Universal life insurance

July 27, 2023
Universal life insurance (UL) is long-lasting life insurance that includes an investment savings component, adjustable premiums, and a death benefit. Unlike term life insurance, a UL insurance policy may accrue cash value. The cash value yields an interest rate determined by the insurer, which might alter regularly. However, there is usually a minimum value that the insurance can earn. If your assets perform poorly, your cash worth may fall, and your premiums may rise. Policyholders who borrow against the accrued cash value of their UL insurance have no tax consequences, while certain withdrawals may be taxed.

What is universal life insurance?

Universal life insurance is a sort of permanent life insurance in which the policyholder is protected for life and may choose from various benefit alternatives. Policyholders will be able to contribute extra funds to the premium payment. The extra cash will then be put into the cash value, where it may earn interest. Interest rates are usually linked to the efficiency of an index of the stock market. It might be beneficial when the stock exchange is doing well and unfavorable when it is lagging.

The concept of universal life insurance

Policyholders of universal life insurance plans have greater flexibility than those of other insurance kinds. A universal life policy is a kind of perpetual life insurance that will remain in effect for the policyholder's whole life as long as the premiums are paid.

There are three elements of the universal life insurance plan; cost of insurance (premium), cash value, and death benefit. Each element is essential and makes the policy a good choice for anyone needing permanent life coverage.

     i.          Insurance premiums or cost of insurance

The premium will include all fees and costs associated with providing insurance coverage for one person. A minimum premium must be paid each year To maintain coverage. Universal life insurance premiums differ from other types of insurance in that the policyholder may pay more than the minimum required amount. Extra premiums paid into a universal life insurance policy are deposited into a savings account, known as the cash value.

     ii.          Cash value

The cash value is the sum the policyholder pays beyond the policy's insurance cost or premium. How one's money is invested in this account depends on the purchase policy. It will either gain a predetermined interest rate or be linked to a stock index.

The policy's cash value will cover the shortfall if the required premium is unpaid. The policyholder has the option of using the account's growing value to make withdrawals at any time. Nevertheless, there may be tax consequences for withdrawing funds.

     iii.          Death benefit

The policy's proceeds will be distributed to the named beneficiaries upon the policyholder's or insured's death. The distribution of cash value and payments is subject to the terms of the policy. The universal life insurance firm often retains the cash value upon the insured's passing. Nevertheless, if the insurance is structured in such a manner, the cash value may also be distributed to the beneficiaries.

Types of universal life insurance

     i.          Guaranteed universal life insurance

A guaranteed universal life (GUL) insurance coverage provides a fixed death benefit and premium payments. You choose the age at which the coverage expires; however, selecting a higher age raises the premium. Guaranteed universal life insurance barely has any cash value and is the most affordable kind of universal life insurance available. Just like the whole life insurance, you pay for lifetime coverage.

GUL is also referred to as a no-lapse guarantee of universal life insurance. It is to solve recent issues in which conventional, non-guaranteed universal life insurance plans expired due to insufficient cash worth to satisfy the policy's expenditures and insurance costs. Some clients who wished to keep their insurance in effect were forced to pay substantially higher rates than anticipated.

These latest no-lapse rules guarantee to remain in effect indefinitely. However, the insurance will most likely be canceled if you miss making a payment or pay late. There will be no cash to take away since there is generally no financial value. The insurance organization will retain the premiums you pay.

Guaranteed universal insurance may be a viable alternative for someone solely interested in everlasting coverage and less concerned with cash value's "investment" component. A GUL policy, unlike other forms of universal life insurance, does not allow either premium payment or death benefit amount flexibility.

     ii.          Indexed universal life insurance

Indexed universal life insurance (IUL) provides lifetime coverage with considerable flexibility regarding death benefits and premiums. You can alter your death benefit and payments within specific restrictions if your requirements or budget change.

IUL includes a cash value component often linked to a stock markets index, like the Nasdaq-100, S& P 500, or a mix of indices. You might also consider a fixed-interest investment. When you pay your premiums, some money is allocated to (perhaps exorbitant) policy fees and costs, while the rest goes into cash value.

Participation rates and limitations apply to plans. The participation rate is a proportion of the index gains that your cash value will receive. There is often a given figure to the maximum percentage gain you may make, regardless of how well the index performs.

Even if your index falls, you will still have a "floor," ensuring a minimum return rate of 0%. Even yet, losing your cash worth is possible if insurance costs and expenditures consume your funds.

An IUL insurance does not imply that your money is invested in the index. In actuality, insurers continue to invest in bonds mainly. As a result, the index is only a barometer for calculating monetary value gains and losses. Furthermore, your earnings will not include any dividends received if you had invested directly.

IUL is a standard policy, despite its intricate nature. It might be attributed to consultants directing customers to this insurance. If you are considering purchasing indexed universal life insurance, know what you are getting into. An IUL policy may appeal to someone who wants the option to adjust the death benefit and premiums and is willing to take on higher investment risks.

     iii.          Variable universal life insurance

Variable universal life insurance (VUL) lets you choose your premium payments and death benefit amount. Since you will be selecting sub-accounts for your cash value investments, you must actively monitor this type of policy. You might also pick a cash value option with a set interest rate.

