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Whole Life Insurance

Whole life insurance merges a term policy with an investment feature, which might be in bonds, stocks, or money-market instruments. This policy accumulates cash value you can borrow from. Both whole-life and term policies offer the advantage of fixed monthly payments throughout the policy's duration.


When you get a policy, key details like death benefits, cash surrender values, and premiums are set for the policy's lifetime and typically can't be changed later. This setup means the insurance company takes on the risk of any future changes compared to what their actuaries predicted.

If actual future claims are higher than expected, the insurance company covers the extra cost. However, if they've overestimated future claims, the insurance company keeps the surplus.


In a participating policy, the insurance company shares any extra profits, known as dividends or refunds, with you, the policyholder. The better the company performs, the bigger your dividend.

Variable Premium

Similar to non-participating, except that the premium may vary year to year. However, the premium will never exceed the maximum premium guaranteed in the policy.


Combining participating and term life insurance, part of the dividends buys more term insurance. This often increases the death benefit but reduces long-term cash value. Sometimes, if dividends are lower than expected, the death benefit may drop in those years.

Single Payment

This is a one-time payment option for life insurance, where you pay a large sum upfront. Early cancellation of these policies often comes with fees in the initial years.

Variable Premium

Like a participating policy, but premiums are only paid for a set number of years, like 20, or until a specific age, such as 65 or 80. The policy lasts the insured's lifetime. These policies usually cost more initially, as the insurer needs enough cash value early on to support the policy for the insured's remaining life.


These policies blend traditional whole life with universal life. Rather than dividends boosting guaranteed cash value, the interest on the policy’s cash value changes with the market. The death benefit, like whole life, stays the same for life. The premium, similar to universal life, can vary but won't exceed the policy's guaranteed maximum premium.

Whole Life Insurance Factors


Whole life insurance usually involves paying premiums throughout the policy's lifespan. However, some options allow the policy to be "paid up" after just 5 years or with one large payment, meaning no more payments are needed. Generally, if you don't start with a large payment, you can't switch to this option later in the policy's term.


The company usually promises that the policy's cash value will grow no matter how the company performs or its experience with death claims. This is unlike universal life insurance and variable universal life insurance, where costs can rise and cash values can drop.

Cash Availability

Cash values can be used as investment funds if the owner can keep up with premium payments. Accessing cash value is tax-free up to the total of premiums paid, and any extra can be borrowed against the policy tax-free. If the policy ends, taxes are due on loans. If the insured passes away, the death benefit decreases by any loan amount still owed.

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