In this article, we’re going to discuss a strategy whereby someone can take advantage of overfunding their cash value whole life insurance policy for the purpose of then using this cash accumulation to accumulate and preserve wealth.
During our discussion, we’ll focus on some of the pros and cons of overfunding life insurance, as well as describe when implementing such a strategy may be in one’s best interest.
That said …
We here at I&E understand that these “types” of financial strategies may not always be the “best” for everyone, which is why, even though we are big proponents of “overfunding” one’s life insurance for the purposes of wealth building, these types of strategies are simply one of many strategies that we offer to our clients, including more traditional life insurance policies, such as term and universal life insurance.
We simply like to…
Present a wide variety of options to our clients, so that they can decide for themselves which type of life insurance policy will best meet their needs.
So, let’s take a closer look at what it means to “overfund” life insurance and see if doing so might make sense for you.
What is Overfunded Life Insurance?
Also known as a LIRP life insurance retirement plan, these OLI policies are designed to offer maximum early high cash value along with the asset protection and tax benefits of life insurance.
Overfunded life insurance is essentially an indexed universal life (IUL), whole life insurance (WL), or variable universal life (VUL) insurance policy, where additional cash contributions are made to boost the policy’s cash value.
This added cash grows tax free in the policy’s cash account and can be accessed via cash withdrawals or policy loans.
With that introduction aside, let’s get to the advantages and disadvantages of overfunding your life insurance policy.
Overfunded Life Insurance Pros and Cons
We have many articles covering the advantages of life insurance throughout the site, so please take time to read any of the links provided in this article for more on the benefits of cash value life insurance.
The benefits of overfunded life insurance can be summarized as follows:
- Tax-favored account growth: Funds in the cash value account of a permanent life insurance policy such as IUL, VUL, or WL grow tax-free, which enables you to build up a larger amount of funds in such accounts for long-term savings goals than taxable accounts, all else equal.
- Dividend Payments: WL policies offer annual dividend payments that can be used for a variety of purposes, including increasing your policy’s cash value and death benefit.
- Flexible investment options: IUL policies enable you to move your cash value into subaccounts linked to stock market indices such as the S&P 500, the NASDAQ 100, or a more conservative fixed interest rate option, while VUL offers subaccounts which invest directly in a variety of stocks and other securities.
- Market downside protection: One of the primary benefits of an IUL policy are that since your funds aren’t directly invested in the market, but rather in subaccounts which mirror the movement of a market index, you are protected from losses if the market declines in an IUL. These subaccounts typically set a floor of at least 0%. While VUL typically provides a greater potential upside than IUL, because VUL subaccounts directly invest in market securities they don’t offer the same downside protection if the market declines.
- No contribution limits (with certain exceptions): Unlike retirement plans such as 401ks, there are no yearly or other caps on the amount you can contribute to an OLI. The only limitation is that the excess cash added to the policy over any 7-year period must follow certain rules to avoid the policy being labeled a MEC modified endowment contract and losing its tax-favored status.
- Tax-free withdrawals up to account basis: Whether you take a partial withdrawal from your OLI or a life insurance loan, funds can be taken from your cash account on a tax-free basis up to the point where withdrawals exceed contributions. This is due to the first-in, first-out tax status of insurance policies.
- No age-based liquidity restrictions: Funds can be taken out of OLI policies before age 59 ½ for any reason without government-imposed penalties, unlike IRAs and 401ks (see 401k withdrawal rules). Depending on the type of policy you have, there may be surrender charges for early withdrawals.
- Asset protection: Unlike funds held in traditional investment accounts and trusts, assets held in OLI policies are protected from legal claims and creditors. Different states have different protections so be sure to inquire into your specific state.
- Tax-free payout of death benefits to your beneficiaries: In addition to offering the ability to build up funds for retirement or other purposes in a tax-sheltered vehicle, these policies offer tax-free transfer of death benefit proceeds to your beneficiaries upon the death of the insured.
