Debt Consolidation Credit Counseling In Austin Debt Consolidation Credit Counseling In Austin

Find out more on Debt Consolidation Credit Counseling In Austin Now!

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Do You Need Permanent Life Insurance?

By David C Lewis, RFA

Life insurance is necessary. However, most individuals do not carry enough of it. The idea behind life insurance is that we all die. If your spouse dies prematurely, a life insurance policy will make sure that there is enough income to make your family whole for the financial loss you've suffered. Pretty much every adviser agrees having life insurance is a good thing.

But, this is where the consensus ends (sadly). Most every financial professional recognizes the importance of life insurance. However, "gurus" like Dave Ramsey and Suze Orman have done a good job of painting the picture that whole life insurance is "evil". There is opposition though, and quite a debate over the issue.

Life insurance agents of course love cash value insurance. The investment industry does a pretty good job of putting down the insurance industry. So...who's right?

It is sometimes surprising that the financial industry is charged with the responsibility of informing and educating the rest of society about saving and investing principles, and yet many of the advisors that represent the industry seem to be less concerned about truth and honesty, and more concerned about injecting their own personal agenda.

On both sides of the debate, neither is doing a very good job of defending their respective position. It amazes me to see so many financial professionals leave out important information about not only their products but about the nature of insurance contracts. I wonder sometimes if they even have any idea of how life insurance really works.

Their motives for deception can be numerous, and diverse. Now, there isn't anything wrong with pointing out the flaws in a financial product, as long as it can be done objectively. However, in the case of life insurance, the attacks being made are baseless and unsound. This is especially shocking because most, if not all, of these attacks are coming from high profile, well known financial professionals. Here are a few common lies, attacks, & misconceptions:

Lie Number One:

Cash value life insurance is a waste of money. It is the worst type of insurance you can buy. The BEST kind of insurance is term insurance because it's cheap. Insurance companies are shady and always try to take advantage of policyholders and cash value insurance is proof of that.

Fact: Less that 2% of all term policies ever sold ever pay a claim. Which means: there is a 98% chance that your family will never benefit from a term policy. Term insurance may be the best type of insurance if all you are considering is the cost per thousand dollars of insurance. It is generally the worst type of insurance you can buy to insure your life if you are expecting your family to benefit from it (statistically speaking). You need to understand how life insurance companies position their products and how they make money.

Insurance uses something called the Law of Large Numbers. Basically this is how it works: the larger the group of people you are insuring, the more certain you can be about the number of losses you will sustain.

For example, if we were to start an insurance company and we only had one customer, we would be taking on an incredible risk because of the nature of life insurance, if that one person dies, we could be out of business very quickly (imagine that one customer giving you $20 for a $250,000 death benefit and then dying the very next day). If, however, we have a million customers, then we can better control the risks we are taking by insuring other people's lives. No one can predict when an individual will die, but if we study a large enough group of people, we can make surprisingly accurate predictions about the number of individuals within that group that will die in any given year. Given that insurance companies have an excellent record of predicting deaths every year, what do all of the statistics say?

They say that that term insurance doesn't pay, since most individuals live until age 65. This is why I say permanent is a better deal. In the long-run, it's cheaper. I know, I know...there are probably a few of you saying "no way, it is always cheaper to buy term insurance". Oh yeah? Watch this:

Let's reuse our example, Jim. Let's assume Jim is 25 and in good health with a wife and a Kiddo. He needs life insurance, and he is looking at $250,000 in coverage. A 30-year level term policy would cost Jim around $370 per year until age 55. At that point, Jim's premiums spike to over $4,700 per year.

At age 65, he will have spent $58,780 on policy premiums. Keep in mind that this is money that the insurance company collected but never had to pay back. Since there's no cash value in a pure insurance (term) plan, the insurance contract pays off only when Jim dies.

What would have happened if he had, say, purchased the same amount of death benefit but used a universal life insurance policy with slightly higher but level annual premiums of $1739 every year to age 100? By his 65th birthday, 'ole Jimbo would have had a total premium outlay of $69,560 ($1739 x 40). But, he would have built up $157,000 of cash value inside the policy.

This money is part of the policy's living benefits, and can be used on a tax-free basis to supplement his retirement or left alone to continue growing. Some life insurance companies also offer an option to spend down up to 100% of the death benefit if you become chronically or terminally ill. If you haven't been able to accumulate a lot of money, this can be very helpful.

Lie number two:

Cash value life insurance is overpriced for what you get. You never know how much money you are spending on the death benefit, how much money is actually going into the cash value of the policy, and how much interest you are really earning. Term insurance is so much simpler.

Fact: Whole life insurance carries a stigma in that it is often difficult to determine how much the death benefit is costing you. However, universal life insurance is, in actuality, a term policy with a separate savings account - often called 'the pot of money'. The costs are broken down and the policy is very transparent. Cash value insurance can seem expensive in comparison to term insurance because of the front loaded nature of the contract and the fact that you are forced to save money in a cash account. Sadly, the fees charged by the insurance company are being stressed (I guess they don't know that all financial products carry similar fees).

Be thankful that you pay some of the fees that you do. It makes saving and investing money a lot easier than having to fire a lawyer to negotiate every individual contract you sign. A life insurance contract can be set up to maximize the death benefit (maximizing the cost of the contract), or it can be set up to focus on cash accumulation (minimizing expense charges to .5% - 1% of the interest earned over the life of the policy). The expenses associated with a permanent life insurance contract can be made just as efficient and in some cases more so than what the antagonists suggest as an alternative - which is usually some type of mutual fund - without sacrificing the practicality of owning the contract. But again, why are the antagonists trying to compare the cost of insurance to an investment?

You will usually get all of your money back that you put into a permanent policy plus interest (depending on how you structured the contract). Additionally, the policy can give you a substantial tax-free income at retirement. The only exception to this is variable life, which typically has no guarantee on cash values

Lie number three:

If you are smart with your money, pay off your mortgage and other loans, and put money into retirement plans you won't need insurance 30 years from now to protect your family.

Fact: You might need insurance to protect your children from a big tax burden. Even if you are "smart" with your money, you can't predict the future with absolute certainty. Some people alive today are experiencing a 40% loss in their retirement accounts 5 years before retirement. This is money that was supposed to be there for them and it isn't. If your investments take a hit right before YOU are ready to retire, it doesn't matter how "smart" you were with your money.

Still don't think life insurance is necessary as you get older? Consider that dying isn't free. What does the average funeral cost in your home town? Ask a funeral director how quickly the costs double over any given time period. You will be shocked...shocked I tell you. Also, ask any child whose parents left them a sizable IRA what they paid in taxes and if it was financially disruptive.

Your financial guru told you cash value insurance was evil, but it could have really helped out of a jam when the tax man cometh. You could also bypassing probate, providing an income tax free death benefit and, inside of a life insurance trust, completely avoid the estate tax.

Although many financial gurus try to draw a connection between insurance and investing in the process of telling you what a lousy investment cash value life insurance is, comparing this type of insurance to investing is nonsensical. It's like asking "how many vinyl records does it take to equal a DVD?"...we're talking about two different products that, while somewhat related, work in two very different ways - each with their own different objectives.

Before you make any decision on whether to buy term or cash value life insurance, think about what you are trying to accomplish. If you want to invest your money, then learn about investing. Learn how to value corporations and buy stocks, bonds, no load mutual funds. If you want a long-term savings, then find an adviser that can maximize your savings through cash value life insurance.

About the Author:


Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home