Saturday, August 09, 2008

Whole life insurance

Whole life insurance is a form of life insurance which has a guaranteed level death benefit until death or age 100, which ever comes first. It also builds a guaranteed cash value which will equal the face amount of the policy at age 100. So if you have coverage of $100,000 and you are still alive at age 100, the insurance company will void your life insurance policy and pay you $100,000.

Premiums remain level and there are 3 ways you can pay your premiums. The most common way is called "Straight Life" or "Continuous Premium Whole Life." This is where you premiums continuously until you die or when you reach age 100.

The second way is called "Limited Pay." This is where you pay a higher amount of premiums than Straight Life for a certain amount of time. Examples of this are "20-Pay Life" or "Life Paid at 60." With "20-Pay Life" you pay your premiums for 20 years. "Life paid at 60" means you pay your premiums until you reach 60 years old. The shorter the payment period, the higher the premiums and vice versa.

The third way is called "Single Premium Whole Life." This is where you pay one lump of premium and never have to pay it again.

As I mentioned earlier, Whole life insurance builds cash value. You can borrow it anytime and use it for any purpose. The question is "what is this borrowing part all about?" Isn't the savings suppose to be your money? The answer is no. The premiums you pay belongs to the insurance company.

If you want to take money out from your life insurance, you have to borrow it. The insurance company will charge you a loan interest of anywhere between 5-8%. But in the first 2 years of the policy, no cash value is accumulated. So there's nothing you can borrow during that time. After the first 2 years, you are guaranteed an interest rate between 1-3%. When you borrow money from the cash value, your death benefit is reduced by the amount you borrowed until you pay it all back, but the premiums remain the same. Interest charged on the amount you borrowed does not go back into your cash value. It goes directly to the insurance company.

If you die someday, the insurance company keeps your cash value and pays the death benefit only.

If someday, you decide you want to cancel your whole life policy, you will get most of your cash value. When you cancel your life policy, the insurance company may charge you a surrender charge on your cash value. If you borrowed money from your cash value, it is important that you pay this loan back before canceling the policy. Failure to do so will result in income tax on the loan amount.

In summary, here are the pros and cons of whole life insurance:
1) You are guaranteed coverage until you die or reach age 100, whichever is first.
2) Premiums remain level.
3) It builds cash value.

1) It builds cash value, which makes this type of life policy very expensive.
2) Cash value grows at a low rate of return
3) If you want to use the cash value, you have to borrow it and pay loan interest of 5-8%
4) If you die, the insurance company keeps your cash value.