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Permanent life insurance

Permanent life insurance is a term sometimes used for life insurance, such as whole life or endowment, where the sum assured is due to be paid out at the end of the policy (assuming the policy is kept current) and the policy accrues a cash value.

This is contrasted with Term life insurance where insurance is purchased for a specified period (such as 5, 10, or 20 years) and a benefit is only paid out if the insured dies during this period.

The earliest form of permanent life insurance was offered in the 18th century as a fixed premium fixed return product known as whole life insurance. There were untold variations on this theme over the years. One example, which became popular in the United States in the late 20th century, was "universal life insurance". This allowed the policyholder considerable flexibility as to the amounts and timing of premiums. Some versions also allowed the policyholder to partially encash the policy (as opposed to taking a loan on the security of the policy) without the interest associated with the loan provisions in whole life policies. "Variable life insurance" or "linked life assurance" is similar, but the benefits are more directly linked to investment performance, thus shifting some risk to the policyholder.

Higher premiums

As permanent life insurance program is designed to pay out a benefit in all cases, the premiums are much higher than for term assurance, which can be regarded as pure death benefit with no investment element. Thus many people select term insurance for its low cost, and they may invest the difference in separate investments. Another commonly used tactic is to utilize the slow, steady, growth within the cash value of permanent life insurance as a conservative savings strategy to hedge against the risk of the market.

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