Indexed Universal Life: Dangerous Truths About IUL Risks
Indexed Universal Life Insurance can seem attractive. At some point in your Infinite Banking research, you’ve probably even heard about using IULs instead of whole life insurance. Consequently, we get a lot of questions about whether IULs are better than whole life. Usually, this is because the illustrated values are better than for whole life, with lower premiums. And there’s the appearance that you can’t lose money because of “downside protection and upside potential.” Comparatively, whole life can look expensive and pretty boring.
However, IULs have risks that prevent it from being compatible with Infinite Banking.
These risks are causing many people to be in danger of losing policies they’ve paid into their whole lives.
We’ll expose the truth about IULs and show you the darker side of the inner workings of these life insurance policies.
And we’re not the only ones raising red flags about Indexed Universal Life. Despite the popularity of these policies, some of IUL’s dirty laundry has been coming out of the closet. The product itself has a reputation stained by lawsuits and even a warning by the state of New York outlining the dangers of IULs.
Table of contents
The Truth About IUL Risks
In today’s show, we’ll discuss the risks of IULs. Indexed Universal Life is a complex product with many moving parts. This conversation is not intended to be comprehensive or fully explain IULs. Instead, we’ll highlight the reasons why we don’t personally use them and almost never recommend them.
Where Life Insurance Fits into the Cash Flow System
Life insurance protection is a critical part of your financial life. However, it’s just one step in the bigger journey to time and money freedom. You need all the pieces in place to produce wealth systematically.
That’s why we have created the 3-step Business Owner’s Cash Flow System. It’s your roadmap to take you from just surviving, to a life of significance, purpose, and financial freedom.
The first stage is the foundation. You keep more of the money you make by fixing money leaks, becoming more efficient and profitable. Then, you protect your money with insurance and legal protection and Privatized Banking. Finally, you put your money to work, increasing your income with cash-flowing assets.
Life insurance is part of Stage 2, protecting the wealth you’ve built. Not only does it provide the peace of mind of protection, but it can also be used as your cash flow management system.
That’s why it’s so important to make sure the policy you use can become a cornerstone of your wealth creation.
What Is Indexed Universal Life Insurance?
Indexed Universal Life is a form of universal life insurance. It’s a type of “permanent life insurance” that is intended to last your entire life. It offers flexible premiums, death benefits, and the potential for cash value accumulation.
It’s built on a chassis of annually renewable term insurance, with a cash value savings component.
After paying for the cost of insurance, your premiums cover the fees. Then the rest is added to the cash surrender value.
With an IUL, your policy’s cash value is not invested in equities directly. Instead, it is credited with
There are a variety of stock indexes used, with the most common one being the S&P 500® Index.
Caps and Minimums
Usually, there are caps on the growth, and minimums on losses to protect against market downturns.
Caps are typically less than 10%, and guaranteed minimums generally range from 0 – 2%. So, it seems like you’re getting the best of both worlds: a strong growth rate and no losses.
For instance, if the index were at 2000, and rose to 2200 12 months later, there would be a 10% gain in the index. If there was an 8% cap on the rate for your policy, and you had a 50% participation rate, you would receive 4%.
Conversely, if the index dropped from 2000 to 1800, that would represent a -10% loss. With a built-in floor or interest rate guarantee to protect against losses, the minimum rate might be 0%. This would mean that your cash account wouldn’t grow that year.
Many Beliefs About Indexed Universal Life Insurance Are More Myth Than Fact
IUL is attractive because of the assumptions that you get a policy that lasts your entire life, higher growth rates than with whole life, where you can pay flexible premiums, and not lose money. That makes these policies seem safe.
One comment from our audience about why they thought IULs were good for Privatized Banking summarizes this widespread, but misguided sentiment. It reads, “you never lose your investment if you use Universal Index insurance, the money can only grow, even at a slow pace, never go down.”
While there’s an element of truth here, there’s more myth than fact in that perception. That’s the most dangerous type of lie – the one camouflaged with the truth. Because parts of it are correct, it’s harder to recognize, and often tricks people into the wrong conclusions.
