Universal life insurance is just one of several types of life insurance policy available through life companies today. Unlike term life insurance or mortgage (reducing) life insurance, universal life insurance gives your insurance policy a cash-in value, allowing you to withdraw funds accumulated on your universal policy as and when needed.
This flexible approach to life insurance is very popular in the US and offers a real alternative to standard term & mortgage life policies where the policyholder does not normally get to benefit directly from the life insurance funds, unless they are diagnosed as being terminally ill. Universal life insurance also provides policyholders with the ability to accrue interest on their life insurance premiums - something that a standard life insurance policy does not offer.
How universal life insurance works
Universal life insurance works in a similar way to a high interest long-notice deposit account. When an insurance premium payment is sent to the life company the company deposit the funds into an interest account after deducting a nominal expenses charge per deposit. The funds then gain interest, with interest accrued being credited to the account on a monthly basis. Each premium payment made of course increases the fund, while compound interest is earned on the account month upon month. The cost of maintaining the insurance product or products purchased through the universal insurance scheme are also deducted from the universal account on a monthly basis.
Should the insurance policyholder wish to withdraw funds from their universal life policy then they can do so from the cash surrender value of the life policy. Withdrawals are normally controlled / limited to a set number per year. Depending upon the policy provider there may also be caps on the amount of money that the universal life policyholder can withdraw and a stipulation on a minimum amount of funds that should remain in the universal life account.
It should go without saying that withdrawals from a universal life insurance policy will reduce the overall amount of funds available when a lump sum claim is made upon death or terminal illness diagnosis. It is therefore important to manage the universal life account to ensure that there is sufficient coverage for your family and dependants in the event of your death. If you don't have the time to carefully manage a universal life product then you may end up with little to show for your life insurance premiums if and when a lump sum pay out is triggered.