Insurance Planning

Life Insurance 101: The Different Types of Life Insurance Policies Explained

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Whole life. Variable universal life. Term. What do these descriptions really mean?

All life insurance policies have two things in common.

They guarantee to pay a death benefit to a designated beneficiary after a policyholder dies (although, the guarantee may be waived if the death is a suicide occurring within two years of the policy purchase). All require recurring payments (premiums) to keep the policy in force. Beyond those basics, the differences begin. (1)

Some life insurance coverage is permanent, some not.

Permanent life insurance is designed to cover you for your entire life (not just a portion or “term” of it), and it can become an important element in your retirement planning. Whole life insurance is its most common form. (2)

Whole life policies accumulate cash value.

How does that happen? An insurer directs some of your premium payments into a reserve account and puts those dollars into investments (typically conservative ones). The return on the investments influences the growth of the cash value, which builds up according to a formula the insurer sets. (3)

A whole life policy’s cash value grows with taxes deferred.

After a while, you gain the ability to borrow against that cash value. You can even cancel the policy and receive a surrender value. Premiums on whole life policies, though, are usually higher than premiums on term life policies, and they may rise with time. Also, beneficiaries only receive a death benefit (not the policy’s cash value) when a whole life policyholder dies. (2,4)

Universal life insurance is whole life insurance with a key difference.

Universal life policies also build cash value with taxes deferred, but there is the chance to eventually pay the monthly premiums out of the policy’s investment portion. (5)

Month by month, some of your premium on a universal life policy gets credited to the cash reserve of the policy. Sooner or later, you may elect to pay premiums out of the cash reserve – so, the policy essentially begins to “pay for itself.” If all goes well, a universal life policy may have a lower net cost than a whole life policy. If the investments chosen by the insurer severely underperform, that can mean a dilemma: the cash reserve of your policy may dwindle and be insufficient to keep paying the premiums. That could mean cancellation of the policy. (5)

What about variable life (and variable universal life) policies?

Variable life policies are basically whole life or universal life policies with a riskier investment component. In VL and VUL policies, you may direct percentages of the cash reserve into investment sub-accounts managed by the insurer. Assets allocated to the sub-accounts may be put into equity investments of your choice as well as fixed-income investments. If you choose equity investments, you (and the insurer) assume greater risk in exchange for the possibility of greater reward. The performance of the subaccounts cannot be guaranteed. As an effect of this risk exposure, a VUL policy usually has a higher annual cost than a comparable UL policy. (6)

The performance of the stock market may heavily affect the performance of the subaccounts and the policy premiums.

A bull market may mean better growth for the policy’s cash value and lower premiums. A bear market may mean reduced cash value and higher monthly payments to keep the policy going. In the worst-case scenario, the cash value plummets, the insurer hikes the premiums in order to provide the guaranteed death benefit, the premiums become too expensive to pay, and the policy lapses. (6)

Term life insurance is life insurance that you provides coverage for a set period.

Term life provides coverage for usually 10-30 years. Should you die within that period, your beneficiary will get a death benefit. Typically, the premium payments and death benefit on a term policy are fixed from the start, and the premiums are much lower than those of permanent life policies. When the term of coverage ends, you may be offered the option to renew the coverage for another term or to convert the policy to a form of permanent life insurance. (2,7)

Which coverage is right for you?

Many factors may come into play when deciding which type of life insurance will suit your needs. The best thing to do is to speak with a qualified financial advisor who can help you examine these factors, so you can determine which type of coverage may be appropriate.



This material was prepared by MarketingPro, Inc., and does not necessarily represent the views of the presenting party, nor their affiliates. All information is believed to be from reliable sources; however we make no representation as to its completeness or accuracy. Please note – investing involves risk, and past performance is no guarantee of future results. The publisher is not engaged in rendering legal, accounting or other professional services. If assistance is needed, the reader is advised to engage the services of a competent professional. This information should not be construed as investment, tax or legal advice and may not be relied on for the purpose of avoiding any Federal tax penalty. This is neither a solicitation nor recommendation to purchase or sell any investment or insurance product or service, and should not be relied upon as such. All indices are unmanaged and are not illustrative of any particular investment.


