Is Whole Life Insurance Right for You?

Posted by on Nov 4, 2023 9:38:00 AM

The road to practicing dentistry or medicine is indeed a long one, filled with challenges – both academic and financial. However, once you reach the point you envisioned, you will most likely be well rewarded for your hard work and investment. Not only is it rewarding to be able to make a difference in people’s health and well-being, but the successfully-practicing professional is rewarded with a positive financial picture.  

Having a solid revenue stream brings with it the question of how best to spend today and where to save for the future. We thought we would focus this topic on the established dental and medical practitioner, someone who has a solid career path, a healthy cash flow, has fully funded emergency funds and their retirement accounts, and they have tapped out tax-advantaged savings options. Perhaps that is you. 

Even if you are not quite “there” yet, perhaps this is your goal in which case, this article may be useful as you think of your future savings opportunities. 


Before You Begin: You Need a Financial Plan

If you already make a good living or are on your way to making a good income, then you will need to have a financial plan to best get to your destination. That is our recommendation to all our clients. And within that financial plan, our hope is that you will have the opportunity to fully fund your retirement accounts. 

In situations where there is plenty of cash flow, our clients are always looking for other ways outside of the conventional vehicles (which they may have maxed out) to satisfy their savings needs. 


Ready To Go? : Think Post-Grad Savings

Before we get ahead of ourselves, let’s go back to the beginning. Let’s go to when you completed your training. For many people, the duration of their training is financed at least partly with loans.  Once you are out of training, you finally start building your financial foundation.  In the beginning, people typically secure their necessary insurances and start figuring out their student debt repayment plan

On the professional front, they start practicing, either as an associate, owner, partner, or an employee within a larger organization. Then they set up an emergency fund (say 3-6 months of living expenses in cash). Perhaps they save up a down payment to buy a home or to stage themselves for practice ownership.

Whole Life Insurance May Be an Option When You Have Tapped Out Other Ways To Save

The question of how much to save often comes up – and where or in what savings vehicles? Over time, income increases, and so does the capacity to save. Upon fully funding qualified plans (a qualified plan is a tax-advantaged savings plan, like a SEP or a 401(k)), there is often still a deficit in the amount of savings needed to create financial independence. 

This is where other financial tools are needed. Whole life insurance could be one potential piece – which provides both the protection afforded by life insurance as well as the opportunity to save money in a non-correlated asset class. A non-correlated asset class is one that performs counter to equity and bonds markets. Some investors use non-correlated asset classes to ‘temper’ the behavior of the other asset classes and provide some stability in their overall portfolios, especially during volatile market cycles. 


What Is Whole Life Insurance?

Whole life insurance is, as the name states, life insurance. It falls in the category of permanent insurance, in contrast to term insurance which provides only limited coverage. Permanent life insurance stays in force for as long as the owner pays the premiums to maintain the policy. 

Term Life Insurance Vs. Whole Life Insurance

Beyond offering permanent coverage, whole life is a life insurance product with many other features, the most notable of which is a savings component – your premiums provide both life insurance coverage and accrue what’s called a ‘cash value.’  

The cash value accrues over time, frequently with contractual guarantees, as well as additional potential growth through company dividends from the issuing company. While the savings feature of a whole life insurance policy may provide stability in one’s overall financial picture, it’s also important to point out that it will not yield returns that are as high as other asset classes. You will be exposed to less volatility, but you will also find that the returns are lower. 


Understanding Whole Life Insurance

This is why it is important to consider the cash value in whole life insurance as a diversification tool and to understand that the returns should not be compared to riskier asset classes like the stock market.  Few advisors would suggest an investment allocation of 100% stocks.   Most may suggest a portion of your investment be placed in a safer, historically lower-performing asset class like bonds to reduce the overall risk in the portfolio.

It is much more appropriate to compare the qualities and returns of whole life to other “safer” assets like municipal bonds, CDs, money markets, and savings accounts. When this comparison is made, whole life can be evaluated more fairly and the benefits can be more clearly seen.  While whole life has had historically similar returns to these types of vehicles, there are contractual guarantees and tax advantage growth on the underlying cash value, options to include riders providing disability and long-term care protection, as well as death benefits for legacy planning.  

Due to these features, whole life is used in sophisticated financial planning scenarios to offer tax-advantaged growth, assist in income planning, and to transfer wealth to future generations.  


