Among the types of life insurance policies offered are: whole life, universal life and term life.
Whole Life: Also known as “permanent life” this is protection that is current and valid for as long as you live. By choosing to pay a premium that does not increase as you grow older, you average out the costs of your policy over your lifetime on a yearly basis. The important feature of whole life insurance is that it builds cash value — a sum that increases over the years on a tax-deferred basis. If you cancel your policy, you can get the cash value in a lump sum, although any gains would be taxable. You can also tap into that cash value through low-cost loans.
If you have term life insurance that is convertible, you can exchange it for a whole life policy usually without a medical examination if your company offers this type of policy.
Universal Life: This variation of permanent insurance allows you, after your initial payment, to pay premiums at any time, in virtually any amount, subject to certain minimums and maximums. You can also reduce or increase the amount of the death benefit more easily than under a traditional whole life policy. (To increase your death benefit, you usually will be required to furnish the insurance company with satisfactory evidence of your continued good health — decreasing the death benefit may not lower your premiums).
Term Life: Offers protection for a specific period of time — usually 10, 20 or 30 years. This policy pays a death benefit only if you die during the period covered by the policy. If you stop paying premiums, the insurance stops. The coverage ends at the end of the term but can be renewed, usually at a higher premium because you are older and you also may need to be re-underwritten based on your current health at that time.
There is also a different type of term life policy which may return your base premium to you if you continue to keep the policy in-force and if you do not die by the end of the policy term.
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