Insurance

Term vs Whole Life Insurance: Everything You Need to Know

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Is Life Insurance a Good Investment?

Do you have a family? Are you concerned about what happens to your loved ones if you should pass away?

Life insurance provides you with the cover that pays out your beneficiary’s upon your death. We never know when we are going to go. By taking out life insurance, you protect your family against any unexpected circumstances surrounding your health and life.

However, is life insurance a good investment? Is it worth paying monthly premiums, or should you rather invest the money yourself in other assets for a better return?

Let’s unpack everything you need to know about life insurance as an investment.

Life Insurance Explained

If you’re considering life insurance as an investment to add to your portfolio, then you probably heard your broker use the term, “Buy term and invest the difference.” This piece of advice centers on the premise that term life insurance is the best form of the vehicle. Brokers have this opinion because it has the lowest premiums and frees up your money, allowing you to allocate it to other investments.

On the other hand, permanent life insurance allows you to accumulate cash value. However, this policy contains agent commissions and management fees. Most advisors will recommend that you avoid these fees and choose a term life insurance policy.

However, when your broker starts talking about life insurance as an investment, they are almost always talking about a permanent life insurance policy. The cash component of permanent life insurance allows you to invest and borrow against this money, using it to grow your portfolio.

In this article, we’ll look at when it makes sense to invest in both term and permanent life insurance.

Permanent Life Insurance

Advisors recommend permanent life insurance as an investment for a few reasons. However, it’s essential to understand that these benefits are not unique to this financial vehicle. Many other investments offer similar, if not better, benefits – without the high commissions and management expenses involved with permanent life insurance policies.

However, advisors do recommend these vehicles for a reason, so let’s take a look at the top benefits on offer with a permanent policy.

Growth is Tax-Deferred

The best benefit associated with a permanent life insurance policy is the tax breaks. You won’t have to pay the federal government any taxes on dividends, interest, or capital gain on your money until you withdraw the policy.

This structure makes a permanent life insurance policy similar to a 401(k) plan, traditional IRA, and other investment vehicles that allow for tax-free growth in your money.

If you are already maxing out your annual contributions to your other retirement accounts, look into a permanent life insurance policy. It could give you an additional investment vehicle to add to your portfolio.

Policies Extend up to 120-years old

The critical difference between a term and permanent life policy is in the title of the asset.

A term policy expires after a set period, while a permanent policy can extend till after your death. Some financial service providers offer term policies that extend up to 30-years after your passing.

Therefore, you get to extend your policy to take care of your children and spouse after you pass. Typically, a term policy expires at the age of 65 or 70, similar to a traditional IRA.

What's the Difference Between a 401k & an IRA

Read: What’s the Difference Between a 401k & an IRA? Complete Guide

Borrow Against the Cash Value

Years from now, you may be in a tight position for cash, or find another high-yielding investment that you want to own. Fortunately, you can borrow with your lender against the cash value of your permanent insurance policy.

If you try to borrow against a 401(k) or withdraw your funds before the maturity date, you can expect to pay penalties and charges. With a permanent life insurance policy, there’s no commissions or early disbursement fees when you choose to borrow against the funds in the account.

However, it’s crucial that you don’t treat your life insurance policy as a savings account. When you borrow against the cash value of your insurance, you have to pay back the lender with interest. Therefore, you need to take these payments into account in your financial planning for your retirement.

If things don’t go as planned, and you pass away before you repay the loan, your spouse and heirs will receive a smaller payout. The lender needs to recover the funds, even if your family has a death certificate.

Accelerated Benefits for Terminally Ill Policyholders

In some cases, you may be unfortunate enough to experience a critical illness or life-threatening medical event before the maturity date of your policy. In such a case, you can withdraw anywhere between 25 to 100-percent of your death benefit. Conditions such as heart attacks, strokes, and cancer all qualify for early withdrawal of your death benefit.

Receiving a lump sum from your policy helps you to handle the financial pressure associated with the medical expenses involved with your treatment. The only problem with this early withdrawal benefit is that your family might receive a smaller benefit after your passing.

However, in most cases, the policyholder gets to benefit from a more comfortable lifestyle, while making it less of a financial burden for their family. Some people may already have sufficient coverage with their medical insurance, making this benefit redundant.

Some permanent policies also don’t offer accelerated benefits, so check with your broker if you are expecting the insurer to include it in your policy. Taking out a permanent life insurance policy may make sense for high net-worth individuals that want to reduce their estate taxes. However, for everyone else, you will probably do better with a term policy and invest the savings into other higher-yielding assets.

Term Insurance Formalities

When you invest in a term life insurance policy, you are opening a financial vehicle with a defined exit strategy. When the term agreement expires, the financial service provider releases the funds into your account, and you have to sort out your taxes on any capital gains yourself.

All of the premiums you pay to the policy go to creating a death benefit that pays out to your spouse and children on your passing. Term insurance has no investment value because you can’t borrow against any cash value in the policy like you can with permanent insurance.

