A certain life insurance policy that works for one might not work for another. It is important you understand all the options available to you, as this will help you pick the best life insurance policy that best meets your financial needs.
A cash value insurance is a life insurance policy serves two purposes. Cash value life insurance provides a payout to your family when you die. Additionally, it accumulates wealth that you can use during your lifetime.
Continue reading to find out more about cash value.
What Is Cash Value Life Insurance?
Many permanent life insurance policies include a savings component, called cash value. This cash value account earns interest — at a fixed or variable rate — and grows on a tax-deferred basis. In the beginning, a large part of your premium payments goes towards insurance costs and fees, resulting in slow cash value accumulation.
Cash value of a life insurance policy is meant for you, the insured. This is in complete contrast to the death benefit, which is meant for your beneficiary.
So how does cash value life insurance work? The term cash value is called as such since you can take a loan against or withdraw money from the life insurance policy’s cash value and use the funds however you like, while you're still alive. If you die and there is some cash value remaining in the policy, the life insurance cash will go back to the insurer. Your beneficiary will not receive the life insurance cash value upon your death, but only the policy amount.
The premium of a CV life insurance policy is used for three things:
- funding the policy's death benefit and covering the cost of insuring your life
- paying policy fees and other charges
- fund the cash value account
Different types of permanent life insurance policies
Cash value are usually available in a permanent life insurance policy. A permanent life insurance policy in turn has different types which accrues cash value differently but each lets you access it via a withdrawal, loan, or surrender.
- Whole Life Insurance - This life insurance means that your death benefit and monthly premiums will remain the same throughout. Whole life insurance policies will accumulate cash value at a minimum guaranteed rate. In the event of a participating policy (a policy with the potential to earn dividends), you can funnel earned dividends into the cash value account to accumulate wealth faster with whole life insurance.
- Universal Life Insurance – Compared to whole life, a universal life insurance policy offers more flexibility. Some universal life insurance plans let you tweak the death benefit amount and monthly premiums within a certain range. Additionally, you can select the investment options that work best for you. With such universal life insurance policies, the potential to earn money is higher, but so is the risk.
- Guaranteed Issue Life Insurance – A traditional life insurance policy generally requires a medical exam, but that is not the case with a guaranteed issue. As long as you meet the age criterion, the insurer cannot turn down your request for your life insurance coverage. However, the death benefit is small, usually not more than $50,000. Guaranteed issue life policies help people who otherwise will not get life insurance policies take care of their end-of-life expenses. However, some plans also include a cash value component. Since the policy amounts are small, the potential cash value growth is also small. Most guaranteed issue plans (if not all) include a waiting period, usually two years. If you die within this period, your beneficiary will receive the premiums paid but not the death benefit amount.
Be advised that term life insurance does not offer the cash value feature or cash surrender value since term life insurance policies are designed to last for a limited period. This doesn't mean that term is not good since this life insurance is less expensive than permanent life insurances.
Life insurance policies that accumulate cash value are more expensive than those that do not. Generally speaking, one can expect to pay six to 10 times more for a cash value life policy.
How Can You Withdraw Cash Value?
Your life insurance policy’s cash value is your money. You can tap into it as needed. However, the options available for accessing it depend on your life insurance policy type and the provider. If you no longer need coverage, don't let your policy lapse since you'll lose the death benefit as well as any cash value you could have received.
Use the cash value to pay the premiums
Certain universal life policies allow you to pay monthly premiums with the policy’s cash value. Using this strategy while there is not much cash value or the rate of interest is low might not be a great idea. If the cash value drops too far, you risk losing coverage.
This strategy works best when you have already built-up substantial cash value. You can maintain your policy for a long time at little or no extra cost to you.
For instance, let’s say you have a cash value of $10,000, while the annual premium for your life insurance policy is $5,000. If the cash value grows at a rate of 2.5% per year — which is a reasonable estimate — you can use the interest to pay half of your premiums.
Whole life policies, by contrast, usually do not let you use the policy's cash value to pay premiums. To be able to do that, you will need to convert it into a paid-up policy, but with paid-up whole life insurance policies, every premium payment is subtracted from the policy's death benefit. Also, this option is not available with all insurers and comes into play only if your cash value is sufficiently large.
Borrow a loan against it
A policy loan is another way to tap the cash value. You can use the loan amount from your life insurance any way you like as long as your cash value is sufficient. Your insurer will not run a credit check for approval, nor are there any underwriting requirements. Since you are borrowing your own money, you can choose not to repay the loan, and you will not have to pay taxes on the loan. However, this will lower your cash surrender value since the amount you borrow, plus interest, will be deducted from the death benefit your family receives.
Borrowing against your policy's cash value generally come with low annual interest rates. Whatever interest amount you do not pay gets automatically added to the outstanding loan balance. For this reason, you need to closely monitor the outstanding loan amount as this will reduce the cash surrender value. If it exceeds your policy’s cash value, you will lose coverage. Furthermore, the loan will likely attract income tax payments.
Sell your life insurance policy
Selling your life insurance policy to a third party — usually an insurance company — is called a life settlement. You may find this option attractive if you no longer want to pay premiums and your dependents have become financially secure.
In a life settlement, a third party buys your policy for an amount greater than its cash value but less than the death benefit. The new policyholder takes over the responsibility of paying the premiums and receives the death benefit upon your death.
Surrender the policy for its net cash value
A life settlement is more profitable than surrendering the policy. But if you cannot find a buyer and want to cash out the policy, consider surrendering it.
