Types of Life Insurance

February 18, 2009

There are six basic types of life insurance:

1) Term: Term life insurance is the simplest kind of life insurance because it pays if death occurs during the term of the policy, which is usually from one to 30 years. There are two kinds of term life insurance: Level term means that the death benefit stays throughout the duration of the policy, and decreasing term means that the death benefit drops in one-year increments over the duration of the policy.

2) Whole life/permanent: Whole life or permanent insurance has a level premium and pays a static benefit whenever you die. For this guaranteed benefit, whole life is usually the more expensive choice because it front-loads its costs into the early premium years of the policy so it can invest the money to pay for death benefits at the end of several years or decades. At a certain point, the policy owner will pay in enough where he or she will start accruing cash value on that money which can be withdrawn if the policy owner decides to cancel the coverage.

3) Whole or ordinary life: This is the most common type of permanent insurance policy, offering a death benefit with a savings account. You agree to pay a certain amount in premiums on a regular basis for a specific death benefit. The savings element would grow based on dividends the company pays to you.

4) Universal or adjustable life: This variation offers a little more flexibility, such as the possibility of increasing the death benefit if you pass a medical exam. The savings product attached to this kind of account generally earns a money market rate of interest, and after you start accumulating money in this account you’ll generally have the option of altering your premium payments. This helps if you lose your job or have some other financial misfortune.

5) Variable life: This policy lets you invest your cash value in stocks, bonds and money market mutual funds which is good if those investments go up. If they go down, your cash value and death benefit will shrink, but you need to make sure there’s a guarantee that your death benefit won’t fall below a certain level. This type of policy can be fairly risky for ordinary consumers.

6) Variable-universal life: This choice allows you the flexibility of premium payments with a more aggressive investment scenario for the cash value of the policy.

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