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Guaranteed Universal Life Insurance Guide
Guaranteed universal life insurance (GUL) features all the flexibility of universal life insurance and a guaranteed death benefit even if your cash value runs out. Just make sure you keep paying your premiums, and you'll keep your life insurance coverage.
GUL is typically the cheapest type of permanent life insurance. While the cash value of this type of life insurance grows slowly, you won't have to worry about losing your death benefit if the policy lapses.
If you're on the fence about choosing between term and permanent life insurance, guaranteed universal life insurance may be right for you too.
What is guaranteed universal life insurance?
With a guaranteed universal life policy you have an affordable way to have a policy that provides both you with a permanent life insurance policy. As long as you keep paying premiums to keep your policy active, your beneficiaries are guaranteed to receive the death benefit payout when you pass away.
We also mentioned that guaranteed universal life insurance has features of both term and permanent insurance and this is why many people call it a ‘hybrid’ of the two.
Why is it like a hybrid of term life and permanent policies?
Well, it stays in place until death but the holder benefits from good insurance rates because the premium has been guaranteed for a certain period of time (just like a term life insurance policy).
With other universal life insurance policies your rates may just increase once you hit a certain age and this can be devastating considering you will be on a fixed income after retirement. Known as ‘pricing out’, you might not be able to afford these prices down the line and then you are left with no insurance or death benefit for loved ones.
How Guaranteed Universal Life Insurance Works
GUL offers a guaranteed no lapse rider guaranteeing the insurance policy remains in force even if the cash value drops to zero. Upon the death of the insured, the lump sum death benefit is paid income tax free to the policy beneficiary. The insurance policy can be tailored to end upon a certain age such as 90, 95, 100, 105, 115 or 121.
When it comes to the different types of life insurance, it is easy to get confused and tangled up in the various terms and language used. However, it doesn’t need to be as confusing as many people make out and we want to show this today with one of the most well-known offerings of life insurance policies: guaranteed universal life insurance.
In the past, you might have heard the terms ‘term’ and ‘permanent’ insurance; with guaranteed universal, it actually falls into the latter category but shows features of both.
There are some very important differences between term life vs permanent life insurance. Likewise, there are many differences between universal life vs whole life insurance.
Who should consider guaranteed universal life insurance?
A GUL insurance policy is an attractive option for anyone who wants the following: (1) an easy to understand policy, that (2) provides lifetime coverage, that (3) focuses primarily on the death benefit, with (4) non-existent or small cash value growth.
Easy to Understand: The GUL insurance policy is simply lifetime coverage, or life insurance coverage to a particular age, that will pay out a death benefit when the insured dies. There are no bells and whistles, unless you choose additional insurance riders. So basically, if you want life insurance that lasts longer than a 30 year term life insurance policy you have a superior option with GUL.
Provides Lifetime Protection: Guaranteed universal life offers lifetime protection for the lowest price of the permanent policies available. If you do not need cash value but want lifetime coverage then this product is ideal. It is a popular choice when setting up an irrevocable life insurance trust or for second to die life insurance.
Focuses Primarily on the Death Benefit: If you primary concern is leaving behind money to your beneficiaries, then this is a great option for estate planning. It also works out well as a single premium life insurance policy option, where you make one lump sum payment for a lifetime death benefit.
Non-Existent or Small Cash Value Growth: The typical guaranteed universal life insurance policy can build cash value, but very slowly and at a very low rate. Nothing worth getting excited about. However, this provides lower life insurance premiums, which benefits anyone who wants permanent protection with the lowest price tag. A potential alternative would be return of premium life insurance. But ROP policies do not get the leverage of a death benefit upon the end of the insurance policy.
How much does guaranteed universal life insurance cost?
One thing you will find with a guaranteed universal life insurance policy is it is cheaper than other permanent insurance policies but how does it compare with term life insurance quotes? Since term life insurance policies offer the cheapest prices on the market, let’s take a look at some differences.
The sample guaranteed universal life insurance rates are to age 100. These quotes are only a guideline and your actual quote will vary depending on your unique situation.
Rates for 40-year old healthy male
Death benefit payout
Guaranteed UL to age 100
Traditional UL to age 100
*Sample monthly rates provided by Clearlink partner. All rates as of 4/9/2020.
It should be pointed out that although level term life insurance will have lower initial premiums than guaranteed universal life, once the term ends you will find that the annual renewable rate offered is going to skyrocket. So it may be in your best interest to lock into a GUL insurance policy today and keep your affordable premiums your entire life than get priced out of term life down the road.
