What Type of Life Insurance Policy Should You Get

The primary purpose for getting life insurance will always be to protect the people you care about in case something were to happen to you. How much capital would you need in order to pay off debts, support your loved ones, or to take care of all your affairs?

After you understand what priorities you would like to protect through life insurance it is fairly easy to determine the correct amount of coverage.

What Type Of Life Insurance

The next question is what type of coverage will best serve your needs. In order to get the right amount of coverage you also have to make sure that the premiums fit comfortably into your budget.

Term Insurance Benefits

Term insurance is less expensive than whole life insurance, because you are renting the insurance. Your coverage is considered pure insurance in this case, because it doesn’t develop cash value or participate in company dividends.

Instead it allows you to get the right amount of protection for the least expensive premiums available. Term insurance has also developed over the years to offer more comprehensive options. You can get a return-of-premiums policy where you pay more during the life of the policy, but the insurance company refunds all of your premiums at the end of the fixed term.

There are also term policies that allow you to lock in your age and health for the remainder of your life, so that you can have the coverage and premiums locked in for the rest of your life. This is a great and inexpensive way to obtain permanent insurance.

How Long Should You Lock In Your Premiums

The longer you can lock in your premiums the more advantageous it will be in the long run. The insurance company takes into consideration the mortality risk during the level period of the term. If you are 35 and you get a level 20-term policy then the rates will be fixed until you are 55. And because you are locking in the premiums at a younger age, the average risk and rates will be less than if you were to lock in your premiums at 55.

Most people have an insurance need that will last throughout the rest of their lives. If you can permanently lock in a portion of your insurance at a younger age this can save you substantially on premiums. It happens quite often where people will have to apply for new coverage after the fixed rates on their current policy have expired, and because they are now older and have to pay much more in premiums.

Your health is also locked in when you first take the policy out. Many people looking for insurance in their fifties or sixties are dealing with some type of medical condition that makes the cost of life insurance double or triple in cost. The same logic that applies to locking in your age is also good to keep in mind when locking in your health. We don’t know what is going to happen to us, and if we have our insurance locked in then our insurability and premiums will be unaffected by a medical event.

Level Term Insurance

I always recommend getting a level-term policy as opposed to one that will start off lower and increase premiums each and every year. The level term policies allow you to lock in your age and health for the remainder of the term, whereas the increasing-premium policies become more expensive every year based on your new age.

Because term insurance is a less expensive way to get the right amount of protection, I believe that it is the right choice for a large majority of people looking at life insurance.

Cash Value Life Insurance: When To Consider It

First A Word Of Caution About How The Life Insurance Industry Operates

An agent who pushes one company above the others is doing his or her clients a disservice. Every company has its positives and negatives and each company has focused on certain demographics to try to create a competitive edge. There are 17 life insurance companies in the fortune 500 alone. These companies have very similar investment portfolios and conduct business in ways that are more common than not. Eight of these companies are mutual, nine are stock companies, and they all operate in order to make a profit. The most important thing that anybody can do is to have an agent who can help them shop the market for the company that is going to fit their needs best. Somebody that is a smoker with high blood pressure is going to have better options outside of the companies that target nonsmokers without health conditions. Finding the least expensive company on the market for your age and health can save you thousands of dollars.

I used to work for an insurance agency where we only sold a single triple-A-rated-insurance company. When I worked for this agency, my fellow agents and I were especially inculcated with the benefits of this company’s whole life insurance. This situation is not unique.

Captive agencies have managers that groom agents to push one company because they get paid commissions when their agents sell these products. Please don’t assume that life insurance agents are experts on the benefits of different companies and types of insurance plans, because many of them are unaware of the benefits beyond their own company. Instead of consulting their clients and shopping the market they push a single product that doesn’t always match up well. There are far too many people being given advice from agents to consider whole life insurance, because they are trained to present the same products to every client.

