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Universal life insurance: the basics.

Universal life insurance, like whole life and term 100 insurance, is a type of permanent life insurance. Your coverage lasts your entire life as long as you pay your premiums. The cost is determined by your age, health, and the amount of coverage you want.

Universal life insurance offers a combination of the protection of permanent insurance with investment options that provide tax-deferred growth.

There are usually two different kinds of premium options for universal life: yearly renewable term or level premiums.

Yearly renewable term premiums rise annually, with the expectation that the investment returns will help cover the cost of the higher premiums in later years. On the other hand, level premiums remain the same for the life of the policy.

Many insurers allow you to add extra coverage, such as accidental death insurance or term insurance for yourself or a child.

Your questions about universal life insurance, answered.

How does universal life insurance work?

Each time you pay a life insurance premium, a portion is deducted to pay for the insurance itself, fees, and premium taxes. The remaining amount is put into various investment account options of your choosing.

You can decide to put your money in a variety of accounts, such as a savings account, GICs, index funds, stock funds, bond funds, and more. The investment accounts you choose should be based on your risk tolerance and your financial objectives.

The money in your account will earn interest and fluctuate in value based on how your investments perform. The money can be used for future savings or to help pay your premiums in the future. You can borrow the money, withdraw it, or leave it to your beneficiaries. If you do borrow or withdraw the money, that will reduce the policy’s cash value as well as the amount of money your beneficiaries will receive when you pass away.

How much does universal life insurance cost in Canada?

The cost of universal life insurance varies based on how much coverage you want as well as your age.

That said, here’s an estimate of what it might cost based for people who fit the following criteria:

Male, 30, non-smoker

Location: Ontario

Coverage amount: $400,000

Universal life: $200 / month

Female, 30, non-smoker

Location: Ontario

Coverage amount: $400,000

Universal life: $180 / month

Is universal life insurance right for you?

Universal life insurance is for someone who wants insurance that lasts as long as they live and can afford the premiums.

It’s also for someone who wants a tax-advantaged investment as well as the ability to decide what investments they own in their policy.

Universal life insurance can be used for your financial goals, to help take care of any final expenses or taxes, or passed on to your family or donated to a charity when you die.

There are also disadvantages to universal life insurance, such as

  • The premiums you have to pay are much higher than the ones for term insurance.
  • The fees on the investments in the policy are generally higher than similar investments offered elsewhere.
  • If you cash out your policy within the first 10 years of purchasing it, there are significant charges (often called surrender charges or back-end charges) to pay.
  • If you get a policy with a yearly renewable term (YRT), the premiums will rise yearly and it may become too expensive.

Thinking about getting universal life insurance? Before you do, you should compare the costs of different policies:

  • LowestRates.ca compares quotes from more than 20 different companies.
  • Comparing will give you a better idea of which companies want to insure you: the lower the quote, the more likely it is that you are a good match for the insurer’s underwriting standards, and vice versa.

What other kinds of permanent life insurance are there?

There are two other major kinds of permanent life insurance, Term to 100 (also called Term 100) and whole life insurance.

Term 100, despite its name, isn’t a form of term insurance. Most term 100 insurance policies will last until you pass away after age 100. While the premiums are less expensive than universal and whole life insurance, you need to pay premiums until you turn 100. And unlike universal or whole life insurance, the policy doesn’t build a cash value.

Whereas universal life insurance is a type of non-participating life insurance, whole life insurance is a form of participating life insurance. Instead of making the investment decisions yourself, the insurance company does that for you. You’ll earn dividends if the investments perform strongly, which you can use to purchase additional coverage, pay for future premiums, or leave them in the policy to grow.

Advantages of universal life insurance.

To sum it up, there are a number of advantages of universal life insurance, such as:

  • Your coverage lasts as long as you live.
  • You can use the money in your policy to take a premium holiday if you’re out of work or don’t have the cash to pay your premiums.
  • You can access the money in your policy to supplement your retirement income or due to an illness.
  • Your savings accumulate on a tax-free basis and your beneficiaries won't have to pay any tax when you die.

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