Tag Archive | "life insurance"

Permanent Life Insurance Series: Achieving Financial and Spending Freedom

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Permanent Life Insurance Series: Achieving Financial and Spending Freedom


My friend Brandon is a very big advocate of Permanent Life Insurance. Him and I have gone the rounds on many occasions about permanent versus term. I decided that to be fair, I would present his argument in a series of posts here in Rabbit Funds. The series begins with a post about challenging the pre-conceptions about permanent life insurance. You can find links to the other posts in the series at the bottom.

Whole Life Insurance

The biggest thing that is left out of the mix when buy term and invest the difference comes up is how to actually spend the money. Sounds funny right? How many of us need help spending money?

If you opt for this strategy, then likely this is the only financial asset you may have when either retirement or death comes around. Maybe there will be a pension or social security to help out or maybe there won’t be. Either way, the nest egg will need to be very well taken care of because it has to provide an income for the rest of your life. And no one has any idea how long that will be.

Typically when someone gets to this point, the most popular option is to live off the interest, which might not sound so bad.

But here is the reality: when someone only has a nest egg to survive on, they have broken one of the number one rules of investing: diversification. The result is that this nest egg has a lot of pressure on it. It must provide an income, keep up with inflation, pay taxes, pay for the new car and the trips, and so on.

To accomplish all of this, the money must be left exposed to the market in order to attempt to grow. This is the kind of thing that will keep you up at night. Imagine being in this situation, desperately needing this money to survive, and watching the market take a tumble.

How much stress has just been added to your life?

If you visit a financial planner, you will be told that you can plan to spend about 4% a year from your nest egg if you are living off the interest. This is a conservative number, one that gives the greatest likelihood that the money will stay intact for the full time it is needed.

Let’s say that you have $500,000 in your nest egg. Four percent of that is $20,000. After you pay taxes, you are down to around $15,000 per year to spend. Will you be ok with that? Maybe, if you did actually manage to pay off all of your debts. But how many people will actually want to live on that kind of money? And don’t forget to factor in inflation; that $15,000 per year is in today’s dollars.

If you think it would be hard to live off of that money now, imagine what it will be like in 30 years. If we experience only 2% inflation, which is much lower than what is actually expected to happen, that $15,000 will only have about $8,200 of buying power in 30 years. You better hope that someone steps in, because all of a sudden things aren’t looking so good.

There are some very powerful spending strategies for retirement that require permanent insurance, strategies that will allow an individual to experience less risk, spend more money, and overall have more peace of mind in retirement.

So all things considered, buying term and investing the difference might not be all it’s cracked up to be.

But the talking heads don’t tell you this, they just pitch the idea. It’s up to you to understand the implications of your decisions and do what is best for you and yours. Ultimately, it’s not a bad idea to start with term insurance and put away as much money as you can for your future. After all, the more money you put away, the more you are likely to have.

But before you lock yourself into a strategy that you don’t fully understand, do some research or talk to a professional about your situation and see if there are some better strategies or ideas that will be in line with your goals. After all, we all want more or less the same things financially: stability and freedom. There are many different routes to take, just put in the effort on your part to make sure your path leads you as close to your goals as possible.

Here are all of the posts in this series:

  1. Challenging Pre-conceptions
  2. How Term Life Insurance Works
  3. Is 12% Realistic when “Investing the Difference”
  4. Returns, taxes, death benefit and debt
  5. Achieving Financial and Spending Freedom

For more money saving tips, follow RabbitFunds on Twitter.

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Permanent Life Insurance Series: Returns, taxes, death benefit and debt

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Permanent Life Insurance Series: Returns, taxes, death benefit and debt


My friend Brandon is a very big advocate of Permanent Life Insurance. Him and I have gone the rounds on many occasions about permanent versus term. I decided that to be fair, I would present his argument in a series of posts here in Rabbit Funds. The series begins with a post about challenging the pre-conceptions about permanent life insurance. You can find links to the other posts in the series at the bottom. Whole Life Insurance

Here is the reality of investment returns – 12% isn’t likely

Why? Because the markets haven’t supported that.

