When shopping for a life insurance policy, you’ll first want to consider what type of life insurance is best for you. There are a variety of life insurance types, each with its pros and cons, but some of the more well-known policies are term life insurance and whole life insurance. Whether you need term life vs. whole life depends on your circumstances and financial goals too. To help you decide which is better, term or whole life insurance, we’ve developed this page to help you make the right choice. Read on to learn the difference between whole life and term life insurance or schedule a strategy session with us to walk through it together.

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Overview

DETAILS TERM LIFE INSURANCE WHOLE LIFE INSURANCE
Duration 1 - 30 years Your entire life
Initial Cost Less expensive than whole life in the beginning More expensive than term initially. Less costly over time.
Guaranteed Death Benefit If you die during your term coverage Yes
Accrues Cash Value No Yes
Premium Costs Increase over time Stay the same
Eligible for Dividends No Yes

Key Takeaways

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Whole life insurance is the best type of policy for a guaranteed death benefit, guaranteed cash value, and for building your wealth throughout your entire life, not just a specific time period.

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Term life insurance only protects you for a certain number of years while whole life protects you for your entire lifetime.

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Term life premiums may initially be less expensive than whole life, but its premiums continue to increase in cost over time if you keep the policy beyond the level term period, and you won’t build any cash value.

Term Life Insurance

Term Insurance is a type of temporary life insurance that provides protection with no cash value or growth. It’s often referred to as “rented life insurance” because of this. Term life insurance can be purchased as a one-year renewable term or for a certain period of time such as 5, 10, 15, 20, or even 30 years. This time period is referred to as the level-term period. Coverage amount will vary by policy but can range from less than $100,000 into the millions.

People are often drawn to term insurance because of its initial low premium costs. Term insurance is usually the least expensive for those who are young and healthy, but it’s important to know it won’t always stay like that. Premiums, paid each month, quarter, six months, or year, depending on the premium mode you choose, pay for your death benefit (the money your beneficiaries receive if you pass away). However, this death benefit is only paid out if you die during the term of your coverage. This is the caveat to term insurance.

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this death benefit is only paid out if you die during the term of your coverage. This is the caveat to term insurance.

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If at the end of the term period you’re still alive, you would have paid all those premiums without a death benefit payout. Plus, term insurance doesn’t allow you to accrue any cash value, which means you’ll have no way to recover the cost of the insurance throughout the term. Your coverage will either expire or you’ll have to renew your term at a much higher premium cost.

Because of this, term insurance is best suited for someone looking for life insurance protection for their income for a specific period to provide for their dependents. It’s low cost for people on a budget and can be a great tool for young adults who need affordable coverage until they’re financially established enough to purchase a permanent life insurance policy such as whole life insurance. It’s often a good idea to get a convertible term life insurance policy so you can convert your term life insurance and take advantage of the benefits whole life insurance has to offer in the future.

Pros

  • Initial premium costs are lower than whole life insurance policies
  • Useful for temporry life insurance needs
  • Inexpensive collateral for certain types of loans
  • Ensures future insurability of the insured(if the policy is convertible)

Cons

  • No equity or cash value is developed
  • Dosen't provide a solution for lifelong coverage
  • Ever-increasing cost for coverage makes it unsustainable over time

Whole Life Insurance

When it comes to which is better, term or whole life insurance, we encourage our clients to look into whole life insurance over term. This is because whole life insurance is a permanent type of insurance that provides a death benefit for your entire life with guaranteed tax-free growth and easily accessible cash value.

A whole life insurance contract is designed for the insured’s whole life and requires a fixed premium to be paid every year based on the age, health, and risk factors of the insured at the time the policy is issued. Like term insurance, this contract is also set up between the policy owner and the insurance company. The insurance company contractually guarantees to pay the policy’s beneficiaries the death benefit upon the death of the insured. And, if your policy is a participating whole life insurance policy, the insurance company might also share some of its excess profits with the policyholders in the form of dividends.

Whole Life vs Term
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whole life insurance is a permanent type of insurance that provides a death benefit for your entire life with guaranteed tax-free growth and easily accessible cash value.

