s a nice benefit to be able to pull from your whole life cash values instead of your IRA or 401k. On the other side of the coin, say you take a big real estate loss or business loss one year, generating a tax loss for you. That might allow you to consider pulling heavily from your taxable investments (rather than your whole life policy) since you have losses to offset the taxable income.

Don’t let a pushy insurance salesman tell you to put all your eggs in the whole life basket.

Like all financial planning matters, your best bet is to diversify.

What’s the Difference Between Term and Whole Life?

One of the most popular types of life insurance besides whole life is a term policy.

Term life insurance provides life insurance coverage for a smaller, fixed period of time, such as 10, 20, or 30 years.

It costs substantially less than whole life and is typically used for short term needs such as:

  • income replacement
  • cover a debt such as a mortgage or a car loan
  • cover a key employee

Term doesn’t build cash value or have dividends like whole life either. Here are some of the key differences:

Features Term Life Insurance Whole Life Insurance
Coverage Duration 10-30 Years Life
Cost $20-$40 per month 10-15x more than term
Payments Level thru term Level for life
Cash Value N/A Grows with each payment
Dividends N/A
Primary Use Income Replacement Estate & Business Planning

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Cost Comparison of Term Versus Whole Life

Let’s look at one example to illustrate how much more a whole life policy could cost.

If a 35-year-old healthy, non-smoking male was to buy a 30-year term policy for $500,000, the cost would be around $39.00 per month or $468.00 per year. This would work out to approximately $14,040 dollars spent when the 30-year policy expires.

A Whole Life policy, on the other hand, will cost as much as $250 per month (possibly more) or approximately $3,000.00 per year. This means that by the end of 30 years, you will have paid about $90,000.

Now, some of this money would have been invested on your behalf, but will you really see a larger benefit from your whole policy than you would if you invested the annual savings on your term policy?

It’s possible that you would have been better off investing the $2,353.00 savings elsewhere, earning 6-8% on your investment.

Setting up an automatic withdrawal and applying it to other investment vehicles, such as a 401(k), IRA, or mutual funds, may earn you more in the long run.

This is why we recommend you don’t put all your eggs in the whole life basket. A good financial planner will tell you that you should be investing in various buckets.

Whole Life Policy Options

Be sure to ask your agent about the following policy options. Some may be available for free and some may be available at additional cost:

  • Waiver of premium due to disability – allows you to stop making payments if you get disabled.
  • Long term care or Living Needs Option – these benefits vary greatly, but the gist is they allow you to access a portion of your death benefit while still living for qualified long term care needs
  • Accelerated Death Benefit Due to Terminal Illness – allows you to access some of your death benefit (usually up to half) while you’re still living if diagnosed with a terminal disease.
  • Flexible Paid-Up Additions – allows you to establish a base premium that pays all policy expenses and direct additional premium dollars to buy paid-up additions, which increases the death benefit and cash accumulation.

Again, not all these are available with every company, so shop around.

A Low-Cost Alternative to Whole Life

When most people search for whole life insurance quotes, they use those words because they think this is the only type of policy offering coverage for their “whole life.”

Not true!

Ninety-nine percent of the time, when someone says they want permanent insurance, we actually recommend universal life insurance to them, with something called a no-lapse rider. (AKA – guaranteed universal life insurance)

Guaranteed universal life insurance is another permanent policy type designed to provide lifetime coverage. You’re guaranteed not to have a lapse in coverage as long as you pay your minimum premium as stated in your policy.

What we like about universal life insurance guaranteed to age 100 or 120 is that it’s easy to understand. It’s very similar to a term life insurance policy but is available for the rest of your life.

It does have a cash value account attached to it, but if you’re just paying the minimum and aren’t looking to accumulate cash in an insurance policy, you don’t really need to understand that component. Just think of it as a term to age 100.

So, if you’re looking for affordable lifetime coverage, consider getting a universal life insurance quote.

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5 Reasons (Some) Financial Advisors Frown Upon Whole Life

No fair and impartial review of whole life insurance would be complete without looking at the other side of the coin.

Personal finance celebrity, Dave Ramsey, is a staunch advocate for term life insurance. He calls whole life “the payday lender of the middle class.”

Here are the top 5 most common complaints we hear about whole life.

#1 – Whole Life is Risky with Forced “Contributions”

The argument is this:

Whole life doesn’t allow for “life” to happen. If you purchase a whole life policy and are not able to continue paying the premiums every year, you could lose some or all of your initial “investment.”

Example: Say you start a policy paying $5000 per year. In the third year of the policy you’ve paid $10,000, and your cash value is approximately $6,000. Say you are unable to make further premium payments. The policy will borrow the premium from the cash value.


Result:
The policy won’t support two borrowed premiums, and would lapse if you missed a second premium, likely costing you 70-90% of your initial investment.

Whole life’s ‘Forced contributions” are less risky if you’ve built up significant cash value or you are very wealthy and the premiums are never an issue, but still, subjecting yourself to forced premiums is risky.

*In most whole life policies you can only borrow up to 90% of the cash value, so actual cash value in example above available for a loan would be closer to $900.

#2 – Low Returns

The argument against whole life here is that policy fees and the high cost of life insurance drag down “investment” returns. Most experts estimate lifetime returns of 3-4%. Dave Ramsey says your return will average 2.6% for the life of the policy.

Note: Returns vary from company to company but are typically worst during the first 10 years of the policy. Most policies take 7 to 10 years just to break even.

#3 – Heavy Up Front Fees/Commissions

The fees & commissions argument goes like this:

An agent who sells you a Whole life product stands to make a ton of money.