Also, there is a little thing called Average vs. Actual returns. It’s pretty easy to use a financial calculator and plug in a certain return, and a certain investment every month, and a time period and get a number saying how much money you will have in the future. That’s how I just came up with a $500,000 nest egg is what you will get if you invest $505 per month for 20 years and get a 12% interest rate.

But the market does not return a steady growth, year in and year out. Every year the market is up 20%, or down 18%, or up 4%; it moves all over the place. And that movement costs you money.

If you have $1,000 invested and have a 100% gain, you now have $2,000. But if the next day you have a 50% loss, you are down to your original $1,000—even though you had an average return of 25%. The movements of the market every day cost money when losses happen; not just the losses themselves, but the losses that occur because the ensuing gains now have to play catch up.

To project an average return and expect the results to be there is not realistic. For example, from 1995 through the end of 2004, the Dow Jones averaged a 10.89% return. According to averages, if you invested $100 per month in that time period you would have $21,566. But, since the markets move every single day, every single second even, and that movement causes losses that aren’t reflected in averages, you would actually only have $15,697.

I got this number by downloading the Dow Jones historical data from Yahoo.com’s finance section. The report shows the daily openings and closing every market day since 1928. A little bit of excel work later and I have a spreadsheet showing actual vs. averages.

I took 10 year periods every 5 years, meaning 2000-2009 and 1995-2004 and so on, all the way back to 1928 and compared average results to actual daily results. That means you lost out on 27% of your portfolio and your actual return was only 5.2%. You lost out on over half of your return because of something you couldn’t control.

When I compared all of these various 10 year periods, the actual return ended up averaging less than 6%. Hardly the 12% that is hyped.

And then there are taxes

If you have money invested, unless you have it all in a Roth account, you will owe hefty tax sums. And many people will not have it in a Roth, because of the contribution limits. Plus, if you have it in a Roth and need it because it replaces the life insurance when a breadwinner dies, you could have to pay some penalties to get it.

If we are very conservative and say you are in a 30% tax bracket, you automatically lose 30% of your nest egg/return. All things considered, according to historical data, you are safe estimating a 4% average rate of return (6% actual return less 1/3).

Now I sure hope this isn’t the case in the future and that everyone gets more than this, but if you choose to buy term and invest the difference, wouldn’t you want to plan your numbers very carefully? We are talking about the future financial stability of your family here. This is nothing to be anything but extremely cautious about. Even if you decide you don’t like the 4% number and want to assume a higher rate of return, you would be doing your family an injustice to assume an after tax, actual result of anything higher than 5%. In which case, to get your $500,000 self insurance fund, you need to invest $600 per month for 30 years, or $1216 per month for 20 years. A far cry from the 12% that many people are purporting.

My intention here isn’t to scare people out of investing money

But I do want each of you to realize that just because someone says a 12% return is realistic, or even if lots of people say it, doesn’t mean you can get it.

The biggest problem with people who so adamantly push the buy term and invest the difference strategy is that so few, if any, of them really understand the implications.

Another is that it is pushed with such fervor that everyone acts like it is the only financial strategy someone should consider. And when it comes to finances no two people have the same financial situation, so how can you possibly prescribe the same financial strategies to everyone alive?

Just know that if you do choose to buy term and invest the difference, you could potentially be forcing yourself into a situation in which the money you have to live off of will be whatever you can invest in 20 years, possibly at a much lower rate of return than initially anticipated.

Now what about the death benefit itself?

Is there a reason to have that? There could be depending on your situation.

The owner of the Miami Dolphins passed away in the early 90’s. Now as you can imagine, he was a very wealthy individual. So wealthy that his family had to sell the Dolphins to pay his $47,000,000 estate tax bill.

Very few people have a significant amount of cash on hand relative to their wealth. Most wealth is in the form of property or businesses. If you have an estate tax due, you might have to fire sell something in order to foot the bill.

If this person had permanent life insurance, the death benefit could have stepped in and paid this bill, preventing his family from having to sell assets quickly.

As an individual grows wealth, the purpose of life insurance changes from family protection to estate tax payment and estate preservation, among other things.

Another thing to consider is how one gives wealth to the next generation. While not everyone will have an issue with estate taxes, many people will have valuable and sentimental things to pass along.

