The Best Universal Life Insurance Policies for 2023

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Picking the right life insurance policy is critical for assuring your family's finances, but it isn't easy picking between the many options. Could universal life insurance be right for you?

Universal life insurance is a flexible type of permanent life insurance. Not only does it offer traditional protection, but it doubles as a tax-deferred investment account.

This guide covers universal life insurance, its benefits and drawbacks, how it works and more. Continue below for answers to these and other universal life insurance questions.

What is universal life insurance?

Universal life insurance is a type of permanent life insurance. As long as the policyholder maintains their coverage by making payments they are protected for life with their universal life insurance policy.

Universal life combines a savings and investment vehicle with the traditional life insurance component encouraging you to grow your wealth for you or your beneficiaries to use it later. It is flexible too. You can pick your investments while benefiting from tax-preferred savings. It’s possible to withdraw money from or borrow against your policy.

These policies come with a guaranteed death benefit, so you are confident that you’ll be able to leave something to your loved ones when you pass away.

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How does universal life insurance work?

When you purchase a universal life insurance policy, you are buying death benefits and an investment.

The insurance company determines a goal premium that it believes would be adequate to pay the cost of coverage while also increasing the cash value of the policy, but premiums are flexible.

Paying more or less than the target will mean more or less money to go toward growing the policy's cash value. If you miss a premium payment the amount is deducted from the value of the policy.

Here are a few points to keep in mind:

  • Any remaining or additional funds after paying the premium are allocated to the investment portion of the policy.
  • You chose how to invest the funds.
  • As long as there is enough money left over to pay for the insurance, you are free to utilize the funds in your account as you see fit.
  • When you pass away, a beneficiary whom you’ve picked will inherit the money from your insurance policy.

What are the advantages and disadvantages of universal life insurance?

Universal life insurance presents some tangible benefits over a term life insurance or a whole life policy. But even with all the flexibility and investment advantages of universal life insurance, there are also disadvantages to consider. Below we take a look at the pros and cons.

Pros: universal life insurance :

  • Adjustable premiums: Universal life premiums can be easily modified to match your financial situation, unlike other kinds of life insurance. You choose to pay larger rates more frequently, lower premium payments, skip payments, pay out-of-pocket for premiums, or pay premiums using the policy’s accumulated cash value.
  • Access to the cash value: You can easily borrow against your policy. You may not even be required to pay back the loan since you already have cash value in your policy. Be careful to only make a partial withdrawal as a full one may leave you with nothing and cancel the policy.
  • Adjustable Death Benefit: You have the freedom to adjust your death benefit, typically at any moment, to tap into the policy’s cash value. For instance, if your death benefit was primarily intended to replace your income while your children were still young, you might decide to lower it after they start working as adults. Reducing the policy's death benefit allows you to lower your premiums. Alternatively, you can increase it to leave a larger death benefit to your beneficiaries.
  • Tax-deferred growth: The policy’s cash value growth is tax-sheltered making it a nice way to save money. Withdrawals may be taxable.

Universal Life Insurance Disadvantages:

  • Cost: Universal life insurance policies can be more expensive than term or whole life policies.
  • Higher fees: The investment component of universal life insurance means more administration and higher fees.
  • Adjustable premiums: The cash value of the policy decreases if the minimum premium is paid, if less is paid than the target premium or if payments are skipped. This can mean there is no excess premium to allow the policy to accrue cash value or a decrease in the policy’s monetary value. It can even mean the policy expires! If the cash value is only used to pay the premium, the policy will eventually run out of cash value, at which point your coverage may cease.
  • Access to the cash value: The money you borrow does not come directly out of the cash value, but from the insurance provider with the cash value serving as collateral. Even though you are not required to pay it back, the loan is not free money. The cash value of your policy will decrease if you don't at least pay the interest.
  • Decrease death benefit: Reduced death benefits can mean that your beneficiary will receive less money than you had anticipated when you purchased the policy.
  • Increasable death benefit: Increasing your death benefit typically requires a medical test because you must once again pass the insurance company's underwriting requirements. This is likely to increase your premium.

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Universal life insurance vs whole life insurance: which is better?

Trying to choose between whole life and universal life insurance? We have you covered. Here are the main differences between the two policies’ benefits.