Even though there is no investment component involved with a term policy, you can consider it an investment. When you pass, your beneficiaries receive a large lump sum for relatively low monthly premiums.

An Example of Term Life Insurance

Let’s use an example to explain how term life insurance works in the real world. If you’re a 30-year old female that’s a non-smoker and stays active. You should have no problem securing a 20-year term life insurance policy for less than $500 per annum in contributions.

If you were to pass away at 45-years old, after paying the $500 premium for 15-years, the beneficiaries of the insurance policy would receive $1-million, even though the woman only spent less than $7,500 in premium payments. The payout is tax-free to the beneficiaries, and they get a significant lump sum to help them through the financial difficulties associated with managing your passing.

Life insurance provides a significant return on investment if the policy comes into play. However, some policyholders never execute on their claim. They may not claim, either because they did not know about the policy, they are out of the country, or they resent the person that passed. In this case, the policy provides a negative return.

Many people that are still weighing in about the benefits of life insurance often complain about having to spend $10,000 over the next 20-years for something that they will never get to use. However, the return on investment for the policy benefits are well worth the money. Still, some may want to look at other avenues for growing their money instead.

What would happen if you invested 10,000 in the stock market over the next 20-years? Therefore, other investment vehicles can earn you more returns on your money. However, if you pass away, your heirs receive a significant financial windfall. It’s up to you to choose the best asset for your family and your future.

Life Insurance Policy

An Example of Permanent Life Insurance

Now that we have a clear understanding of the mechanics behind a term insurance policy, it’s time to look at permanent insurance. Using our example above, the 30-year old female can expect to pay an annual premium of around $9,370. Therefore, the cost of a single year’s premiums to a permanent policy is just shy of half of the total 20-year term policy payments.

That’s a significant difference in financial contributions between the two policies. So, what are you getting for the additional payments and locking up your capital?

After owning the permanent policy for 5-years, the cash value of the asset is now $19,880, and total contributions toward the policy will amount to $46,850 that you pay in monthly premiums.

After 10-years of contributions toward your permanent insurance policy, the cash value is now $65,630, and total contributions toward the policy will amount to $93,700 from your monthly premiums.

After 20 years, the cash value of the permanent policy is now $181,630, and you have $187,400 in total premiums toward the policy.

However, if we look at the difference between the return on permanent insurance, versus buying a term policy and investing the rest in other assets, it paints a similar picture. If you invested the $8,890 in savings you make on your permanent policy premiums into the stock market instead of a permanent policy, what happens?

At an average return of 8-percent per annum, you end up with $480,806 before adjusting for inflation and account ting for taxes on your profits. That’s a significant difference, and you could do twice as well following the term strategy and investing your surplus cash.

However, it’s important to note that the permanent policy is a guaranteed return. Regardless of market conditions, you will receive your guaranteed payout. However, the market is not as robust, and it experiences ups and downs.

Achieving a stable 8-percent per annum is a challenge for the most talented fund managers, and asking them to sustain this figure is a lot to ask of any financial professional or fund manager. If the market experiences a crash and a decline, your assets may reduce alongside the depreciation in the markets value.

No one can be certain about the future, and the performance of the markets. Uncertainty fuels to need for insurance, and it’s uncertainty that makes the company’s willing to take a risk on writing you a policy.

If you pass away and don’t have a handle on your investments, your heirs may lose out. The money in your assets could help them handle your financial affairs after passing. If you do choose to use any form of asset to secure your wealth for your family, use a will or a trust to distribute your assets.

Wrapping Up – Key Takeaways

There are two kinds of life insurance policies available. Term policies cover a fixed period, while permanent policies last until the policyholder dies or cancels the investment.

As a financial vehicle, a life insurance policy pays out your heirs a death benefit on your passing. However, if you are using it as an investment vehicle, there may be better options for larger returns on your money.

The most significant benefit of a permanent life insurance policy is the tax breaks. If your current contributions to your 401(k) and IRA are maxing out, then a life insurance policy is another similar option.

However, if you are looking to maximize returns on your money, then they may not be the right vehicle for you. You will do better buying a term policy, and investing the difference in premiums into other assets like stocks. However, with a permanent policy, you can borrow against the cash value of your premiums paid to the financial services provider.

Before you select your insurance policy, sit down with your financial advisor. Ask the advisor to clearly explain the benefits of both policies, and make recommendations on which one suits your financial position and retirement goals.

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Oliver Dale is Editor-in-Chief of MoneyCheck and founder of Kooc Media Ltd, A UK-Based Online Publishing company. A Technology Entrepreneur with over 15 years of professional experience in Investing and UK Business.His writing has been quoted by Nasdaq, Dow Jones, Investopedia, The New Yorker, Forbes, Techcrunch & More.He built Money Check to bring the highest level of education about personal finance to the general public with clear and unbiased reporting.oliver@moneycheck.com


Editorial Disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank or credit card issuer and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.


Disclaimer: The responses below are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser’s responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.


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