Retirement & Life Insurance
Universal life insurance (often shortened to UL) is a type of permanent life insurance, primarily in the United States of America. Under the terms of the policy, the excess of premium payments above the current cost of insurance are credited to the cash value of the policy. The cash value is credited each month with interest, and the policy is debited each month by a cost of insurance (COI) charge, as well as any other policy charges and fees which are drawn from the cash value, even if no premium payment is made that month. Interest credited to the account is determined by the insurer, but has a contractual minimum rate of between 2% and 4%. When an earnings rate is pegged to a financial index such as a stock, bond or other interest rate index, the policy is a "Equity Indexed Universal Life" contract.
Definition of 'Universal Life Insurance'
A type of flexible permanent life insurance offering the low-cost protection of term life insurance as well as a savings element (like whole life insurance) which is invested to provide a cash value buildup. The death benefit, savings element and premiums can be reviewed and altered as a policyholder's circumstances change. In addition, unlike whole life insurance, universal life insurance allows the policyholder to use the interest from his or her accumulated savings to help pay premiums.
Universal life insurance was created to provide more flexibility than whole life insurance by allowing the policy owner to shift money between the insurance and savings components of the policy. Premiums, which are variable, are broken down by the insurance company into insurance and savings, allowing the policy owner to make adjustments based on their individual circumstances. For example, if the savings portion is earning a low return, it can be used instead of external funds to pay the premiums. Unlike whole life insurance, universal life allows the cash value of investments to grow at a variable rate that is adjusted monthly.