International Term Life Insurance vs. Cash Value Insurance

Domestic and/or International Term Life vs. Cash Value Insurance Policies

There are two forms of life insurance policies available. The first is Domestic/International Term Life insurance, which is the most basic form of insurance. It offers insurance death benefit coverage and that’s it. With a term policy, your premiums are applied 100% to the cost of the term insurance. As you age and retirement grows near, the need for any life insurance decreases. Your children will now be able to support themselves and your savings for retirement will begin to approximate a lump-sum insurance payment. At this time, it may be safe to cancel or sell your current Domestic/International Term Life insurance policy.

The second type of insurance is cash value insurance. There are many financial products that fall under this category. They can include universal life insurance, variable life insurance and whole life insurance. Cash value insurance combine regular term insurance with a tax-sheltered savings plan that is long-term. One of the most important things to know about cash value policies is that they must be held for life, but this does not mean that premiums need to be paid for life; it is possible you only need to pay premiums for 5 -7 years. In most cases, there will be some upfront costs that are associated with setting up the savings plan, paying a commission to the agent and investing the money. Despite these initial charges, this type of tax-sheltered savings can have huge advantages, however, be aware that it may take at least 10 years for those advantages to be a benefit. If you are thinking of purchasing a cash value policy, make sure you learn about every aspect of the policy.

How Cash Value Works: Not All Cash Value Insurance is Created Equal

Understanding how a general cash value policy works is essential. Your life insurance is paid by a portion of your regular premium payment. The balance is then applied to the savings account attached to the policy. In order to build savings, your advisor should request a minimum death benefit and fund the policy over at least 5-7 years. The premiums for a cash value policy are higher than that of a term life policy with the same death benefit, but you are not buying this policy for the death benefit, but rather for tax-free savings and tax free withdrawals. For this retirement strategy, you definitely want to get the minimum death benefit to maximize the cash value growth. While the premium may seem higher, savings is the ultimate goal. The savings from a cash value policy can provide you with income that will cover all life insurance payments upon retirement. If you die, the balance of the savings and the death benefit is then passed onto your named beneficiary, which ideally will be an irrevocable trust. Depending on the type of policy, the amount passed on will be a portion of the death benefit of the insurance or in addition to that death benefit.

Withdraw Cash Value Life Insurance Money with No Income Tax

If set up correctly, removing money from the plan will not result in income taxes which is one of the key benefits of the policy.  There are strict rules regarding taking money from the savings in the plan, but a good advisor or Estate Street Partners will walk you through those details.

In the author’s opinion, the best type of cash value life insurance is Indexed Equity Universal Life (EIUL) because it has an annual minimum return guarantee, but still allows the cash value to grow at market rates every year if the stock market has positive returns.  These policies lock in the gains in up years and avoid losing money in the years the market goes negative.  Usually these policies are tied to a stock index like the S&P 500.

The mechanics are simple:  The insurance company does not invest in the stock market, rather they invest in bonds and some of the interest that is generated from the bonds goes to you to guarantee a minimum rate of return and some of the interest is used to buy call options on the index.  When the stock market index goes up it pays off the policy at the same rate of return of the market.

Why You Should Keep Your Cash Value Policy & Not Cancel it

There are many people who will buy a cash value policy and then cancel it. Cash value plans can provide great benefits, but you must keep that policy and not cancel it. If you think you may cancel a life insurance policy later, it may be better to purchase a term life policy instead. But there is really no need to cancel it, just stop paying the premiums and the cash value will continue to grow tax free. Unlike a Term life policy, one does not need to pay premiums for more than 5 years unless they want too.

If you are contemplating buying life insurance, make sure the agent breaks it all down. You want to know the exact benefits of each type of policy and what these benefits entail. Many agents will recommend you to buy cash value because of the savings plan attached to it. While this may be a good option for most, it may not benefit everyone in the same way; it depends on each individual’s situation. Each person has their own needs when it comes to life insurance, so make sure you get all the information needed before making a decision.

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