Take for example if someone owns a home when they pass away. If there is more than one heir, then an issue of who gets the home comes up. If the home has sentimental value, then at least one of the heirs could want to keep the home, while the remainder will want the home sold and the proceeds split. These are the kinds of things that can really destroy family relationships, too.

It gets even uglier if someone owns a business and wishes to leave the business to one heir to continue on. If other heirs are involved, they will likely want the business sold in order to get their share of the wealth, while others might want the business to continue on since it is their livelihood. With a death benefit in place, one heir can have the asset and the others the cash from the life insurance.

The issue of debt and final expenses

An average funeral runs around $10,000 and in many instances, people do not have that kind of cash readily available.

Even more important though is the issue of debt. There are many assets that an individual would wish to pass on that might carry a debt. Homes, businesses, rental properties, vehicles; the list goes on and on. Whenever there is debt on an asset, it must be satisfied. And many times a potential heir will simply not have the financial resources to pay off the debt or even take over the payments.

In these situations some of the assets might need to be sold quickly, even at prices lower than fair market value, in order to complete the transfer of assets. Or consider if a business owner dies and has business partners. All of a sudden, the business partners are now in business with the spouse or kids—not a fun situation for anyone involved.

It is easy to say “Well, I plan to live debt free and have no debt when I die”, and that is an excellent goal. However, there is no way to guarantee that because sometimes life comes up and gets in the way of our plans.

Here are all of the posts in this series:

  1. Challenging Pre-conceptions
  2. How Term Life Insurance Works
  3. Is 12% Realistic when “Investing the Difference”
  4. Returns, taxes, death benefit and debt
  5. Achieving Financial and Spending Freedom

For more money saving tips, follow RabbitFunds on Twitter.

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Permanent Life Insurance Series: Is 12% Realistic when “Investing the Difference”

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Permanent Life Insurance Series: Is 12% Realistic when “Investing the Difference”


My friend Brandon is a very big advocate of Permanent Life Insurance. Him and I have gone the rounds on many occasions about permanent versus term. I decided that to be fair, I would present his argument in a series of posts here in Rabbit Funds. The series begins with a post about challenging the pre-conceptions about permanent life insurance. You can find links to the other posts in the series at the bottom.

Whole Life Insurance

Almost without exception, the phrase buy term and invest the difference is quickly followed by the statement, “the market has averaged 12% over the last 50 years,” or some other length of time.

Well, this is simply not true.

Every time I hear that statement, I ask what fund did that and what the time period was. Guess what? Not a single person has been able to provide a fund or time period that has had that kind of return.

Market returns are not nearly what they are hyped to be

If you invested $1 in the Dow Jones in 1930, by the time 1980 rolled around you would have had $1.14, an actual return of .22% over that 50 year period. From 1980-1999 is where all the growth really happened. The actual returns averaged 12.7% per year over those 2 decades. But from 2000-2009, the returns have so far been dismal once again.

Over the last 50 years, both the S&P 500 and the Dow Jones have averaged about 5.7% per year. Over the last 10 years they have averaged 3%. That’s why this decade is being referred to as the “Lost Decade”.

To make matters worse, many experts do not think the next period of investing will be as profitable as the past few decades have been.

Now I’m not saying it’s impossible to get 12% in the market, plenty of people can and have. However, to do it requires a lot of time, energy, know how, guts, and even some luck. Don’t think for even a minute that you can go and pick some random mutual fund and get your 12%. Even professional advisors that spend all day monitoring the markets and are paid hefty fees will not project 12%; most use 8%.

Let me give a couple of real life examples

Let’s say you want to buy term, invest the difference and eventually self-insure. The hype says that you can invest at 12% and be just fine. Suppose you want to have $500,000 to self-insure. At a 12% interest rate, and a 20 year term in which to get your investments up to the $500,000, you can put in $505 per month and get there. If you give yourself 30 years to work with, the number drops down to $143 per month.

This is plenty, right, because you will have no debt?

Well here is the reality: very few people have the financial discipline to get rid of all their debt.

It’s a great goal and one we should all work towards. But that new car is so tempting, and putting kids in a soccer camp will be good for them, so it’s worth it and on and on and on. The result is that life gets in the way, and people just don’t invest the money they need to, regardless of how motivated they might be.