When You Are Considering An Insurance Company It Will Always Be Advantageous For Some People And Ill Advised For Others

If you sit down with an agent who goes over a list of benefits about a single insurance company, keep in mind that most benefits are really trade-offs. For instance, if a company is a triple-A rated insurance company than they are probably also more conservative with whom they insure. A triple-A rating is great, but it is really only necessary if you plan on participating in the companies dividends, or in other words buying their whole life insurance. There is no need to pay extra money for the privilege of having a triple-A rated company as many agents insist. A.M. Best considers a company with an A-rating to be in excellent financial health and there are many A-rated companies with less expensive insurance offers if you are not planning on participating in whole life.

When Whole Life Insurance is a Good Idea

For some people, whole life insurance can be a great complement to their financial security. I have sold whole life insurance based on the following benefits.
1) It has a guaranteed return that will consistently build up the cash value in the policy.
2) It gives policyholders permanent insurance so that they are insured throughout their lifetime.
3) It allows them to stop paying premiums after a certain number of years, because the dividends from the company will be enough to keep the policy in force.
4) It allows policyholders to take cash from the policy in the form of a loan, so that you have another option if liquidity is needed.
5) The growth of the policy is tax deferred and tax-free as long as long as the policy is kept in force.

The problem can be that many of these benefits point to life insurance as an asset or investment. Life insurance should always be considered for the death benefit first and foremost. If you have already maxed out both your Roth Ira and 401(k), have at least three months of expenses in accessible savings, and are looking for something else to build up savings then whole-life insurance can be a good option. The point is that whole life insurance is a good choice when you have the ability to max out your qualified retirement funds and are looking to complement your savings with a conservative tie in to your life insurance.

Whole life can be a mistake for a couple of reasons

There are risks when putting your money into whole life insurance. The risks aren’t always clearly explained, because the agents focus on the guaranteed dividends that will grow the cash value every year. However, one significant risk is buying into whole-life insurance, paying the premiums for a number of years, and then not being able to keep up with the premiums down the road. Life insurance companies bank on this happening to a certain percentage of policyholders.
If this occurs you are in danger of losing thousands of dollars in paid premiums without the benefit of accumulating any cash value. When a policy lapses or you can’t keep up with whole life premiums then the insurance company will retain your premiums without you having any cash value built up or any insurance in force.
These whole life polices are structured to have large front end expenses and it will take at least a couple of years before your premiums start to build up cash value. It takes about ten years before the amount of premiums you put into the policy will equal the cash value in the policy.

How Cash Value In Whole Life Insurance Works

The other risk with whole life insurance is not understanding how the cash value in the policy works and taking out too much of it. The cash value in the policy is liquid, but the insurance company will let you take out about 97% of it in order to protect against the policy lapsing. Any cash that is taken out of the policy is loaned from the policy at interest.

Lets assume that you are in the first 20 years of your whole life policy and are taking a loan from the cash value in the policy. The loaned interest rate is 8.0 %, the non-loaned dividend interest rate is 6.85%, and the loaned-dividend interest is rate is 7.9 %. Notice that the insurance company steps up the interest rate on the loaned amount or the amount borrowed from your cash value. This mitigates the cost of the loan, but the loan still creates an ongoing obligation to pay interest. For instance the cost of borrowing here would be 6.95 %.

(The loaned interest rate (8.0 %) + (the non-loaned dividend interest rate (6.85%) – the loaned-dividend interest rate (7.9%)) = cost of borrowing (6.95%).

The cash value in the policy is really a double-edged sword, because it leads to a significant risk that you will not be able to keep up with the premiums. It is practically intended for people who can repay the loan quickly so that the policy continues to develop dividends instead of an obligation to pay interest. It is great for people who aren’t ever tempted to borrow from the policy, because the dividends will compound and eventually be able to cover the cost of annual premiums. When this occurs the risk of lapsing will be negligible. However, this takes quite some time to achieve and it truly depends on how disciplined you can afford to be with the additional cost of these premiums. If you would rather have control of your money up front there is an argument that you can buy term and invest the rest instead of leveraging the insurance companies general fund.

