Today’s insurance product marketplace is flooded with options, leaving most clients familiar with the overwhelming feeling that they must choose one. Insurance carriers, however, have answered this issue with product innovation — and the next product trend may be one that allows clients to combine the guarantees of traditional whole life insurance with the upside participation potential of an indexed universal life insurance (IUL) product.
Understanding the details of these new products can help clients experience the best of both worlds, eliminating the need to choose between valuable features by combining elements of both into a single, optimal value product.
IUL versus whole life
A whole life insurance policy is a permanent policy that provides for a guaranteed death benefit on the death of the insured in exchange for set, guaranteed premium payments. The carrier issuing the policy invests a portion of the premiums, building cash value in the policy that the insured can borrow against in the future. These policies also typically provide annual dividends, which can be used to further build the cash value of the policy.
Indexed universal life insurance policies, on the other hand, are cash value life insurance products that are tied to a specific stock index (or indexes, such as the S&P 500) and provide returns based upon a formula that is correlated to market performance. These policies often come with both an earnings cap and an earnings floor, so that, for example, the policy might earn no more than 10 percent but no less than 2 percent, meaning that the policy can continue to grow even in an economic downturn.
Clients who are interested in the market participation and downside protection investment components of indexed universal life may, however, also be drawn to the guarantees provided through a traditional whole life policy.
The new product mix
Life insurance carriers have been searching for ways to combine the benefits of a whole life insurance product with the market participation options offered through indexed universal life. These new options use a currently existing whole life feature — paid up additions (PUAs) — in order to add an indexing feature.
Essentially, a paid-up addition is an additional death benefit (also with cash value) that is purchased in conjunction with a whole life policy (either with dividends or through additional premium payments). Carriers, understanding the attraction of an indexed product, have begun offering paid up additions that can be tied to the performance of an index.