What is Universal Life Insurance?

Written by Rob Pinner

What you are not being told about Universal Life Insurance

Permanent life insurance is often known as cash-value insurance, because part of the money which you pay in premiums is invested by your insurance provider, potentially offering you tax-free revenue.

To discover the best coverage for your circumstances at the most competitive prices, speak to an independent agent that specializes in life insurance and represents most of the top-rated insurance companies.

No exam life insurance is just one of the hottest trends in insurance policies, and a lot of consumers jump at the chance since they’re concerned about how a medical exam may impact their rates or capacity to meet the requirements for a policy.

Life insurance is an extremely personal decision and must be determined thoughtfully. In the past, nobody thought that it was the right thing to purchase, and some people actually thought that it would be a waste of money to buy.

Potentially cheaper than whole life insurance, universal life insurance is intended to offer you a lifetime of coverage together with a flexible premium and face amount. When you first buy most types of universal life insurance, you’re normally able to choose how long you would like to guarantee the policy to stay in force. Universal Life insurance is considered to be among the more confusing life insurance products available in the marketplace.

Term insurance, for example, is typically the most inexpensive option as a result of its temporary nature, and by far the most frequently purchased life insurance product. Term life insurance is intended for folks that have significant financial liabilities like a home mortgage, personal debt, needs for college funding, and retirement planning contributions.

It is insurance for a specific term period for instance from 5-30 years. It is the most basic type and is meant to provide coverage for a specified period of time, usually 10 to 30 years, in exchange for a set monthly premium.

Universal Life Insurance Explained

Universal life insurance (UL) is a policy that offers lifelong coverage to age 121 and builds up cash value as long as premiums are paid. Often referred to as adjustable life insurance because the premiums and death benefits are flexible, while allowing more options on how the cash value is invested.

Universal life insurance (UL) is a permanent life policy, sometimes referred to as a term/whole life hybrid. It combines elements of a term life policy with cash value option of whole life. A UL policy allows you to build savings while providing life insurance to your loved ones as well. Unlike a term policy which has an expiration date, a UL policy lasts forever.

Universal life insurance differs from whole life because of the flexible premiums and death benefits. In a UL policy you can increase or decrease the premiums or death benefit. If decreasing the premium, there must be enough cash value to cover the cost of insurance and if you increase the death benefit, evidence of insurability will have to be shown again.

universal life insurance worksHow Does Universal Life Insurance Work?

Certainly, when you purchase life insurance, there’s a death benefit to be concerned with. To begin with, it’s important that you comprehend how universal life insurance works.

Universal life insurance is a well-known version of permanent life insurance and is typically be a very good choice if you’re seeking a very affordable life insurance policy and flexible lifetime coverage.

Universal Life Insurance is made for individuals who want a little more flexibility to correct their premiums and death benefit, and who are eager to assume somewhat more risk in hopes of getting a larger return.

It is a good choice for people with incomes and expenses that fluctuate a great deal from year to year. Universal life (UL) insurance is just one of the most flexible kinds of permanent life insurance.

So, to make withdrawals, obviously, your insurance policy must have cash value. A universal insurance policy represents a personal portfolio that provides you with a certain level of financial security.

Universal life insurance policies are rather new when compared to whole life even though universal life insurance designed to provide coverage for an individual’s whole life.

When you purchase a universal life insurance policy, your first step will be choosing your death benefit. The premium is based on the amount of death protection you choose. A part of your premium pays for the cost of insurance (COI) and any fees, while the remaining premium is invested into the cash value account. The way interest is calculated all depends on which type of universal life policy is chosen.

The Nuts and Bolts of Universal Life (UL)

The UL policy is very flexible which means the policyholder can increase or decrease the premium at his or her discretion but in only compliance with the insurer. When you own a life insurance plan, you might believe the only way to get money from the policy is for you to die! Based on the way the UL life insurance policy was designed, there is typically significant cash buildup in the policy that can be accessed in various ways.

  • The policyholder can borrow against the cash value for any reason and can elect to pay it back or not pay it back. If the insured dies with an outstanding policy loan, the insurer will simply deduct that amount from the death benefit.
  • A policyholder who needs cash quickly can also simply make a withdrawal from the available funds in the policy, but it’s important to note that you will be reducing your death benefit in the process.
  • If you no longer need (or want) your life insurance and want to get the available cash out of it, you can surrender your policy to the insurer in exchange for the cash value minus the surrender fees.

A universal life insurance policy has an assortment of alternatives to enable you to pick the most ideal plan for your personal circumstances. When you buy a universal life insurance plan, you’re generally permitted to guarantee your insurance for a fixed number of years, meaning you will have a fixed premium for this period of time, after which your monthly premium payments increase.

A guaranteed universal life insurance plan is recommended if you prefer permanent coverage free of cash value buildup at a premium that’s sure to stay the exact same for the life span of the policy.

They are 4 types or variations of universal life insurance. Each of these policies are similar but have one distinct difference, and that is how interest is calculated to the cash value.

4 Types of Universal Life Insurance

  1. Traditional Universal Life
  2. Guaranteed Universal Life
  3. Indexed Universal Life
  4. Variable Universal Life

Universal life bucketTraditional Universal Life Insurance

Traditional universal life policies were the first of the universal life portfolio. These products were designed to be a low-cost option compared to whole life. The policies cash value interest was based on the overall performance of the insurance carriers’ portfolio and the interest is declared each year on your anniversary date.