The Truth About IUL Risks
When it comes to IULs, here’s the reality:
- Your cash value can go down
- Flexible premiums can be used against you
- You can lose money
- The policy may not last your entire life
- Guarantees in the policy can be eliminated if you do not follow the contract perfectly
Those are some pretty serious warning lights on the dash.
Even if you do everything right,
Let’s unpack the IUL a bit to understand why.
IUL Risk 1: Your Cash Value Account Can Go Down
IUL policies are tied to the performance of a stock market index. The ambition is to get higher returns than in whole life, but not take on the risk and volatility of variable universal life, where your money is invested in the market directly. Instead, IULs piggyback on market returns.
On the illustration, you’ll usually see three columns of figures. One (non-guaranteed) column outlines how your policy will perform at a fixed interest rate. Another shows a more mid-line interest rate projection. And the third, the guaranteed column, will show your expected performance if your interest rate is the minimum growth rate.
Now, while the index could excel and your IUL could hit the caps and max out every year, this is highly unlikely. In fact, it has never happened. That’s why IUL illustrations list those projections as non-guaranteed values.
The guaranteed column is the one with the bare bones minimum rate. That means that if the index performs poorly or even drops, your policy will fall to that minimum rate. If the floor is 0%, you’ll see a corresponding 0% growth in your cash value. That means your cash value doesn’t grow at all.
That’s why even with the hedging strategies, there are no guarantees that you’ll get sufficiently positive returns for your cash value to grow at all.
Some IUL products build in a slightly more attractive floor. However, even if the interest rate guarantee is 2%, it’s still possible that your cash value may stagnate or even drop.
Minimum Crediting Rate Is NOT Net of Fees
Don’t confuse not losing money in the index and your cash value remaining the same. Even if you cannot lose in the index, increased fees and costs can deplete your cash value.
Earlier, we talked about the floor, or the minimum rate baked into most IUL policies. While it appears that this means your cash value cannot go down, there’s more to the story.
Even if your policy’s floor is 2%, you have to remember that there are internal costs of the policy. The crediting rate isn’t net of fees, meaning you still have all the internal costs to subtract out.
Even though there may be
If internal policy costs are higher than the rate earned in a particular year, your cash value can go backward.
That means your real growth rate may be sub-zero. And it doesn’t take a mathematical wizard to recognize that, while a floor looks good on paper, negative net returns will mean your reality will be worse than expected.
As a result, you could actually having your cash value diminish from one year to the next. In fact, losses can occur from increased fees and costs if the index does not perform as anticipated.
IUL Risk 2: Flexible Premiums Can Be Used Against You
IULs flaunt their flexible premiums. That looks like a perk at first blush, but it can be used against you.
“Flexible premiums” is a sugar-coated way of saying non-guaranteed premiums. It sounds favorable that you don’t have to pay full premiums or can skip payments. And yes, with an IUL, you do have that flexibility.
However, there are two sides of the contract, and you’re not the only one with the liberty to change the premiums. The insurance company also reserves this right, and they can change them in the other direction. They may even raise premiums above what’s illustrated, requiring more dollars due, to keep the policy in force.
Annually Renewable Term Insurance Has an Annually Rising Cost
Because Indexed Universal Life has a central component of
I know it sounds like I’m on a tangent, but this is directly related to how insurance companies can raise rates on you in the future, above what you committed to when you signed up.
For instance, if you started the policy when you were 25, that year’s term life cost was minimal. The term life insurance cost in the same policy 15 years later will be much higher. That’s because, as you age, you become more expensive to insure. The life insurance company recognizes a shorter period that you’ll be paying premiums before they will be paying out the death benefits.
So, the policy has rising internal costs, making it more expensive to maintain the longer it’s in force.
These annually rising costs are a risk inside th policy, creating two significant problems for the policyholder.
Higher Costs Slow the Buildup of Cash Value
First, it can slow the buildup of cash value.
That’s because premium dollars first cover the
If cash value were just a side bonus like a decoration, it would only become a cosmetic problem. However, the cash value is a functional and necessary part of the policy, because it’s also the backup source for covering internal costs.
Indexed Universal Life Premiums May Become Insufficient to Cover Costs
So rising costs create the second problem of hamstringing the backup funding source.
