September is Life Insurance Awareness Month! There are several positive reasons to acquire Life Insurance, but some Life Insurance policies must be closely watched in order to get the most out of them you can and avoid losing out on years’ worth of payments.

The Benefits

It may be surprising to know that only 51% of Americans own life insurance. Research shows that perceived cost is the most common factor preventing Americans from acquiring life insurance. Yet 80% of consumers misjudge the price for term life insurance, meaning life insurance is more affordable than most would believe. In studies, Millennials overestimated the cost by an average of 213%, and GenXers overestimated the cost by 119%.

Life insurance is one of the most economically smart ways to protect your family and preserve the assets you have worked so hard for. For more about how life insurance helps secure your financial legacy, read Jordan Loebel’s Worth article about estate planning.

Be Aware

For those who already own life insurance, it is important to stay up to date on reviewing their policies. Years ago, you may have been told by an insurance advisor that your Universal Life (UL) Insurance policy would “remain in-force for life” and “provide you with great cash accumulation to help supplement your retirement income.” If not diligently reviewed, life insurance policies could lapse suddenly, even if you receive annual statements showing cash value growth.

UL policies work like this – The insured pays money into the policy. The insurer then deducts for policy expenses and the cost of insurance (which increases year after year), and the rest of the money remains in the policy earning interest to pay towards the future costs of insurance.

These policies are typically sold with illustrations showing interest accumulations between 8%-10%, however, these illustrations are only projections and are NOT guaranteed.  Early on, when the insured is young and the cost of insurance is minimal, these policies perform well and begin to accumulate attractive cash-value balances. Perhaps they aren’t receiving the 8%-10% return as originally illustrated, but the cost of insurance is so low that the policies keep accumulating positive cash value.

The problem is that the cost of insurance continues to increase year after year. Once the insured reaches a certain age, the annual increase in the cost of insurance surpasses the annual increase in policy cash value.  At this point, the annual premium payments are not enough to fund the increased costs in insurance so the policy begins to cannibalize itself by taking money from the cash value to pay for this increased cost for insurance. From this point forward, unless interest rates dramatically increase, or the insured begins over-funding their premium payments, the cash value will continue to deteriorate. At some point, the entire policy will likely lapse and the insured will lose out on years’ worth of premium payments.

Concerns

Consumers buy these UL policies under the false impression that they can withdrawal money from the policy’s cash value to supplement their retirement income. And for those who have sufficient cash value balances that have yet to be impacted by lower interest earnings and higher insurance costs, they can.  Unfortunately for the vast majority, this is far from reality and what actually happens is quite the opposite – they must pull funds from their retirement just to keep the policy in force!

Action Item

If you have one of these (UL) policies in place, or any policy for that matter, it is extremely important to closely monitor and review it annually.

If you would like to learn where you stand, ask your insurance advisor for two in-force ledger illustrations:

Annual reviews with a trusted advisor may help protect you and your family’s retirement funds!

For an illustration, click here for a recent Wall Street Journal highlighting the issue.

Please contact BKS-Partners if you have any questions or would like to learn more.