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What Is Whole Life Insurance?

woman understanding whole life insurance

If you’ve decided to purchase a life insurance policy, you’ve made a good and important decision for you and for the future of your loved ones. Life insurance is a must for virtually everyone, and it could make a huge difference in the lives of your beneficiaries if you were to pass away.

Of course, there are different types of life insurance, and there is no ‘one size fits all’ type of policy. Individuals with different life circumstances, financial situations, and plans for the future all may have different needs when it comes to life insurance. According to the Insurance Information Institute, the various types of life insurance include term life and permanent life (permanent life includes whole, universal or adjustable, variable, and variable-universal).1

In this article, we’ll focus on whole life insurance.

Definition of Whole Life Insurance

Investopedia defines whole life insurance as insurance that “provides coverage for the life of the insured,” and “in addition to providing a death benefit, whole life also contains a savings component where cash value may accumulate.”2 This type of life insurance will provide a cash benefit to the individual(s) of your choice upon your death, and this coverage lasts your entire life. Investopedia goes on to note that this guaranteed payment of a death benefit to your beneficiaries is “in exchange for level, regularly-due premium payments.”

Unlike term life insurance, which only provides coverage for a specified term, whole life provides coverage for your whole life. So if you need coverage for your entire life, whole life insurance may be the right life insurance for you. Whole life insurance is typically more expensive than term life insurance, but premiums do not increase during the life of the policy.

Types of Whole Life Insurance

There are three main types of whole life insurance, according to The Balance. These include:

  • Traditional Whole Life Insurance, which gives a guaranteed minimum rate of return on the cash value portion;
  • Interest Sensitive Whole Life Insurance, which has a variable rate on the cash value portion, and has more flexibility (like increasing the death benefit without an increase in premium depending on the economy and the cash value portion’s rate of return); and
  • Single Premium Whole Life Insurance, which is for an individual with a large sum of money and wants to buy a policy up front3

Cash Value

Whole life insurance builds cash value. According to NerdWallet, “the cash value grows slowly, tax-deferred, meaning you won’t pay taxes on its gains while they’re accumulating.”4 NerdWallet goes on to note that with whole life insurance, “you can borrow money against the account or surrender the policy for the cash...but if you don’t repay policy loans with interest, you’ll reduce your death benefit, and if you surrender the policy, you’ll no longer have coverage.” Before you borrow from your cash value or surrender your policy, you should consult with a financial advisor and contact the insurance company to fully understand your options and to make the best decision.

Whole Life Insurance in a Wrap

In simple terms, whole life insurance provides coverage for your whole life and builds cash value that you can borrow against. It is more expensive than term life insurance (which lasts for a specified term), and its premiums will not increase during the life of the policy.

If you’re considering life insurance, be sure to consider your life circumstances—your family, your future, any mortgage or debts you have, etc.—and consult with a financial advisor or a licensed insurance agent. These professionals can help you determine which kind of life insurance would be best suited for you and can answer any questions you have about whole life, term life, or any other type of life insurance available to you.

Sources:
1. Insurance Information Institute, What Are the Principal Types of Life Insurance?, https://www.iii.org/article/what-are-principal-types-life-insurance

2. Investopedia, Whole Life Insurance, 2018, https://www.investopedia.com/terms/w/wholelife.asp

3. The Balance, Is Whole Life Insurance Policy the Beset Option for You?, 2019, https://www.thebalance.com/whole-life-insurance-choices-2645394

4. NerdWallet, The Differences Between Term and Whole Life Insurance, https://www.nerdwallet.com/blog/insurance/what-is-the-difference-between-term-whole-life-insurance/

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