Roth IRA vs. Life Insurance

Shawn Plummer, CRPC

Chartered Retirement Planning Counselor

Tax Status of Death Benefits

  • Life Insurance: The death benefits from life insurance policies, including term, whole, and universal life insurance, are generally tax-free for the beneficiaries. This means that when the policyholder passes away, the beneficiaries receive the proceeds without having to pay income tax on them.
  • Roth IRA: For Roth IRAs, the situation is slightly different. While the original account holder enjoys tax-free withdrawals, the beneficiaries of an inherited Roth IRA are subject to Required Minimum Distributions (RMDs). However, the distributions they receive are typically tax-free as long as the account was opened at least five years before.
Roth Ira Vs. Life Insurance

Tax Treatment of Policy Loans and Withdrawals

  • Policy Loans (Life Insurance): With certain types of life insurance, like whole and universal life, policyholders can take out loans against the cash value of their policies. These loans are generally tax-free, similar to Roth IRA withdrawals. However, it’s important to note that unpaid loans may reduce the death benefit.
  • Withdrawals (Roth IRA): Withdrawals from a Roth IRA are tax-free for the account holder, provided the account has been open for at least five years and the account holder is 59½ years old or meets other qualifying conditions. This is a key advantage during the owner’s lifetime.

Contribution Limits Comparison

  • Life Insurance: There are no IRS-imposed contribution limits for life insurance premiums. However, the premiums depend on the policy’s size and the insured’s age, health, and life expectancy.
  • Roth IRA: The contribution limits for Roth IRAs are set by the IRS and are relatively low compared to life insurance. For 2024, the limit is $7,000 (or $8,000 if you’re age 50 or older).

Comparative Overview

FeatureLife InsuranceRoth IRA
Death Benefit Tax StatusGenerally tax-freeTax-free; subject to RMDs for beneficiaries
Policy Loans/WithdrawalsTax-free loans available on cash valueTax-free withdrawals under conditions
Contribution LimitsNo specific IRS limits$7,000 ($8,000 for 50 or older in 2024)
Roth Ira And Life Insurance


Both life insurance and Roth IRAs provide unique benefits in terms of tax treatment for death benefits and retirement income. Life insurance offers tax-free death benefits and flexible contributions, while Roth IRAs offer tax-free growth and withdrawals with specific limitations. Understanding these nuances can help in making informed financial planning decisions.

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Frequently Asked Questions

What is the difference between a Roth IRA and a life insurance policy?

Roth IRA is an investment account, while life insurance is a financial product that pays a death benefit.

Can I contribute to both a Roth IRA and a life insurance policy?

Indeed, you can contribute to both a Roth IRA and a life insurance policy simultaneously, as they are separate types of financial products with different purposes.

Shawn Plummer, CRPC

Chartered Retirement Planning Counselor

Shawn Plummer is a Chartered Retirement Planning Counselor, insurance agent, and annuity broker with over 14 years of first-hand experience with annuities and insurance. Since beginning his journey in 2009, he has been pivotal in selling and educating about annuities and insurance products. Still, he has also played an instrumental role in training financial advisors for a prestigious Fortune Global 500 insurance company, Allianz. His insights and expertise have made him a sought-after voice in the industry, leading to features in renowned publications such as Time Magazine, Bloomberg, Entrepreneur, Yahoo! Finance, MSN, SmartAsset, The Simple Dollar, U.S. News and World Report, Women’s Health Magazine, and many more. Shawn’s driving ambition? To simplify retirement planning, he ensures his clients understand their choices and secure the best insurance coverage at unbeatable rates.

The Annuity Expert is an independent online insurance agency servicing consumers across the United States. The goal is to help you take the guesswork out of retirement planning and find the best insurance coverage at the cheapest rates

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