Surrendering a life policy is the same as canceling it (thus giving up the death benefit). The insurer will deduct the surrender charges, outstanding loan balance, and other fees from your cash value and pay the remaining amount. That is, you will receive the net cash value (actual cash value – surrender charges and other fees). And your coverage will cease to exist. Lastly, when you surrender the policy, it's possible that you'll be required to pay income tax on the amount you receive.
As you may guess, the net cash value is always lower than the actual cash value. However, the longer you hold on to your life insurance policy, the lesser the difference between the two. If you have had the policy for 12-15 years, you are likely to receive an amount that is close or equivalent to the actual cash value.
Make a partial withdrawal
If you are low on funds or want to make a large purchase, a partial withdrawal may be a good option. You can also consider this option if you need less protection than before. For example, your children are now financially independent, and you need coverage only for your spouse or partner.
With universal policies, each withdrawal reduces the death benefit amount on a dollar-for-dollar basis. However, some whole life policies reduce the life insurance payout by an amount greater than what is withdrawn. So, before you withdraw cash value, check how it will affect the death benefit. You also may need to pay income tax on the amount you withdraw. The tax depends on how much you take out compared to your policy's cash value.
Increase your death benefit
Depending on your policy and insurer, you may be able to use the policy's cash value to buy more life insurance. This way you can ensure the cash value that you have built over the years does not go into your provider’s pocket upon your death.
Benefits of cash value life insurance
Includes a forced savings vehicle
A cash value policy obliges the policyholder into saving money, which can be a good thing. We all know it is hard to save money. A compelled savings model can help break the cycle of spending too much and saving too little.
A cash value life insurance policy has a built-in savings component. Whether you like it or not, a part of your premium payments is funneled into this account. If you keep your policy active for long enough, eventually you will get more than what you had invested.
Serves as an additional investment vehicle
Life insurance is mainly a financial tool for securing the future of your loved ones. The payout can help them to live comfortably after you are gone. However, cash value life insurance also serves as an investment vehicle.
If you are a high-net-worth individual and have exhausted traditional investment vehicles, a cash value policy can help you create a financial safety net for your family and grow your wealth on a tax-deferred basis.
You can use the cash value in different ways
Cash value may be used to buy additional coverage or pay premiums. You can withdraw from or borrow against the cash value and use the money as you like. If you no longer need coverage, you can surrender the policy for its net cash value.
Drawbacks of cash value life insurance
As useful as cash value life insurance is, it comes with its own set of disadvantages.
Lower return than traditional investment vehicles
A cash value life insurance policy gives you a lower return than most traditional investment vehicles (if not all). To make matters worse, these policies have much higher fees than other investment vehicles.
Cash value life insurance is many times more expensive than term life insurance. It is also considerably more expensive than a permanent life insurance policy without a savings component.
Is Cash Value Life Insurance Right for You?
Cash value life insurance could make sense for people who want a life insurance policy and an investment component rolled into one. There are different types of cash value life insurance policies, the most common being universal life and whole life insurance.
Permanent life insurance policies are simpler to understand and maintain than universal life insurance. They have guaranteed death benefit, monthly premiums, and rate of return on cash value.
Universal life insurance, on the other hand, offers more flexibility. Some universal life insurance policies let you adjust your premiums and the policy amount. You can also pick investment options that perfectly match your risk tolerance and long-term goals. These policies, however, carry greater risk than whole life insurance.
Cash value life insurance provides coverage for your entire lifetime and accumulates wealth. It can be used to add to your retirement income, pay for medical expenses, or meet other financial needs. It can be a great option for certain people. For example, if you are someone who has already maxed out traditional investment vehicles, such a policy may suit you better than term life insurance.
However, cash value life insurance is more complicated. Before purchasing life insurance, it is always a good idea to consult an experienced life insurance broker, like Dundas Life, to understand all available options such as term or whole life insurance.
- Cash value life insurance is a type of permanent life insurance that includes a savings component that grows on a tax-deferred basis.
- The cash value of a life insurance policy is meant for the policyholder to use during their lifetime.
- Cash value life insurance policies are more expensive than those that do not include a savings component, but they offer the benefit of a forced savings vehicle.
Frequently Asked Questions
Do all life insurance policies have a cash value?
No, not every life insurance policies have a cash value. Permanent life insurance products, such as whole life and universal life insurance, generally include cash value. Term life insurance, which only lasts for a specific period, do not offer a cash value feature.
Which life insurance has cash value?
Permanent life insurance policies have a cash value component. Whole life insurance, universal life insurance, and some assured issue life insurance plans are examples of these. Each of these policies builds cash value in different ways and allows you to access it through a withdrawal, loan, or surrender.
What happens to cash value in a whole life insurance policy at death?
Upon the death, any remaining cash value in a whole life insurance policy goes back to the life insurance company. The beneficiary, however, does not receive the cash value. They only receive the policy's death benefit. However, the cash value can be used during the policyholder's lifetime in various ways, such as taking a loan against it or using it to pay premiums.
Gregory Rozdeba is the CEO of Dundas Life, Canada's leading digital insurance brokerage. He has over 8 years of experience in the life insurance industry. Gregory previously served as Director of Sales at a Toronto-based insurtech firm. He took the company from having no product to raising over $7.6M+ in venture capital to transform the prospect to policy process in Canada. Gregory holds a Bachelor's Degree in Finance & Accounting from Ontario Tech University and a Master of Information Management from FH Joanneum.