About the Life Insurance Industry, and Why This Site Complains About It
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What's Wrong with the Life Insurance Industry?
• The #1 reason for this, is because all of my life, I've been a "do-gooder." Since I was a very little guy, my mother installed a very strong "ethical program." Did I get into the wrong industry or what!?
Everything about the life insurance company business model was, is, and will forever be; in total conflict with any ethical programming. There's not one thing in their business model that's good for anyone but themselves. Everything about it is a tangled web of self-reinforcing conflict of interests.
I know because I was one of them.
At just about every decision point, every life insurance agent I've ever worked with in-person (from '89 to '01) chose self-enrichment over the suitability or best interests of the insured.
Then came working as a Broker Dealer Rep in non-sales mode for agent / Reps of life insurance company-controlled BDs.
Then came battling these BDs to get this financial plan software approved for their Reps to use.
Then came listening to agents as software customers, telling me about their personal business models, and the different ways to move life product, after all of the traditional ways failed (all of the newfangled ways to force a square peg into a round hole).
All of this still goes on today.
But the stories begin as a green agent back in '88.
Nothing has changed, but a few abuse regulations.
• There are thousands of times more individual consumers and/or investors that need sound financial advice than there are BD reps.
So on one hand there's a large group of potential customers that hate the site for picking on their livelihood, but on the other, there's a thousand times more that are grateful for the life-saving information.
Guess which group we like better, and choose to coddle, after actually being "one of them," and working with and for them for a decade?
• Then after trying everything to get BD Reps to buy more money software from '02 to '05, it was clear going down this road was futile.
This is because BDs usually only approve of NaviPlan, Profiles, and the MoneyWhatevers, some of which have had their survival funded by the life companies, which spit out recommendations that sell the most life products.
Other financial planning software that is not tilted toward bagging the big life commissions is just "not approved" by most BD compliance departments for this reason.
This means sometimes agent / Reps are not allowed to use our software, even if they want to.
So this issue is permanently resolved, when it comes to deciding on which market to coddle.
This was years before the anti-life insurance company text was written for the site.
The site started out being as friendly as possible to BDs, but since our financial planning software didn't lead the sales process into "overselling their pet products," they rarely approved it. It wasn't until ~'05 that this was realized.
They asked for it, so this site and page are what they got.
Then after redesigning site for "Truth, justice, and the American way," individual consumers and investors started buying.
Then after several attempts to get politicians to wake up and change things, in the interest of doing what's needed for the long-term financial security of all Americans, it was clear this was also an exercise in futility. You guessed right, they're just on the "being with the program" payroll as well, via big steady political contributions they can rely on. So don't count on any of this to ever change for the better.
To help get people to "see the light," a unique program was invented to "do the math" using facts, logic, and boring numbers accounting for all of the details of whole life insurance products. Facts, logic, and math were also used to expose the fallacies about both fixed and variable annuities.
We're not "setting the world on fire" with our unique and brilliant inventions that get to the bottom of all of these mysteries, but at least we're not contributing to making things worse for consumers and investors, just to make more money.
If BD Reps would have bought more financial software, and/or if the life insurance Broker Dealers would have approved of this investing software, or in any other way just "paid me off to shut up and get with the program," then I probably would not have even went down this goody-two shoes path.
But no! Just about everyone else got paid off to get with the program (especially politicians and regulators), but not me. For some reason, you just can't have any of that. Even the "Million Dollar Round Table" league refused to pony up more than the bare minimums in salary / hourly rates or benefits when doing their computer work as a W-2 employee - and this was back in the good old days (90's) when there was big money everywhere. Everyone got the big bucks, but heaven forbid it trickle down to the people that actually do the work.
• Even if the situation (of having to choose between coddling BD Rep / agents or consumers / investors) reversed, that problem would still remain; because agent / Reps just don't buy a lot of financial planning software anyway. Why?
They don't need it because it's not required in their commission-based hard-selling business model.
