Indexed Universal Life [IUL] Insurance Policies | All You Need To Know for 2020


Many of our clients today are looking for ways to use indexed universal life (IUL) as a way to build a tax-free income stream during retirement, save for college, or have cash in hand during an emergency. 

So let me dig in and explain some of the advantages and disadvantages of an IUL policy.


2019 LIMRA Statistics
According to the Life Insurance and Marketing Research Association (LIMRA), 23% of all life insurance purchased in 2018 has been Indexed universal life.  LIMRA is also expecting IUL purchases to rise again in 2019.


First off, Warren Buffet said it the best.  He is very good at what he does – no he is the best at what he does.  What would happen if we could all follow Buffet’s rules of investing and never lose money?


How much money would you have saved now?

How much sooner could you retire to enjoy life?


Indexed universal life or sometimes called index life insurance was created back in 1997 by Transamerica Life Insurance Company. Now there are over 40 companies that offer IUL. 


Now we are in 2020 and IUL has been around for over 23 years. 


The IUL product has evolved and gotten better each year.  The principal, however, has remained the same.


Rule No.1 is never lose money.

Rule No.2 is never forget Rule No. 1.

Warren Buffett


Warren Buffett Forbes on index life insurance



If you are interested in learning more about IUL, let me pull back the curtain and introduce you to why you would even consider buying indexed universal life insurance as a retirement savings tool.

No,  you don’t even get a tax deduction for what you pay into the policy!

Let me start off with a question:  Would you rather pay taxes on the seed or the harvest?


What is Indexed Universal Life Insurance?


It is a life insurance policy that provides a lump sum of tax-free cash to your beneficiaries when you die.

Yep, that is harsh. 

Just about everyone needs life insurance, we just don’t want to pay for it.  After all, wouldn’t you rather take that summer beach trip or winter ski trip instead of paying a life insurance premium?

 Indexed Universal Life insurance can also provide you with a lifetime of tax-free income at retirement  


This 2 minute video from North American will help you understand:

Indexed universal life insurance (IUL) is considered a permanent life insurance policy. 

Permanent as opposed to term life insurance which is temporary. 

IUL is permanent because the policy is meant to stay in force until the day you die and with proper funding, IUL will do just that.  

The premiums you pay into index life insurance earn interest and grow the cash value of your policy. 

This bucket of cash that grows inside your policy can be used for many things.  Anything really, you choose how the funds are used.  Maybe you are looking to build up a college savings fund for the kids or grandkids, or to finance your major purchases, or RETIRE. 

The cash value in indexed universal life insurance can be accessed through withdrawals or tax-free loans. 

In my opinion, tax-free loans or tax-free income are what have caused IUL to achieve ROCKSTAR growth.  Imagine getting a paycheck each month at retirement and not having to pay income taxes to Uncle Sam.  

The potential interest on these policies has recently reached around 13% and for the last 5 years, has averaged over 10% in the policy that I personally own.    What is even more amazing is that you can’t lose money in your policy if the stock market loses money. 

This policy is not a security and not invested directly in the stock market.

Even though we can enjoy stock market-like returns with IUL, our retirement money is not at risk!

Remember Buffet’s rule # 1?  Never lose money.

So the worst-case return in a year is 0%.  If the index you have chosen in your policy is negative, you get 0% – no return for that policy year.  That is a pretty good deal.  Especially if you look back to 2000 and 2008.

These years were not so good to investors, especially if you were looking to retire soon thereafter.

Indexed universal life insurance = life insurance + higher than average interest credits + income.

IUL is still life insurance but most people use it as a vehicle to accumulate cash to later fund retirement with tax-free dollars.


IUL Planning Guide


Ready For an Example of how IUL works?


Peter is married and works as an attorney and age 35 and wants to retire at 65 like most of us do.  Let’s assume that Peter is willing to fund his IUL or indexed universal life insurance policy with $5500 per year (about $450 per month). 

This is the same amount that he can put into an IRA or ROTH IRA.

Peter’s $5500 would purchase an IUL policy of around $450,000.  Part of the $5500 premium goes to pay for life insurance and expenses in the policy, the rest goes to the cash value account.

If his money grew at just over 7% per year, he could quit paying premiums at age 65 and start receiving a tax-free income stream of around $50,000 per year for the rest of his life.

What if Peter waits until he is 40?  Just 5 years later and look at the difference.  Peter’s $5500 buys an IUL policy for around $370,000 and his tax-free income at age 65 would only be a little more than $30,000 per year.

