Indexed Universal Life (IUL) insurance policies are a relatively new 'hybrid' product that insurance companies offer, combining the best aspects of the fixed whole life and the variable life insurance.
The main distinguishing feature of this type of life insurance is that it allows you to invest the cash value in index options that follow the movement of an index, such as the Dow Jones Industrial Average and the S&P 500.
IUL policies feature a flexible premium and a cash value side fund. When you pay premiums into the policy, the insurance company invests the premiums in the general account of the insurance company. The insurance company, in turn, invests the general account in the general stock market, largely using options. The policy owner receives a guaranteed credit rating, often comparable to a certificate of deposit. If stocks do well, the policy owner also gets credited a portion of stock market returns. If stocks fall, however, the policy owner still gets the minimum credit rating.
IUL policies are life insurance policies, which have generally received favorable tax treatment from Congress. There is no tax deduction on premiums paid. But the cash value of the policy grows tax free, and the policy owner can generally access the cash value of the policy tax free at any time, provided the policy remains in force. Since there is no income tax or capital gains tax on the proceeds of withdrawals or loans against in force policies, and since there is no 10 percent penalty on proceeds received prior to age 59-1/2 , IUL policies have become popular savings vehicles for some individuals, especially those who earn too much to qualify for retirement accounts, such as IRAs or 401ks, or who have maximized allowable contributions.
Indexed universal life policies have favorable tax treatment, no restrictions on what the cash value can be used for, and provide a tax-free cash death benefit for the policy beneficiary in the event of the death of the insured. Additionally, the cash value in an IUL policy generally receives some creditor protection, depending on the state, and does not count against the family for the purposes of determining need-based financial aid for college. Finally, IUL policies do provide some safety of capital, because the policy owner is guaranteed a minimum crediting rating. However, policy premiums are frequently higher than the guaranteed rate, especially on low-balance cash values.
In most types of term insurance, including homeowners and auto insurance, if you haven’t had a claim under the policy by the time it expires, you get no refund of the premium. Your premium bought the protection that you had but didn’t need, and you’ve received fair value. Some term life insurance consumers have been unhappy at this outcome, so some insurers have created term life with a “return of premium” feature. The premiums for the insurance with this feature are often significantly higher than for policies without it, and they generally require that you keep the policy in force to its term or else you forfeit the return of premium benefit. Some policies will return the base premium but not the extra premium (for the return benefit), and others will return both.