What role can whole life insurance play in my financial plan?
Too often, advisors offer a perspective along the lines of, “This product is good; that product is bad,” or, “This annuity is too expensive; that investment is too risky.”
What I’ve learned during many years of planning with families, however, is that what people really want to know is, “How could this work for me?” At the end of the day, when they’re considering whether or not to incorporate whole life insurance into their financial plan, what clients want to understand is, “What value can this tool provide for me and my family?”
Here are some of the core reasons clients give us for why they value whole life insurance, the simplest form of permanent life insurance:
Permanent death benefit and guaranteed premiums: Whole life insurance can never be cancelled as long as premiums are paid; your death benefit is guaranteed; and premiums can never increase. For many people, it is important to have some life insurance coverage for their family that will outlast their term life insurance and never expire. Guaranteed premiums also allow people to create stability in their financial plan without having to worry about changes in the future.
Tax advantages for long-term safer dollars: Many of our clients use whole life as a segment of their overall financial plan. Many top mutual insurance companies have general account portfolios in excess of $100 billion, which allows policyholders to “tag along for the ride” and participate through their policy performance over time. For this reason, it is particularly important to choose a high-quality mutual life insurance company when starting a plan.
Over time, when clients see how their whole life insurance matures, they often wish they had committed earlier.
Another major benefit that whole life insurance provides is its tax advantages. The majority of our clients are high-income earners. They unwillingly become Uncle Sam’s best friend, by losing a significant portion of their compensation and investment earnings to taxes. With whole life insurance, death benefits are generally not subject to income tax. Cash values grow completely tax deferred. And, you can withdraw your basis from the life insurance contract and take policy loans, also tax-free as long as there is sufficient cash value. Withdrawing cash value through surrenders or policy loans will decrease the death benefit. Policy loans will also accrue interest that will need to be repaid.
Optionality: Whole life insurance particularly rewards those with foresight about, and an understanding of, how valuable optionality will be down the road. At first, whole life provides the insurance necessary to protect families from the unexpected. As time progresses,the tax-deferred cash value growth this insurance offers gives those families the option to use this asset for emergencies, college education, retirement income or any other financial objective.
Many choose not to use their cash value and instead leave their full death benefit to their heirs. Knowing that they will have something to leave behind as a legacy, they feel more empowered to use their retirement savings for themselves. For those with estates above the lifetime exemption, permanent life insurance plays a vital planning role, providing much needed liquidity for estate taxes and flexibility for more complex estate planning.
It is important to remember that financial planning should be a holistic and comprehensive process. There is no silver bullet, and whole life will never be a cure-all. That being said, there are unique benefits that whole life can provide, and it is often worth considering as one piece of an overall financial plan. Over time, when clients see how their whole life insurance matures, they often wish they had committed earlier, and committed to purchasing more.
Kevin R. Luchetta offers advisory services as a representative of Northwestern Mutual Wealth Management Company (WMC), a limited purpose federal savings bank, and a wholly owned subsidiary of The Northwestern Mutual Life Insurance Company, Milwaukee, Wis., (NM). Northwestern Mutual is the fleet name for NM, its subsidiaries and affiliates. Investments held with or managed by WMC are not insured by the FDIC, are not deposits or other obligations of, or guaranteed by, WMC or its affiliates and are subject to investment risks, including loss of the principal.
Kevin R. Luchetta is an insurance agent of NM (life insurance, annuities and disability income insurance), and Northwestern Long Term Care Insurance Company, a subsidiary of NM, and a registered representative of Northwestern Mutual Investment Services, LLC (NMIS), an NM subsidiary, broker-dealer, investment advisor, member FINRA, SIPC.
Pioneer Financial is a marketing name used by a group of Northwestern Mutual representatives (not all of whom are affiliated with WMC) including Kevin R. Luchetta (referred to as the “firm”), and is not a legal entity, partnership, investment advisor, broker-dealer or affiliate of NM. The information contained in this article is not a solicitation to purchase or sell investments or securities. The views expressed herein are those of the author and may not necessarily reflect the views of Northwestern Mutual. Certified Financial Planner Board of Standards, Inc. owns the certification marks CFP®, CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ and federally registered CFP (with flame logo), which it awards to individuals who successfully complete initial and ongoing certification requirements.
This article was originally published in the October/November 2016 issue of Worth.