Still a great deal but look at the difference in what 5 years can make.

Peter waits till he is age 45 to start –  the IUL policy death benefit is around $300,000 and the annual tax-free income at 65 is about only around $20,000.

My point is – the longer you wait, the less you will have. 

Another great thing about indexed universal life insurance is that you are not limited as to what you can contribute like in a 401k,  IRA or ROTH IRA

Some of our clients are putting in $200 a month and some are putting in over $100,000 per year.


These examples are of policies that we specially design to produce as much income as possible.  I know that at age 35, $5500 per year sounds like a lot to pay for life insurance.


Why does Indexed Universal Life Work?


We are buying as little life insurance as possible with the $5500. 

Very little of the $5500 annual premium is actually going to purchase life insurance. 

Most of your premium is going towards savings.  Remember we get tax-deferred growth on the money that we put in the policy.

So again, what is indexed universal life insurance?  IUL is a life insurance policy that you may design in such a way that maximizes the cash value enough to generate a lifetime tax-free income stream when you are ready to quit working and enjoy life.


702(j) retirement plan graphic


Our clients come in all financial shapes and sizes.  Whether you are looking to save $200 per month or $20,000 per month, index life insurance is something to pay attention to. 

Would you believe we have clients putting $1,000,000 per year into these policies?

Not every type of permanent life insurance policy will allow you to withdraw or take policy loans against the cash value. An index universal life insurance policy does allow for cash withdrawals and loans but what if any, are the tax ramifications?

The tax treatment of IUL cash value is what makes it such a powerful investment tool.

There are a lot of questions about IUL insurance coverage and cash value.


So just how Does an Indexed Universal Life Insurance Policy Work?


This article is going to look at the tax implications of IUL cash value and how you should manage your policy in order to receive the biggest bang for your buck.  We will also be showing some real-life examples of people just like you and me that have purchased IUL and are now receiving tax-free income.

For an IUL insurance to work properly and provide you with the most tax-free income during retirement you need to do these 3 things:

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Structure the IUL properly by purchasing the smallest amount of life insurance possible.


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Fund the policy with the maximum premium but keep it from becoming a (MEC) modified endowment contract.


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Make consistent premium payments until the time you want to start taking income from your policy.


What about the pros and cons of an IUL insurance policy?  Ed Slott is known in the financial industry as America’s IRA expert.  Watch this short clip to hear what Ed Slott has to say about IUL.


The Typical IUL


First of all, let’s start by saying that many consider an IUL  as an investment vehicle with life insurance attached to it, rather than the other way around.

In fact, when designing an IUL investment for retirement income, we will recommend selecting the lowest death benefit possible since the fees for the policy are based on the death benefit and not the cash value account. 

This is easily done without an IUL calculator and retirement planning tools.

The important key here is to keep your IUL investment in compliance with the IRS definition of life insurance.

Otherwise, you will have a MEC or modified endowment contract and the income will become taxable to you.  We want to avoid this at all costs and will set this up on the front end for you.

Additional term coverage can be used to make sure that you have ample life insurance coverage. To many of our clients, this fee basis alone makes an IUL a favorable choice over mutual funds.

The IUL is set up to allow the policyholder to invest a periodic premium into the policy. A small portion goes toward the cost of life insurance. The balance is deposited in a cash account that earns interest based on the index selected. Although the options available depend on the insurer and the product, the more traditional index options available are typically:

  • The S&P 500
  • The S&P MidCap 400
  • The Dow Jones Industrial Average
  • The NASDAQ 100
  • The EURO STOXX 50
  • The Russell 2000 Index
  • Multi-Index (A blend of the S&P 500, Russell 2000, and the EURO STOXX 50)

tax treatment of IUL cash value


 As of 2019, we have seen newer index options such as: 
  • High Participation rate S&P
  • BNP Paribas Momentum 5 index
  • Bloomberg US Dynamic Balance Index II

I am sure that we will see more options coming in the near future since there are 50 or more companies that offer indexed universal life insurance to their customers.  We see companies improving these policies on a constant basis.

With many policies, you can choose to allocate premiums to the indices listed above in any combination, or you can choose to allocate to the fixed account. The fixed account generally pays interest at around 3% to 4%. This amount will fluctuate but most policies will guarantee around 3%.

