Whole life insurance
Whole Life Insurance, or Whole of Life Assurance (in the Commonwealth), is a life insurance policy that remains in force for the insured's whole life and requires (in most cases) premiums to be paid every year into the policy.
All life insurance was originally term insurance. However, because term life insurance only pays a claim upon death within the stated term, a number of term insurance policy holders became upset over the idea that they could be paying premiums for 20 or 30 years and then wind up with nothing to show for it.
In response to market pressures, actuaries conceived of an insurance policy with level premium payments that were higher than traditional term insurance contracts. These contracts would offer a "cash value", which was designed to be a cash reserve that would build up against the known claim - the death benefit. These policies would also credit interest to the cash value account and upon maturity of the contract (usually at age 95 or 100), the cash value would equal the death benefit.
This produced a benefit to both the policy owner and the insurance company. By guaranteeing the death benefit, the policy owner was assured that insurance coverage would be in force when the insured died. The insurance company benefited because with every premium payment made, 30% is overcharge and pure profit, and thus the cost of insurance, is able to increase, while premiums remain the same
Whole life insurance typically requires that the owner pay premiums for the life of the policy. There are some arrangements that let the policy be "paid up", which means that no further payments are ever required, in as few as 5 years, or with even a single large premium. Typically if the payor doesn't make a large premium payment at the outset of the life insurance contract, then he is not allowed to begin making them later in the contract life. However, some whole life contracts offer a rider to the policy which allows for a one time, or occasional, large additional premium payment to be made as long as a minimal extra payment is made on a regular schedule. In contrast, Universal life insurance generally allows more flexibility in premium payment.
The company generally will guarantee that the policy's cash values will increase regardless of the performance of the company or its experience with death claims (again compared to universal life insurance and variable universal life insurance which can increase the costs and decrease the cash values of the policy).
Cash values are considered liquid enough to be used for investment capital, but only if the owner is financially healthy enough to continue making premium payments (Single premium whole life policies avoid the risk of the insured failing to make premium payments and are liquid enough to be used as collateral. Single premium policies require that the insured pay a one time premium that tends to be lower than the split payments. Because these policies are fully paid at inception, they have no financial risk and are liquid and secure enough to be used as collateral under the insurance clause of collateral assignment.)Cash value access is tax free up to the point of total premiums paid, and the rest may be accessed tax free in the form of policy loans. If the policy lapses, taxes would be due on outstanding loans. If the insured dies, death benefit is reduced by the amount of any outstanding loan balance.
Internal rates of return for participating policies may be much worse than universal life and interest-sensitive whole life (whose cash values are invested in the money market and bonds) because their cash values are invested in the life insurance company and its general account, which may be in real estate and the stock market. Variable universal life insurance may outperform whole life because the owner can direct investments in sub-accounts that may do better. If an owner desires a conservative position for his cash values, par whole life is indicated.