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News / Finance

How Indexed Universal Life Works

Using Indices in a Cash Value Life Insurance policy may be the Smart Man’s Portfolio

Indexing as an investment strategy has been around for a long time. The most popular is the S&P 500 Index, one of the top market benchmarks of our economy. There are several ways to purchase an index like the S&P 500: Options, Mutual Funds, ETFs, Annuities, Indexed Universal Life and Variable Universal Life.

The last two are cash value life insurance.

There are actually four types of cash value life insurance policies that, if designed correctly, can offer tax-free withdrawals to basis and collateralized policy loans of gain as long as the contract is kept in force for the life of the policy insured. The four policy crediting options use dividends, interest rate, indices and sub accounts to generate returns. You’ll need to undergo a risk tolerance test to select the crediting method best suited for you.

Indexed Universal Life is one of the most popular product lines to offer indices, again both domestic and foreign. It’s generally structured to perform 200 basis points above the insurance company’s interest crediting rate. The insurance company buys options for a specific index; if the option is profitable the insurance company makes money and passes the gain onto the policyholder. Keep in mind that the insurance company doesn’t pay dividends on an index crediting method and many use caps on the gains or participation rates or a spread factor. At first blush this may seem a bit unfair, but you never experience a crediting loss. Zero is your downside. There’s the trade off. There’s the hedge. You still can lose money because the policy expenses are debited every year including a zero crediting year.

One of the features of cash value life insurance is the tax advantages it has when designed as a non-modified contract. The withdrawals of basis and the collateralized policy loans of gain are tax-free as long as the policy is kept in force for the life of the policy insured. Policy loans aren’t characterized as income, so they’re not includable in the provisional income test for Social Security benefit taxation. 

One last feature is the participating policy loan crediting method in which you could make money on the policy loan itself and leverage the return. That and the hedge against loss and the tax advantages create a significant opportunity with indexed universal life.