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Why Do People Buy Life Insurance? (Updated 2020)

Life insurance is purchased for three reasons.

  1. Estate Creation: from the moment you are protected by a policy, the people you care about will be provided for if you pass away.
  2. Estate Preservation: when estate or death tax must be paid, a life insurance policy can be a way to ensure that you don’t have to sell assets harder to turn into cash, such as a house.
  3.  Protection: when a primary income earner passes away, a life insurance policy can be built to provide enough money to pay for the surviving families’ living expenses.

All of these reasons for purchasing a life insurance policy have the common theme of providing money to the beneficiary of the policy. That is exactly what a beneficiary is: the person, or people, who receive the benefit. On the other hand, the policy owner is the person who pays the premiums, and the insured is the person who is protecting the beneficiary.

Typically, the policy owner and the insured are the same person, but they don’t have to be. When the insured passes away, the beneficiary typically receives the death benefit, or the amount of the policy, tax free. There are some exemptions to this rule, as is typically the case with tax laws (sigh…).

Types of Life Insurance

There are two types of life insurance, term and whole. Term life insurance provides protection for a specified period of time. Whole life insurance will provide a benefit (as long as the policy holder decides to keep paying the premiums, or other exemptions don’t apply), and can be paid out to the policy holder if he or she lives to a certain age, typically 121.

Whol Life Insurance

Whole life insurance policies can accumulate a cash value, which typically amounts to the amount paid in excess of the cost of the insurance and the fees. Also, the amount paid is put in an account and gains interest.

Because life insurance premiums are paid with after tax dollars, the amount of premiums paid is not taxable, but the interest can be. It is typically not taxable if paid to the beneficiary upon death of the policy holder, but if the cash value is withdrawn it may be. It also grows tax deferred in the insurance companies “general account”.

Sometimes, the policy owner will take a loan against the death benefit (usually not exceeding the cash value), which would mean that, although they would pay interest on the loan amount, they would not have to pay taxes on the interest upon receiving the money. If you do purchase a policy, all of the specifics will be explained to you so that you understand.

Indexed Life Insurance Policies

A newer option for life insurance is to index the amount paid to the stock market. The cool thing about these sorts of policies is that, although you can gain when the stock market goes up, you are protected if the stock market goes down.

This may be a good option because the economy has historically gone through economic cycles of expansion and contraction, where the stock market goes up and then it goes down. An example of a contraction would be the Great Recession of 2008. The average length of an economic expansion is 58 months, or just under five years. The United States is currently in the longest expansion in history.

If history is to repeat itself, as it usually does, we could be due for an economic contraction, or recession soon. This means it may be a good time to use an indexed financial product such as an indexed annuity of indexed whole life insurance policy.

The Bottom Line

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