As the policy matures, the costs may rise to meet or even exceed the premium payment for that year. That means that the premium may become insufficient to cover even the basic cost of insurance.
With rising internal costs and a flat premium, where does the money come from to cover those costs?
Premiums, Cash Value, and Internal Growth Must Cover the Increasing Internal Charges
If the costs rise so high that premiums are inadequate, the policy will cover its costs by using up the cash value.
That means the only way to have the policy perform as expected is to have the cash value growing faster than the internal expenses, so it’s enough to cover policy costs.
Low contributions to cash value wouldn’t be a problem if the index performance provides strong positive growth each year. If that happens, then the cash value would grow to be able to cover the rising costs. But as we outlined earlier, if the cash value growth suffers, this creates a cascading problem for the policy owner.
Taking all these factors into consideration together, you can see the writing on the wall. In the later years, when the cost spike, if the cash value doesn’t stay high enough through contributions and positive index returns, even your cash value may fail as a backup funding source.
It’s like you’re holding a stick burning from both ends. You could have rising internal costs and a cash value that’s stagnant because of minimal contributions and a flat growth rate.
You Might Have to Pay Additional Premium to Keep the Policy in Force
This squeeze must be solved if you want to keep your policy from lapsing. If your policy is on life support and losing ground, the only option to keep it alive is a new infusion of capital. Through higher-than-agreed-upon premium payments. Above and beyond what you had planned.
One WSJ article cited case after case of universal life policy owners who are facing rate hikes. It warned about the impending crisis of universal life policies in general:
John Resnick, co-author of an American Bar Association book on life insurance, said of hundreds of older policies he has reviewed over a decade, “easily 90% or more actually were in trouble or soon to be in trouble.” Many people “are sitting on a ticking time bomb, and most probably aren’t aware of it,” he said.Universal Life Insurance, a 1980s Sensation, Has Backfired, Wall Street Journal
There is no guarantee that the premiums you see on the illustration and commit to will be sufficient.
In this case, you could more accurately read “flexible premiums” as “unreliable premiums.”
And we’re not talking about a minor, indistinguishable bump. Some customers in this situation have been surprised to see rate increases of over 200%!
IUL Risk 3: You Can Lose Money
If the policy requires additional premiums to maintain the policy, you, like many indexed universal life insurance owners, can face an ultimatum. Either pay the inflated premiums or give up the policy altogether.
That means some people now in their 60s, 70s, and 80s, many on fixed incomes, are being told they need to pony up anywhere from a few hundred dollars to thousands of extra dollars each month for policies they purchased decades ago. Otherwise, the policy will eventually lapse, or they’ll need to surrender it and take out whatever cash value is left (and probably owe taxes on that money). Either way, there would be no death-benefit payout.A Problem with Life Insurance That’s Universal, Forbes
Having your policy lapse is one way you can certainly lose. If you don’t cough up the dollars to pay these additional premiums, your policy may implode because there’s not enough premium and cash value to support the death benefit.
That would mean that all the premiums you’ve paid in over the lifetime of the policy have evaporated into thin air. You’d end up with a fistful of costs and no benefit to show for it = losing money.
If you see the writing on the wall and surrender before the cash value dwindles to zero, you may be able to recover the cash value that’s left, and probably still end up with far less than you’d paid in over time.
IUL Risk 4: The Policy May Not Last Your Entire Life
While indexed universal life is classified as “permanent life insurance”, it isn’t truly permanent. If it were, it would guarantee a death benefit, no matter when you pass away, if you pay the agreed-upon premiums.
However, looking further at the IUL illustration, you’ll probably see a year when all the values reset to zero. That means that there’s no cash value and no death benefit.
It’s supposed to last your whole life, but only if you outrun the costs with rates that are high enough very year to keep your head above water.
The fact of the matter is that an IUL policy may lapse, even if you follow all of the rules and pay premiums exactly as illustrated. That means that the policy wouldn’t last your whole life.
Life insurance is a tool that you want to know you can rely on. Like a walking stick, you want to know it can support your weight when you lean on or rest against it. If it’s likely to snap and break, it can hardly be called a walking stick.
