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Indexed Universal Life Insurance
Friday, 10 August 2018 13:34

What is Indexed Universal Life Insurance? And should you consider it for your portfolio?

First, a brief history of the life insurance policy in America:

Term Life Insurance

The first life insurance policy was a Term Life policy. This is simple protection, a policy that pays a death benefit upon proof of death of the insured. The problem with Term Life insurance is that the premiums increase over time, and eventually become too expensive.

Whole Life Insurance

The solution to this increasing premium problem was a policy with level premiums for the life of the insured. Today, we call that Whole Life. Cash values came later, and we can blame Elizur Wright, and consumer demand during the depression of the 1870s for that.

Universal Life Insurance

The concept of unbundling Whole Life, so that the cash value element and the cost of the death benefit element were transparent, premiums were flexible, and face amounts adjustable, was first thought of in the 1930s. The first policy available for sale to consumers had to wait for affordable and fast computers to reach your local agency, which started in the 1970s. Many people claim that this product was invented by E.F. Hutton, but the first company to actually issue an Adjustable Life policy was Minnesota Mutual (now Minnesota Life), followed almost immediately by Bankers Life of Iowa (now Principal National Life, part of the Principal Financial Group).

The problem with Universal Life, or UL, is that it was often marketed as "Whole Life for Half Price" or something similar. When interest rates were in the double digits, as they were in the 1980s, it was possible for a UL policy to have a premium about half that of a Whole Life policy, with level premiums projected for life. When interest rates trended downward, UL policies became underfunded.

Variable Universal Life

The idea for this product dates to the immediate time period following the de-regulation of securities Broker/Dealers in 1968. The first to test the market were Variable Whole Life products, but when UL came out in the early 1980s, VUL was soon to follow. VUL was very popular in the 1990s.

Variable means that the policy owner can direct the cash values of their life insurance to be invested in sub-accounts that perform similarly to mutual funds, with similar risks, and similar rewards. The potential for growth inside a policy by investing the cash value in equity sub-accounts made up for the declining interest rates, so a lot of old underperforming and underfunded UL policies were replaced with new VUL policies.

The Dot Com Bubble of the year 2000, and the Financial Crisis of 2007-2008, exposed the potential downside risk of VUL, especially if it was underfunded.

Permanent cash value life insurance is designed to last a lifetime, usually with level premiums, or with a premium payment period of a limited number of years (for example, 10 pay, or 20 pay, or pay to 65, which is a premium schedule of 10 annual premiums, or 20 annual premiums, or premiums to age 65). If the premium schedule is based on projected returns on cash value that are similar to a bull market, then the policy will have potential problems when the bull market turns into a bear market, as it inevitably does.

Guaranteed Universal Life

One of the more recent derivatives of the Universal Life concept was the Guaranteed Universal Life, or No Lapse Guarantee Univeral Life, policy. Commonly referred to as GUL or NLG-UL. It is essentially a traditional UL policy, but the emphasis is on lifetime protection with level premiums. Cash values are incidental, and almost always non-existent at older ages. One way to describe a GUL policy is "lifetime level term."

A GUL policy is an alternative to Whole Life, where the policy owner does not care about cash values, or other non-forfeiture options, like Reduced Paid-Up, Extended Term Insurance, Policy Loans, Annuity, or Cash Surrender.

A GUL policy transfers all the risks to the insurance company, just like Whole Life, but without the interest rate risks of a traditional Universal Life policy, or the stock market risks of a Variable Universal Life policy.

Indexed Universal Life

The latest derivative of the Universal Life concept is the Indexed Universal Life Insurance policy, or IUL for short.

Indexed Universal Life has the growth potential of interest linked to a stock market index, like the Standard & Poors 500, but with the added protection of a floor, so that the IUL policy's cash value never suffers market losses.

Here's a video worth watching that helps explain it:  Click Here (a popup will appear)

Who should consider purchasing an Indexed UL?

  • If you own term life insurance, and want to convert an expense into an asset.
  • If you have a need for, or want, permanent death benefits, for estate liquidity, or to fund a business succession plan.
  • If you have maxed out your IRA, Roth IRA, 401(k), 403(b), or 457 Deferred Compensation Plan, and need another place to save for retirement.
  • If you have an existing cash value policy, like Whole Life, or Universal Life, and want to see your cash values grow faster.
  • If you have an existing VUL policy, and you want to limit your downside risk as you get near retirement.
  • If you have sold a business or other property, received an inheritance, or won the lottery, and now need a safe place to warehouse some of your cash, with growth potential, but no market risk.
  • If you have a family history of longevity, and want to make sure that your existing cash value life insurance can last to at least age 121.
  • If you have a family history of critical or chronic illness, or a family history of needing Long Term Care.
  • If you want Long Term Care insurance, but want to make sure that your family gets a death benefit if you never need to use the policy's Long Term Care benefits.
  • If one of your goals is to achieve a Zero Percent Income Tax rate during retirement.

If you want to learn more about Indexed Universal Life, and need some help figuring out if this type of policy belongs in your portfolio, then I can help. Call me today at (800) 680-5596.