Why Whole Life Is Not for Everyone

Due to its complexity, whole life is widely misunderstood – by financial advisors and the public. Occasionally, there is controversy around whole life insurance because it’s considered by some to be expensive, inappropriate, or low-performing. The truth is that whole life is a valuable tool, it’s a multi-purpose tool, but it is most certainly not for everyone. 


When and Why Would You Consider Whole Life Insurance?

  1. You need life insurance. (You care for someone or something and want to ensure that they are provided for when you are no longer able to do so yourself.)
  2. You have a student debt repayment strategy in place.
  3. You have 3-6 months of living expenses in cash set aside for emergencies.
  4. If you plan to purchase a home, you have done so. 
  5. If you plan to purchase a practice, you have done so, or if this is not your plan, your employment and income are stable.
  6. You are fully funding qualified plans and tax-advantaged accounts.
  7. You have a cash surplus and a retirement savings shortage. 

Now, you can look at whether whole life insurance makes sense for you. You may have heard the argument to ‘buy term and invest the rest.’ While this is a catchy slogan it does not provide all the information for you to make an educated decision.  For people who may have a desire to provide a legacy and can use at least one of the other powerful features of the policy, whole life may very well be the answer.  


If You Must Buy Term Life Insurance

We tell people that if you must buy term life insurance, buy it from a state-of-the-art company that provides conversion privileges to best-in-class whole life policies. Meaning: don’t buy cheap term life insurance, don’t buy it online, and don’t assume that all policies are created equal. They aren’t. 

Also, as a dental or medical professional-in-training, there are opportunities to purchase ‘convertible’ term insurance. These policies are flexible in that they allow you to convert your term insurance into permanent insurance without regard to future changes in health. This is a smart way to “lock in” your good health ratings today. Consequently, a potential health event or illness won’t get in the way of your being able to purchase whole life insurance in the future. 


Using Whole Life Strategically

By now, you may have realized that whole life is a whole lot more than life insurance. While this is by no means an exhaustive list of how whole life may be used creatively to support your financial plan and savings strategy, we thought we would share with you just a few of the strategic uses of whole life insurance.


Be Smart About How You Implement Your Policy

  1. Use it for retirement income. There are opportunities to take income via policy loans tax-free at retirement. 
  2. Borrow from it in ‘down markets.’ When equity markets are down, you may consider taking a loan against the cash value of your life insurance. The cash value in whole life insurance is not exposed to market volatility and it is a smart idea to avoid selling equities in a down market.
  3. Pass it on. Whole life provides a great way to pass money on to heirs and life insurance proceeds are tax free.
  4. Use it for deferred compensation. Whole life is a tool that is frequently used for deferred compensation for executives in corporations
  5. In some states, it's a protected asset from lawsuits. In the event of a malpractice suit against you, whole life is one of the few things outside of your retirement plan that might provide creditor protection.


If Whole Life Insurance Is Right for You, Work With a Specialist

Many people have purchased whole life insurance at the wrong time or in the wrong situation, and that hurts every person who has been improperly advised to purchase whole life. Even if the time and situation were correct to implement a whole life strategy, they also may have purchased the wrong policy. Not all permanent life insurance policies are the same. Be sure to work with an advisor that understands and can articulate the differences.   Overall, if you have a need for life insurance, have enough cash flow to support it, and have tapped out other tax-advantaged means for saving for the future, you should take a first (or second) look at whole life. 

Whatever you do, work with someone who understands the financial needs of dental and medical professionals and understands how whole life fits into the bigger picture of your financial plan. Because when used properly, this may be just the missing piece in your toolkit. For more information, contact us.

About Treloar & Heisel

Treloar & Heisel, an EPIC Company, is a premier financial services provider to dental and medical professionals across the country. We assist thousands of clients from residency to practice and through retirement with a comprehensive suite of financial services, custom-tailored advice, and a strong national network focused on delivering the highest level of service.

Investment Advice offered through WCG Wealth Advisors, LLC a Registered Investment Advisor doing business as Treloar & Heisel Wealth Management. Treloar & Heisel Wealth Management is a separate entity from The Wealth Consulting Group and WCG Wealth Advisors, LLC.

Insurance products offered through Treloar & Heisel, LLC.  

WCG Wealth Advisors, LLC, Treloar & Heisel, LLC., and Treloar & Heisel Wealth Management do not offer tax advice.

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