That model is all about lying, deceiving, and misleading the client / customer / policyholder into buying as much of what makes the Rep the most money, in the least amount of time, work, and expense as they can afford; today.
No long-term relationship of trust is also needed, just short-term transactions that will feed the family and make the McMansion and Beamer payments over the next commission cycle.
The only other thing that matters is not getting into compliance trouble from operating in this mode (overselling of mutual fund B-shares usually gets Reps into more trouble than overselling life products).
No retirement software is needed to project peoples' financial futures to see if and when they will be able to retire.
If people have money to invest, then the only right answer to, "How much do I need to invest to retire?" is, "What's the most money you can contribute to this slick new variable annuity TODAY, and of course in automatic monthly checking account withdrawals? And if you're afraid of that, then the answer is always - what's the most money you can contribute to this totally-guaranteed safe fixed annuity TODAY, and of course in automatic monthly checking account withdrawals?"
No 401(k) retirement planning software is ever needed, because there's no way to get paid from that.
No capital needs analysis software is required to determine how much life insurance people really need to maintain either. "Why bother with any of that when all it does is cost money, waste time, makes me think, gives me a headache, causes "objections" and annoying questions that don't have anything to do with increasing commissions next week? I have to sell X amount of my BD's pet products to meet my quota by X date, or I'm terminated!"
During my Waddell & Reed "training" in '88, I was stunned when sales managers said with a straight face, "It doesn't matter how much life insurance the customer needs. The only right answer to "How much" is... How much can they afford? How big of a check can you get them to write out TODAY, and then make bank drafts out for, so we can get fed again next month? And by the way, never sell any form of term life policy, it's too much paperwork, and nobody makes money."
Everyone that started out this way, is still practicing this way, or left the biz, will tell you these have been the exact same in-person sales training pitches since the beginning of time; still are, and always will be. They are rarely recorded, and hard copy training manuals never say that, because it would be enough evidence for lawsuits (and change).
If your only tool is a hammer, then everything in your world looks like a nail. You're just given the hammer (via passing simple exams and paying a few bucks to become "licensed"), then you're well-trained on how to hammer every kind of nail (AKA overcoming objections), and then sent out to beat as many nails as possible; the bigger, harder, and deeper the better.
Then after dealing with, working for, and being trained by several other similar outfits in search of a decent place to build a practice, then hearing the same pitch, the light bulb over top of my head turned on brightly.
Because of all of this, I chose to fight for the consumers' interests instead of getting with the program of short-term self-enrichment. Having a clear conscious in the long run is much better than driving fancy cars and living in big houses. Plus I couldn't look people in the eye with a straight face and go through with what sales managers demanded. Then when I did, there were too many sleepless night fretting because I just, "screwed over good people for the quick and easy buck." I just could not live like that, sorry.
So I obviously did not "make it" in sales, which is why this site was made.
• The biggest tangled web of conflict of interests lies in their ownership and control over Broker Dealers.
The life companies produce and package products. Then most of the big ones also own and/or control their own private "captive" distribution channel - Broker Dealers.
These captive BDs then "hire" armies of agent / Reps to go out and peddle mostly their products.
If they don't own them directly, then their tangled web of compensation, kickbacks, and the same few people sitting on the boards of all of them; create enough conflicts of interests that it's essentially the same end result as the life insurance company owning the whole shebang from top to bottom.
This is why even if the BD is not owned by a life insurance company, then they are still usually controlled, captive, and/or otherwise are compelled to force their Rep / agents to only peddle from that life insurance company's menu of products.
Then even if it looks like they can peddle from more than one life company, just look closer, and you'll usually see that these two life companies have a web of conflict of interest so tangled that they are essentially owned by the same group of stockholders.
Then even if a "good BD" wants to not get tangled up in this web, they are usually punished to the point where they have no choice. In other words, the life insurance companies will pay off top BD management to the point that they fear losing that compensation if they add another life company's products to their menu (or stop peddling it altogether).
