For many years, especially when the estate tax exemption was low, the focus of estate planning strategies with life insurance often shifted to how the minimum premium can be leveraged for maximum death benefit. With the 2017 estate tax exemption at $5.49M for individuals and $10.98M for married couples, the time may be ripe for the planning pendulum to swing back towards a balance between securing the proper amount of death benefit and the opportunity for cash accumulation in permanent life policies.
One of the reasons why sophisticated buyers find these policies attractive is the potential to accumulate cash value that can provide another source of income to meet their retirement needs. Of course, the need for death benefit must be established first and foremost, along with other savings vehicles such as (taxable) 401(k)s and/or other qualified planning opportunities are ordinarily maximized before considering additional savings vehicles, such as cash value life insurance.
Nevertheless, for high income earners in their 30s, 40s and 50s who are seeking additional ways to save and protect their family at the same time, cash value insurance can be an important planning tool.
Permanent, cash value, life insurance policies offer tax deferral on the inside cash accumulation, tax-free withdrawals of basis and tax-free loans so long as the policy does not lapse, as well as a death benefit that is income tax-free, pursuant to IRC § 101(a).
Four important general points should be taken into consideration when using cash value life insurance:
First, any withdrawals and loans could have an impact the death benefit payable to heirs.
Second, financial advisors and their clients should ensure that the policy is not a modified endowment contract (MEC) and that it stays in force. As long as the policy remains in force until death and it never becomes classified as a MEC, policy loans remain exempt from income tax.
This makes the income tax-free nature of the policy distributions possible, as long as they are managed properly. If the policy were to become a MEC, distributions would be subject to federal income taxation to the extent of gain in the policy. In addition, if the insured is under age 59 1/2, a 10% penalty would apply to taxable distributions, including loans. Similarly, if the policy lapses, whether it is MEC or not, these distributions taxation rules could apply.
Third, the types of products generally considered for these estate planning strategies such as variable universal life and indexed universal life, are all designed to capitalize on cash accumulation.
Fourth, financial advisors and their clients evaluating life insurance for supplemental cash accumulation should consider minimizing the death benefit as much as possible, without causing the policy to become a MEC. In this regard, many insurance carriers can help with designing the kind of policy that would allow sophisticated buyers to minimize the death benefit, while maximizing the cash accumulation potential within the product.
For many consumers who may not own insurance or only have experience with term insurance, it may seem counterintuitive to maximize the funding of a life insurance policy, while minimizing the death benefit. However, after explaining the tax deferral of the cash inside build-up and the opportunity to take tax-free withdrawals and loans to supplement retirement income, most sophisticated buyers will appreciate the potential value of permanent cash value life insurance in their overall planning process.
Focusing on what the money is for and providing case studies and stories illustrating how cash value helps is of the essence here. For example, let’s assume Jane is a 45-year-old executive who has a substantial death benefit need buys a variable universal life policy (VUL), which permits her to allocate the cash value for exposure to market returns on a variety of underlying investment options.
Jane pays $50,000 of premiums for 20 years. Rates of returns vary and death benefits vary by product. Hypothetically, with the premium pattern Jane intends to follow and assuming she is in very good health, her planned premium may allow for an initial death benefit of approximately $1,438,000, which would be paid to her beneficiaries, income tax-free, if she dies.
Of note, Jane did not buy the policy only for the need of death benefit, she bought it for the potential of cash accumulation as well. To meet her twin goals, designing the policy the right way is most important. Even though the initial death benefit is $1,438,000, the benefit increases for 20 years to accommodate the premiums without causing the policy to be classified a MEC.
Then in year 21, the death benefit no longer increases. Assuming a hypothetical 8% gross rate of return and a 7.36 percent net rate of return, the cash value of the policy could be approximately $2 million with a death benefit of close to $3.5M, resulting in a potential $2 million to supplement Jane’s other income. Of course, this is a simplified scenario (actual results will vary) to illustrate how a VUL policy could work for Jane in this strategy.
Results may vary based on actual returns and individual circumstances, so financial advisors and their sophisticated buyers such as Jane must take care to manage their policies to help achieve the desired results. Additionally, a personalized life insurance illustration should always include assumed rates of return selected by the client, the impact of 0% investment performance, and maximum guaranteed charges.
Nonetheless, the story highlights the flexibility offered by the additional source of retirement income in cash accumulation life insurance. The cash value could be used to help pay off a mortgage, go on a cruise, or help offset unexpected expenses during retirement such as unexpected health care costs. Whether the cash is used for leisure, general outlays or extraordinary expenses, or not used at all, having the cash available is the part of the story that really resonates with many sophisticated buyers.
For many of you who have never owned permanent insurance or who may only have experience with term insurance, the story of cash accumulation life insurance products — whether it is VUL or whole life or indexed universal life — may be brand new. That is one of the reasons why it is vital for cash value life insurance to be revisited. Contact Kasmann Insurance and let our trained life insurance experts help you navigate through the myriad of concerns, companies, and questions you may have about cash value life insurance.
I have been in the business of life insurance since 1972, and this is truly is the greatest time to sell cash value life insurance. It provides amazing value for these uncertain times.
This is because cash value life insurance uses the financial miracle of leveraging. Pennies can purchase dollars. More importantly, one dollar can do the work of many dollars.
Please look at this list of things cash value life insurance can do for individuals, families and businesses. I do not assume that you already know these fabulous benefits are available.
Even when interest rates declined over the last 30 years, most of the top carriers met or exceeded their projected dividend (mutual company policies) scale over that time period. Now the cycle is going in the other direction. Every current, initial illustration I review for consumers, lawyers, accountants and brokers, will probably provide the worst performance and as interest rates rise, many in-force ledgers will look better and better. I can tell any sophisticated buyers if they like what is being recommended now, they will love it in the future.
Remember, life insurance does not benefit dead people. Life insurance benefits the living.
Whether you have estate planning needs, business protection needs, or supplementary retirement needs, cash value life insurance offers great competitive advantages versus alternative financial assets. These advantages fall into three major categories: 1) Tax advantages 2) Financial and actuarial advantages, and 3) Legal and contractual advantages. These inherent advantages make cash value life insurance a financial asset that should be an important component of virtually every asset portfolio mix.
What about term life insurance? Certainly term insurance has a place in many planning scenarios where protection needs might terminate after a fixed period of time. However, because of its actuarial design, term insurance cannot offer the major advantages offered by cash value permanent insurance. Term insurance ends after a fixed number of years and only pays a death benefit if the insured dies while the policy is still in force. And term insurance is designed to terminate before the usual life expectancy of most individuals. This can create a problem if you still have certain asset protection or asset accumulation needs that will continue for the remainder of their lives.
Cash value life insurance can be designed to pay a death benefit whether you live to their life expectancy or not. Of course, permanent life insurance differs from carrier to carrier. Policies come in different flavors depending on your fact situation and risk profile. These policy types include no-lapse Universal Life (UL); Current Assumption Universal Life (CAUL); Indexed Universal Life (IUL); and Traditional Whole Life (WL). Most of these permanent types of policies offer a unique combination of features and benefits that place them in a class by themselves.
Listed here are a number of federal tax benefits that give a significant competitive edge to cash value life insurance versus other fixed financial assets:
Your financial security can be enhanced dramatically with the unique financial asset of cash value life insurance. However, unlike other financial assets, its purchase is not an automatic transaction. Life insurance companies have underwriting rules and guidelines to gather and evaluate the proposed insured’s medical and financial situation. If these underwriting requirements are successfully met, a policy will be issued to the policy owner in upon payment of the premium.
John K. Bangs