FeaturesUniversal Life InsuranceWhole Life Insurance
No. If the cash value is only used to pay the premium, the policy may eventually run out of cash value, at which point your coverage may cease.Yes. No matter when the policyholder dies, beneficiaries will get paid the guaranteed death benefit that will never decrease.
Flexible Premiums
Yes. Depending on the investments the policyholder chooses, premiums may change. Additionally, the insured is free to alter the number of their premiums at any moment during the term of the contract.No. When a policy is purchased, the premiums are set and guaranteed never to rise over the course of the coverage as long as you continue to pay them.
Investment Account
Yes. The policyholder may invest in any way they like tying the value of the policy to the success of their investments. Cash savings will accrue interest but losses are also possible.Sometimes. Cash surplus value does not accrue interest, but participating policies may receive policy dividends if the insurance company's assets turn a profit.
Tax Advantages
Yes. Market gains earned by investments are tax-sheltered.Yes. Dividend payments are tax-sheltered.
Yes. The policyholder of a universal life insurance policy is allowed to borrow between 50% and 90% of the total cash value of the policy.Yes. Many whole-life policies permit the policyholder to borrow up to 90% of the accumulated cash value of the policy.
Missed payments
The value of the account is instantly deducted for missed payments. If account value can't cover the payments, the coverage will cease.Automatic premium loans are triggered by unpaid premiums. If loans surpass the cash surplus value, the policy will lapse.
What's better universal life or whole life insurance?

What is variable universal life insurance?

With certain restrictions, a variable universal life policy allows you to choose where to invest the money, unlike a whole life policy, in which the insurance provider determines where to invest this cash value. You are given a variety of investing possibilities by the provider which can demand regular monitoring, so for individuals who prefer a hands-off attitude, it is not the best option.

A variable universal life insurance policy's objective is to build cash value that can be withdrawn and utilized for different life events, such as paying off a mortgage, paying for medical expenditures, or taking a global vacation. Additionally, your insurer will continue to pay a death benefit to your beneficiaries even if you pass away too soon or don't use all of your cash value.

What is indexed universal life insurance?

Indexed universal life Insurance (IUL) is a form of permanent life insurance that functions equivalently to universal life policies with the exception of how cash value is accrued. In contrast to just using non-equity earning rates, IUL cash value growth is possible based on a stock index, which is a predetermined collection of different stocks. IUL, like universal life insurance, allows you to modify your premium as your cash value increases, giving you the option of eventually switching to a zero-cost policy where your accumulated cash value pays for all premiums.

Keep in mind that indexed universal life Insurance policies are more expensive than other types of life insurance due to increased premium expenses and associated fees. Additionally, be sure you comprehend how the insurance company will determine your interest rate, the earnings cap, and other potential expenses.

What is guaranteed universal life insurance?

A no-lapse guaranteed universal life insurance gives you a policy with all the benefits of standard universal life insurance with the added certainty that the coverage won't lapse. To prevent the policy from expiring, a predetermined minimum premium depending on your coverage amount must be paid.

This can be a better option if you don't want to pay close attention to your policy but still want the benefits of universal life insurance coverage.

Is universal life insurance worth it?

Life insurance is a powerful tool for providing for your loved ones when you are no longer around.

Depending on your investment needs and beneficiaries, universal life insurance may be the right choice for you. They are a good match if you are looking for a permanent policy with the extra advantages of flexible investment alternatives, tax-sheltered growth and premium flexibility.

However, if you'd prefer a less expensive choice and only require coverage for a certain period, you may look into other possibilities, like Term Life insurance. From an investment perspective, RRSP and TFSA accounts also offer tax advantages. 

How much does universal life insurance cost?

The cost of Universal Life insurance will vary from person to person since it depends on so many factors like:

  • Gender: The cost of universal life insurance is generally cheaper for women than for men.
  • Age: The younger you are, the lower your rates will be
  • Amount of coverage: The higher your coverage is, the more expensive your universal life insurance rate.

To get an idea of the average cost of universal life insurance quotations, check the following chart.

Coverage amount GenderAge: 30 Age: 40Age: 50
$1 million
$1 million
Universal life insurance - average monthly cost by age, gender and type of coverage

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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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