Why are the prices lower than other permanent policies?
For two reasons, you will find that guaranteed universal life policies are somewhere in the middle between term life and whole life insurance.
First, it is not your typical cash value life insurance because the cash value component will be virtually non-existent. With the added cost of this feature taken away, you can concentrate solely on the premiums and keeping the insurance policy active with cheaper premiums.
Second, and this one leads from the first, the management fees for the provider are much lower which allows them to offer a lower overall price.
Best Guaranteed Universal Life Insurance Companies and Policies
The following top guaranteed universal life insurance companies and policies below are not listed in any particular order. There is not one "best" life insurance company or life insurance policy. It all comes down to your specific needs and objectives.
- Penn Mutual
- North American Company
- Principal Financial
- Mutual of Omaha
- Legal and General
- Protective Life
- Midland National
Penn Mutual GUL
This GUL insurance policy offers the benefits of a permanent life insurance death benefit protection and affordability, but with cash value growth, because life is uncertain.
Due to the flexibility inherent in universal life, if you have cash value available, you can pay lower premiums, or none at all, for a time. This can be a policy saver if you hit a rough spot financially.
Penn Mutual takes there greater returns on the GUL partnered with a no-cost chronic illness accelerated death benefit rider, and you can see why Penn Mutual makes the grade for one of the best guaranteed universal life policies in the market.
For more, see our Penn Mutual review.
North American Company GUL
The GUL insurance policy from North American offers affordable coverage, with face amounts starting at $50,000. The key aspect of this GUL insurance policy is the death benefit guarantee that is further enhanced with the Extended No Lapse Guarantee included in the policy.
In addition, the policy can be furthered bolstered by adding a Waiver of Monthly Deductions Rider, that waives premium payments due if you suffer from a qualifying disability.
There are other riders available, including the Guaranteed Insurability Rider, which makes an excellent addition to life insurance for children or young adults.
For more, see our North American Company reviews.
This insurance policy offers a guaranteed death benefit regardless of cash value as long as premiums are paid. AIG allows you to pay additional premiums to potentially shorten the payment period. If you no longer need the insurance policy you can choose to surrender it in year 20 for 50% return of premiums paid, or in year 25 and receive 100% of premiums paid up to 40% of the face amount.
The policy offers two additional life insurance riders:
- Accelerated Access Solution: if you suffer a qualifying chronic illness you can receive monthly payments from your total death benefit.
- Lifestyle Income Solution: Allows you to turn your death benefit into an income stream at age 85.
For more, please see our AIG Life Insurance review.
Principal Financial's guaranteed universal life insurance policy offers three death benefit options. You can choose a level death benefit. Another option is the increasing death benefit, which has the initial death benefit increase as the cash value accumulates. And the third option is a level premium death benefit with return of premium, minus any withdrawals taken, which can be handy for long-term care expenses.
You can also keep up with inflation with the Cost of Living Increase rider, which allows you to increase your coverage with no evidence of insurability. This rider, along with the ADB rider, Extended Coverage rider and Lapse Protection rider are all included at no charge unless you choose to use one of them.
For more, please see our Principal Financial review.
Symetra's UL-G provides permanent death benefit protection with the flexibility of universal life, with additional no lapse protection guarantees. The life insurance company offers a Good Life Rewards program that can help get your over the hump to a better rate class if you qualify.
In addition, a Chronic Illness Benefit and Terminal Illness Benefit are included at no additional cost. You also have the option of adding the Chronic Illness Plus rider, which allows 100% of the death benefit to be accessed if you qualify.
You can also choose the Return of Premium rider that allows you to get back 100% of your premiums at either policy year 20 or 25, if you no longer want the coverage.
For more, please see our Symetra review.
Mutual of Omaha GUL
Mutual of Omaha's GUL insurance policy matures at age 120. The policy also includes a minimum guaranteed interest rate of 2%. The policy is available up to age 85. Simplified issue guaranteed universal life insurance is also available for up to $300,000 up to age 50 and up to $250,000 up to age 65.
In addition to the accelerated death benefit included in the policy, some additional riders include:
- Disability waiver of premium rider
- Accidental death benefit rider
- Child term rider
- Guaranteed insurability rider
For more, please see our Mutual of Omaha review.
Banner Life GUL
Banner's Life Step UL insurance policies start as low as $50,000 in coverage and can go to age 121. The insurance policy offers a guaranteed interest crediting rate of 2%. The policy includes an accelerated death benefit, which provides up to $500,000 or 75% of the face amount in advance if the insured is diagnosed with a qualifying terminal illness.
