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Cash-value life insurance is similar to Term Life insurance because it provides a death benefit when the insured passes away, but it differs in that it also accumulates cash value during the insured’s lifetime.

Because of this additional component, cash-value life policies have premiums that are higher at the beginning than they would be for the same amount of term insurance.

The part of the premium not used to cover the yearly cost for mortality and other expenses is invested by the company and builds up a cash value that you may use in a variety of ways. Here are some specific examples of cash-value life insurance:

Whole (or Ordinary) Life

Like other cash-value policies, this is permanent coverage, where the cost is literally stretched out over your entire life, or what the insurance company expects your entire life period to be. Life insurers have tables that tell them how long, on average, someone of your age and physical health will live.

For example, say you want $500,000 in coverage. The insurance company’s rates are based on how much it needs to charge you in order to allow the company to recoup the eventual death benefit while you are alive. The premium and the death benefit don’t change much in whole life policies. You pay so much a month for a given death benefit. However, dividends to policyholders can increase the coverage or decrease the premium.

Universal Life

This is flexible life insurance. You can change your premium and your death benefit at any time, although a substantial increase in the coverage usually requires you to prove you are still in good health.

Variable Life

This is a hybrid whole/universal coverage in which the death benefit is dependent on the investment performance of the insurance company’s assets. And you get to choose the investment vehicle – money market fund, bond fund or stock fund – for your premium.

Note. If your investments do well, your policy’s cash value and death benefit will increase. If not, they’ll go down, but most variable life policies won’t let your death benefit drop below a certain level. However, it’s possible a company will charge you for a guaranteed death benefit.

So which type of policy is best for you?

In general, if you have significant assets, it’s better (and less risky) to have some sort of cash-value policy.

But which one?

Actually, it’s more important to buy the coverage from an insurer that has the best chance of performing well in the future.

Specifically, an insurer that has low actual expenses and mortality costs. Such an insurer will be able to offer better terms, including higher death benefits, higher cash value and lower premiums.

Tip. There are more than 2,000 companies selling life insurance in the United States. As a result, you have thousands and thousands of options. This makes it even more imperative that you have a licensed insurance professional analyze your financial situation and determine what type of policy, from which insurer, is best for you.

If you’d like to learn more, contact one of our Licensed Advisors . We’re here to help.