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If you're wealthy or have a high income, life insurance can still help you provide for your family or pay taxes on an inheritance.
Most people buy life insurance to provide a tax-free lump sum that their loved ones can use to pay off debts and plan for their future. But that doesn't mean it’s only for people who don’t already have that money saved. If you have a high annual income or high net worth, you can still use life insurance as a tool to protect an inheritance or support your family, but the right type of policy and the right provider will depend on your financial situation.
High-earners and wealthy people can still benefit from life insurance as an income replacement or as a way to protect their assets
The death benefit can be used to pay estate taxes on a large inheritance
Cash value life insurance offers another tax-deferred savings account if you’ve maxed out traditional accounts
If you’ve saved enough money, you might be able to self-insure. But it’s unwise to assume that because you’re living comfortably now, you won’t need financial protection in the future.
You may have enough savings to pay off a mortgage, pay your child’s college expenses, and leave your spouse with a nest egg. But if you have assets greater than $11.70 million, estate taxes could significantly decrease the inheritance your loved ones receive upon your death. Since the life insurance death benefit is almost always exempt from taxes, a policy can cover the estate tax and preserve an inheritance.
Life insurance is protection against the worst-case scenario. For example, if you become seriously ill and pass away, medical bills could deplete the savings you set aside for your future, but with a life insurance policy in force, the expenses wouldn’t jeopardize your beneficiaries’ financial future.
The best life insurance company for you depends on your financial needs and why you’re purchasing life insurance. If you have a high income you may need a company that offers term life insurance with a death benefit large enough to replace your earnings. If you’re concerned about estate taxes shrinking the assets you hope to pass on, then you may just want enough coverage to account for your estate taxes. And if you’re interested in finding another way to grow your tax-deferred savings, then a cash value life insurance policy might be better for you. A certified financial planner can help you determine which strategy is most advantageous for you.
Policygenius advisors recommend buying life insurance 10-15x your income, but not every provider can take on the financial risk of paying out a multi-million dollar death benefit. We recommend looking to one of the larger life insurance companies, which are more likely to be able to process and support policies with high face values.
If you’re getting life insurance coverage to pay for your estate taxes, then the right company for you depends on the size of your wealth. Your loved ones will need to pay taxes of up to 40%, so you should get the most affordable policy with a death benefit equal to or greater than your anticipated tax burden.
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Term life insurance is best for most people — it’s simple and affordable — but high-earners who have already maxed out other tax-deferred savings accounts could consider whole life insurance because it has a cash value component that gains value. Cash value accounts are also relatively protected from the stock market; while a traditional investment account usually offers greater returns, your cash value’s returns will be more consistent.
There are some downsides to permanent life insurance — it's more complicated than a term policy and it’s five to 15 times more expensive — so you should talk to a licensed expert to determine what is best for you.
While you may feel financially secure now, a life insurance policy adds a layer of protection to your finances. Even if you’re confident that your beneficiaries won’t need the death benefit to support themselves, a policy can go toward paying down your estate taxes so that your heirs won’t have to, or building additional wealth to pad your retirement fund.
If anyone depends on your income or if your beneficiaries will pay an estate tax on their inheritance, you can use life insurance to provide for their expenses even if you have a high income or high net worth.
Your net worth impacts how much life insurance coverage you can buy. The higher your income or net worth, the more coverage you can be approved for, and vice versa.
The best life insurance policy differs for every person depending on their needs, but high net worth individuals may need to work with larger life insurance companies that offer higher death benefits and may benefit from permanent life insurance more than most people.
Amanda Shih is a life insurance editor at Policygenius in New York City. She has a passion for making complex topics relatable and understandable, and has been writing about insurance since 2017 with specialities in life insurance cost and policy types. She's previously written for Jetty and LegalZoom.