And then the market moves all over the place, and people get nervous and pull money out. This isn’t in the projections, but it’s the real life situation that happens because losing 20% of your portfolio hurts and we want to try and salvage what we have.

Did you know that if you are one of the many emotional people who pull their money out of the market when it’s down, and waits to get back in until things are looking better, all you are doing is buying high and selling low?

Most people don’t invest any money outside of their work 401k, so there is really no “invest the difference” component. Instead it all gets spent. The buy term and invest the difference strategy is designed only for people who are extremely disciplined and can save and invest a good portion of money outside of their work’s 401k.

The reality is that very few people invest enough

Only 1 in 400 people retire with more than $1 million!

And the sad thing is that if you earn the average U.S. salary of $45,000, and put in a total of 8% into your 401k, 5% from you and 3% from an employer which is a typical 401k plan, and get 8% a year, you would have this $1 million at a normal retirement age. According to these numbers, most people should retire a millionaire, yet only 1 in 400 does.

Are you more financially disciplined than 99.75% of the country?

If you aren’t disciplined and try this strategy, you end up buying term and blowing the difference. In this case, you’d be better off by putting a good chunk of money into a permanent life insurance policy because it will force you to save some extra money.

Here are all of the posts in this series:

  1. Challenging Pre-conceptions
  2. How Term Life Insurance Works
  3. Is 12% Realistic when “Investing the Difference”
  4. Returns, taxes, death benefit and debt
  5. Achieving Financial and Spending Freedom

For more money saving tips, follow RabbitFunds on Twitter.

Posted in InsuranceComments (0)

5 Tips for finding a good Financial Planner

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5 Tips for finding a good Financial Planner


Looking for post ideas, I asked my Facebook community for suggestions. The first response I received was, “How do I know if a Financial Planner is any good?” Others immediately chimed in that they would also like know.

So I’ve spent some time compiling criteria for selecting a financial planner for a number of sources, including financial planners themselves.

Desire to learn and teach

This habit is straight from the horse’s mouth.

“The desire to learn and teach is the most important. For a planner to be effective, he/she must constantly be studying new laws, products, strategies, and a million other things. But to really do the best thing for the client, a planner should teach each client as much as reasonably possible. Essentially, arm the client with enough information so that he/she can recognize good ideas and learn to avoid the bad ones for his or her individual situation. Teach the client to develop good financial habits, and help them develop the savvy to ask good questions.”

Here are a few questions to ask a potential planner to find out whether or not they are still learning.

  1. When was the last financial planning related course you took and what was it?
  2. What trade journals do you regularly read?
  3. What and when are your most recent certifications?

Strong educational background

Several years ago, when I was still in school and studying financial planning, I was approached by a firm offering a financial planning position while I was still in school. Not really knowing what I was signing up for, I joined and started going after my warm market. After a short time, I realized that this firm, and others like it, use a poor approach to recruiting new planners. Basically, they convince individuals who are looking to switch careers or need money or like planning or whatever reason, teach them a little bit about financial planning (focusing on variable universal life insurance), and set them loose on the population.

There is one huge flaw in this approach – the new recruits don’t know anything about financial planning except for the few, specific things they are taught in a very short time. I understand learning on the job. But sending an army of good intentioned newbies with no real educational background out to sell products to individuals who know even less does not end well.

So verify how much education your planner has in varying areas of financial planning.

Strong experience

I was tempted to combine this attribute with the prior one. However, I believe it merits its own lime light. Ask your planner or potential planner the following questions:

  1. What licenses do you have?
  2. How long have you been licensed and practicing?
  3. Who are three current clients that I can contact?
  4. Why did you lose your last two clients? (The manner in which a planner responds to this question is almost as valuable as the answer itself)
  5. How much money/assets do you have under management right now?
  6. When you are unsure, who do you consult with or call?
  7. Do you use partners for estate planning, tax planning, investment planning, and insurance planning? And if so, who are they and can I speak with them?
  8. Pose specific situations and ask how the planner would address them.

Understand that you are hiring a planner and that he or she should go through the same rigorous interviewing process that you would implement for a high level CFO. Your planner is your CFO and you will regret not spending enough time hiring the right one.

