Is it a good idea to invest in life insurance?

Is it a good idea to invest in life insurance?

Life insurance may be one of many things that come to mind when you think about investing your money. However, certain types of life insurance policies can also function as tax-advantaged investment vehicles. If structured properly, a life insurance policy can help you achieve financial goals like saving for retirement or leaving an inheritance. But is investing in life insurance right for you? Let’s take a closer look at the potential benefits and considerations.

What is life insurance?

First, a quick primer on what life insurance is and how it works. Life insurance provides a tax-free death benefit to your named beneficiaries when you pass away. This death benefit can help replace lost income and ensure your loved ones are financially secure.

There are two main types of life insurance—term and permanent. Term life covers you for a specified time, while permanent life insurance covers you for your entire life, hence the name. Permanent life insurance also has an investment component that allows you to grow cash value on a tax-deferred basis. It is this investment component that turns permanent life insurance into a potential retirement planning or investing vehicle.

Why consider investing in life insurance?

Here are some of the unique financial benefits permanent life insurance can provide as an investment:

Tax-deferred growth

The cash value within a permanent life insurance policy grows on a tax-deferred basis. This enables faster growth compared to taxable investment accounts since you don’t have to pay taxes on gains each year. Over decades, this tax benefit can significantly increase your returns.

Loan and withdrawal options

Most permanent life insurance policies allow you to access your cash value through policy loans and withdrawals. This gives you liquidity in case of unexpected expenses. Policy loans also tend to have low-interest rates.

Death benefit protection

permanent life insurance will pay out a tax-free death benefit to your beneficiaries when you pass away. This can amount to a sizable inheritance or provide needed income replacement. Having this death benefit protection while also investing cash value makes permanent life insurance a unique option.

A variety of investment options

You can often choose from several investment portfolios for your permanent life insurance cash value ranging from fixed interest accounts to equity index accounts. This variety helps accommodate different risk preferences.

Things to consider before investing

While permanent life insurance can be a compelling investment option for high-net-worth individuals, there are some important considerations to make before moving forward.

Understanding the costs

Permanent life insurance tends to have higher premium costs than term insurance since you are paying for lifelong coverage and cash value growth potential. Also, watch out for high sales commissions and administrative fees which can reduce returns.

Choosing the right type of policy

There are several varieties of permanent life insurance with differing cost structures and investment options. Common types are whole life, universal life, and variable life. Make sure to choose the one that aligns with your priorities and needs.

Considering your time horizon

The tax-deferred compounding makes permanent life insurance very rewarding when held over decades. It’s not a great fit if you have short-term investing goals. Also, withdrawals in the early years could significantly reduce your death benefit.

Assessing your risk tolerance

Evaluate your comfort level with the variety of investment options available within a permanent life insurance policy. Typically higher risk means higher return potential but also larger swings in cash value.

Tips for getting started

If you’ve weighed the pros and cons and decided investing in permanent life insurance could be a good move, here are some tips for getting started:

Shop around and compare quotes

Premiums and product features can vary greatly between different insurance carriers. Leverage online quotes and speak to multiple

Shop around and compare quotes

Premiums and product features can vary greatly between different insurance carriers. Leverage online quotes and speak to multiple agents to get a sense of your options. Be sure to compare whole life, universal life, and variable life policies to see which aligns best with your budget and goals.

Consider your budget

Permanent life insurance requires lifelong payments, so be realistic about what premiums you can commit to long-term. Get quotes for policies with different death benefit and cash value amounts. Aim to put 10-15% of your income into the policy if using it as a retirement investment.

Involve your beneficiaries

Meet with beneficiaries to discuss how the death benefit and inheritance options would help them if passed away prematurely. Get input from heirs on payout needs and types of insurance riders to consider.

Work with a trusted advisor

Finding the right permanent life insurance policy is complex, so enlist an advisor to explain terminology, narrow down carriers, and illustrate project performance over decades. An advisor acts as your advocate.

Alternatives to investing in life insurance

If permanent life insurance does not appeal to you, here are some alternatives to consider that also offer tax-advantaged growth potential.

Term life insurance

Term life provides affordable death benefit protection for a set period. It does not have cash value buildup but is significantly cheaper. Term life combined with other retirement investments may fit your needs better.


Annuities are specifically designed for retirement income but some also offer posthumous payments to beneficiaries. Look into SPIAs and variable annuities for lifetime income.

Mutual funds and ETFs

For straightforward investing without death benefit protection, mutual funds and ETFs offer a diverse array of risk-based portfolios to choose from. Contribute to a Roth IRA for tax-free growth.

Key takeaways

Permanent life insurance can fulfill both income replacement and retirement investing goals thanks to lifelong coverage, tax-deferred cash value growth, loans, and withdrawals. However, it is crucial to understand the costs, rules, and limitations before purchasing a policy. Use quotes and advisors to tailor a plan for your situation.


At what age should I invest in permanent life insurance?

The earlier the better to maximize tax-deferred compounding over your lifespan. Your 20s-40s are ideal ages to enroll and contribute.

How much of my portfolio should permanent life insurance compose?

Industry guidance suggests limiting permanent life to 10-15% of total net worth/investments, due to higher fees and risk factors.

Are policy loans from permanent life insurance taxable?

No, loans against your permanent life insurance cash value are not taxed. Withdrawals above your cost basis do incur taxes though.

Can I change my permanent life insurance investment options?

Many carriers allow you to reallocate your cash value between investment options. But the frequency of changes may be limited, like once per year.

What happens if I stop paying permanent life insurance premiums?

The policy can only lapse if more premiums are included. But you typically have withdrawal and loan options to tap cash value and keep afloat.

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