Term Life Insurance
Term life insurance or term assurance is life insurance which provides coverage at a fixed rate of payments for a limited period of time, the relevant term. After that period expires, coverage at the previous rate of premiums is no longer guaranteed and the client must either forgo coverage or potentially obtain further coverage with different payments or conditions. If the insured dies during the term, the death benefit will be paid to the beneficiary. Term insurance is the least expensive way to purchase a substantial death benefit on a coverage amount per premium dollar basis over a specific period of time.
Whole Life Insurance
Life insurance which provides coverage for an individual’s whole life, rather than a specified term. A savings component, called cash value or loan value, builds over time and can be used for wealth accumulation. Whole life is the most basic form of cash value life insurance. The insurance company essentially makes all of the decisions regarding the policy. Regular premiums both pay insurance costs and cause equity to accrue in a savings account. A fixed death benefit is paid to the beneficiary along with the balance of the savings account. Premiums are fixed throughout the life of the policy even though the breakdown between insurance and savings swings toward the insurance over time. Management fees also eat up a portion of the premiums. The insurance company will invest money primarily in fixed-income securities, meaning that the savings investment will be subject to interest rate and inflation risk.
Universal Life Insurance
Life insurance which combines the low-cost protection of term insurance with a savings component that is invested in a tax-deferred account, the cash value of which may be available for a loan to the policyholder. Universal life was created to provide more flexibility than whole life by allowing the holder to shift money between the insurance and savings components of the policy. Additionally, the inner workings of the investment process are openly displayed to the holder, whereas details of whole life investments tend to be quite scarce. Premiums, which are variable, are broken down by the insurance company into insurance and savings. Therefore, the holder can adjust the proportions of the policy based on external conditions. If the savings are earning a poor return, they can be used to pay the premiums instead of injecting more money. If the holder remains insurable, more of the premium can be applied to insurance, increasing the death benefit. Unlike with whole life, the cash value investments grow at a variable rate that is adjusted monthly. There is usually a minimum rate of return. These changes to the interest scheme allow the holder to take advantage of rising interest rates. The danger is that falling interest rates may cause premiums to increase and even cause the policy to lapse if interest can no longer pay a portion of the insurance costs.