For more, please see our Banner Life review.
Protective Life's GUL insurance policy offers a guaranteed death benefit as long as premiums are paid. Tax deferred cash value growth is available. The insurance policy offers a guaranteed crediting rate of 2.5%. The Advantage Choice UL policy is available for ages 18-85.
You can also add riders to your policy for additional benefits. Among the riders offered are:
- Terminal illness accelerated death benefit: included at no extra charge. Can accelerate up to 60% of face amount or up to $1,000,000, whichever is less.
- Extend Care: offers protection if you are diagnosed with a qualifying chronic illness.
- Income provider option: allows you to tailor the death benefit to your beneficiary into payments up to 30 years, which spreads out payments rather than a lump sum and may also result in lower premium payments due.
See our Protective Life review for more.
Midland National GUL
Midland National provides a great guaranteed universal life insurance for seniors policy. The insurance policy offers a $25,000 minimum face amount if you are 60 and older and is one of the most affordable Guaranteed UL insurance policies in that age range.
In addition, the policy is designed so that no more premiums are due after age 100. The insurance policy also comes with a guaranteed internal interest rate of 2.5%. Wash loans are available from policy years 21 and on.
For more, please see our Midland National review.
Available from as early as 15 days to 85 years of age, this is a flexible premium universal life insurance policy. The policy comes with a built in lapse protection, guaranteed level premiums and guaranteed annual interest rate of 2.5%. You also have the flexibility of choosing a fixed death benefit or increasing death benefit. Depending on the face amount applied for, no medical exam life insurance is available up to age 65.
Life insurance riders include:
Accelerated death benefit: included in the policy at no additional charge, which covers both qualifying terminal illness and chronic illness. (Chronic illness not available in CA).
See our Sagicor Life review for more.
Guaranteed Universal Life Insurance Pros and Cons
- Cheaper than other permanent policies
- Level premiums
- Designed to last a lifetime
- No investment risk
- Simple to understand
- Little to no cash value growth
- More expensive than term
- Not as flexible as traditional UL
As with every other form of insurance, there are going to be some advantages to choosing this particular policy. If you are currently shopping the market and looking for a cheap permanent life insurance policy that will suit your needs, now is the time to pay attention (as if you weren't already!) because it will help to make your decision. If these benefits are exactly what you need, you may have found a policy to last until you pass away and protect your family!
First and foremost, we can’t list the benefits of guaranteed universal life insurance without noting the fact that the premiums will remain the same until the age you have selected. As you age and even if your health were to deteriorate, you would still pay the same price and this is pivotal especially as you move into retirement. With this security, you are in a better position to plan your finances well in advance.
Next, you benefit from the simple layout just as we see in level term life insurance. Rather than paying for the opportunity to invest and various other expenses, you are paying for the insurance coverage and nothing else. Hopefully, you now see why this is seen as a ‘hybrid’ option and it really can work for some people if your circumstances are suited.
With no worries about investments or market crashes, there is no danger of losing your coverage later in the process. Whenever there is investment tied to your life insurance, there is always the risk of damage whether it reduces coverage or shuts down the policy completely. With sudden changes in the market, you will be comfortable knowing that your spare money is in a savings account.
Finally, the guaranteed version of universal life insurance requires a much smaller investment than its non-guaranteed counterpart. If price is one of the most important factors for you, guaranteed universal life allows you to save money. Of course, we aren't saying that you should abandon every other factor in your consideration but it is certainly something to think about!
As you can see, these are definitely some worthwhile benefits to a guaranteed universal life insurance policy. If you want the good points of permanent and term policies, this is a solution worth exploring.
In terms of disadvantages, the biggest one is that if you are looking to get a permanent policy to grow cash value, this isn't the policy for you. While it can accumulate a cash value it is at a very low and slow rate.
This type of policy, while cheaper than other permanent options, is much more expensive than term. As noted earlier if your term policy ends and you renew at an annual rate you could end up paying more. However, the initial investment is much greater with a GUL.
A GUL also isn't as flexible as a traditional universal life policy. Specifically when it comes to skipping premium payments. With a GUL if you skip or miss a payment you run the risk of shortening or eliminating the guarantees of the policy.
There we have it, your guide to guaranteed universal life insurance policies. You should now have a better idea for how they work and whether they would suit your circumstances. If you still aren't sure, take a look around at some other policies and speak with a licensed life insurance agent so you can make the best decision for you and your family.