Thursday, December 30, 2010

Permanent Life Insurance Tips

  • Consider buying a "break point" level of insurance coverage - better premium rates are given at coverage levels of $100,000, $250,000, $500,000 and $1,000,000.

  • Make sure you obtain an illustration for the policy that you have chosen. If the insurer will not provide you with one, look for another insurance company.

  • Always shop for a level-premium policy. Nobody likes a surprise increase in their premium payments! So, before you buy term or permanent insurance make sure your illustration shows that your premium payment is guaranteed not to increase over the duration of your coverage.

  • Don't be sold on permanent insurance for the investment or cash-value feature. For the first two to 10 years, your premiums are paying the agent's commission anyways. Most policies don't start to build respectable cash value until their 12th year, so ask yourself if the feature is really worth it.

  • Determine your desired duration of coverage so that you purchase the correct type of policy and keep your premium payments affordable. If you only need insurance for 10 years, then buy term. Also check out multiple-quality insurance companies for their rates.

  • Make sure that your insurance carrier has the financial stability to pay your claim in the event of your death. You can research the financial soundness of your insurer at

  • Don't be taken with riders. A very few number of policies ever pay under these riders, so avoid things like the accidental death and waiver of premium riders since they will only jack up your premiums.

  • For 24 hours before your medical exam, keep sugar & caffeine out of your system. It's best to schedule your exam early in the morning, and don't consume anything but water for at least eight hours beforehand.

  • If your premiums are much too high due to medical reasons or you are denied coverage, check if a group plan is available through your company. These group plans require no medical exam or physical.


Thursday, December 14, 2006

Permanent Life Insurance

Permanent life insurance is life insurance that remains in force until the policy matures (pays out), unless the owner fails to pay the premium when due (the policy expires). The policy cannot be cancelled by the insurer for any reason except fraud in the application, and that cancellation must occur within a period of time defined by law (usually two years). Permanent insurance builds a cash value that reduces the amount at risk to the insurance company and thus the insurance expense over time. This means that a policy with a million dollars face value can be relatively inexpensive to a 70 year old because the actual amount of insurance purchased is much less than one million dollars. The owner can access the money in the cash value by withdrawing money, borrowing the cash value, or surrendering the policy and receiving the surrender value.

The three basic types of permanent insurance are whole life, universal life, and endowment.

Whole life coverage

Whole life insurance provides for a level premium, and a cash value table included in the policy guaranteed by the company. The primary advantages of whole life are guaranteed death benefits, guaranteed cash values, fixed and known annual premiums, and mortality and expense charges will not reduce the cash value shown in the policy. The primary disadvantages of whole life are premium inflexibility, and the internal rate of return in the policy may not be competitive with other savings alternatives. Riders are available that can allow one to increase the death benefit by paying additional premium. The death benefit can also be increased through the use of policy dividends. Premiums are much higher than term insurance in the short-term, but cumulative premiums are roughly equal if policies are kept in force until average life expectancy.

Cash value can be accessed at any time through policy "loans". Since these loans decrease the death benefit if not paid back, payback is optional. Cash values are not paid to the beneficiary upon the death of the insured; the beneficiary receives the death benefit only. In many policies, however, the cash value has been automatically used to purchase additional death benefit, meaning that the beneficiary is likely to receive more than base death benefit plus cash value.

Universal life coverage

Universal life insurance (UL) is a relatively new insurance product intended to provide permanent insurance coverage with greater flexibility in premium payment and the potential for a higher internal rate of return. A universal life policy includes a cash account. Premiums increase the cash account. Interest is paid within the policy (credited) on the account at a rate specified by the company. This rate has a guaranteed minimum but usually is higher than that minimum. Mortality charges and administrative costs are charged against (reduce) the cash account. The surrender value of the policy is the amount remaining in the cash account less applicable surrender charges, if any.

With all life insurance, there are basically two functions that make it work. There's a mortality function and a cash function. The mortality function would be the classical notion of pooling risk where the premiums paid by everybody else would cover the death benefit for the one or two who will die for a given period of time. The cash function inherent in all life insurance says that if a person is to reach age 95 to 100 (the age varies depending on state and company), then the policy matures and endows the face value of the policy.

Actuarially, it is reasoned that out of a group of 1000 people, if even 10 of them live to age 95, then the mortality function alone will not be able to cover the cash function. So in order to cover the cash function, a minimum rate of investment return on the premiums will be required in the event that a policy matures.

Universal life policies guarantees, to some extent, the death proceeds, but not the cash function - thus the flexible premiums and interest returns. If interest rates are high, then the dividends help reduce premiums. If interest rates are low, then the customer would have to pay additional premiums in order to keep the policy in force. When interest rates are above the minimum required, then the customer has the flexibility to pay less as investment returns cover the remainder to keep the policy in force.The universal life policy addresses the perceived disadvantages of whole life. Premiums are flexible. The internal rate of return is usually higher because it moves with the financial markets. Mortality costs and administrative charges are known. And cash value may be considered more easily attainable because the owner can discontinue premiums if the cash value allows it. And universal life has a more flexible death benefit because the owner can select one of two death benefit options, Option A and Option B.
Option A pays the face amount at death as it's designed to have the cash value equal the death benefit at age 95. Option B pays the face amount plus the cash value, as it's designed to increase the net death benefit as cash values accumulate. Option B does carry with it a caveat. This caveat is that in order for the policy to keep its tax favored life insurance status, it must stay within a corridor specified by state and federal laws that prevent abuses such as attaching a million dollars in cash value to a two dollar insurance policy. The interesting part about this corridor is that for those people who can make it to age 95-100, this corridor requirement goes away and your cash value can equal exactly the face amount of insurance. If this corridor is ever violated, then the universal life policy will be treated as, and in effect turn into, a Modified Endowment Contract (or more commonly referred to as a MEC).

But universal life has its own disadvantages which stem primarily from this flexibility. The policy lacks the fundamental guarantee that the policy will be in force unless sufficient premiums have been paid and cash values are not guaranteed.

Universal life policies are sometimes erroneously referred to as self-sustaining policies. In the 1980s, when interest rates were high, the cash value accumulated at a more accelerated rate, and universal life coverage was often sold by agents as a policy that could be self-paying. Many policies did sustain themselves for a prolonged period, but the combination of lower interest rates and an increasing cost of insurance as the insured ages meant that for many policies, the cash option was diminished or depleted.

Variable universal life Insurance (VUL) is not the same as universal life, even though they both have cash values attached to them. These differences are in how the cash accounts are managed; thus having a great effect on how they are treated for taxation.


Another type of permanent insurance is Limited-pay life insurance, in which all the premiums are paid over a specified period after which no additional premiums are due to keep the policy in force. The most common kind of limited pay is twenty-year limited pay. Another kind is paid-up when the insured is 65.


Endowments are policies in which the cash value built up inside the policy, equals the death benefit (face amount) at a certain age. The age this commences is known as the endowment age. Endowments are considerably more expensive (in terms of annual premiums) than either whole life or universal life because the premium paying period is shortened and the endowment date is earlier.

In the United States, the Technical Corrections Act of 1988 tightened the rules on tax shelters (creating modified endowments). These follow tax rules as annuities and IRAs do.
Endowment Insurance is paid out whether the insured lives or dies, after a specific period (e.g. 15 years) or a specific age (e.g. 65).

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