What is the Best Permanent Life Insurance for 2023

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Permanent life insurance, also known as whole life insurance, is a type of insurance policy that provides guaranteed lifetime coverage as long as premium payments are made. Depending on the sub-type of the permanent life insurance policy, these insurance plans can also offer a saving and investment element alongside the core death benefit coverage which also makes it a great financial planning tool.

But how does permanent life insurance work? And, what types of permanent life insurance are there?

This article covers everything you need to know to find Canada's best permanent life insurance policy. It explains what permanent whole life insurance is and compares term vs permanent life insurance to give you an in-depth understanding of the different life policies.

Key takeaways: permanent life insurance

  • Permanent life insurance can come with an investment element
  • It offers guaranteed lifetime coverage
  • Can be cheaper than term life insurance over the long term

What is permanent life insurance?

A permanent life insurance policy is a form of life insurance that guarantees coverage for your entire life. Once you have signed up for a permanent life insurance policy, it will remain in force as long as your premiums are paid without any new underwriting, medical questions or renewals.

Permanent life insurance by definition refers to the fact that it does not expire – it covers you for your whole life. It should be noted, however, that whole life insurance is a sub-class of permanent life insurance along with universal life insurance. Additionally, permanent life insurance often has a cash value that increases and an investment element, unlike term life insurance.

How does permanent life insurance work?

Permanent life insurance works like most other life insurance policies: by providing your loved ones with a payout should you pass away. You contribute regular premiums In exchange for a death benefit for your beneficiaries when you pass. The difference with permanent life insurance policies, however, is that the coverage lasts for your entire life and they can come with a range of additional benefits. For example, you can choose a permanent life insurance policy with an investment aspect. We'll look at what makes these policies so useful below.

Expert advice

Permanent life insurance works as an effective estate planning tool. Your investment funds can be held in tax-advantaged accounts and the death benefit will be made to your beneficiaries tax-free.

What are the advantages and disadvantages of permanent life insurance?

There are several permanent life insurance advantages and disadvantages. Each type can be a good match for different individuals depending on their needs. Since permanent life insurance can be complex and expensive, it is best suited for older couples and families with shared finances. It is also a good solution for long-term planning and older policy buyers who want to guarantee an inheritance for their loved ones.

To help you understand the benefits of permanent life insurance we’ve listed the pros and cons of permanent life insurance below.

Pros of permanent life insurance

  • Lifetime coverage
  • Guaranteed premiums
  • Premiums can be flexible
  • Tax-advantaged investment element option
  • Dividends and increase in cash-value option
  • Loan against cash-value policies

Cons of permanent life insurance

  • More expensive than other types of life insurance
  • Cash value can grow very slowly with modest returns
  • Complex products with complex fee structures
  • Risk of not affording the premiums forcing termination of the policy
  • Some buyers may prefer to separate life insurance from private investments

What is the cost of permanent life insurance?

The cost of permanent life insurance varies significantly between insurance providers, the type of permanent life insurance policy requested (whole life vs universal life), the amount of death benefit and the applicant’s personal information. Due to their vast differences, permanent life insurance rates usually have to be requested from life insurance companies directly, who will put you in touch with an advisor to discuss your needs.

However, it is sometimes possible to get permanent life insurance costs from some insurance providers without the need to speak to an advisor. This is usually for permanent whole life insurance plans as they aren’t as complex. The table below shows the monthly cost of BMO’s Term 100 permanent life insurance policy for healthy, non-smoking males and females with a $250,000 death benefit.

Permanent life insurance prices

What types of permanent life insurance are there?

Permanent life insurance is often broken down into two sub-classes of long-term life insurance: whole life insurance and universal life insurance. Both types will offer lifelong coverage while some have the ability to provide cash value and investment options.

Due to these differences, a permanent life insurance policy can be either straightforward or complex. Whole life insurance is considered straightforward since your premiums, coverage and even guaranteed cash value can stay the same. Universal life insurance on the other hand, offers flexibility when it comes to several features. A full breakdown of the features of the two types of permanent life insurance are listed below.

Insurance typeWhole Life InsuranceUniversal Life Insurance
Guaranteed lifetime coverage
Guaranteed death benefit
Flexible death benefit
Guaranteed fixed premiums
Premium flexibility
Guaranteed cash value growth
Tax-advantaged investment option
Ability to borrow against the policy
whole ve universal life insurance

Permanent non-participating vs permanent participating life insurance

Permanent whole life insurance can further be broken down into permanent non-participating and permanent participating life insurance. In short, permanent non-participating life insurance is the simpler version of the two and the cheapest. It offers guaranteed lifetime coverage without any other financial benefit.

Permanent participating life insurance also has guaranteed lifetime coverage but offers a potential cash value which comes in the form of dividends from the investment of premiums.

Unlike universal life insurance, however, a policyholder does not manage the investments themselves. Instead, the insurance provider manages the investment of your premiums along with the premiums of other policyholders and if the investments do well you will get a share of the earnings as dividends.

Depending on the permanent participating life insurance policy, the dividends can be:

  • Guaranteed
  • Used to purchase paid-up insurance and increase the death benefit
  • Received as cash
  • Accumulated to earn further returns
  • Used to reduce the premium or fees you pay

What is the difference between term and permanent life insurance?