Fee based versus Transaction based

I hesitate a little to even broach this topic. I do not intend to make a case for one or the other. Rather, I just want to explain some of the issues surrounding how the financial planner is paid.

  • Transaction based financial planners are paid by the investment or insurance company every time there is a transaction or sale of a new product. Meaning, you do not pay anything to the planner (big plus). However, the planner may have the incentive to move you from investment to investment in order to generate additional income (called “churn”) or direct you to products with big commissions.
  • Fee based financial planners are paid a set amount by you to perform specific tasks or take a percentage of the value of your holdings each year. For example, I may pay a fee based planner $2,500 to evaluate my finances and create an investment strategy. The purpose of the fee is to create an objective plan. If I choose to have the planner open the accounts and make the investments for me, then he or she will receive a commission from the investment or insurance company. Or I can open the accounts myself. With percentage based planning, the planner has an incentive to grow my assets each year since the dollar amount of the fee corresponds to the overall size of my portfolio. In other words, if my portfolio grows, the planner makes more money.

Longevity in the industry

The financial planning industry experiences a very high turnover rate. The first five years are the most difficult and about 90% drop out. You don’t want to sign up with a planner that will be out of the business in six months.

So look for a busy planner with a secretary or assistant that has been in the industry for more than five years. Since assistants are paid for out of the planner’s own pocket, having an assistant usually is an indicator that the planner is both successful and serious about staying. Though anyone can hire an assistant. So also look for planners with at least five years experience.

What other factors do you find to be important when selecting a new financial planner? For more tips and commentary on financial planning, follow Rabbit Funds on Twitter.

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4 Steps to financially prepare for your own death

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4 Steps to financially prepare for your own death


I know that the title of this post is somewhat morbid and not many people want to talk about death. However, we are all going to pass on at some point and just like anything else in life, we need to be financially prepared.

Final WishesUnfortunately, too many people don’t take the necessary steps to financially prepare for death. Often, the result is a mess for your family. To help you know what to do and how to get it done, I’ve created a simple checklist with information and resources.

Step 1: Get Life Insurance

By the age of 25, you should have life insurance. You probably have either debt or other financial responsibilities by this age. And if you don’t, then you soon will and term life insurance at this age is cheap.

  • Sufficient to pay all obligations at time of death – This calculation can be a little tricky since you don’t know when you will pass away or under what circumstances. However, you should leave at least enough to cover final expenses (everything related to the funeral and burial), a sum for possible medical expenses, and any debt obligations that you expect to have during the term of the policy. For example, I have 20 year term. So I’ve left enough to pay off our mortgage the day I die, the funeral, and possible medical expenses.
  • Cover the long term economic loss to your family – If you are an income earner, then your family is suddenly facing what can be a very large economic challenge. So using a time value of money calculator, figure out how much money your family needs today to be the equivalent of what you would have earned during your life. Also, make sure that you leave instructions on how this money should be invested and distributed in order to last a life time (do this in your will or estate planning).
  • Transition period expenses – Your spouse may have the desire or need to go back to school in order to gain skills relevant to today’s job market. So calculate and leave enough money to cover these transition period expenses.
  • Long term goals for your children – Do you have any long term goals for your children like a college degree? Hopefully, you are already using a 529b Account to invest money on a set schedule for your children’s education. If you are, then you have probably calculated how much your children will need in that account come college time. Again, use a time value of money calculator to determine how much you would need to put in that account today in order to have it fully funded when they are 18 and ready to go to college.
  • Convertible to permanent life insurance – Better known as whole life or universal life insurance, permanent life insurance does not have an expiration as long as you keep paying. You may want to convert part or all of your policy at some time in the future to permanent life insurance. So check to see if your provider offers this capability. It can be a nice option.
  • Specify a primary AND contingent beneficiary – A lot of people only specify a primary beneficiary, but if you outlive the primary beneficiary, then you need to have a secondary or contingent beneficiary designated.

Step 2: Create a Will

As Dave Ramsey says, “Not leaving a will when you die is just rude.” And it is. Your family is facing a time of grief and mourning. If they are faced with haggling over your belongings, then fighting is bound to happen. Make sure that your will covers at a minimum the following topics.

