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Paid-Up Life Insurance [No More Payments Due]

Fact Checked by Jason Herring & Barry Brooksby
Licensed Agents & Life Insurance Experts.
Insurance and Estates, a strategic life insurance provider composed of life insurance professionals, is committed to integrity in our editorial standards and transparency in how we receive compensation from our insurance partners.
Paid-Up Life Insurance Policy Cash Value

A whole life insurance policy is “paid-up” when no further premium payments are needed to keep the policy in force. Paid-up life insurance allows you to benefit from the continued growth of the policy’s cash value, without needing to pay into the policy to keep it active. And for properly structured dividend paying whole life policies, the cash value and death benefit will continue to grow.

There are several scenarios (discussed below) that can result in a paid-up life insurance policy, but what it boils down to is that the insurance company has already received all required insurance payments for the policy to stay in force, so the policyholder gets to enjoy the benefits of life insurance coverage without making any more payments.

Although other insurance products can be set up to stay effective without additional premiums, the term “paid-up” is usually applied to permanent life insurance, particularly a participating whole life insurance policy.

The main ingredient that allows life insurance to be paid-up is the cash value. Term insurance has no cash value, so it cannot be paid-up. However, return of premium life insurance is similar to term life insurance and has some cash value, which can be converted to a paid-up life insurance policy.

In general, whole life insurance policies require consistent, fixed premium payments for as long as the policy remains effective.  In return, the policyholder receives a death benefit guaranteed for life without any increases to premiums, along with a steadily growing cash value which can be withdrawn, borrowed against, or cashed out for the policy’s surrender value.

One of the many advantages of a cash value whole life insurance policy is that, when the cash account accumulates to a high enough level, the policy can be converted to paid-up status, meaning no further premiums are owed.

Paid-Up Life Insurance Policy

The way paid up life insurance works is that, after you keep a whole life policy in place long enough, its cash value reaches the point where it can cover the premiums.  When that point is reached, you can elect to have the insurance company treat the policy as paid-up.

Each month thereafter, the company pays the premiums for the life insurance coverage from the cash account.  The policy stays in force, but you no longer have to make payments because premiums are being paid from the policy’s own cash value.

The drawback of using cash value to convert your whole life insurance policy to paid-up status is that each premium payment reduces the cash value and eventually the death benefit paid to your beneficiary.  The decrease is more or less like you made a withdrawal from the cash account and used the money to pay the premium yourself.

Importantly, though, the savings component of the whole life insurance policy earns guaranteed returns, resulting in a cash value greater than just the aggregate percentage of premiums applied to savings.

With a policy in paid-up status, this growth helps offset reductions to the death benefit.  Depending upon the total returns earned thus far and how long the whole life policy stays in paid-up status, the decrease in the death benefit can be negligible or it can end up being significant.

It can be a good strategy to use paid-up life insurance if you want to keep retirement expenses down while still ensuring a death benefit for your heirs and liquidity in your estate.  When the death benefit is eventually triggered, the pay-out will be the policy’s face value minus any reductions resulting from the application of cash value to premium payments.

Reduced Paid Up Life Insurance

Converting a whole life insurance policy to reduced paid-up status amounts to a compromise between surrendering the policy outright for cash and continuing to pay premiums on life insurance that might no longer be necessary or that you believe has a sufficient amount of growth and you no longer wish to continue to fund the policy.

Reduced paid up life insurance is similar to a paid up insurance policy in that you use the existing cash value to purchase a paid up policy. However, with a reduced paid up policy, the death benefit will initially be lowered to take into account that you will no longer be making premium payments, hence the term “reduced paid up.”

The benefit of reduced paid up life insurance is that you no longer need to make payments, but your policy continues to earn interest and dividends. The interest and dividends continue to grow your policy’s cash value and death benefit. And you can access your cash account tax-free by borrowing from the insurance company and using your cash value as collateral. And if you choose to not repay the loan it will simply be deducted from the death benefit when you die.

Certain Requirements Must Be Met

Importantly, paid up life insurance only works if allowed by the policy terms, and only if sufficient cash value has accrued to cover the premiums.  If you’re interested in electing reduced paid-up status for your existing whole life policy, you should review your policy and talk with your life insurance agent or insurance company representative about whether your policy is eligible and, if so, what you need to do to make the election.

While some whole life insurance policies include provisions designed to prevent inadvertent cancellation by automatically converting to reduced paid-up status if premiums are missed, some companies require specific action by the insured.  You should not assume that simply discontinuing making payments will convert your policy to reduced paid-up status – no matter how long it has been in place.

Limited Pay Life Insurance

Policies with a predetermined, agreed paid-up age or time length are an interesting variation on paid-up whole life insurance.  These limited pay life insurance policies become paid-up at a set premium payment period when the insured reaches a number of years, such as 10-pay, 15-pay or 20-pay, or certain age, such as to age 65.

The idea is that, in exchange for making higher premium payments during your working years (thereby building up cash value faster), you eliminate premium payments during retirement without drawing down the death benefit your heirs will receive.

The cash value is still available as an emergency fund or for loans, but if you decide to make a withdrawal for the surrender value of the policy, premium payments might begin again.  Alternatively, the death benefit could be reduced if you fail to repay a loan against the policy.

A limited pay whole life insurance policy is a good alternative if you can afford higher premiums during your working years, will have a tighter budget upon retirement, and need to make sure the death benefit stays effective for the full amount.

For instance, if you need to be certain your estate includes sufficient liquid assets to fund a trust for the support of a dependent and are unsure how insurance premiums will fit into your retirement budget, you might want to consider a whole life policy with a predetermined paid-up age or number of years.

