Term vs. Whole Life Insurance

Term vs. Whole Life Insurance

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There are two main types of life insurance. Term life insurance offers protection for your loved ones for a specified period of time. Permanent (or whole) life insurance policies do not expire — they are intended to provide protection for your entire life. Some types of permanent policies accumulate cash value. Read on to find out which may be right for you.

How long does term life insurance last?

It’s called term because your insurance premiums last for as long as the term you select. Term policies pay death benefits — if you die during the period covered by the policy, proceeds will go to your beneficiaries. Term life insurance can be for as little as one year and up to 30 years. Most companies offer policies in increments of 5 or 10 years, so you can get coverage for 5, 10, 20 or 30 years, for example. Once the term runs out, you’ll have the option to continue coverage, but at a higher premium.

Sometimes, it is possible to convert a term life policy into a whole life policy, but it depends on your insurance provider and their terms and conditions. This is one of the things to ask an advisor when considering options for life insurance.

How much does term life insurance cost?

Term life insurance is often the most affordable, because the rate of your premium is locked in for the term you select. Payments are made monthly. The amount of your premium varies according to your health and other factors, but will be lower than premiums for most whole life insurance policies, which last a lifetime and build cash value.

What is whole life insurance?

As the name implies, whole life insurance covers you for your whole life, provided you continue to pay your premiums. Whole life insurance typically comes with guaranteed level premiums — the amount will never change as long as premiums are paid.

Whole life insurance policies pay death benefits (proceeds after death) and they may also build cash value.

What does “cash value” mean?

Cash value is the additional money above the cost of insurance you can contribute to that grows tax-deferred. Contributions to a cash value option allow you to build a reserve that you may have access to through loan and withdrawal options.

How much does whole life insurance cost?

The amount you pay will depend on how much coverage you want. Also factored into the cost are your age as well as your gender and health, among other considerations.

So, should I buy term or whole life insurance?

Generally, you should consider a term life insurance policy to:

  • Get valuable coverage at competitive rates
  • Help cover specific financial responsibilities like a mortgage or college expenses
  • Supplement a permanent policy or work policy

Consider a whole life insurance policy if you want:

  • Portable protection for life
  • Level premiums that stay the same each year
  • To contribute additional money above the cost of insurance into the policy on a tax-deferred basis
  • Cash value you can use during your lifetime

Please keep in mind that these are simply guidelines. You should speak with a trusted financial professional to assess your needs.


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