  • Designate an executor – The executor is responsible for executing your will. Or in other words, the executor resolves any claims against your estate (i.e. your stuff), carries out any special wishes left in your will, and distributes your property.  You will want to select someone who you have great confidence in. Someone that is very trustworthy. This person will gain control of your belongings and can steal them if he or she do desires. So be careful. Also, I recommend not telling anyone, including this person, who the executor is. That way, no one is offended if you later change the executor. Last, specify a second and third executor in case someone does not want the job.
  • Who gets what – Generally, you will leave 100% to your spouse. Though make sure to specify a secondary beneficiary after your spouse. If you have children, then this would be your children.
  • Custody of your children – Your spouse should be first on the list, then a second option in case you and your spouse are in a common disaster, and then a third option. Again, I recommend that you do not tell the second or third option that you have them in your will. That way, if you later change who is listed, then no one is offended that they were removed.
  • How your children are to receive their inheritance – If your children are minors, then you should not simply leave them their inheritance. You want to create a trust or give control to a custodian (ideally the persons who you are leaving your children to) until your children meet a certain criteria. For example, we specified that our children do not receive full control of their inheritance until they are 25 or earn a college degree, whichever comes first.
  • Do not create a will when you are mad – Unfortunately, I’ve seen this happen. Recently, I saw great heartache and resentment created due to a will that was written eight years before the person passed away in a moment of great anger. That will has soured many family relationships and the damage is near irreparable. So if you are angry, then wait until you calm down to create your will. And just don’t be vengeful. I promise, you won’t have the last laugh.
  • Adhere to the laws of your state – In order for a last will and testament to be valid, then there are certain sections or statements that have to be made. You will want to make sure that they are included. Wikipedia offers a starting point with its list of Requirements for Creation. The best way to ensure that you have complied with the law is to use a lawyer or LegalZoom.com. My wife and I used LegalZoom and highly recommend it. Actually, here’s my review of writing a will using LegalZoom.

*Side Note – Make sure that your will and your spouse’s will match in areas like custody of the children and second/third executor.

Step 3: Create a Living Will and Medical Power of Attorney

A Living Will, or Advance Health Care Directive, gives instructions on what you want to happen if you are left incapable of making decisions for yourself. For example, if you were in an accident that leaves you in a vegetative state, then you can leave directions to pull the plug and cease life sustaining treatment. Your Living Will is important because decisions like ceasing treatment may be too difficult for loved ones to make.

A Medical Power of Attorney goes along with the Living Will in that it gives someone the legal right to make medical decisions on your behalf if you are incapable. Basically, you are making it clear to doctors and anyone else who they should listen to. I know that my mother would be very upset if I were in a terrible accident and in a coma. She may want to make decisions on my behalf. However, my wife is the one who has that responsibility. The Medical Power of Attorney makes that clear.

Step 4: Plan Your Funeral

This is really a last step and may be too awkward for some people. However, think about it for a moment. You’ve just passed away and your family is just trying to deal with the loss. It can be very difficult to have to sit down and plan a funeral program. So ease their burden and do it for them in advance. This also helps ensure that the tone and feeling that you want at your funeral is represented.

Bonus Step: Get Life Insurance for Your Children

No one wants to fathom for a moment that you may outlive your child. I certainly don’t want to think about. However, the unfortunate happens from time to time.  Which is why this Bonus Step is actually very crucial. So when you setup your own policy either add a rider to your policy or get a policy for each child.

Let me give a little bit of advice on the amount. Many insurance policy riders are for about $10,000 for children. I submit that that amount may be insufficient. Let me illustrate an often overlooked “financial cost” with an actual example.

Several years ago, I listened to a man describe the days and weeks after his teenage son passed away. He was a sales rep for a company in Phoenix, AZ. He said that in the weeks subsequent to his son’s passing, he found that there were days when he arrived at work that he simply turned his chair towards the window, looked out over the city, and sat there lost in thought and grief, incapable of working for hours. This man’s family’s income was dependent on him actively selling. Fortunately, they had a life insurance policy for their son and the lost income from those days of grief were paid for or made-up by the life insurance policy.

So, make sure that you have enough coverage on a child to (1) pay for all final expenses and outstanding medical bills and (2) give you time to grieve.