So the life insurance will pay these key people large premiums to play ball, and then will threaten to take the whole ball game away from them if they are not good soldiers. These amounts are so large, and come from so many discrete sources (e.g., winter MDTR conventions held in tropical paradises), that it forces everyone to tow their line. It would be like taking a third pay cut just to wear a White Hat instead of a Black Hat. So very few do that, just for the money. Also, their peers would label them the worst kind of traitor. So rocking the lavish party yacht would eventually lead to their permanent unemployment.
So essentially, they own and/or control the whole system from A to Z.
What's wrong with that?
First, these Rep / agents go around calling themselves "financial planners," when they are not.
For example, when I was as green as possible (along with the pack of fresh meat I was a part of), and was being "trained" by Waddell & Reed sales managers, we were forced to rehearse this line as the beginning of our pitch (and there were even fancy full-page pages in binders that you were forced to go through while giving the speech). It started out like this, "Waddell & Reed is the nation's largest financial planning company."
HA! I was as green as could be, and I was considered to be a professional "financial planner!" What a joke!
At the time, they did have the most Reps, because IDS (which turned into American Express Financial Services, and then Ameriprise), didn't exist yet - in fact they started out by copying Waddell & Reed's business model.
When the public hears these words, they think there's actual education, licensing, training, skills, and experience involved. This is because financial planners deal with most all of the facets of managing the client's financial lives. So since this is so important to one's long-term survival, there has to be all kinds of serious government regulations involved - just like a medical doctor, a lawyer, or even a barber.
HA! Just the opposite. Most are just flunkies that have no clue about how to do anything other than misuse fake dumbed-down financial planning software just well enough to peddle the life insurance company's pet products.
Next, being captive means that these salespeople can only peddle the parent life company's products. In other words, they are not allowed to shop around for the best deals for their clients. They are contractually forced to only peddle the controlling life insurance company's products (just like the largest part of the Waddell & Reed inter-tangled web of companies is their life insurance company). So everything stems from this core, and are just the sales arms that exist solely to feed it.
The whole purpose of this set up, is to move the most of the parent life company's products as possible. That's it, there is no other reason or motivation for this vertical integration of the supply chain.
There is not one good thing about this situation for anyone but the life insurance company. This is also how and why the biggest life insurance companies grew up over decades to become actual world-eating monsters, that are too big to fail; requiring zillions of taxpayer dollars to keep them in business when they actually do fail - which happens for no better reason than because of their own unbelievable greed, selfishness, short-sightedness, and stupidity.
There's much more on this subject in the free Money eBook.
So life insurance companies owning and controlling Broker Dealers is by far the largest systemic root source of conflict of interests in the financial services industry. Most all of the problems that this site whines about stems from this one thing.
• Everybody needs to wake up and smell the reality of the life insurance company business model.
There is no free lunch, nor are there any "good deals" with any life insurance company product. There never was, there aren't any now, and there never will be. They employ whole armies of the world's smartest money rocket scientists (AKA actuaries) to ensure this is always so.
There's only one good deal when it comes to the life insurance market, and that's to buy term life insurance, and then die soon afterwards from an accident - not natural causes, nor by doing yourself in (usually for two years).
This is because then they'll claim "misrepresentation," which is standard pre-setup legalese saying, "You knew you were sick and lied about that on the app, just to rip us off, so we're not paying." This is all an integral part of their business model, so it happens (and they get away with it) every day.
In the long run (20 years later), most of this worked out okay for me, considering the alternatives.
But less than 5% of my old Rep / agents that chose the product peddling road ended up "rich" over the long term (more than ten years). They are all either dead, on Social Security disability, retired and barely surviving, back to working retail, or got with the program and moved up the adviser pyramid.