Your Personality Profile And Budget Must Be In Line

I recommend taking a look at both your budget and how much control you want over your money for at least the next ten years if you are considering whole life. Because term insurance can now permanently lock in your age and health in the same manner as whole life insurance, the biggest question is whether or not you want control over investing the difference in premiums. Many people prefer whole life insurance because they don’t have to think about investing the difference; the insurance company does it for them. They can also grow their death benefit by the amount of growth in cash value and act as their own creditor if they ever want to borrow cash from the policy.

A Couple Other Points About Whole Life Insurance

The cash value component in a whole life insurance policy needs to be addressed. The first is that cash value is based on compounding dividends. So the longer you keep the paying premiums the more advantageous it is. The second is that if you go with a reliable insurance company they will usually pay non-guaranteed dividends that are based on the results of an insurance companies investments. This is when rating is important to consider, because you are now participating in these dividends. Also if you have allowed the cash value to grow and take out modest loans from the policy later in life, you will most likely have enough in dividends to keep pace beyond the ongoing obligation of interest. However if you do surrender the policy the gains will be taxed as capital gains and you will have to pay a surrender charge as well. If the policy is in force and you pass away while there are still outstanding loans, the death benefit will be paid out after it covers the cost of the loans that you have taken from the policy.

Term Insurance Vs. Whole Life

I believe the most important factor in all of this is the human element. If you are patient, conservative, and comfortably able to continue paying premiums without the temptation to borrow from the cash-value then you are a good candidate for whole life insurance. The majority of people have fluctuating budgets and circumstances where they are better off with something that locks in their age and health and gives them the opportunity to invest the difference elsewhere.

Avoid These Six Common Life Insurance Mistakes

Life insurance is one of the most important components of any individual’s financial plan. However there is lot of misunderstanding about life insurance, mainly due to the way life insurance products have been sold over the years in India. We have discussed some common mistakes insurance buyers should avoid when buying insurance policies.

1. Underestimating insurance requirement: Many life insurance buyers choose their insurance covers or sum assured, based on the plans their agents want to sell and how much premium they can afford. This a wrong approach. Your insurance requirement is a function of your financial situation, and has nothing do with what products are available. Many insurance buyers use thumb rules like 10 times annual income for cover. Some financial advisers say that a cover of 10 times your annual income is adequate because it gives your family 10 years worth of income, when you are gone. But this is not always correct. Suppose, you have 20 year mortgage or home loan. How will your family pay the EMIs after 10 years, when most of the loan is still outstanding? Suppose you have very young children. Your family will run out of income, when your children need it the most, e.g. for their higher education. Insurance buyers need to consider several factors in deciding how much insurance cover is adequate for them.

· Repayment of the entire outstanding debt (e.g. home loan, car loan etc.) of the policy holder

· After debt repayment, the cover or sum assured should have surplus funds to generate enough monthly income to cover all the living expenses of the dependents of the policy holder, factoring in inflation

· After debt repayment and generating monthly income, the sum assured should also be adequate to meet future obligations of the policy holder, like children’s education, marriage etc.

2. Choosing the cheapest policy: Many insurance buyers like to buy policies that are cheaper. This is another serious mistake. A cheap policy is no good, if the insurance company for some reason or another cannot fulfil the claim in the event of an untimely death. Even if the insurer fulfils the claim, if it takes a very long time to fulfil the claim it is certainly not a desirable situation for family of the insured to be in. You should look at metrics like Claims Settlement Ratio and Duration wise settlement of death claims of different life insurance companies, to select an insurer, that will honour its obligation in fulfilling your claim in a timely manner, should such an unfortunate situation arise. Data on these metrics for all the insurance companies in India is available in the IRDA annual report (on the IRDA website). You should also check claim settlement reviews online and only then choose a company that has a good track record of settling claims.