Conclusion

Preparing for your own passing can be one of the most important things you ever do in your life. Make this your responsibility and don’t put it off onto your family.

Any other suggestions for financially preparing for the inevitable? For more information on financial planning topics, sign up for our RSS Feed and receive new posts directly in your favorite RSS reader.

Posted in Insurance, Estate Planning, FeaturedComments (5)

3 Reasons whole life insurance is not better than term life

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3 Reasons whole life insurance is not better than term life


Let me first address everyone who read that titled and thought, “But you just don’t understand it.” You may be right. Though, I studied life insurance in college (my teachers were practicing life insurance sales reps), I trained for a short time with an insurance company, and I have had permanent life insurance pitched more times than I can count.

So you’re right, I don’t fully understand it and all the ways it can be used. But I understand enough to identify my key concerns.

Life insurance should provide for my family if I die

I had the opportunity to chat with a friend who happens to be life insurance rep for awhile last night. One of the arguments that I made was that whole life insurance is often pitched to young people who can’t afford the high premiums at this stage of life. He retorted that I can buy policies for only a few hundred dollars a year. The problem with this argument is that as a young person, the death benefit for my family is first and foremost my concern.

For example, leaving my family only $50,000 in the event of my death is unacceptable. Even leaving $250,000 is unacceptable. Meaning, in order to buy a whole life policy with a large enough benefit will cost $1000s each year. I wish I had that much under the mattress, but I don’t.

I have seen young couples sold on the fringe benefits of a whole life policy while the sales rep neglected the fundamental reason for having life insurance – security for my family. Usually, the sales process goes as follows. First, the rep meets with a family and gathers information about their goals, finances, and money available to invest. The rep will also spend a little time talking about insurance products as a primer for later. During the second meeting, the rep presents an analysis of the family’s finances and goals and begins discussing how life insurance will help them reach those goals. All kinds of printouts showing huge cash values and death benefits are presented. The entire presentation is designed around the dollar amount available to invest, not around whether or not the death benefit is sufficient if the provider dies tomorrow.

So the family signs up, pays in, and prays that tragedy doesn’t strike.

To my friend’s credit though, he mentioned that for young couples, he recommends buying term life with sufficient coverage in combination with a small whole life insurance policy. Over time, the couple can increase the amount of the whole life policy and phase out the term life. I would be much more prone to taking this approach, assuming I wanted whole life.

Term Life vs. Whole Life Insurance

The costs are higher, but I’m not sure about the value

The reason my friend and I even started our debate last night was because I stated last Saturday while at the golf range that I don’t like how much life insurance companies charge. As a rebuttal, my friend created a spreadsheet outlining how much a life insurance rep makes on a whole life insurance policy as compared to stock based investments. His goal was to show that the commissions are cheaper.

In his financial model, he assumed that a consumer pays 1% annually for investment advice. However, if you assume that a consumer doesn’t hire a financial planner (which many can do with out) and invested in a mix of index funds with low fees like the ones offered by Vanguard and Fidelity, then the consumer pays $1000s less in fees with the investments. If you further add in what the insurance company is making on top of the payout commission to the sales rep, then a consumer saves anywhere from two to three times more than the management fees from mutual funds over 15 years.

So using his model, I demonstrated that buying term and investing the difference, assuming that you know what you’re doing, can save you a lot of money over 10 or 20 years.

Whole life insurance can be a complex financial instrument

Before my friend starts egging my house, let me state that I do believe that whole life insurance can play an important role in some financial plans. The problem is that to properly incorporate it, a consumer needs a competent, experienced advisor. Many so called “financial planners” receive little to no training and are set loose on the population. Several large and popular financial planning firms take average consumers, promise them riches if they start selling permanent life insurance policies, and tell them to go. Rarely are these people trained enough to understand how to use permanent life insurance as part of an overall financial plan.

If you are interested in permanent life insurance, ask for referrals and shop around. Find an advisor who understands how to make life insurance just one part of your plan. Don’t let one well-prepared pitch suck you in.

