Pros and Cons of Indexed Whole Life Insurance


Enter your ZIP code to get started

Shield

Free. Simple. Secure.

Banner image
ByMelissa Wylie
Edited byCasie McCoskey
ByMelissa Wylie
Edited byCasie McCoskey

Updated: May 22, 2024

Advertising & Editorial Disclosure

Indexed whole life insurance offers lifelong coverage and potential for cash value growth. This blend of investment life insurance benefits makes it particularly appealing to individuals seeking a balance between investment growth and lower potential volatility. However, it may not be the right fit for everyone.

This type of policy comes with risks like higher premiums and capped growth. Understanding the relevant factors, including the advantages and drawbacks, can help determine whether this policy is a worthwhile addition to your financial plan.

What Is Indexed Whole Life Insurance?

Indexed whole life insurance is a type of permanent life insurance policy that combines the lifelong coverage of whole life insurance with the potential for cash value growth based on a market index. The policyholder is not directly investing in the market, but the policy's cash value can increase based on the performance of a specific index.

Indexed whole life insurance policy comprises two main components:

  • Lifelong Coverage: Similar to traditional whole life insurance, indexed whole life insurance provides coverage for the policyholder's entire life, as long as they pay premiums.

  • Cash Value Accumulation: An indexed whole life insurance policy includes a cash value component that can grow over time. This aspect positions indexed whole life insurance as a strategic choice for investment life insurance, providing an opportunity for potential investment growth within the life insurance policy.

These combined benefits make indexed whole life insurance a unique financial tool.

How Indexed Whole Life Insurance Works

Indexed whole life insurance works by allocating a portion of your premium to the policy's cash value, which has the potential to grow based on the performance of a chosen market index.

We can break down indexed whole life insurance policies into the following key points:

  • Premium Allocation: A portion of the premium you pay goes to the indexed whole life insurance policy's cash value. This cash value is separate from the death benefit and can grow over time.

  • Index-Linked Growth: The growth of the cash value is linked to the performance of a chosen market index like the S&P 500. If the index performs well, the cash value of the indexed whole life insurance policy has the potential to increase.

  • Guaranteed Minimum Interest Rate: One of the key features of indexed whole life insurance is the guaranteed minimum interest rate. Even if the index performs poorly, your cash value won't decrease.

  • Growth Cap: While an indexed whole life insurance policy offers the potential for growth, it's important to note that this growth may be capped. This cap means that even if the index performs exceptionally well, the increase in your cash value may be limited.

An indexed whole life insurance policy may deliver significant benefits depending on how these features suit your financial goals. Still, it's wise to consider the growth limitations on your cash value.

Are the Returns From Indexed Whole Life Insurance Taxable?

Generally, the death benefit received from an indexed whole life insurance policy is not taxable income. This means the policy's beneficiaries typically do not have to pay income tax on the amount received upon the policyholder's death.

The tax implications for the cash value component of the indexed whole life insurance policy may differ. If you withdraw funds from your policy's cash value, the amount that exceeds your basis (the total amount of premiums you've paid into the policy) may be subject to income tax. For example, if you've paid $50,000 in premiums and withdrawn $60,000, the $10,000 difference could be taxable.

Additionally, loans taken against your policy's cash value are not taxable as long as the policy remains in force. However, if the policy lapses or is surrendered, the outstanding loan amount could be considered taxable income.

Pros and Cons of Indexed Whole Life Insurance

Weighing the pros and cons of indexed whole life insurance will help determine if this type of policy aligns with your financial goals and risk tolerance.

Pros of Indexed Whole Life Insurance
  • Potential for Growth: The cash value has potential for growth based on a market index.
  • Protection From Loss: The cash value won't decrease if the index performs poorly.
  • Lifelong Coverage: The policy provides coverage for the policyholder's entire life.
Cons of Indexed Whole Life Insurance
  • Capped Growth: The growth of the cash value may be capped.
  • Higher Premiums: Premiums are typically higher than term life insurance.

Thinking about how the pros and cons of indexed whole life insurance apply to your financial planning will help clarify whether this type of policy is right for you.