The index credit is added to your cash account on the index crediting date, which is normally the business day that falls on or immediately after the index period’s end date. The policy will typically have a floor rate (minimum guaranteed) interest credit, participation rate (the amount of earnings the company will credit to the cash account), and a cap rate that limits the amount of earnings that will be credited during the index period in your IUL investment.

If you would like to see a list of our recommended index life insurance providers for 2019 you can check out each of our IUL life insurance policy reviews below by clicking on the Logos:


North American Company logosymetra

Penn Mutual logoAmerican National Lifeminnesota life review

transamericaLincoln review


This list is always being updated. Many thanks to Brett Anderson of IUL Digest for his hours of grueling research and reporting.


What’s the Best Reason to Use IUL?


Because the Indexed Universal Life policy is so versatile, it has become a remarkable tool for individuals and businesses who are looking for a wealth accumulation tool that will not be subject to income taxes when it comes time to withdraw funds for retirement or pass the death benefit on to surviving loved ones.


Estate Planning

Estate planning is for everyone, not just for the wealthy, especially if you have heirs and or charitable organizations that you want to help during your lifetime and after you die. Creating a will is certainly important if you don’t want the court to decide how the assets in your estate are distributed when you die.

And even though the government has been increasing the exemption threshold for estate taxes, there are still a lot of families whose assets will create a tax liability for their heirs. IUL (index universal life insurance) is a great solution for these situations because the death benefit is paid tax-free to beneficiaries and not considered part of the policyholder’s estate when they die.

In many cases, the policyholder will place the insurance policy in an Irrevocable Life Insurance Trust so the assets in the trust are separated from estate assets and thus not taxable to the heirs.


Non-Qualified Deferred Compensation Plan

Family owned businesses are more prevalent today than ever. In fact, these family-owned businesses now produce more than 50% of the nation’s GDP. Now more than ever, there is continuous competition among businesses to recruit and retain highly-skilled workers who are committed to the success of the business they work for.

IUL is a great solution for funding a non-qualified deferred compensation plan or executive bonus plan. Since it’s non-qualified, it doesn’t have to meet the strict rules of a qualified plan and can be offered to select employees. This plan makes it much easier for the small business owner to administrate the plan and it provides incentives for recruiting as well as a reward for loyalty and retention.


LIRP, 702(j), and 7702 Plans | Life Insurance Retirement Plans


A LIRP (Life Insurance Retirement Plan). 702(j) Plan and 7702 Plan are marketing terms for insurance policies designed to be used for retirement planning.

When you use IUL for this reason, you are setting up a wealth accumulation plan (with a death benefit) that can become a tax-free income stream during retirement.

The IUL allows the policyholder to invest in selected indices where they can earn considerable interest that is paid to the cash value account in the insurance policy. The investments, however, are protected by a “floor” rate that is established by the insurance company. The “floor” (typically 0% or above) is the minimum amount of interest the plan will earn annually which means your investment is always protected in a volatile market.

This type of retirement planning is discussed at length in three books written by David McKnight, a nationally known retirement planning specialist. The books that can help you learn the most about retirement planning with life insurance are “The Power of Zero” and “Look Before You LIRP” and now David has a new book out titled “The Volatility Shield“.


For many highly paid professionals, they soon realize that traditional retirement products like the IRA and 401(k) have constraints placed on them by the IRS that can prevent them from reaching their wealth accumulation goals and will likely fall short of having enough retirement savings that will support the lifestyle they expect during retirement.

Most companies that offer Indexed Universal Life Insurance also offer an accelerated death benefit that is far cheaper than buying a stand-alone long-term care insurance policy. 

An accelerated Death Benefit provides for the policyholder to be advanced a large portion of the death benefit if they are diagnosed with a chronic, critical, or terminal illness.


Accessing the Cash in Your IUL – How does the IRS define Tax Treatment of IUL Cash Value


Now to the good part of the story…

Unlike a traditional IRA, Roth IRA, SEP-IRA or 401(k), the Fed has placed no limit on the amount of money you can contribute to your IUL.

As a result, your cash value account can accumulate significant earnings early on. As the policy’s cash account builds up, there is no tax liability to be concerned about because the earnings inside the policy are tax-deferred. When the account has accumulated a significant amount of cash, and you want to start accessing the money, the policy will allow you to take income tax-free distributions in the form of a loan or withdrawal.

That means more spendable cash for you. Imagine a retirement income that you pay no taxes on.