Are You Properly Insured? Should You Insure Your Kids? [VIDEO]

September is National Life Insurance Awareness Month – a good time to think about the value and importance of insuring yourself.

Too many Americans Have No Life Insurance At All

According to a recent Bankrate survey, 42% of Americans have no life insurance at all. (1) Many growing families have inadequate life insurance coverage. The Bankrate survey discovered that 37% of parents with children under age 18 had no policy at all. The Good news life insurance coverage has become much more affordable than it once was.

What Life Insurance Does for You

Life insurance is about managing risk, and if other people rely on you financially, you need to have it in place in case your passing puts them at financial risk. When a spouse or parent dies, there are financial matters to address: a sudden lack of income for a household, bills and mortgages or rent to pay, final expenses such as funeral or cremation costs, and the cost of children’s education. Without adequate life insurance coverage, a household is hard-pressed to meet these immediate, financially draining challenges.

How Much Coverage is Adequate For You?

Ideally, you should determine that with the help of an insurance professional. As a rough rule of thumb, the death benefit on a policy should be about 15 times your income.
Ideally, you should determine that with the help of an insurance professional. As a rough rule of thumb, the death benefit on a policy should be about 20x’s income in your 40’s 15x’s income in your 50’s. You can use this calculator to help determine what may be right for you.

What Kind of Insurance Should You Get?

There are basically 2 types of insurance: Temporary (Term) and Permanent (Whole Life). What’s right for you depends on so many factors you will probably need to discuss this with a professional. Term is significantly less expensive but will end after a specified period of time. If you are considering a term life policy, the term should not end before your envisioned retirement age.(2)

Should You Have Life Insurance on Your Children?

A small life insurance policy could help cover these expenses if the unthinkable occured:
  1. Outstanding Healthcare costs
  2. Lost income from taking time off to mourn
  3. Funeral costs

Make Sure You Have Coverage in Place

While you may decide you prefer one kind of policy over another, the important thing is to have coverage in place – not just to reassure yourself, but those you love. Life insurance can help a spouse or a family maintain financial equilibrium at a time when it is most needed.


  1. [7/8/15]
  2. [1/5/16]
  3. [5/6/15]
  4. This material was prepared, in part, by MarketingPro, Inc.

3 Smart Financial Moves For August [VIDEO]

#1 Check Your Credit Score

It’s that time again: Review your credit score at, paying special attention to any fraudulent charges, so you can report it to your credit card company.

#2 Review Your Insurance

Review your auto and homeowners insurance coverage and to shop around. Make an appointment with your agent, or go online and see what other insurers charge for similar coverage.

#3 Review Your Benefits

Review your current benefits situation. Each fall, employees have a brief window of time when they can make changes to their insurance policies or set up and adjust contributions to health savings accounts (HSAs) and flexible spending accounts (FSAs). Check out any new options that are available and decide whether you should make any switches


How to Protect Your Loved One’s Financial Future

Financial Planning Tip: February

As Valentine’s day approaches, we are thinking about the one’s we love and coming up with ways to show them we care. Once you have finished purchasing your cards, flowers and chocolates take some time this month to think about those people and whether you have appropriately planned for them. It may not be the most romantic thing to do, but now is a great time to sit down and determine if you have the proper insurance coverage to protect your loved one’s if you are not around to provide for them or if you become incapable.

To get started, ask yourself a few questions. Have your needs changed over the years? Did you get married? Did you have a child? Did you retire? Are you thinking about retirement? Have you taken on other financial responsibilities that would negatively affect the people you care about should you pass away too soon? The answers to these questions will help you figure out if you need to make some changes to your coverage. You should periodically evaluate your life insurance coverage, disability insurance coverage, and determine if long-term care insurance is appropriate. There are many resources online to help you get started. For example, to get a basic idea of how much life insurance coverage you may need, use this online calculator as a starting point. Thinking about your own demise is no fun at all, however with smart planning you will sleep better at night knowing you have taken the right steps to protect the one’s you love most.

Watch this video for even more tips:

If you would like to discuss your particular situation and how much insurance you may need to protect your family, feel free to contact me at

For more financial planning tips download my free report: 8 Steps to Organize & Optimize Your Financial Life. It’s packed with helpful advice, useful tips and valuable resources.

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