Investment Value of Indexed Whole Life Insurance

Indexed whole life insurance can be a beneficial financial tool for some individuals. It combines life insurance protection and the potential for cash value growth. However, it's important to remember that it's primarily a life insurance product, not an investment vehicle.

The cash value growth is tied to a market index, but it's typically capped, and the policy can be more expensive than other types of life insurance. Consider your goals and insurance needs before deciding if indexed whole life insurance is a good fit for you. Depending on your financial profile, more suitable investment and life insurance products may be available.

Cost of Indexed Whole Life Insurance

The cost of indexed whole life insurance may vary widely depending on several factors. Although each insurance company may have a different way of evaluating insurance risks and calculating premiums, there are some common factors for determining life insurance coverage rates.

  • Age: The age at which you buy your indexed whole life insurance policy can significantly impact the premium. Typically, the younger you are, the lower the premium.
  • Death Benefit Amount: The amount of coverage you want also affects the premium. Higher death benefits result in higher premiums.
  • Health and Medical History: Insurers will consider your overall health and medical history. Chronic illnesses or poor health can lead to higher premiums.
  • Lifestyle Risks: Lifestyle choices, including smoking or engaging in high-risk activities, can increase your premiums.
  • Payment Timeline: The timeline over which you agree to pay your premiums can also affect the cost. For example, a policy you pay off in 20 years will likely have higher annual premiums than one paid up over 30 years.

Consider how these factors apply to your unique circumstances before choosing indexed whole life insurance.

Who Should Buy Indexed Whole Life Insurance

The decision to purchase indexed whole life insurance should be based on a comprehensive review of your individual needs, long-term financial goals and personal risk tolerance. This type of policy may benefit some, but assessing how it aligns with your overall financial strategy and objectives is wise.

Individuals Who May Benefit Most from Indexed Whole Life Insurance:
  • Long-Term Planners: Consumers seeking lifelong coverage and a potential cash value growth component for long-term financial planning may find indexed whole life insurance beneficial.
  • Risk-Averse Investors: Individuals who want exposure to the potential growth of the stock market but are concerned about the risk of loss may appreciate the guaranteed minimum interest rate within an indexed whole life insurance policy.
  • High-Income Earners: Those who have maximized other tax-advantaged investment opportunities may use indexed whole life insurance as an additional tool for wealth accumulation and estate planning.
Individuals Who May Not Benefit from Indexed Whole Life Insurance:
  • Budget-Conscious Buyers: Those with a limited budget may find the higher premiums of indexed whole life insurance expensive. Term life insurance could be a more affordable alternative. That said, the right policy still depends on your specific circumstances and needs.
  • Short-Term Coverage Seekers: Individuals who need life insurance for a specific period, such as until their children are financially independent, may not need the lifelong coverage provided by indexed whole life insurance.
  • Risk Takers: Investors who prefer direct market participation and are willing to take on more risk for potentially higher returns may find the growth cap on indexed whole life insurance limiting.

FAQ About Indexed Whole Life Insurance

We answered some common answers about indexed whole life insurance to help you better understand this policy option.

What is the main difference between indexed whole life insurance and traditional whole life insurance?
What are the pros and cons of indexed whole life insurance?
Can the cash value of an indexed whole life insurance policy decrease?
Are the premiums for indexed whole life insurance fixed?
Can I access the cash value of my indexed whole life insurance policy?
Is indexed whole life insurance a good choice for everyone?

About Melissa Wylie


Melissa Wylie headshot

Melissa Wylie is a Content and SEO Manager at MoneyGeek. Melissa has worked in the financial content space since 2018 and has spent much of that time focused on all things small business.

Prior to joining MoneyGeek, Melissa held SEO positions at Bankrate and LendingTree. Melissa’s work has also appeared on LendingTree-owned websites ValuePenguin and MagnifyMoney.

Melissa began her career at American City Business Journals in 2015 as a reporter for the company’s women-focused publication Bizwomen. Melissa has a Bachelor of Arts in Journalism from the University of North Texas. Melissa relies on her foundation in journalism to craft content that simplifies complex financial topics to help everyone feel confident when making decisions with their money.

Melissa's other work can be read on LendingTree and Bizwomen.