Are you looking to buy a life insurance policy? Well, be careful. Life insurance can be difficult to understand and it's easy to be conned into buying something under false pretenses.
Recently a prominent life insurance company together with several of its agents paid a huge fine because it permitted the sale of a life insurance policy disguised as a retirement plan. There was little attention given to what a life insurance policy is truly designed to provide.
Life insurance is not an investment for your benefit. It's guaranteed income tax-free cash paid to someone you designate in the event of your death. If you love someone and want to protect them, then buying a life insurance policy makes sense.
As primary bread winner in your family, your lost income could jeopardize the ability of those you love to continue to enjoy their standard of living.
The only way to guarantee an immediate replacement of this money is with the intelligent purchase of a life insurance policy.
Notice I didn't say term life insurance, low cost life insurance, or whole life insurance.
To your loved ones ... this doesn't really matter.
Over the years I've delivered millions of dollars of life insurance benefit to the families of deceased bread winners. And you know what?
No one ever asked me what type of life insurance policy it was. They were just extremely grateful to get the money.
Term is the cheapest, but it's unlikely the death benefit will be paid since the life insurance policy will probably lapse before you actually die. Right now the premium may seem cheap compared with other types. But what happens when you're older?
Term life insurance premiums can be level for a specific number of years, but when that number of years is up the price will skyrocket to the point you won't be able or willing to pay.
Whole life insurance provides a lifetime level premium until the policy is paid-up. This can be 10 years, 20 years ... or when you reach age 65, 85 or 100. One big advantage is you don't have to worry about your policy expiring before you do.
One type of life insurance policy is not necessarily better than another. But it's critical you understand what you are buying, how it works and your net cost.
After all, if the policy isn't in force when you die you have thrown your premium dollars right down a rat hole.
By the way, don't fall for that line about buy term and invest the difference. Anyone who cons you with this bunch of malarkey has absolutely no idea how to intelligently evaluate the purchase of life insurance.
An excellent life insurance policy to consider is universal life. This guarantees the death benefit up to age 115 regardless of the performance of the underlying investment.
Although more expensive then term life insurance, universal life is far less costly than a typical whole life insurance policy. But be careful because some universal life policies are sold by focusing on projected interest rates rather than contractual guarantees.
If you are considering the purchase of a whole life insurance policy from a mutual company that declares annual dividends, ask the agent for a hypothetical illustration using a dividend forecast at least one percent less than the current rate.
In the past, when long-term interest rates were higher, mutual companies credited very handsome dividends to their policies. But today with long-term rates still depressed, it's unlikely a life insurance policy will perform as illustrated.
In summary, pay close attention to the guarantees of whatever life insurance policy you decide to buy. Also, make sure you know the credit rating of the life insurance company.
There is nothing wrong with term life insurance, but understand your options about converting to a permanent plan. This could be critical if you become uninsurable before the policy expires.
Don Adams is a 24 year veteran financial consultant who provides easy to understand personal finance advice on a wide variety of money matters.