A friend asked me to review an insurance proposal from his advisor. This is tough to do when your own standards are exacting but I complied. This walkthrough shows you the process and helps you identify signs of a fair deal.
The SituationThe case is simple. The client has a young family and wants to protect them in case of his untimely death. He owns a business but has no life insurance from his company. So he has $2 million of Term 10 in the form of two policies from two advisors ($1.1 million and $0.9 million). The policies are nearly 10 years old. An advisor provided three different proposals.
What should he do?
The DilemmaTerm 10 is excellent for short term needs. You get the most coverage for the fewest dollars. The problem is that rates shoot up every 10 years. That's partially because you're older and more likely to die. The bigger reason is product design. Initial rates are almost loss leaders due to competition. The insurance companies make their money if you convert your coverage to permanent insurance or if you renew after the 10 years at the much higher rates.
If you still need term insurance at renewal, you face a dilemma. If you renew you pay much more than if you bought a brand new policy. If you apply for new coverage, you undergo new underwriting that usually involves answering many personal questions, giving blood and perhaps additional tests. Not very appealing. Also, you're subject to extra scrutiny if you die within the next two years (contestability period and suicide exclusion clause).
Here are the common practices:
- convert to permanent insurance: this contractual right lets you skip underwriting too
- if you're healthy: apply for new Term 10 with full underwriting
- if you're unhealthy: continue your current coverage at the new higher rates (a contractual right)
The NeedThe process system quickly showed that the client wanted to continue his insurance. Changes such as a larger mortgage make $2.5 million a more suitable death benefit. He likes the tax advantages of permanent insurance but is currently investing as much as possible in his business.
The "obvious" solution is new Term 10 insurance with conversion to permanent coverage in 2-3 years when the current investments boost business revenue.
The ProposalsThe advisor proposed $1.1 million of
- Term 20
- Universal Life
- Whole Life
These proposals were prepared without consulting the client. That's efficient for the advisor but ignores the client's current situation. Coverage needs to be increased to $2.5 million. There were no plans to consolidate both present policies a new policy. The advisor didn't realize there is other coverage --- and didn't ask.
I did a market comparison and found that two insurers with excellent corporate governance offered better overall rates and better options for conversion to permanent insurance.
Why One Company?If an advisor only proposes one company, are you getting the best options? Here are possible motivations
- no choice: the advisor may be tied to a company and only be permitted to sell products they select
- hidden incentives: the advisor may receive cash or non-cash rewards
- personal biases: the advisor may simply like a particular company
The Costly MistakeThe current insurance is owned personally. That's generally a costly mistake. You pay insurance premiums with after-tax dollars in exchange for a tax-free death benefit. Would you rather pay with a dollar that's worth
- 54 cents? (after personal tax at Ontario's top personal marginal tax rate of 46%)
- 84 cents? (after corporate tax of 16%)
When the original policies were purchased, the option for corporate ownership was not even discussed. That cost the client thousands of extra dollars over the last 10 years.
Warning SignsIf your advisor shows you insurance proposals, look for these warning signs of shortcuts
- one company only: no company is ideal in every situation
- folders from an insurer: perhaps the advisor is tied to that company (not independent) or pinching pennies
- black & white printing: content is designed in colour these days
- cheap paper: paper's cheap but maybe the advisor's even cheaper?
- no narrative: just an assortment of pages. The kit was not organized in any meaningful way. It was just an assortment of illustrations
- Keeping promises: Do you care about corporate governance scores?
- How advisors really prepare term life insurance proposals
- How advisors fool you and what you can do
- How to evaluate a proposal from an advisor
- Oblivion: What happens if my insurance company dies?
- How Pink Floyd's insights on mortality help you
- image courtesy of Jayanta Behera (India)
Podcast Episode 75 (6:57)
direct download | Internet Archive page
PS This client also needs critical illness insurance and a proposal was provided. The advisor included a proposal … from that same company.