Even the envious ones that took life insurance company product peddling to its epitome (AKA estate planning or wealth management) are now bankrupt, foreclosed upon, dead, divorced, broken, retired early via Social Security disability, in a state-run nursing home, in a different industry, etc.
• Then for decades, there was estate planning abuse running amok.
The short version is that agents that earned their "PhD in life insurance peddling," and graduated into being either an estate planner or a wealth manager, are all just as bankrupt and foreclosed upon in the 21st century, as they were rich and famous in the 20th century. Easy come, easy go.
FYI, the MBA of life insurance product peddling is called the "Chartered Life Underwriter" degree; having CLU letters (designation) after one's name.
The BA of life insurance peddling is ChFC, which stands for Chartered Financial Consultant.
So if you're a consumer / investor and your "financial planner" has any of these letters after their name, then you can count on hearing all about how you need to load up on way too much whole life insurance (AKA Variable Universal Life), and/or fixed or variable annuities.
The best free financial advice regarding these products, is to "just say no."
AIG, and most of the big life insurance companies, started having hard times around 2002. They depended on all of these uber-profitable estate planning shenanigans to survive and prosper since the beginning of time. They just assumed this crème de le crème business would always be there forever. So it was just an integral part of their business model. They still cling to the hopes that it will magically come back.
When it was all taken away piece by piece over a decade (from '01 to Jan '13), and they didn't want to accept it, change, nor cope; the end result is that they were barely surviving.
It all got to be too much to keep propped up around '08, as AIG proved with their desperate need for $182 billion (or 92% ownership) of taxpayer bailout money in '09.
Any industry that wears a "Black Hat" will eventually have its chickens come home to roost one way or another. This time the politicians had the taxpayer foot their enormous tab from the last few decades of partying, just so they can (and still) continue being, "too big to fail;" and the mucketymucks at the top of their food chain (that negligently caused it all) can continue to have, "more money than God."
• Now the need to continue whining about how all of these "evil-doing corporations" grew up to be "too big to fail" and played a huge factor in the '08 financial meltdown.
Since the politicians and regulators were paid off to ignore the impending doom the life insurance, and other financial industries, were about to wreak on the global economy; they were allowed to do many things they should not have been doing in the first place - since the beginning of time, totally overlooked.
For example, the fix would be to ban life insurance companies from owning, or having any financial interest in, any form of Broker Dealer. Problem solved. Another fix is to just get rid of all of the tax deferrals in all of their products.
Now, several years after the meltdown, has any of this changed for the better in any way? No! Has any politician ever thought of mentioning these fixes? No! Everyone was paid off to remain asleep at the wheel forever. Life companies are experts at feeding politicians, so there's no hope for change.
So when your agent touts, "The as safe as you can get totally-guaranteed world of whole life and/or fixed annuity investing," just say, "What about the world's largest insurer, American International Group, going under in a spectacular implosion because of their decades of deceptive shenanigans, then needing to suck up bazillions of my tax dollars just so they could stay rich and keep on being too big to fail and not going under in '09 and eating the economy and almost ending life as we know it, huh? All the government had to do was to just say no to AIG, and all of these totally-guaranteed safe products would have stopped paying; and then just like a row of dominos most of the life insurance industry would just have disappeared from the face of the earth over the next few years. What about all of that, huh?"
If you want to see an agent blush, waffle in embarrassment, then spew the usual lies and hyperbole, just say that; then shut up and then start recording their facial expressions - so you'll know when they're feeding you bullpucky the next time.
• After years of in-person experience with Broker Dealers controlled by life insurance companies (e.g., Royal Alliance and SunAmerica being controlled by the good 'ol boys at AIG), it was obvious that all of this was way out of control.
BDs are a creature of American capitalism. This means: First, the whole deal was set up and funded by the few people at the top of their food chain for one and only one reason - which is to make them, and only them, as rich as possible in the least amount of time with the least amount of work. One way I know for sure, is that I was involved in a failed BD startup in 2003.