3. Treating life insurance as an investment and buying the wrong plan: The common misconception about life insurance is that, it is also as a good investment or retirement planning solution. This misconception is largely due to some insurance agents who like to sell expensive policies to earn high commissions. If you compare returns from life insurance to other investment options, it simply does not make sense as an investment. If you are a young investor with a long time horizon, equity is the best wealth creation instrument. Over a 20 year time horizon, investment in equity funds through SIP will result in a corpus that is at least three or four times the maturity amount of life insurance plan with a 20 year term, with the same investment. Life insurance should always been seen as protection for your family, in the event of an untimely death. Investment should be a completely separate consideration. Even though insurance companies sell Unit Linked Insurance Plans (ULIPs) as attractive investment products, for your own evaluation you should separate the insurance component and investment component and pay careful attention to what portion of your premium actually gets allocated to investments. In the early years of a ULIP policy, only a small amount goes to buying units.

A good financial planner will always advise you to buy term insurance plan. A term plan is the purest form of insurance and is a straightforward protection policy. The premium of term insurance plans is much less than other types of insurance plans, and it leaves the policy holders with a much larger investible surplus that they can invest in investment products like mutual funds that give much higher returns in the long term, compared to endowment or money back plans. If you are a term insurance policy holder, under some specific situations, you may opt for other types of insurance (e.g. ULIP, endowment or money back plans), in addition to your term policy, for your specific financial needs.

4. Buying insurance for the purpose of tax planning: For many years agents have inveigled their clients into buying insurance plans to save tax under Section 80C of the Income Tax Act. Investors should realize that insurance is probably the worst tax saving investment. Return from insurance plans is in the range of 5 – 6%, whereas Public Provident Fund, another 80C investment, gives close to 9% risk free and tax free returns. Equity Linked Saving Schemes, another 80C investment, gives much higher tax free returns over the long term. Further, returns from insurance plans may not be entirely tax free. If the premiums exceed 20% of sum assured, then to that extent the maturity proceeds are taxable. As discussed earlier, the most important thing to note about life insurance is that objective is to provide life cover, not to generate the best investment return.

5. Surrendering life insurance policy or withdrawing from it before maturity: This is a serious mistake and compromises the financial security of your family in the event of an unfortunate incident. Life Insurance should not be touched until the unfortunate death of the insured occurs. Some policy holders surrender their policy to meet an urgent financial need, with the hope of buying a new policy when their financial situation improves. Such policy holders need to remember two things. First, mortality is not in anyone’s control. That is why we buy life insurance in the first place. Second, life insurance gets very expensive as the insurance buyer gets older. Your financial plan should provide for contingency funds to meet any unexpected urgent expense or provide liquidity for a period of time in the event of a financial distress.

6. Insurance is a one-time exercise: I am reminded of an old motorcycle advertisement on television, which had the punch line, “Fill it, shut it, forget it”. Some insurance buyers have the same philosophy towards life insurance. Once they buy adequate cover in a good life insurance plan from a reputed company, they assume that their life insurance needs are taken care of forever. This is a mistake. Financial situation of insurance buyers change with time. Compare your current income with your income ten years back. Hasn’t your income grown several times? Your lifestyle would also have improved significantly. If you bought a life insurance plan ten years ago based on your income back then, the sum assured will not be enough to meet your family’s current lifestyle and needs, in the unfortunate event of your untimely death. Therefore you should buy an additional term plan to cover that risk. Life Insurance needs have to be re-evaluated at a regular frequency and any additional sum assured if required, should be bought.

Convertible Term Life Insurance Rates

Considering purchasing convertible term life insurance? How exactly does a convertible term life insurance policy work? Is it possible to find a cheap convertible term life insurance policy? These are all important questions to ask and to understand the answers to before you decide to make the important decision of which type of life insurance coverage to buy.

At the time of deciding what type of life insurance to buy, a person must know every single type offered in the market in order to truly make the best choice for their specific coverage needs. It is true that perhaps many companies simply refer to their policies as term or permanent life insurance, but a person must know that there is much more to that and such is the case of convertible term life insurance. In this article you will be able to know what convertible term is and the many things associated with this type of life insurance.

