Of all the contracts you'll sign in your life, few offer more reassurance than life insurance, which can help protect your loved ones financially when you pass away. Permanent life insurance is a popular type of this coverage. And it comes in three common forms: whole, universal and variable universal.
What is permanent life insurance and how does it work?
Permanent life insurance is designed to last your lifetime and pay out a death benefit, no matter how long you live, as long as you pay the premiums and the contract retains its value.
In addition to the death benefit, permanent contracts typically provide the opportunity to accumulate
Permanent life insurance is something you can purchase even if you also have life insurance through your employer. The main reason to consider getting your own permanent policy is that the coverage will stay with you regardless of your job—you usually can't take workplace-provided insurance coverage with you if you leave.
3 types of permanent life insurance
Whole life insurance
Consistent premiums & guaranteed cash value growth
Its features include:
- A guaranteed fixed premium that never changes.
- Lifelong coverage and a guaranteed death benefit, as long as premiums are paid.
- Cash value growth that isn't subject to market risk.
- The potential to receive dividends.
Universal life insurance
Adjustable premiums & cash value
Its features include:
- Coverage that lasts your entire life, as long as premiums are paid.
- The option to vary the timing and amount of premiums. Sufficient cash value must be available to cover your insurance costs.
- The ability to increase or decrease the death benefit while the contract is active, which generally requires underwriting.
- A death benefit that is not guaranteed. If you stop or reduce premiums and deplete the cash value, your contract could lapse or end.
- Cash value that typically earns a fixed market rate of interest and changes over time. Insurers generally offer a minimum guaranteed interest rate that the contract will not go below.
- Eligibility for dividends, although dividends are not expected to be paid.
Variable universal insurance
Self-directed investment component
Variable universal is very similar to universal. The main difference is that variable universal allows you to invest your cash value in investment subaccounts. That means the growth is tied to market performance and fluctuations. While this option gives you more control over your cash value, your success is more dependent on the market performing well. There's some risk that the contract could lose its value and terminate in a downturn.
Term vs. permanent life insurance
The key difference between
Term life can seem like a budget-friendly choice because it's generally less expensive than permanent alternatives. However, permanent life insurance costs have a wide range. Based on your needs, you may find a permanent life option that's more affordable in the long run for the features you get.
Converting term to permanent
One consideration to weigh if you're leaning toward term over permanent is that some
Blended or hybrid life insurance
One more option to think about is blended life insurance, which fuses certain features of permanent and term. These hybrid contracts provide benefits that are similar to term coverage at the beginning. Later on, the coverage transitions to resemble whole life insurance with a cash value that you can access in your lifetime.
How much life insurance do you need?
Is permanent life insurance worth it?
Permanent coverage is worth considering if you want lasting protection and a savings component that could help you achieve financial goals while you're alive. With whole, universal and variable universal to choose from, you can decide which level of cash value and premium amount will most benefit you and your family.