Can You Withdraw from Permanent Life Insurance?

Shawn Plummer

CEO, The Annuity Expert

Understanding the intricacies involved is essential when considering a financial decision as crucial as tapping into your permanent life insurance policy. As we explore the withdrawal rules for permanent life insurance, we must recognize the benefits and possible consequences.

Understanding the Basics: What is Permanent Life Insurance?

Permanent life insurance is an umbrella term covering policies that provide coverage for the entirety of the insured’s life; given premiums are paid. You’ll find whole life insurance and universal life insurance within this category. Both options accumulate a cash value over time.

Example: Jane has a whole life insurance policy. Over the past 20 years, as she paid her premiums, a portion of each payment contributed to the cash value of her policy, potentially allowing her to withdraw or borrow from it in the future.

Withdrawal Rules For Permanent Life Insurance

Permanent Life Insurance Cash Value Withdrawal

Withdrawing from the cash value of a permanent life insurance policy can provide immediate financial relief. However, there are considerations to keep in mind:

  • Limits and Fees: There might be limits on the amount you can withdraw, and often withdrawal fees apply.
  • Tax Consequences: If you withdraw more than the total premiums you’ve paid, the excess could be taxable.
  • Impact on Death Benefit: Withdrawing can reduce the death benefit, affecting your beneficiaries’ amount.

Example: John withdrew $10,000 from his universal life insurance policy after a medical emergency. He had previously paid $8,000 in total premiums, meaning he could potentially owe taxes on the $2,000 difference.

Tax Consequences of Withdrawing

One of the most notable considerations when making a withdrawal is the potential tax implications:

  • Tax-free Withdrawals: Money withdrawn up to the amount of your total premium payments is generally tax-free.
  • Excess Amounts: Withdrawing more than the total premium payments can result in the extra amount being taxed as income, which might also have repercussions on your social security income, potentially subjecting it to higher taxation levels.

Example: Samantha withdrew $15,000 from her policy, having paid $10,000 in premiums. She would likely owe taxes on the additional $5,000.

Impact on Death Benefit

While accessing the cash value might seem appealing, it’s crucial to consider the ramifications for your loved ones:

  • Reduction in Death Benefit: The amount withdrawn typically reduces the death benefit dollar-for-dollar.
  • Reassessing Needs: Before withdrawing, ensure that the remaining death benefit still aligns with your goals and the needs of your beneficiaries.

Example: Robert’s policy had a death benefit of $100,000. After withdrawing $20,000, the potential death benefit for his beneficiaries was reduced to $80,000.

Policy Loans: An Alternative to Withdrawals

Rather than withdrawing, many policyholders opt for policy loans:

  • No Tax Implications: Generally, policy loans aren’t subject to taxes, unlike some withdrawals.
  • Interest Rates: Loans have interest rates. The interest can compound if not paid, reducing the death benefit and cash value.
  • Flexibility: Policy loans offer flexibility, with no strict repayment schedule. However, not repaying can have consequences.

Example: Lisa took a policy loan of $5,000. Over several years, with an interest rate of 5%, her owed amount grew, impacting her death benefit and cash value.

Withdraw From A Permanent Life Insurance Policy

Whole Life vs. Universal Life Insurance: Withdrawal Distinctions

Although both fall under permanent life insurance, they have their nuances:

  • Whole Life Insurance: Offers consistent premiums and a guaranteed cash value growth rate. However, withdrawal rules might be more rigid.
  • Universal Life Insurance: Provides flexible premiums and potential for increased cash value growth. Withdrawal rules tend to offer a bit more flexibility.

Example: Mark has universal life insurance, and his friend Amy has whole life insurance. While Mark enjoys more flexibility in premiums and withdrawals, Amy appreciates the stability and predictability of her policy.

Withdrawal Rules for Permanent Life Insurance: Conclusion

Navigating the withdrawal rules for permanent life insurance can be complex, but you can make informed decisions with a sound understanding of the implications and potential benefits. Whether considering a cash value withdrawal or policy loan, always weigh the immediate benefits against long-term consequences, especially concerning tax implications and the impact on your death benefit. Consulting with a financial advisor or insurance specialist is always a good step to ensure you make the best financial choices.

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Frequently Asked Questions

Can I withdraw funds from my permanent life insurance policy without affecting the death benefit?

You can borrow money from the cash value of your permanent life insurance policy without affecting the death benefit as long as you pay back the loan. Remember that you will be charged interest on the loan, which could decrease your death benefit over time.

What happens if I don’t repay my policy loan?

If you don’t repay your policy loan, it could eventually reduce or eliminate the death benefit of your permanent life insurance policy. This is because the death benefit is typically the sum of the face value of your policy plus the cash value. If your loan isn’t repaid, this can reduce the money available to your beneficiaries when you pass away. Always make payments on time and in full to protect your death benefit.

What factors should I consider when deciding whether to withdraw from my permanent life insurance policy?

When considering whether or not to withdraw from your permanent life insurance policy, it’s important to consider the potential impacts on your death benefit and tax situation. Additionally, you should consider your short- and long-term financial goals and whether the withdrawal will help you meet them. We recommend consulting with a qualified financial advisor to ensure you make the best decision for your situation.

Shawn Plummer

CEO, The Annuity Expert

I’m a licensed financial professional focusing on annuities and insurance for more than a decade. My former role was training financial advisors, including for a Fortune Global 500 insurance company. I’ve been featured in Time Magazine, Yahoo! Finance, MSN, SmartAsset, Entrepreneur, Bloomberg, The Simple Dollar, U.S. News and World Report, and Women’s Health Magazine.

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

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