So their primary concern is always going to be to protect their investment that went into building the business.
Their next concern is keeping their corporate overlords (their parent life company that's too big to fail, if any) happy, so they won't get replaced by people that are totally with the program.
Their next concern is avoiding legal troubles, which is why one of the owners, and/or primary stockholders, is usually an attorney.
Their next concern is how much money they can squeeze out of the operation and funnel into their personal checking accounts (while compensating the actual worker bees as little as possible in salaries, wages, and benefits, of course).
Their next concern is for the politicians that want to change their deal, so they need to be kept well-fed and happy, so nothing will ever happen on that front.
Their next concern is for the employees of the BD that actually do the work.
Customers and policyholders are next to last on their list of concerns, even though the usual corporate marketing spin says they're on top.
Concern for their Rep / agents (their lives, their families, and their careers) are always at the very bottom.
This is especially so with life insurance orientated BDs. The Rep / agent is basically just the newest serving of fresh meat that has about a 10% chance of surviving (their sales quotas) over the next year.
Agents and Reps come and go monthly, so they don't care. All they care about is how much of your life they can suck out of you while you're temporarily stuck helplessly bleeding on their meat hook.
Then once they feel they've sucked as much life out of you as they can, then you're usually "terminated" to make room for the next serving of fresh meat that's, "more ambitious."
If you think this is a harsh analogy, then either ask someone that's been freshly terminated (so they'll remember the details), or you can play the role of prey and find out yourself.
They basically treat their Rep / agents like expendable meat. It's either their life insurance peddling way or the highway. The whole deal is so far past ridiculous that most of them just need to go under and start over from scratch.
Most Rep / agents hate living or dying week-to-week via spewing deceptions, misinformation, omissions, and lies. Some feel bad even when they earn up to 55% initial commission on some first year whole life policies. They see themselves as just used car salesmen in fancy suits. They know they're only surviving because they've been well-trained to prey upon the financial ignorance of their sheeple. Some know they're going straight to hell just for not telling their sheeple their life insurance needs dramatically decline over time.
But the reality is, there's no escape once this path is chosen. Once you're branded as being employed as a "life insurance agent," the chances of getting a salaried or hourly day job that pays more than $15 per hour (even without benefits) is slim to none, and Slim left town. In other words, if you are a life insurance agent, or are currently unemployed and your last "job" was being an agent, then a financial services firm with a good W-2 job would rather hire someone fresh out of college with no industry experience, than take a chance on someone like you.
There weren't any decent "day jobs" in the financial services industry before the financial meltdown, so there definitely won't be any coming in your lifetime (or that of your kids).
So there's really only one way out - and that's to endure the enormous pain and suffering of taking the cold-turkey giant evolutionary step of becoming your own RIA.
The only other ways out are to go back to your old day job in an industry other than financial services (e.g., "paper or plastic"), rely on someone in your family like your spouse for income, go on Social Security disability and "retire early," rack up zillions more in debt by going back to college to get trained for a new occupation, be a customer service rep selling P&C insurance at your local State Farm office (if you're lucky), or just die.
• Back to consumers / investors / policyholders: With all forms of annuities, and some whole life policies, there is no escape once you sign their contract and pay premiums.
With most all other investment vehicles, you can usually just sell once you realize you've screwed up (even with a huge loss).
But once you buy an annuity, you're stuck with it - unless you either want to pony up both stiff tax, and early redemption, penalties (AKA back end loads) to liquidate it.
You can't sell an annuity once you sign their contract, like you can with a mutual fund, because the only entities that are "allowed" to buy them (back) from you would be the life company that sold it to you.
There is no liquid "marketplace" for annuities, and it takes an act of God to force a life company to buy back your annuity, unless you hire an expensive lawyer that has enough evidence to prove that you were duped.