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Benefits of an Online Multi-Carrier Brokerage Firm vs a Local Agent [guest post]

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Benefits of an Online Multi-Carrier Brokerage Firm vs a Local Agent [guest post]


In our current hectic and fast-paced lifestyle, technology has caught up with every industry, making businesses work better, faster and safer. The life insurance industry is no different.

Shopping for Insurance OnlineTechnology has simplified the process of applying for and buying life insurance so greatly that it is now possible to buy life insurance online with just a few clicks. Most new life insurance buyers in the market are therefore left wondering whether to stick to the traditional route of meeting with a local life insurance agent or buying online.

What is a multi-carrier brokerage firm?

A multi-carrier brokerage firm, also called an online life insurance agency, conducts its life insurance business through its website. It deals with hundreds of carriers and uses technology to link in real time to life insurance carriers’ computers. This means the information it offers to the end customer is up to date and accurate. These multi-carrier brokerage firms also offer life insurance-related resources to gain information, unbiased advice, use free tools like life insurance needs calculators, and request for free quotes.

Why is buying through an online multi-carrier brokerage firm better than buying through a local agent?

The traditional way of buying life insurance through a local agent is greatly challenged by the arrival of online life insurance agencies. Let’s see why buying online is better:

  • A local agent represents just a handful of life insurance companies and may recommend the wrong product to you
    Life insurance should be bought after shopping around. Since a local agent deals with just a few carriers, you only get the best of what’s in his portfolio. Sometimes, a biased agent will even sell you policies that don’t fit your needs, only because he or she gets a higher commission on it. On the other hand, when you buy online, you are assured that the quotes recommended to you are true, because they are picked up through a database consisting of thousands of life insurance policies. The process is automated and therefore, completely unbiased.
  • Online multi-carrier agencies are fast and safe
    When you buy through a local agent, the buying process takes time. The agent will need a few days to get the information he/she needs or will have to meet you several times, and you will likely take a few days to decide. When you buy online, you can make the process as fast as you want it to be, because quotes, as well as complete information about them, is given to you in minutes.
  • Buying through an agent can get uncomfortable because you need to divulge complete personal information
    Filling up a life insurance application form manually in the presence of an agent can get uncomfortable because the agent will need to ask you a few personal questions that can embarrass you. He will also need to know the details on your finances. Buying online is more comfortable because you are not face-to-face with the person asking you questions. All you need to do is fill in their form as truthfully as possible, and you are done.
  • Multi-carrier websites are a one-stop shop
    Life insurance is a very personal decision and an online agency not only gives you quotes but also gives you access to life insurance-related resources, online tools such as life insurance needs calculators, advice on how to get the best results on your physical exam, and complete financial information and comparison charts on the quotes you shortlist. With a local agent on the contrary, the information is more likely to be subjective because agents are also looking to maximize their incomes, and they earn better on some products than on others. Also, an agent may not have access to all the information you need off the cuff and may need to meet with you several times before you can make a decision.
  • Life insurance carriers have niche areas in their underwriting processes
    This means that a particular company may look more favorably on a particular health or lifestyle condition than others. So if you are a cancer survivor, Company X may look more favorably on you than other companies. These niche areas are constantly changing, and a local agent may never be able to be on top of the latest changes, because of his limitations. A multi-carrier online agency however, is directly connected to each carrier’s network, and its database is automatically updated to reveal the latest niche areas of each carrier. You are therefore more likely to get a better life insurance rate with an online multi-carrier life insurance agency.
  • Buying online is faster, cheaper and more reliable
    Because of the above points, when you buy online through a multi-carrier life insurance agency website, you will be offered the best rates, your needs are matched to the right policies and you are able to make a well-informed decision because you are provided with complete information on the policies you are considering.
  • Afraid of buying online?
    If you are worried about using your credit card online, you can still use the services of an online multi-carrier agency website. Once you are given the quotes, you can opt for someone from the agency to call you, follow up with you, or use an alternative way to pay for your life insurance. In other words, you don’t have to pay online if you receive quotes online.

Online life insurance agency websites provide an indispensable service

The intention of this article is not to discredit the services of local agents, some of who are extremely trustworthy and committed. However, today they just can’t compete with the technological advancements that online multi-carrier agencies have incorporated into their businesses. Accessing an online multi-carrier website is simply the smarter, more economical thing to do.

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