Life insurance can help ensure your family can maintain its lifestyle if a breadwinner dies prematurely. Many insurance experts advise purchasing life insurance equal to five to eight times the individual’s income.
Whole life, or permanent, life insurance also offers tax-advantaged savings for retirement and estate protection. Term life insurance provides pure death benefit coverage for a specific time (one to 30 years) and has no cash savings.
Permanent life insurance, or cash value, programs provide death benefits plus some additional benefits, including the tax-deferred accumulation of cash.
Life Insurance Options
Term Life Insurance
Policy owners can renew coverage at the end of their policy term without having to submit new medical information, though the premium rate will generally rise with each renewal.
Level-premium policies have a fixed premium for a certain number of years (usually 10 or 20), while the death benefit remains unchanged. Although the rate locks in for the policy period, it can jump considerably upon renewal.
A convertible policy allows the insured to convert term coverage into a permanent policy without providing evidence of insurability (usually a medical exam), in exchange for a higher premium, which remains fixed after conversion.
Permanent Life Insurance
Permanent life insurance provides lifelong protection and includes a savings element that grows on a tax-deferred basis and may become substantial over time. Premiums are generally higher than for term insurance, but they remain fixed.
All permanent insurance has a face value and a cash value. The face amount is the money that will be paid at death, while cash value is the amount of money currently available to the policyholder. Permanent life offers other benefits–purchasers can withdraw some of the money, obtain a loan using the cash value as collateral or use the cash value to pay premiums, provided there is enough money accumulated.
Whole or ordinary life
The face amount of the policy is fixed, while premiums remain level and must be paid on a regular basis. It offers a death benefit and a savings account, which grows based on insurance company-paid dividends.
This policy combines death protection with a savings plan. Cash value will vary with the performance of the underlying investments, although some policies do guarantee a minimum death benefit.
Universal or adjustable life
More flexible, employees can pay premiums at any time, in virtually any amount, and may change the amount of the death benefit, although an increase usually requires a medical examination. After accumulating sufficient funds in the cash value account, employees may alter premium payments, a useful feature if an employee’s economic situation has suddenly changed.
The employee has the investment risks and rewards of variable life insurance, coupled with the ability to adjust the premiums and death benefit available under universal life.