Then this takes a major legal war - where you'll have to find, hire, and deal with a law firm that does nothing but this. Then they'll want a huge part of your pay out, which at best is limited to your original investment. Then these rarely win because they'd need to prove the agent wrongfully took advantage of someone with "limited mental capacities" just to make a quick buck. That pretty much describes every annuity sale.
So these cases rarely go anywhere. Then there's the hundreds of hours of work you'll need to spend managing this situation. Then if they do win, most of the time you'd get more money back if you just cancelled and paid all of the fees, charges, commission, taxes, and penalties.
The legal system says that you should have "caveat emptored," while you had the government mandated chance (during the "free-look period"). You were asleep at the wheel when that happened; so you snooze, you lose.
Or you can wait until you're 60 years old to get paid very poorly from it, or you can "1035 exchange" it for essentially the same thing with the same, or different life insurance company.
There are no other ways out of annuities, period.
Then if you annuitize any annuity, so you're getting the paltry life income stream, the only way out is literally death. That's it, once you buy by signing, then you're stuck for life.
This almost total lack of liquidity is enough reason to whine profusely all by itself. We've seen many investors run into a temporary financial pinch and ended up having their lives permanently ruined via "usury interest rates" (AKA credit cards), because they got suckered into investing their life savings with a life insurance company.
Now if you're thinking that you can always just tap your money tax-free via "policy loans," then again, and as usual; you just didn't do your math homework yet. This is another example of life insurance company deception.
Also, once you buy most any whole life insurance product, you are also stuck until the cows come home (especially if something happens to your health and you become "uninsurable").
If you decide to stop feeding the beast and let it die a natural death, then (if you do the math correctly) you'll have lost a huge portion of your "investment" for nothing.
Even with the worst dog meat stock, ETF, or mutual fund, if you lose 90% of your money when you sell it, you'll get to carry-forward a great tax loss benefit. You can't do that with any product from any life insurance company.
• There's no other product, nor industry, on the face of the planet that fleeces its sheeple the way the life insurance industry does, via their one-sided ironclad contracts.
This is because these products are so cleverly and deceptively packaged, sold, contractually locked in, and so profitable; that hiring the most expensive Washington lobbyists to ensure the good times never end is just a matter of no-brainer course.
Then the life insurance company has to make enough profit to sustain its business model, which is 100% based on maximizing profits (and dividends) for their stock shareholders, and not policyholders (you).
How do you think they can afford billions in TV ads, own the most expensive gold-plated ivory-tower office buildings - fully-staffed with uber-expensive full-time employees with full-month-long vacations and lavish benefits, with the never-ending parades of conventions and award ceremonies for the highest producing agents, retreats, high dividend payouts to shareholders; and just constant decedent parties?
This mega-money doesn't magically appear from thin air, "brilliant Wall Street financial innovations," nor efficient management. It comes right off the top of the check you wrote to them. The life insurance company business model is not a pretty one, unless you're an employee, agent, or a stockholder.
Here's the bottom-line conclusion on all forms of annuities (and all forms of whole life insurance): If you work in the life insurance business, either as an agent or an employee of a life company, or hold life insurance company stock; then annuities and whole life insurance are the greatest invention since the wheel. This is because they pay by far the most in immediate commissions of any financial product available today, making them the most profitable part of the life insurance company business model.
But if you're a consumer / investor / policyholder, then not so much. Just "do the math" and you'll see in a New York minute.
In stark contrast, you are (usually) the only shareholder when you invest in mutual funds; and relative to life companies, there's no conflicts of interest. There's still the usual parade of "Wall Street shenanigans" with mutual funds, but it's a minor pittance compared to life insurance companies.
• Here are some general observations when working as a case writer (doing their computer work, because most didn't even know what Excel was back in the good old days) for agent / Reps in-person as a W-2 employee from '89 to '01:
They were by far the most lazy, selfish, greedy, infantile, egocentric, unprofessional, unethical, stupid, and dishonest lot of them all. You can't trust anything they say, write or do; and then it was like trying to pull the horn off of an angry rhino just to get them to pay their bills.