- Availability of a disability waiver: Many OLI policies have disability waiver or premium riders which enable you to convert them into a form of living benefits if you are injured or otherwise unable to work.
- Living Benefits: Additional living benefits include long-term care riders and chronic illness riders. Living benefits allow you access to a portion of the death benefit for a qualifying chronic condition.
- Privacy: Your life insurance and any existing policy loan is private and does not appear on a credit check.
The drawbacks of overfunded life insurance can be summarized as follows:
While overfunded life insurance can offer a number of benefits, such as being able to set aside funds in a tax-favored vehicle, these types of policies are not for everyone.
Some of the potential issues to consider when looking into purchasing an OLI policy include:
- Fees: Permanent life insurance policies used to fund OLI typically feature higher upfront fees than term life insurance. However, OLI policies offer benefits such as tax-deferral, loss limitation, and asset protection as have been described. Additionally, as the cash value in your account rises the impact of the fees on your funds as a percentage declines, making these policies most appropriate for those looking to set aside significant savings over a period of time greater than 10 years.
- Surrender charges: In some overfunded life insurance policies, especially those funded by VUL, there may be surrender fees for withdrawing too much money out of the policy in the first 8-10 years or so of its life.
- Policy lapse danger: When borrowing from your life insurance using your cash value as collateral, you must take care to pay policy premiums to avoid lapsing your policy. If your policy lapses, your coverage will be cancelled and you may be subject to taxes on the money you borrowed from the insurance company.
Who Should Consider Overfunded Life Insurance
Those Looking To Practice IBC
Infinite banking uses overfunded life insurance for early high cash value growth that can be used for personal banking.
By using your policy strategically as your own personal bank, you can take back control of your finances and practice the velocity of money.
High Net Worth
Overfunded life insurance is also well suited for higher net worth individuals such as business owners, corporate executives, or others who are capped out in their 401k contributions or do not qualify for a Roth IRA and want to set aside funds in an alternative retirement savings vehicle.
This is especially true if you have delayed retirement planning and are trying to make up for lost time by currently setting aside as much money as possible.
Because OLI is not subject to the contribution limits placed on government-supported retirement plans such as 401ks, you can generally set aside more significant sums of money in an OLI.
Glorified Savings Account
Such policies also work well for anyone who wants a chance to realize returns equal to some portion of the upside of the stock market without the downside risk. This scenario may apply to executives at public companies or other investors who have a significant amount of money at risk in the stock market.
The ability to pull living benefits from an OLI policy makes such plans an effective way to help protect your current income while setting aside funds that can provide you with additional income in retirement.
Additionally, having the sums you set aside in such a policy grow tax-deferred is a benefit of OLI, as discussed previously.
Overfunded Life Insurance Example: Jim Harbaugh
An example of how OLI can be used to provide tax-advantaged income along with a death benefit payout for a person’s beneficiaries comes from the contract signed by Jim Harbaugh which, using figures compiled by USA Today, made him the highest-paid college football coach in the country.
His contract featured a package including deferred compensation in the form of a IUL policy. This cash value policy will enable him to save millions in tax-free retirement benefits in conjunction with a split-dollar loan agreement funded by the cash value of the IUL.
The split-dollar agreement specifies that the University of Michigan will pay a total of $14 million in loan advances, in seven payments of $2 million each, into the life insurance policy.
Establishing such a policy means that Harbaugh will not need to repay the policy loan prior to his death, at which point the coach’s beneficiaries will get the remaining death benefit.
During his lifetime, Harbaugh can borrow money from the insurance company using the policy’s cash value as collateral without any tax implications.
It is estimated that this approach will enable Harbaugh to start receiving $1.4 million each year from the policy tax-free starting at age 66.
There are few, if any, savings vehicles that offer the benefits of life insurance. If you are looking for a safe bucket for your assets or desire to “become your own banker” using life insurance, then cash value life insurance is an amazing vehicle to help you achieve financial independence and security.
If you are interested in learning more, please check out our resources or give us a call today for a complimentary strategy session to see what we can do for you.