The Myth of “Buy Term and Invest the Difference”

Busting the myth of buy term and invest the differenceWe’ve all heard the advice to buy term insurance and invest the difference (the difference of premium between term and permanent insurance). This is a classic recommendation made by typical financial planners, but is it the best method for your clients? By now, you likely know that we’re whole-life friendly, but we’ve done the work to dispel the myth ourselves.

Our First Thoughts?

Your clients should buy term insurance (if it’s right for them). There’s no issue with term insurance itself—it’s a way for your clients to protect their families. Term insurance serves a purpose, and that purpose is protection and peace of mind. Never underestimate the power of peace of mind.

The biggest drawback to term insurance, however, is that no benefit is received unless you die while the policy is in force. Since term insurance is most often used for the ages of 30-60, most people will not receive that life insurance benefit. It’s not a fun topic, but it’s an important factor in your client’s strategies.

Don’t get us wrong; it is great news that term insurance isn’t something people are likely to cash out on. That is something to celebrate! But what about later in life, when people are certain to get use out of it (unless you know something we don’t)? Then, that term insurance isn’t beneficial and feels more like money down the drain.

The Myth

Again—term insurance is a great tool. Where the myth comes in, is that term insurance + investments = a result that outperforms whole life insurance. Upfront, whole life insurance looks to have higher premiums (and technically, it is correct). That’s one reason why the myth of “buy term and invest” is so popular: it makes people feel like they’re getting more bang for their buck. Especially because so many people think that risk=profit; i.e. if they invest, they’ll get rich. Unfortunately, it rarely works that way.

And one of the biggest reasons this method doesn’t work is because many families don’t actually invest the difference. Lower premiums make it seem as though there’s more money in the client’s pocket, but their insurance is pure cost (unless they use the insurance…which isn’t exactly a solution).

The “extra” money becomes a license to spend, although it’s a flimsy reason. Term insurance is temporary, so any financial benefit will only be experienced in the event of a death. Does that seem like a good reason to spend the excess?

So, How Does Whole Life Insurance Fit?

One of the unique elements of Whole Life insurance is not only the permanent Death Benefit but the living benefits—benefits you have just for owning your policy. One such benefit is the Cash Value Account. This Cash Value is accessible throughout one’s lifetime and can be used to accumulate cash.

Whole Life insurance, however, is not an investment. Instead, it is a place to store cash. When planners raise the phrase “buy term and invest the difference,” client’s think that they have to find an investment in order to put away the difference. This strategy is even more difficult because good investments require lump sums—it’s the more effective route in long-term market performance. So in order to invest lump sums…the client would have to SAVE. (We love the saving portion, and we actually believe that saving is a better option than investing.)

So realistically, if the myth were to be worded properly, it would be something more like, “Buy term and save the difference.” But there’s one more, even better take.

“Buy Term and Save Into Whole Life”

This isn’t necessarily as catchy as the aforementioned myths, but it provides the most effective results. If Whole Life insurance—something permanent and secure—isn’t an option for your client up to their full Human Life Value, this solution covers the most ground. Term insurance provides coverage at cheaper premiums, and that difference can be put toward a Whole Life policy with a lower face value. The goal is to fill in the gaps and give your client complete coverage.

The first benefit is that your client now has some permanent coverage, even if it is low face value. With paid-up additions, this can increase over time. The client has the benefit of permanent coverage while still having affordable premiums.

The second benefit is an answer to the question, “But where do I store my cash?” The location of savings is important, and Whole Life insurance is an effective place to do so. The Cash Value accounts often outperform banks when it comes to returns, and makes the impact of that saved money even greater. And, nothing prevents a client from also having a savings account at the bank. In fact, one strategy is to have an account that supports the Cash Value in the early years, before it “breaks even.” This way, your client has access to funds in case of opportunities—and this account can also be the source they draw their funds from to pay the premium.

What About Access?

A common concern when it comes to Cash Value accounts is the “policy loan.” When a client is ready to access their Cash Value, this access comes in the form of a policy loan. And a loan means that interest must be paid. So why should your client pay the insurance company for access to their own money?

The bottom line is: by taking money in the form of a policy loan, your client’s Cash Value remains untouched. It can, therefore, continue to accumulate from where it is, rather than a reduced amount. And this is crucial. To access your money, you don’t have to pass up any interest earned. In a well-constructed policy, this outweighs any interest that might be paid.

In Conclusion…

This is never an either/or discussion. It’s a both/and discussion. Just because your client can’t afford their Human Life Value in Whole Life insurance, does not mean that they can’t have Whole Life insurance. Nor does it mean that term insurance is bad. We also don’t claim that investments are bad—they can be a great supplement to a solid strategy.

The key is to develop a strategy that covers all of the client’s bases and optimizes the benefits received. Maximization (as is often the goal of investing) does not always equal optimal results. Because investments involve risk, they aren’t the ideal tool for building wealth-protecting strategies. Instead, you should be aiming to give your client strategies that keep their funds liquid, their options open, and their family protected. Whole Life insurance does just that, even in policies with low face values. Term insurance is a tool in order to protect a client’s family, and should, therefore, be used with strategies when necessary.

Truth Concepts software allows you to test the performance of different policies for your clients, in order to determine the best results. Calculators like the whole life insurance policy cash value calculator give you a broad idea of policy benefits, while other calculators offer scenario-specific analysis. Anyone is welcome to a free 10-day trial, which you can find below.