Most are of the personality types that would "sell their mother's soul to the devil for a penny" if they could. You can usually trust the typical life insurance agent as far as you can pick them up and throw them with one hand. This goes for their personal lives, family lives, their love lives, as well as their professional lives.
In order to cope with it, of the ~50 that work was done in-person to the point that they opened up on a personal level: ~65% were alcoholics (if you weigh under 175 pounds and average three average-size cans of lite beer per day, then by definition you're an alcoholic), ~75% were tobacco addicts, ~40% were doing illegal drugs, a third were diabetic to the point of having to inject themselves with needles daily, half had health problems so severe that they died over the next several years, ~25% were addicted to prescription drugs, and ~20% were cheating on their wives, or did in the past year.
So in total, from personal experience, over 90% of BD agent Reps that specialize in peddling whole life and annuities, have substance abuse, or other similar problems, so severe that as people, they are just "hopelessly broken."
This is the only way their conscious lets them get to sleep at night, and/or be able to look at themselves in the mirror.
The life insurance industry does not turn good people evil. Just the opposite, bad people just naturally gravitate to "evil-doing business models;" because they know they are, "...going to burn in hell anyway, might as well get rich and have fun in the short time I got left!" This is actually a quote from an ex-planner and ex-adventure buddy in Glendale, AZ in '03, when I tried to convert him to honest Fee-based work.
Rotten people just smell the sheeple from miles away and are drawn to the easy money, just like wolves are drawn to a bleeding sheep.
Doing the minimal amount of work needed to become a life insurance agent is a small price to pay to finally find a job, career, and a way of life that best suits their basic personality. It's a natural fit for both parties. That's why there will always be armies of them.
None of this is made up, this is just the way life works when the government is paid off to ignore it.
All of you seasoned advisors are now rolling on the carpet laughing, as most everyone in the biz more than a few years already knows this.
They're not financial planners, they're just product peddlers. You need to know the differences.
If it looks like a duck, walks like a duck, and quacks like a duck, then it's a duck, regardless of what it wants to call itself.
Back in the good 'ol days (before the Great Meltdown), there existed the one and only form of life insurance that wasn't a rip-off. It was called Annual Renewable Term life insurance.
This was the deal where you're only buying pure life insurance for one year. You paid a reasonable premium, and then got what you asked for - just life insurance and nothing but straightforward life coverage - no bells, no whistles, no "savings account," and little-to-no conflict of interest shenanigans.
These were great if you just wanted a $25k policy to pay for final expenses (your last round of medical bills, funeral, burial, etc.). You could pay as little as $50 to $250 per year, and problem solved.
Not anymore, too good of a deal for the policyholder means little-to-no profit for the life insurance company business model.
Why did that product line totally disappeared from the marketplace in the 21st century?
Simple, the actuaries told management that this was the least profitable deal they offered, because it was the most honest product they offered. It's not even worth processing the paperwork anymore. They can't have that when profit margins are being squeezed on all sides, and forecasted to get worse.
So they all just got rid of it all. Problem solved. From the way ART disappeared around the same time, they must have all cartel / cabal colluded together. If not, then all of that business would have went to the one or few carriers that held out, and you'd still be able to find it somewhere.
Now when smart people want an honest deal, there are none, period. Now it's all "Level Term Insurance." This too is just another deceptive round of shenanigans.
Management just looked at recent history of the average number of years insureds were renewing their ART policies, and found that the average was sinking below five years. When peoples' budgets get squeezed, as they were like never before during the Great Recession, one of the first things to go are "luxuries," like expensive life insurance.