Most agents make 80% to 110% of the first year’s premium. It’s no wonder that most policies carry steep surrender penalties during the first 10 years and don’t typically break even for 7 to 10 years.

Example: You buy a $5,000 whole life policy with a 90% first-year commission. Your agent will make $4,500. You can see why a lot of agents push expensive, whole life policies instead of term.

$5,000 Premium X 90% = $4,500 Commission

On top of that, your policy’s value will have the following expenses subtracted from it:

  • Cost of Insurance
  • Administrative Fees
  • Policy Fees
  • And in the first 15 years, typically, surrender charges

Note: It should be noted the expenses are heavily front-loaded, making whole life policy performance much better after the first 10 years than the first. That said, all of these expenses drag down your policy’s performance.

#4 – The Insurance is Expensive

Whole life costs 10-20x what term insurance costs, on average. And even if you need lifetime coverage, you can get a type of guaranteed lifetime coverage called guaranteed universal life, usually for half the cost of whole life.

  • Sample Prices:$250,000 Death Benefit
  • Whole Life: $4,003 annually
  • Guaranteed Universal Life to Age 100 – $1,385 annually
  • 30 Year Term – $357 annually

*Male, 40 years old, a non-tobacco user in excellent health. Not an offer for insurance. Individuals must apply and qualify for coverage. Rates vary by age & health and may be different than the stated rates above. May not be available in all states.

Opportunity Cost: It’s also important to note the opportunity you’re losing by purchasing whole life. If you bought term or “invested the difference,” many advisors say you’ll come out on top.

Resources:

#5 – Whole Life is Confusing

Some advisors point out the final argument against whole life:

Similar to Warren Buffett’s famous advice, “Never invest in a business you can’t understand,” should you be investing in a policy that few people, even insurance agents themselves understand?

Example: If I tried to sell you a package where you get cable TV & high-speed internet for only $1,000 per month, you would know it’s a rip-off. That’s because you know approximately how much both of those costs.

The problem with whole life is consumers are confused by the combination of two benefits: supplemental retirement income & life insurance.

Consumers don’t understand the cost/expected return of either, and that’s how they get confused by whole life pricing.

Resources:

So What’s the Truth of Whole Life Insurance?

Yes, whole life insurance agents can make a lot of money and may try to sell you more than you can afford because they’re enticed by big commissions. But that doesn’t mean it’s a bad product

That means you need to do a better job of choosing an agent. If you’re talking to an agent who “needs your business,” you’re at greater risk of getting bad advice that helps their pocket more than yours. Our recommendation here is using the advanced planning team at Policy Genius.

Policy Genius has a highly trained team of uber-successful agents that handle all whole life requests. If you want top-notch advice from the likes of CFP’s and CLU’s, who don’t “need” your business, we recommend our friends at Policy Genius.

It’s also correct that whole life insurance returns are not “sexy.” But it’s also a super-safe place to grow your money and has some tax advantages to it as well. It also blossoms into a larger death benefit if the insured dies, so it has that benefit over other “investments” too.

The bottom line is that in the right hands, and if the buyer is careful not to pay more than she can easily afford, whole life insurance is an attractive place to grow some of your money safely and confidently and offers the security of life insurance coverage to boot.

Options for Exiting Your Whole Life Policy

If you’re contemplating exiting a whole life policy, we strongly recommend you meet with a financial advisor and tax professional to discuss the implications.

If you’ve run the numbers and realized that a whole life insurance policy is not going to work for you, we highly suggest BEFORE getting rid of your whole life policy that you purchase term to satisfy your life insurance needs.

Please be sure that you have the new coverage in place before you cancel your existing life insurance. You don’t want to be caught uninsured.

Here are some options for those of you that decide to opt-out of your whole life insurance policy:

Surrender Your Whole Life Policy

The most simple approach is to cancel your policy and take the cash surrender value. In the meantime, if you still need coverage, you might want to consider buying a term or guaranteed universal life insurance policy prior to canceling your whole life policy to make sure you are covered.

NOTE: There may be tax ramifications when you cancel cash value life insurance. Always talk to a tax advisor first to find out how your personal situation will be affected.

1035 Exchange

Section 1035 of the IRS code permits you to transfer the cash value of an existing life insurance policy to a new policy similar in type…and the best part is there are no tax implications to do so!

We often suggest that clients consider transferring their accumulated funds to a Guaranteed Universal Life policy because the cost connected to this type of life insurance is very low.

The focus of a GUL is to provide guaranteed lifetime protection WITHOUT the cash value accumulation and investment component that makes whole life so expensive. In fact, this exchange could actually lower premiums by as much as 50% – 75%.

You may keep the same death benefits, but there is also another option to maintain your premium “as is”, and then ask your insurer for additional coverage as needed.

Hold on to Your Whole Life Policy

If you want to continue your existing policy, you can increase performance by paying your premiums annually. To achieve this goal you need to ensure that your dividends are set to purchase “paid-up additions”, and that your existing policy has a “Paid-Up Additions” rider.

This enables you to use as much of your premium as you can afford to buy paid-up additions without the policy becoming a MEC and ultimately if you find the payments are too expensive, they may be offset by your dividends.

Before you decide what to do, you should ask for several “in force illustrations” from your current life insurer to nail down what is guaranteed by your policy.

If you haven’t missed a premium payment or taken out a loan against the cash value, ask for an illustration showing how the occurrence of either one of these situations could affect your policy.

Be sure to use your imagination when you guesstimate how much you might want to borrow. Even if you aren’t considering this option right now, you should still pick an arbitrary figure and time frame to see what the reality would be if you wanted to exercise this option at some point in the future.

This will give you both the “best and worst-case scenarios” regarding your policy you can make an educated decision.