You can earn high returns on your cash value with variable universal life insurance (if you invest well), and you have some influence over your investments. However, your cash value could decline if your investing options fail. Furthermore, these plans have more significant costs than conventional universal life insurance and are sometimes far more complicated.

VUL policies may appeal to someone who wishes to select the subaccounts for the policy's cash value actively. A variable universal life insurance policy is unlikely suitable for someone seeking an inactive investment or risk-sensitive.

     iv.          Monetary accumulation UL

It is a universal life insurance coverage that is specially intended to accumulate cash value fast in the beginning.

     v.          The current assumption of UL

It is a standard UL insurance meant to provide coverage at a reasonable cost since there is no guarantee for the death benefit. Your cash value rises dependent on the insurer's crediting rate, which is subject to change. You might be able to adjust the date or sum of your payments and the death benefit. Still, you must ensure that the insurance account contains sufficient funds to meet the policy's charges, insurance costs, and any financial commitments or withdrawals you have made. If it does not, the insurance may be canceled. These coverages have lately been under question when several policyholders faced massive, unexpected premium hikes when their cash worth dropped below the minimum limits.

The advantages and disadvantages of UL insurance


·       Variable premiums

In contrast to whole-life policies, UL insurance coverage often allows premiums to be adjusted within certain parameters during the policy's duration. Insurers will accept payments that exceed the cost of insurance. The unused portion of the premium is put into a cash value account and earns interest. Alternatively, policyholders may reduce or omit payments without the risk of policy default, provided sufficient cash value has been accrued.

·       Possibility of the variable death benefit

You can raise the level of your death benefit, but doing so could involve a medical check, depending on your policy. You might potentially reduce your premiums by reducing your death benefit.

·       Potential increase in cash value

Like any long-term life insurance, a UL insurance policy may build up savings-like cash value. The cash value accumulates interest at the greater market rate and the minimum interest rate specified in the policy. Policyholders can borrow against or withdraw a portion of the cash value as it grows.

·       Allows advances on insurance policies

Borrowing against the cash value of universal life insurance is tax-free. Such loans often have lower interest rates than personal loans and do not need a credit check. Nevertheless, the sum of any outstanding debts would be deducted from the payout.

The drawbacks of UL insurance

·       Potential for substantial payments or policy termination

While UL insurance may be pretty adaptable due to features like decreasing premiums and emergency withdrawals, policyholders still need to monitor their investments. The policy will expire if the cash value is zero and the premiums paid are insufficient for the remaining insurance cost.

·       A guarantee of a return is not provided.

Your cash worth may underperform if interest rates fall. UL cash value does not earn a fixed rate, unlike whole life. Most UL plans, however, have a minimum rate to keep your losses minimal.

·       Withdrawals may trigger a tax liability

Withdrawals of cash value from UL policies are taxable to the policyholder. The policyholder's initial investment in the policy will be returned to them before any profits accrued in the policy (or taxes on those gains) are distributed to them. However, withdrawals above premium payments will be subject to income tax.

·       When the policyholder dies, the cash value is forfeited.

After a policyholder dies, the insurance firm maintains any remaining funds in the policy's account. You can only access the cash value while still alive, so your beneficiaries will only get the death benefit. Nevertheless, the death benefit of specific life insurance plans may be increased with an increase in cash value.

Comparison between the universal life, term, and whole life insurance

The savings part of universal life insurance accumulates tax-deferred and may be borrowed from or cashed out at any time. Term life insurance is temporary protection that lasts for a certain period (often 20 or 30 years) and then lapses. Term life insurance has lower premiums but no cash value, so you cannot borrow against it, and your beneficiaries will not get anything if you die before the policy expires. The cost of a UL policy's premium might decline or elevate depending on market conditions and the policyholder's age.

Another long-lasting life insurance that includes a savings element is whole life insurance. Nonetheless, the interest rate on UL policies is not guaranteed, a significant distinction from whole-life policies. It is variable and determined by the insurance company. The premiums for whole life insurance remain constant during the policy's duration, but those for universal life insurance are subject to change. Unlike universal life insurance, whole-life policies guarantee cash value accumulation and death payouts.


The universal life (UL) insurance rates may be adjusted to meet the policyholder's financial needs. Compared to whole life insurance, UL plans may have cheaper rates because of the flexible premiums. The insurance's cash value does not decline drastically, forcing you to pay excessive premiums or causing the policy to expire.

Borrowing against the cash value of a UL insurance policy does not result in any taxable income for the policyholder. Still, interest is assessed on the loan amount, and any outstanding balances may be deducted from the death benefit. Policyholders should exercise caution when cashing in their policies because of potential tax repercussions. The insurance company will keep the account's cash value in the event of your death, as is standard with permanent life insurance.