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What is 'Term Life Insurance'

A type of life insurance with a limited coverage period. Once that period or "term" is up, it is up to the policy owner to decide whether to renew or to let the coverage end. This type of insurance policy contrasts with permanent life insurance, which is intended to provide life-long protection.

Other characteristics of term insurance include:

  • Low cost
  • No cash value
  • Usually renewable
  • Sometimes convertible to permanent life insurance


Protection and Cash Back — That's a Return of Premium Term Life Insurance Policy

You want to help protect your loved ones from financial hardship if you can't be there for them. That's what life insurance is all about. But instead of life-long life insurance coverage, you may only need to protect your family from long-term expenses such as the mortgage, your children's education, or a home equity loan.

In that case, Return of Premium Term Life insurance might be just what you need. It offers a level premium payment term of 15, 20 or 30 years, whichever you choose. And if you outlive that level premium payment period, you'll get all the policy premiums you've paid back at the end of the term. A guarantee like that makes it easier to give your loved ones the financial protection they need.

Permanent Insurance

Permanent insurance provides lifelong protection, and the ability to accumulate cash value on a tax-deferred basis. Unlike term insurance, a permanent insurance policy will remain in force for as long as you continue to pay your premiums. Because these policies are designed and priced for you to keep over a long period of time, this may be the wrong type of insurance for you if you don’t have a long-term need for life insurance coverage.

Why would someone need coverage for an extended period of time? Because contrary to what a lot of people think, the need for life insurance often persists long after the kids have graduated college or the mortgage has been paid off. If you died the day after your youngest child graduated from college, your spouse would still be faced with daily living expenses. And what if your spouse outlives you by 10, 20 or even 30 years, which is certainly possible today. Would your financial plan, without life insurance, enable your spouse to maintain the lifestyle you worked so hard to achieve? And would you be able to pass on something to your children or grandchildren?

Cash Value—A Key Feature

Another key characteristic of permanent insurance is a feature known as cash value or cash-surrender value. In fact, permanent insurance is often referred to as cash-value insurance because these types of policies can build cash value over time, as well as provide a death benefit to your beneficiaries.

Cash values, which accumulate on a tax-deferred basis just like assets in most retirement and tuition savings plans, can be used in the future for any purpose you wish. If you like, you can borrow cash value for a down payment on a home, to help pay for your children’s education or to provide income for your retirement. When you borrow money from a permanent insurance policy, you’re using the policy’s cash value as collateral and the borrowing rates tend to be relatively low. And unlike loans from most financial institutions, the loan is not dependent on credit checks or other restrictions. You ultimately must repay any loan with interest or your beneficiaries will receive a reduced death benefit and cash-surrender value.

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