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Whole Life Insurance vs. Term Life Insurance – Weighing the Pros and Cons

It’s important to know the difference between whole verse life insurance before you start to shop.

Whole life (also called permanent) policies are life insurance policies that accrue cash value over time and usually pay dividends. Buying a whole life policy is an investment. As the named insured, you have the ability to draw against the cash value. Whole policies are more flexible and more expensive than term policies.

Term life insurance policies are less expensive and inflexible. Term policies are bought for a designated period of time. If the named insured dies before the policy expires, the benefits are paid. However, if the policy expires before the death of the insured, there are no return premiums. As the insured, you have the option to renew the policy for another specified period, or let it expire.

The difference between whole life and term policies is similar to the difference in buying verses renting a house. A whole policy would be like buying a house. The purchase of a house is an investment. Usually the house appreciates in value. You can borrow against the growing equity in the house. When you decide to move, you sell the house and reap the financial rewards of the investment.

Renting, on the other hand, is like a term policy. You rent an apartment or house for a specific period of time (lease). You do not have the option to borrow against the equity. When the lease is up, you either renew the lease, or move. If you choose to move, you do not get a portion of the rent back.

Term policies do, however, allow you to upgrade to a permanent policy without the need for a physical exam (similar to renting a house with the option to buy). A change in your financial condition may allow you to afford a whole policy that was out of your financial reach a few years earlier.