So here's the thought process from life insurance company management: "Hmmmm... The average time policyholders are maintaining their ART policies is down to under five years these days, and still declining. That's not good for profits. How do we fix that? I know, only sell five-year level term! Sheeple are clueless about the fact that they're paying the same level term premiums each year that are just an average over the next five years (which means you pay much more in the first couple of years than you should, around 20% more, then the "correct" amount for the third year, then around 20% less than you should for years four and five). Since this is only an honest and fair deal (and therefore not profitable) for them if they stick with the program by maintaining the policy the whole five years, and since they're too broke these days to do that, and too stupid to know any better; we got them right where we want them! So this is how to squeeze an additional 10% to 30% premium out of the same three-year policy. What genius, so we'll do that - all we have to do is say we don't sell ART anymore, the sheeple don't know it even existed in the first place so we won't even have to say that; and then they'll think they're avoiding all of our shenanigans by not buying whole life. This will still allow us to fleece them, without them even knowing it. Then even if they do catch on, so what? There's no other options anymore - you have level term and whole life, and that's it. Since all us good 'ol boy competitors got rid of ART at the same time, the sheeple are totally stuck giving us all of their fleece if they need life insurance, just like with whole life and annuities. Then because of the "great race to the bottom," they can't even get life insurance from their employers anymore. So let's do that; pure sheeple sheering genius! Now I need the board to give me another bazillion dollar bonus for thinking up this brilliant new "financial innovation!" It's a wonderful life, God bless America!"
So that's what they did. Try to find straight ART from any major carrier today, and then you'll see.
The first thing they'll do is pretend they don't even know what you're talking about, "ART? What's that, never heard of that. What's that stand for? Anybody ever heard of that, no, sorry nobody knows anything about that, you've been misinformed."
So now you know. If you need life insurance, and think you can avoid their shenanigans just by not buying their whole life policies, think again. Unless you feed the beast over the whole (at a minimum five-year) term, you're just letting them rip you off from around 10% to 30%.
To make things even worse, five-year level term policies are even slowly becoming extinct. Soon you'll be "lucky" to even find ten-year level term. The longer the term, the greater the rip off.
If you think this is fabricated to tell a story that just makes them look bad, just go out and try to find ART. You'll see it just doesn't exist anymore - anywhere.
Maybe you can get them to sell you an ART policy if the face amount is ginormous, like $5M or more. Then it would be, "Oh yeah, I remember now, I think there might be one of those left down in a box in the basement, let me check, oh yes here it is, only one left, better buy now before someone else gets it!"
But try to find ART for under $100k and they'll just pretend they never heard of such thing.
The best way to see is to query an "insurance broker," whose function is to shop the whole market for you to find the best carrier for your needs. They know the whole market. Then ask about when did ART go the way of the dinos, then you'll get it.
It's just a different version of the exact same shenanigans that is the 21st century life insurance company business model.
Again, and as usual, "the government" doesn't care - they've been well paid-off to ignore all of this, and want you to just say baaaaa and ignore it all too.
The Bottom Lines:
Just say no to all forms of whole life insurance products, and all forms of annuities.
They are all financial poison and should be avoided at all costs if you care about your money and want it to work for you, and only you, long-term. It's just as simple as that.
The only types of insurance that's not a "rip-off" offered by a life company are disability insurance, long-term care (nursing home policies), and health insurance.
There's little-to-nothing wrong with these essential insurance policies, and you should always maintain adequate coverages.
Home and vehicle insurance is also known as Property and Casualty insurance (P&C), and is a whole different industry altogether. It's also essential to maintain these adequate coverages.
There are adequate government regulations for the P&C industry, and most of the time for the disability and long-term care markets; but still only some of the time for the health insurance markets (even after Obamacare).
But beware, your good neighbor P&C agent (e.g., State Farm) also very much wants to peddle their whole life insurance (and sometimes annuities) too! This is because it pays them dozens of times more per dollar of gross premium than mundane car or home insurance.
Just say no to all of that too.
It's the whole life insurance and annuity marketplaces that are allowed to totally "run amok," and wreak global havoc on the long-term lives of investors; and on the economy and humanity in general.
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