Similarly, life insurance that you’re not sure of whether it will pay out a death benefit cannot provide peace of mind for you and your posterity. If you pay in for a lifetime, only to have the rug yanked out from under you before the policy pays out, that could barely be called life insurance, much less permanent.
Bottom Line: Indexed Universal Life Policies Lack Guarantees
Indexed universal life insurance doesn’t have a guaranteed premium, guaranteed death benefit, or guaranteed cash value. This general lack of guarantees makes for watery promises in a policy that that seems afraid to commit.
For Indexed Universal Life Insurance to work in your favor, you have to assume many factors going precisely according to plan, all of the time.
You have to pay premiums as illustrated and on time. The index, and therefore the underlying market would have to have
The problem is that we can’t guarantee any of these assumptions because they’re outside our control. If any one of these elements breaks down, the contract breaks down as well and leaves you with a lot of uncertainty.
The question is simple. Ask yourself, who is assuming the risk? In IUL, you are assuming the risk, and with whole life, the insurer has the risk.
Ensuring Your Policy Will Work for Infinite Banking
Nelson Nash, the Father of the Infinite Banking concept, insisted that it only works with a particular type of life insurance policy and design. Only a dividend-paying, high cash value whole life insurance policy will perform with adequate certainty.
Unfortunately, many people have proposed Indexed Universal Life be used for Infinite Banking, because of its assumed cash value accumulation. However, IUL insurance can’t deliver the bedrock of guarantees and certainty you need for Infinite Banking to work.
Privatized Banking needs guaranteed premiums, guaranteed value, and guaranteed death benefit. The only way to get the benefit of uninterrupted compounding and earn returns in two places at the same time is with a policy that has predictable future values. With guarantees and certainty, you can use your cash value life insurance policy as the cornerstone of your cash flow and wealth generation system. We’ve written about this in more detail in What Kind of Policy Do You Use?
Here’s the litmus test you can apply to any life insurance policy to ensure you are getting a policy you can count on.
Guaranteed Death Benefit
Your life insurance should have a guaranteed death benefit. That means the proceeds will pay out, no matter when you die.
Whole life insurance has a guaranteed death benefit that is a known value. If you pay for the policy during your whole lifetime as illustrated, your beneficiaries will receive a guaranteed dollar amount in life insurance proceeds when you die.
And if you stop paying early by reduced paying up, your death benefit will drop to the level that your cash value can fully purchase at that time. But it will not dwindle or fizzle out.
On the other hand, for indexed universal life insurance to guarantee a death benefit, you must add a special rider, and some policies are guaranteed only to age 100.
Whole life insurance has guaranteed premiums, meaning they’re guaranteed not to increase. You have to know what’s required of you in advance. That’s something you can plan for.
A Specially Designed Whole Life policy has guaranteed premiums – guaranteed never to increase. You do have flexibility in how you make payments. For instance, you can pay the base premium only, pay from policy values, or reduce pay up. But even if you exercise any of these flexible payment options, your contract will stand.
The policy you use should endow. At the endpoint of the policy (usually age 121), the cash value will equal the death benefit. If you are still living at that time, the full proceeds would be paid out to you personally. This means that for cash value to rise to meet the death benefit at a future date, exact cash values must be reached each year.
Whole life endows, while IULs do not. With an IUL, you never have a guaranteed cash value.
Guaranteed Cash Value Dollar Amount, Not Guaranteed Interest Rate
Privatized Banking requires future capital to be a known quantity. That’s why you need a guaranteed dollar amount of cash value.
Whole life insurance provides a guaranteed future cash value each year, so you know how much cash you’ll
Would you rather have a guaranteed cash value dollar amount or a guaranteed minimum interest rate?
The point is that a dollar figure is reliable, but a guaranteed rate applied to a tiny sum isn’t much to brag about.
Additionally, whole life guarantees a minimum net return, while IUL may have a guaranteed minimum rate. However, with IULs, if the internal costs are 2.5%, and your minimum rate is 1%, you aren’t even guaranteed that your cash value will increase.
Start Your Life Insurance Today
If you would like to implement Privatized Banking, cash flow strategies, or alternative investments, so you can accelerate time and money freedom, we can help. We’ll review your situation to help you decide what moves are best for you.
To start the conversation, book a call with our advisor team.
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