These policies do have a minimum guaranteed rate, but the premiums are usually based off the non-guaranteed interest rate. The major downfall to these policies is that the premium is not guaranteed. If the cash value doesn’t perform like the illustration that was shown during the time of sell, this could lead to a premium increase down the road.

It’s important if you own a traditional universal life policy to request in-force illustrations so that any problems down the road can be alleviated.

Guaranteed Universal Life Insurance

The second type of universal life policy, and probably the most popular is guaranteed universal life insurance. These policies are the most like a whole life policy in that the premium is guaranteed for life.

These policies were designed because consumers like the lower premiums of a traditional universal life policy but wanted the guarantees that a whole life policy offered. Guaranteed UL do build up cash value but are concentrated more on keeping the premiums as low as possible. In other words, don’t buy a guaranteed UL for the cash value build up.

IUL-indexed universal-life.jpgIndexed Universal Life Insurance

Indexed universal life insurance has been gaining some traction the last few years because of its attractive investment options. These policies also don’t usually come with a guaranteed premium, except for few life insurance carriers. The premium remaining level is solely determined by how the cash value/investment performs.

The way interest is credited in an indexed universal life policy is what makes it so unique. You have an option to be invested in the market with no chance of losing money. Sounds great doesn’t it.

How is that possible?

All indexed universal life policies have options to be invested into stock market indexes, such as the S&P 500 or Nasdaq. They all come with guaranteed floor of usually 0%, some with a floor of 1%. This means that if the index you are invested has a negative return for your policy year, the worst your account could earn is 0%.

The downside to these policies, if you can call it that, is that your interest gained is capped. Caps on most indexed universal life policies are around 12% annually depending on the company.  This means that the interest you can earn falls between 0% (the floor) and 12% (the cap), anything above 12% the company keeps.

These policies can be used to supplement retirement income, pay for college tuition, or as a savings account because of the tax advantages associated with the withdrawal of money from life insurance policies.

Be wary, there are fees associated with these policies that need to be fully understood before purchasing an indexed universal life policy.

Variable Universal LifeVariable Universal Life Insurance

Variable universal life insurance is the most complicated universal life policy offered. This is solely based on the unknown of how the cash value is going to perform, which could affect the premium in both a positive and negative way.

The cash value in a variable life policy is invested in sub accounts which mirror mutual funds. Being similar to a mutual fund means that the policy cash value has ups and downs based on the market. There is no cap or floor like the indexed universal life policy. You will feel all the gains, but the losses as well.

These policies require regular attention to make sure the investments are where they need to be and to ensure the policy remains in effect without having the premium increase. Premiums are never guaranteed with variable life policies, which could lead to disaster if not properly funded or the investment doesn’t perform as illustrated.

We would say these types of universal life policies are designed more for the savvy investor, not someone looking for a simple life insurance policy.

my two centsOur Two Cents

Although universal life insurance is similar to whole life insurance since it offers lifetime coverage and builds cash value, the flexibility and lower premiums are what draw most people towards universal life.

Life events will typically affect our insurance needs and if you have term insurance or whole life, you’re stuck with what you have. With a universal life policy, you can make the necessary premium and death benefit changes to accommodate the life events that are bound to happen.

If you are concerned about having life insurance coverage for a lifetime but also want the opportunity to grow an asset, speak to your independent insurance agent to get an illustration that will give you a realistic picture of how your policy can work for you.

There you have it, what universal life insurance is, what types there are, and how each accumulates interest into the cash value. But how do you know if it’s a good fit for you and which type is best. You will always want to work with an experienced life insurance agent.

They will be able to explain in detail the pros and cons of each policy and recommend which would fit your situation best. Make sure to ask all questions and do some research on your own. With the internet you can find both pros and cons of universal life which will help you make an informed decision. If you have any questions or comments please don’t hesitate to give us a call.


Frequently Asked Questions

What is universal life insurance?

Universal life insurance (UL) is a permanent life policy, sometimes referred to as a term/whole life hybrid. It combines elements of a term life policy with cash value option of whole life. A UL policy allows you to build savings while providing life insurance to your loved ones as well. Unlike a term policy which has an expiration date, a UL policy lasts forever.

What are the different types of universal life insurance?

Universal life has 4 different variations. They are:

Traditional Universal Life
Guaranteed Universal Life
Indexed Universal Life
Variable Universal Life

Which universal life product is best?

If you are looking for a guaranteed premium then you will want to choose a guaranteed universal life policy. If you are looking for cash value accumulation we recommend an indexed universal or variable life policy.

Is universal life insurance permanent?

Yes, universal life insurance is designed to last the insured lifetime as long as premiums are paid.

Rob Pinner
Rob Pinner

My name is Rob Pinner and I own EasyQuotes4You. At EasyQuotes4You we aim to make your life insurance buying process a smooth and stress free transaction.  We are independent life insurance agents servicing all 50 states. I have over 15 years of experience and have focused solely on life insurance for the past 5 years. If you have any questions or comments please don’t hesitate to give us a call.

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