Patrick Hanzel, CFP®
Updated May 18, 2021|3 min read
TABLE OF CONTENTS
Purchasing whole life insurance is an easy way to protect your loved ones financially without worrying about policy expiration dates. Like all life insurance products, whole life pays a tax-free death benefit to your beneficiaries if you die while your policy is active.
While most people will find term life insurance more affordable, the permanence of whole life coverage and the tax-deferred cash value make it a good choice for high-earners or people with lifelong financial obligations.
Premiums fund your policy and an additional cash value feature
The cash value works like a guaranteed investment and grows at a low rate
Policies are five to 15 times more expensive than term life insurance; 45% of policyholders abandon their policy within the first 10 years
A whole life policy is best if you need coverage for your entire life or need another investment account
Whole life insurance is a type of permanent life insurance (also called cash value life insurance). The policy lasts as long as the premiums are paid and has a savings feature called the cash value that grows at an interest rate set by your insurer.
Life insurance providers usually guarantee a minimum interest rate for the cash value. However, returns on your investment may be small. That’s because insurance companies charge administrative fees to manage your policy that a typical investment company doesn't.
|Guaranteed Death Benefit||Yes|
|Guaranteed Cash Value||Yes|
|How Cash Value Grows||Earns interest at a rate set by your insurer|
|Notes||Low-risk investment compared to other permanent insurance, but you’ll find a better rate of return elsewhere|
Using life insurance to invest isn’t a great idea if you have other options, like a 401(k) or IRA. Traditional investment accounts usually grow at a faster rate than cash value accounts.
But if you have a high income and regularly max out your other retirement accounts, the new tax-deferred investment option might be worth the high whole life premiums. If a loved one will need care after you are gone, whole life guarantees continued financial support for them.
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"On average, permanent coverage can be five to 15 times more expensive than a term policy with the same benefit amount. This range can vary based on the length of the term you are comparing and the type of permanent product and features within that product,” says Patrick Hanzel, Advanced Planning Team Lead and Certified Financial Planner at Policygenius. "For example, some permanent products can have additional benefits like cash value accumulation and a growing death benefit. Others can be lower in cost but not include similar benefits."
|COVERAGE AMOUNT||MONTHLY PAYMENT||ANNUAL PAYMENT|
|$100,000||$89/ mo||$1,023/ year|
|$250,000||$213/ mo||$2,448/ year|
|$500,000||$421/ mo||$4,839/ year|
|$1,000,000||$827/ mo||$9,506/ year|
No matter what type of life insurance you buy, your premiums will vary, as they are set based on your:
Health: Medical concerns increase the cost of your premiums.
Age: The older you are, the riskier you are to insure. Life insurance rates increase by 4.5-9% every year.
Coverage amount: The more life insurance coverage you get, the higher your premiums will be.
Term length: Life insurance policies that last longer cost more, which is one reason why whole life costs more than term life insurance.
Riders: Adding coverage can increase the cost of your policy, though some riders are free.
Many people overestimate their ability to pay whole life premiums year after year. Approximately 30% of whole policies are surrendered within the first three years and 45% are surrendered within the first 10 years, according to a study by LIMRA and the Society of Actuaries.
Some permanent products can have additional benefits like cash value accumulation and a growing death benefit. Others can be lower in cost but not include similar benefits.
No insurance policy is the best for everyone. You should compare quotes to find the best policy for your family’s needs, but also consider buying life insurance from a provider that:
Is favorable toward applicants with any health conditions you may have
Guarantees a good rate of return on the accumulated cash value
Offers the policy options and riders that you want
Has good customer service and online policy management options
Is well-rated by trusted third-party agencies
The biggest difference between whole and term life insurance is that term life insurance ends after a set number of years. Term life pays out if you die within that time and nothing more.
Whole life, on the other hand, costs more than you would pay for an equal coverage amount of term life because it lasts longer and builds cash value.
Like all life insurance policies, whole life coverage comes with its own set of benefits and drawbacks.
|Coverage lasts your entire life||Coverage is expensive compared to term life|
|Policy earns interest through the cash value||Cash value comes with high administrative fees|
|Guaranteed rate of return on cash value||Traditional investing has better returns|
Term life insurance : Because term life is so much cheaper than whole life, you can buy a lot more coverage for the same amount of money.
Other types of permanent life insurance : Other permanent policies earn interest differently, which may better suit your needs.
Single premium life insurance : Single premium is a type of whole life policy that only requires one premium payment. Instead of paying premiums monthly or annually, you make one upfront payment for a lifetime of coverage.
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Whole life coverage is best for people in specific circumstances, like high earners who need a new way to invest or people who care for someone who needs lifelong financial support. For everyone else, it’s better to pursue a term life policy.
Whole life coverage lasts for your entire life and can earn interest over time with its cash value. The cash value can be used as an additional investment account and can be accessed while you’re alive.
Most of the time, a whole life policy shouldn’t be a part of your savings strategy because of the high premiums and low interest.
There is no one price point for coverage. The premiums for a whole life policy are based on your life insurance needs, but they are costly.