Caution: MEC

Caution needs to be taken when designing a policy intended for paid-up life insurance. There are rules in place as to how many payments must be made. If you do not adhere to the rules set in place by the Internal Revenue Code you run the risk of creating a Modified Endowment Contract, rather than cash value life insurance.

Cash value life insurance requires in part that the policy meet the guidelines of section 7702 of the Internal Revenue Code. Basically, the policy must adhere to the 7-pay test criteria as outlined in the code or it will be considered a modified endowment contract and lose some of the benefits under Section 7702.

Single Premium Life Insurance

Sometimes it makes sense to choose single premium life insurance, particularly when you want to put a large lump sum into a policy because your main focus is on the death benefit. This is typically done by someone who wants to leave a death benefit for estate planning purposes. There are also two other common scenarios when single premium life insurance is used.


Certain hybrid life insurance long-term care insurance policies can be designed as single premium policies, allowing you to make a lump sum payment in return for a long-term care benefit available throughout your lifetime, that pays a death benefit if the long-term care benefit is not utilized.

Survivorship Life Insurance

Also, second to die life insurance as a single premium paid-up life insurance policy is beneficial for estate planning purposes, where the primary use of the coverage is for liquidity for the estate and to pay potential estate taxes. Second to die life insurance is also known as survivorship life insurance, and it pays out when the second person on the policy passes away.

Paid-Up Additions Rider

Overfunded whole life insurance policies include riders permitting the purchase of paid up additions through voluntary supplemental premium payments. A paid up additions rider allows you to put more cash into your policy to buy additional paid up life insurance, rather than using all your premium payment to pay for the base premium which will buy a death benefit.

For people wanting a high cash value whole life insurance policy, paid up additions allow you to fund the cash value account faster, providing more early cash value in the policy as your premium payment goes towards funding paid up additional insurance.

You may wonder why someone would want to focus on cash value versus the death benefit. The main purpose is to use the policy as an alternative savings account. This is a strategy that is growing in popularity thanks to the Infinite Banking Concept.

What are Paid-Up Additions?

Paid-up additions are supplemental life insurance purchased using dividends earned on an existing whole life policy. The purchase of additional life insurance using dividend payments does not require evidence of insurability.

Life insurance dividends are annual payments issued by mutual life insurance companies to policyholders based upon the company’s performance.  Though they are technically not guaranteed, some companies have paid dividends so consistently over the years that they are all but certain.

For tax purposes, whole life insurance dividend payments are treated as if the mutual life insurance company refunded a portion of the premiums you already paid, so dividends are not taxable income.

When you, as a policyholder, receive a dividend, you have a wide range of options for using the funds, including just asking the company to cut you a check.

Perhaps the most attractive of these options, though, is to use your dividend to purchase additional paid up life insurance.  When you purchase a paid up addition with your dividend, your policy’s cash value and death benefit both increase based upon the amount of the dividend applied.  And the additional coverage is paid-up – you never have to make any more premium payments for it.

Think of paid-up additions like smaller, pre-paid policies attached to your whole life insurance policy.  Regular premiums are still due for the underlying policy, but the additional coverage is yours as soon as the dividend is applied – nothing further owed.

The icing on the cake is that the cash value of the paid-up addition earns interest and more dividends, both of which are tax-deferred, providing a true compound interest account.

And, like the primary policy itself, paid-up additions can be surrendered for their cash value or borrowed against.

Paid-up additions are a great way to increase your coverage without applying for a new policy, an especially attractive feature for older policyholders.  Notably, though, not all whole-life policies pay dividends convertible to paid-up additions.

A dividend-paying policy is referred to as a “participating life insurance policy,” while a policy not eligible for dividends is “non-participating.”  All things being equal, non-participating policies do not earn dividends and may have lower premiums or a higher initial death benefit, but the value provided by dividends more than makes up for the difference before long.

Paid-up additions, whether purchased with dividends or with cash, can complement a “paid-up” retirement strategy in which premiums are paid with the available cash in the whole life policy.  Beyond just increasing the policy funds available for the premium payments, the extra coverage provided by paid-up additions helps offset death benefit reductions resulting from application of cash value to premiums.

Moreover, paid-up whole life insurance policies usually continue to receive dividends, so you can still buy paid-up coverage with dividends, growing your policy’s cash value and death benefit.

Next Steps

At Insurance&Estates, we specialize in designing these types of policies that utilize paid-up additions, so the policy’s focus is on early high cash value growth. These policies are excellent savings vehicles, which act as an alternative to traditional banking. Rather than putting your money into a bank account where you get at most 1% interest, you can earn 4-5% interest outside of the purview of big banks.

If you are interested in learning more please check out our resources page. In addition, you can always give us a call for a complimentary strategy session.

2 comments… add one
  • Michael Wiggins April 3, 2021, 6:54 pm

    I have a huge issue with an unspecified insurance company. I received a notice saying that my life insurance policy was in reduced paid up status. They said because of a missed premium payment, my policy had lapsed and that the reduced payment status was automatically put in place. I had no say in this. A 20k life insurance policy was reduced by over 7k and essentially closed. I had no say in this. I checked with my bank and they said that, going back to 2019, that each premium was paid up to the present month. We set up an automatic withdrawal premium payment through Electronic Bill Payment Services, which was accepted by the insurance company. Withdrawals were received by the insurance company. But they said in a letter dated this past month saying to remove the policy from automatic bill pay since it was in reduced paid up status.
    I had no idea this would happen. I am furious, because they have essentially taken 7k of my cash value and are keeping it without my consent. This seems fraudulent to me!

    • Insurance&Estates April 6, 2021, 12:51 pm

      Hello Michael, it is tough to comment on what happened in your case. If you’d like your situation reviewed, you can connect with Barry Brooksby at barry@insuranceandestates.com.

      Best, Steve Gibbs for I&E

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