What is 'Whole Life Insurance'
Whole life insurance provides coverage for the life of the insured. In addition to providing a death benefit, whole life also contains a savings component where cash value may accumulate. These policies are also known as permanent or traditional life insurance.
BREAKING DOWN 'Whole Life Insurance'
The most common of life insurance products, whole life insurance guarantees payment of a death benefit to beneficiaries in exchange for level, regularly-due premium payments. The policy includes a savings portion, called the cash value, alongside the death benefit. In the savings component, interest may accumulate on a tax-deferred basis. Growing cash value is an essential component of whole life insurance.
Whole Life Cash Value
To build cash value, a policyholder can remit payments more than the scheduled premium. Additionally, dividends can be reinvested into the cash value and earn interest. The cash value offers a living benefit to the policyholder. In essence, the cash value serves as a source of equity for the policyholder. To access cash reserves, the policyholder requests a withdrawal of funds or a loan. Interest is charged on loans with rates varying per insurer. Also, the owner may withdraw funds up to the value of total premiums paid tax-free. Loans which are unpaid, the loan will reduce the death benefit by the outstanding amount. Withdrawals reduce the cash value but not the death benefit.
For the insurer, the accumulation of cash value reduces their net amount of risk. For example, ABC Insurance Company issues a $25,000 life insurance policy to S. Smith, the policy owner and the insured. Over time, the cash value accumulates to $10,000. Upon Mr. Smith's death, the insurance company will pay the full death benefit of $25,000. However, the company will only realize a loss of $15,000, due to the $10,000 accumulated cash value. The net amount of risk at issue was $25,000 but at the death of the insured was $15,000.