In my first days in the industry, at the bright young age of 20, I was taught to present cash value life products with two great benefits: the first being a measure of protection for the family, the second being a source of cash. “Mr. Smith, you pay the premium and have protection for the family, but look at all this cash available to help you with your retirement when you get there. You can even access the money on a tax-preferenced basis!” Now, after several decades of experience, I’ve discovered that life products used for these purposes are both a severely overpriced term insurance contract and a very underperforming investment.
Using some numerical engineering, we can easily determine the true cost ramifications of an insurance policy by dissecting the following illustration. Suppose we are using a product that is illustrating an 8% return and, at the beginning of year five, we have $50,000 in illustrated cash value and also deposit another $10,000 in premiums. Absent any costs at the end of the year, we would be illustrating $64,800 ($50k + $10k + an 8% return). If the illustration projects our end of year value to be $60,210, it is quite apparent then that our costs are $3,590 for “protection” for that year. (The $64,800 we should have had less the $60,210 the illustration suggests we will have.) If we compare the cost of protection in that year to a term insurance cost, chances are likely the term insurance would be considerably less.
Surely no one in our industry should consider life insurance — even variable life products — a good investment unless also taking into account the tax advantages that can be derived from a properly structured contract. Frankly speaking, the insurance “protection” costs will far outweigh any advisory fee or similar costs associated with mainstream investment options. And generally speaking, we should not be considering cash value products a good monetary value as a protection vehicle either, unless the protection needed goes into the post-retirement upper ages, such as in the case of estate planning needs or pension maximization strategies.
See also: Adding Values to the Boomer Estate Plan
My suggestion to younger clients is that there should not be a need for life insurance as a protection vehicle (absent the estate or pension scenarios) in retirement. If the couple saves adequately for their retirement, there should be enough for just one of them should the other pass early in retirement. Thus, the need for life insurance as a protection vehicle gets reduced to a pre-retirement time-frame — or perhaps just until the kids get past college. If you analyze the true protection costs of a cash value contract for, say, 30 years and compare that to the cost of a 30-year term contract, chances are extremely high the term insurance would cost less. Of course, there are other factors that a “numerical engineer” should take into account, such as the future surrender value of the cash value contract compared to the future value of the excess premium invested in mainstream investments, etc. The point, however, is that we have a duty to the client to do a thorough job of analyzing the true contractual costs.
Suppose I were to suggest that you could make an investment of $100,000 into a vehicle that had mutual funds choices, and that, each year, you could take the yield out without being taxed. The caveat? You would be required to pay a $50 annual fee. Also, in this scenario, your family stands to gain $101,000 if you passed away. Would that proposition be attractive to you?