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The other benefit of this type of policy is the guaranteed accumulation of cash value. In whole life insurance (participating or non-participating), the cash value represents a part of the death benefit you own called “paid-up insurance.” This cash value is accessible and available to you through a policy loan at any time, for any purpose. Common uses for a policy loan include paying for college tuition, debt payoff, business expansion, caring for family members, retirement planning, and more. Initial cash values start out less than premiums paid, but grow quickly, and over time usually exceed premiums paid. The longer you own the policy, the more your paid-up insurance will grow, and increase your cash value.

Most arguments against whole life insurance stem from poor policy management or policy design. If you do your research and get help from the experts, a whole life insurance policy will allow you to create free cash flow, giving you better control of your finances along with guaranteed life insurance protection.

In a life where nearly nothing is guaranteed, it’s nice to know at least your whole life insurance policy values are guaranteed. Because of this, whole life insurance is an ideal policy for anyone who wants to leave a financial legacy, build guaranteed tax-free growth, and have access to their money while doing it.

Pros

  • Build up of accessible cash value over time
  • Tax-deferred growth on cash value
  • Access to tax-advantaged loans for any reason
  • Potential to receive dividends
  • Tax-free death benefits and the ability to provide for your family even after your life is over

Cons

  • Initial premium costs can be more expensive than other policies like term insurance
  • Poor policy management can lead to costly tax liabilities

Term Life vs. Whole Life Insurance Cost Comparison

When looking at term life vs. whole life costs, it may seem like term life insurance will always be the less expensive option. However, over time, whole life insurance is actually the better option.

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Let’s take a look at an example. This is a 15-year premium quote for a level term life insurance policy with a $500,000 death benefit. You can see that the policyholder’s annual premium for this policy is initially $300/year and after 15 years, they have paid $4,500. But from the sixteenth year onward, the annual premium for the term insurance policy increases every year, continually raising the cost to keep the same coverage. You also can’t recover any of the money you’ve put into the policy through cash value equity.

Let’s take a look at an example. This is a 15-year premium quote for a level term life insurance policy with a $500,000 death benefit. You can see that the policyholder’s annual premium for this policy is initially $300/year and after 15 years, they have paid $4,500. But from the sixteenth year onward, the annual premium for the term insurance policy increases every year, continually raising the cost to keep the same coverage. You also can’t recover any of the money you’ve put into the policy through cash value equity.

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So when looking at term life vs. whole life costs, keep in mind that even though whole life insurance rates may be higher upfront, it will be much less costly than term insurance over time when the whole life policy is designed to accumulate cash value efficiently.

Not sure how much life insurance you need or how much it will cost you? Get a free life insurance quote below.

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Other Life Insurance Options

Term and whole life insurance aren’t your only options when it comes to buying a life insurance policy. Most of our clients do end up purchasing one of these types of policies because they are usually the best fit, however, there are other types of life insurance you may hear about.

These include:

  • Universal Life Insurance
  • Guaranteed No-Lapse Universal Life Insurance
  • Indexed Universal Life Insurance
  • Variable Universal Life Insurance
  • Joint Life Insurance Survivorship Insurance
  • Accidental Death & Dismemberment Insurance

Many of these other types of life insurance have more drawbacks with more risk to the policy owner. Keep in mind that the whole reason you’re buying life insurance in the first place is to let the insurance company take risks you don’t want. These products don’t make as much sense for everyday life insurance protection, liquidity, and building wealth.

One of the life insurance products listed here can often be included as a rider on a term or whole life policy and a couple others can be used in certain estate planning situations to help with estate and inheritance taxes. These are special types of life insurance to solve specific problems.

How to Choose the Right Coverage

There are a lot of things to consider and opinions to sift through when choosing between term life vs. whole life insurance. Here are a few standard questions you can answer to help better determine what coverage would be best for you outlined in the quiz below.
Whole Life vs Term

At Life Benefits, we make it our mission to strategize with you and design the best possible life insurance policy for your wants and needs. If you’d like help deciding between term life vs. whole life insurance, schedule a strategy session with us today.