July 11, 2020


Understanding Permanent Life Insurance

Permanent Life insurance is in essence a broad term for life insurance policies that do not expire. And unlike term life insurance, permanent life plans also combine the death benefits with a savings portion. This savings portion involves the building up of a cash value that the policy owner can borrow funds against, or even in some cases, can be withdrawn if funds are suddenly needed. Permanent life insurance is coverage for your entire life. There is no need to renew this type of policy and as long as you pay your premiums and keep the policy in force, your policy stays in effect for your whole life. The amount for which you are insured will then be paid to your beneficiaries at the time of your death – even if you live past 100.

Permanent insurance operates differently from term life insurance. The premiums are always larger – often five to 10 times the size. The reason that premiums on a permanent policy are more than the actual cost of the policy is that a portion of that premium goes into a savings component known as the policy’s “cash value.” This is why permanent insurance is also referred to as “cash value” insurance. At the beginning, the cash value is very low because much of the early premiums go towards sales charges and agent’s commissions. But as time passes, the cash value accumulates and the insurer can pay the policyholder depending on the dividends or interest agreed upon. Permanent life insurance is therefore more like an investment than an insurance policy.

Until your policy is redeemed, this savings will continue to increase and earn money. At the point of redemption, depending on the type of policy you have taken, the cash value is either surrendered to the insurance company or included your death benefits. But the savings portion of your permanent life insurance policy is more than just a way to increase your death benefits. The main advantage is that you have access to this money at any time during your life allowing you to cover any expenses that you otherwise might not have been able to afford.

You can use the cash value component of your policy by requesting a low interest rate loan from your insurance company and use the cash-value account as a guarantee or by surrendering the cash value portion (completely or partially). Surrendering your policy in essence means that you are terminating it. A Full Surrender implies that the death benefits and any cash value accrued will be paid to you and the contract between you and the insurance company is over. A Partial Surrender means that only a portion of the death benefit and cash value will be paid to you. The remainder will be adjusted against your existing policy. Keep in mind that not all insurance companies allow you to partially surrender your policy, and if they do, it may be only under extreme circumstances.

Another perk of permanent life insurance policies is that they enjoy favorable tax treatment. You pay no taxes on any earnings in the policy as long as the policy remains active. Money can also be withdrawn from the policy without being subject to taxes as such loans are not considered taxable income.

How the cash value portion of your policy is handles is in fact the basis for the major differences in between the types of permanent life insurance available. Each type offers varying levels of freedom and flexibility in reference to premium payments and control of your investments. These include:

Whole life insurance
Whole life insurance is a type of permanent life insurance that remains in effect throughout one’s life. Generally, the premiums for this type of policy remain level throughout the life of the insured. This type of insurance plan also develops cash values that can be accessed by the policy holder through surrenders or policy loans. Cash values in whole life insurance policies typically include two components. There is a guaranteed cash value, which grows on a pre-determined schedule and which equals the death benefit upon maturity of the policy. There is also a non-guaranteed cash value element that is made up of dividends, which add to the value of the life insurance policy over time.

Universal life insurance
With universal life insurance, all three elements of the policy are differentiated. There is the protection element or the death benefits, the expense element, and the cash value component. Separating these elements offers the policy greater flexibility and allows the holder (within certain guidelines) the ability to modify the face amount or the premium in response to changing needs and circumstances.

Variable Life Insurance
A variable life policy offer the most flexibility and control. The policyholder can decide how the cash-value portion is invested. But be warned, this type of policy should only be taken by people who have the experience and understanding of the markets and the ability to closely monitor and manage their policy portfolios. The rewards may be greater but the risks are high as well. Variable life insurance is also one of the more expensive plans available today.