What Exactly Is Convertible Term Life Insurance?

Life insurance is perhaps easily understood because it simply is a contract between a person and an insurance company. The contract simply states that the person must pay monthly premiums for a certain period of time in exchange for a death benefit paid to the beneficiary in case of the insured’s death.

A term life insurance policy is simply a policy that will cover for a specific period of time, but with a convertible term life insurance policy you will have the ability to transform your policy from a temporary one to a permanent one.

What this means is that if you have a policy for 25 years and you have a convertible term life insurance policy, then you will be able to change the term policy into a whole, universal of variable life insurance policy (depending on the company).

Things To Know At The Time Of Purchasing Your Policy

Like any other product, there are a few things that a customer must know in order to make the convertible life insurance experience a successful one.

Health and Family History: At the time of applying for a policy, whether you are doing it online or in person at a local agency; make sure to have some general information about your medical history. Although companies have the right to access your files when you apply for a policy (with your permission that is), most of the times they will ask you questions about your health and family history. The more prepared you are to answer these questions, the easier the quoting process will be.

Amount and Duration of the Policy: You must also have an idea of how much life insurance you wish to buy at the particular time. The reason for this is that with term life insurance policies a person must choose an amount at the time of getting the policy. There are tools online or that the company has that will help you get the amount you will more than likely need. It is also important to understand that the particular amounts change from company to company. Also, make sure that you know the amount of time you want the policy to last. Some common ones include 15, 20, 25 and even 30 years.

The Beneficiary: Last but not least it is important to be completely certain of whom you want your beneficiary to be. The reason for this is that many people actually don’t know at the time of signing the policy and just put the first person in mind. However, many insurance companies are actually very strict when it comes to beneficiaries and they wont let a person make a change unless they fill out the appropriate paperwork. Nevertheless, it is important for a customer to know the company and their stand when it comes to particular beneficiary changes.

Lower Premiums Compared To Other Types Of Policies

Compared to many of the other types of policies, the convertible term life insurance policies give the customer a better choice. The reason for this is that a person will have the main option of converting the term life insurance to a permanent one or of simply letting the policy expire in their own hands. Having a term life insurance first also helps a lot, simply because term life insurance has lower premiums than a permanent life insurance policy.

The difference for these cheaper premiums is simply that with a term life insurance policy, the death benefit is not guaranteed to the beneficiary (particularly because the insured can still be alive at the end of the policy). Because of this reason, a person that chooses the option of having a convertible life insurance policy will have the great option of paying low premiums at first.

Medical Examinations

Another good thing about convertible term life insurance policies is that they allow a person to convert regardless of the medical condition and health of the insured. If the person in the policy chose the option of having a convertible term life insurance policy and they have paid premiums at the right time, then they have by law the right to extend their coverage if they choose to.

It is also important to highlight that this change in coverage must be made without the insured being forced to take a medical examination. The freedom of continuing the coverage regardless of everything and not having the chance of being denied might be the reasons why this insurance option is so popular nowadays.

No Premium Increases For Medical Problems

The last thing worth talking about when it comes to convertible life insurance policies is that at the time of changing your policy you cannot be charged any additional premium for any medical problems that you may have. It is important to highlight that I’m not referring to the fact that your premiums will not go up in value, because when converting from term to permanent there is always a chance of that. What I’m referring to is that at the time of converting your term life insurance to a permanent one by law you are protected against a raise in premium based on a medical condition.

No One Policy Is Right For Everyone

It is important to note that this type of plan is not for everyone, because some people just rather have a permanent policy right away or some others just want to be covered until they get retired. However, this might be exactly what some people are looking for simply because it starts as perhaps the low cost choice.

Compare Quotes To Find The Best Value

Compare the prices of regular life insurance quotes against the prices of convertible term life insurance quotes to find the best value. If you want the freedom of having a term policy and being able to convert it in the near future to a permanent life insurance plan that covers you for life then go ahead and start shopping around for your convertible life insurance plan!