The difference between term and permanent life insurance is that term life insurance lasts for a specific number of years, while permanent life insurance lasts your entire life, subject to all premiums being paid. The difference between permanent vs term life insurance can, therefore, be likened to renting or buying property. With term life insurance, your policy will only last as long as your contract whereas you own your permanent life insurance policy for life.

Another important aspect of term life insurance vs permanent life insurance is that when the term insurance length ends, the policy simply ceases to exist and the policyholder receives nothing. However, with permanent life insurance, the policyholder can opt to borrow against the policy’s cash value or to surrender the policy completely and receive the cash value as a payout.

All these extra benefits do come at a cost and permanent life insurance is often considerably more expensive than term life. So, when considering term or permanent life insurance you should always ask if permanent life insurance is worth it to you.

Is permanent life insurance a good investment?

Permanent life insurance is worth it for anybody that has a stable income and needs lifetime financial protection. While it costs more, permanent life insurance comes with the peace of mind of knowing that you will have a guaranteed death benefit at a fixed cost, regardless of any life changes.

In addition, permanent life insurance is a good investment for individuals who want to combine their family protection along with retirement and estate planning. It offers a one-stop solution and simplifies future planning. In Canada, there are many reliable life insurance providers who offer both participating permanent life insurance and universal insurance with tax-advantaged accounts that can be used as a financial planning solution.

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Who needs permanent life insurance?

Permanent life insurance is suitable for anyone with a stable career, a growing family and the need to plan for their long-term future. Permanent life insurance is also perfect for those who want to combine their life insurance with retirement and estate planning so that they can invest through their life insurance or let their premiums build up a cash value over time.

With the many life insurance options available, it is often difficult to decide between term vs permanent life insurance and then which type of permanent life insurance meets your needs. The checklist below shows you which life insurance policy is best depending on a variety of life insurance needs.

Insurance TypeWhole Life InsuranceUniversal Life InsuranceTerm Life Insurance
Guaranteed lifetime protection
Cheapest life insurance available
Short term coverage
Guaranteed premiums
Guaranteed death benefit
Flexible premiums
Flexible death benefit
Ability to loan against policy surrender for cash value
Guaranteed cash value growth
Tax-advantaged investment option
Types of permanent life insurance vs term life insurance

How do I get a permanent life insurance quote?

Permanent life insurance quotes are usually requested directly from insurance providers or licensed insurance agents. This is because permanent life insurance quotes tend to be more complex when compared to term life insurance and contain significantly more variables that affect your coverage needs and premiums. Advisors are usually also needed to discuss the contract of these policies in-depth in order to ensure that the buyer fully understands the policy.

However, some insurance providers do offer online permanent life insurance quotes for their simpler Term-to-100 whole life policies. So if you are looking for permanent non-participating life insurance it is possible to get estimated quotes directly through an insurance provider's website.

Before speaking to multiple life insurance providers and requesting quotes, try comparing the best permanent life insurance policies. See 20 of Canada’s top life insurance providers using HelloSafe’s comparison tool.

Compare the best life insurance companies

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What companies offer the best permanent life insurance?

The best permanent life insurance companies in Canada are companies with significant experience in life insurance and financial services. They all have a strong AM Best rating which indicates that they are financially capable of withstanding economic headwinds.

Some of the best permanent life insurers in Canada include:

  • Manulife permanent life insurance
  • State Farm permanent life insurance
  • RBC permanent life insurance
  • Desjardins permanent life insurance
  • Empire Life permanent life insurance
  • BMO permanent life insurance
  • Sun Life permanent life insurance
  • Scotialife permanent life insurance

Expert advice

Don't forget to compare permanent life insurance options at the top of this page for quotes from these and other leading providers.

How do you convert term life insurance to permanent life insurance?

Converting term life insurance to permanent life insurance is generally a straightforward process as long as your term life policy is with a provider that allows you to upgrade. The insurance provider with whom you have your term life insurance also needs to have permanent life insurance policies available to customers in order to upgrade to one.

If your insurance provider does offer permanent life insurance, you can most likely upgrade your term life insurance policy without the need for answering medical questions or completing a new medical exam. The conversion of the policy will also likely be restricted to age, as many providers only allow upgrade prior to an individual's 70th birthday.

Is permanent life insurance bad?

The answer is, it isn’t. Permanent life insurance can get a bad reputation because it is more expensive than term life insurance. Additionally, aAgents who sell them are sometimes negatively incentivized by their large commissions. But the policies themselves offer some fantastic coverage.

Whereas term life insurance is a great life policy for a lot of people because it is cheap (at least when you are young), permanent life insurance is a great financial planning tool for anyone looking to safeguard the financial future for the long term.

If you’re still confused if whether permanent life insurance is the right solution for you, try comparing all the life insurance policies from Canada’s leading life insurers.

Compare the best life insurance companies

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Alexandre Desoutter

Alexandre Desoutter has been working as editor-in-chief and head of press relations at HelloSafe since June 2020. A graduate of Sciences Po Grenoble, he worked as a journalist for several years in French media, and continues to collaborate as a as a contributor to several publications.

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