You can access the cash in your index universal life insurance for any reason by taking tax-free loans or even partial surrenders that are also tax-free. This method of withdrawing the cash creates a tax-free method of supplementing your tax-deferred retirement plans such as IRA, Pension, SEP IRA, or 401k plan. 


Just like a roth IRA, an IUL can provide tax-free income for retirement


What happens to the cash value in an IUL life insurance policy when you die?

Even though you are taking tax-free income from your IUL, when you die the death benefit passes on to your family tax-free.  The loans taken against your IUL are paid back to the company with the death benefit and the remainder goes to your beneficiary.

You can literally get your cake and eat it too!

Accessing your cash through living benefits

Another way to access your cash in an IUL policy is through the living benefits. Many of indexed universal life insurance policies that we sell have critical illness coverage, chronic illness coverage, and terminal illness coverage. You can read more about this in another post about living benefits found here. Basically, you can accelerate the death benefit for certain types of catastrophic events or illnesses that prevent you from performing the simple activities of daily living.

You’re in Control

Indexed universal life insurance allows the owner to remain in control. Yes, this is life insurance, but it certainly has some of the characteristics of an investment. You have access to your cash account at any time and for any reason without the tax consequences that most other investment products have. For example, a 401k or IRA or other tax-deferred plans will have a 10% IRS penalty for withdrawing money before age 59 1/2.   On top of this 10 percent penalty, you will also pay income tax on what you withdraw from your IRA or 401k.

There is no limit on the amount you can pay into your indexed UL and if you need to you can suspend payments for a period of time if you need to.  You can change your death benefit, premium amount, and premium payment frequency. How flexible is that?

High earners and the tax treatment of IUL cash value

An IUL can be perfect for a healthy high earner.  Once you have met your limits of contribution for your 401k, IRA or SEP, your investment options are limited.  High earners who have become frustrated with other inflexible traditional investment products that are heavily regulated and high risk are perfect candidates for indexed life insurance.

Although the IRS does not allow you to roll over existing retirement plans into your indexed universal life insurance policy, many today are using Indexed universal life as a supplemental retirement plan.

Would you rather be taxed on the seed or the harvest?


Should You Buy an Indexed Universal Life Policy?


Deciding which kind of life insurance policy is best for you can be confusing. There are several factors you will need to consider to ensure you have the best coverage to fit your needs.

The first thing you should consider is why are you purchasing life insurance? IUL is not for the average American who is simply wanting to get life insurance protection for their family. If you want to protect your family with the most affordable option, IUL is not right for you. Instead, go shopping for a term insurance policy.

If you’re new to the insurance or investing market, then indexed life insurance will take some education to understand.  IUL plans are not the simplest form of life insurance, and they can be a confusing product to manage. Unless you have some working knowledge of both life insurance and indexed investing, you should definitely work with an agent that is experienced in IUL insurance.

Remember the 3 keys to getting the best out of an IUL. 

  1. You want to make sure that the policy is properly structured so that the fees and cost of insurance are at a minimum 
  2. You want to be able to consistently pay premiums until you are ready to start an income stream from your policy 
  3. And last but not least, you want to pay the maximum premium allowed by the IRS. 

This maximum is based on the death benefit that you initially purchase in the policy.  You really need guidance from an IUL professional to get the best IUL plan.

Getting Cheaper Life Insurance

One reason a lot of Americans don’t have life insurance is that they assume it’s too expensive. In most situations, it couldn’t be further from the truth. There are several ways you can get affordable life insurance protection.

One way is to cut out any tobacco you use. If you’re a smoker or use chewing tobacco or smoke cigars, then you’re going to pay much higher rates for your insurance plan. Smokers have a higher risk of being diagnosed with various types of cancer or suffering from a heart attack. The insurance company is going to offset the risk by charging higher rates. Smokers are going to pay at least twice as much for their life insurance compared to non-smokers. 

Cutting out tobacco can save you thousands of dollars every year on your life insurance coverage.

The best way to get lower premiums is to compare dozens of companies to find the lowest rate.  This is where using a life insurance agent to help you during this process is important. Every insurance company has different medical underwriting and ways they calculate premiums. The quotes you get could vary wildly. Depending on the company, you could spend hundreds more than you have to.  An experienced life insurance agent will know what company will give you the lowest rate based on your health.

Working with an Independent Insurance Agent

When you’re shopping for life insurance, either an IUL plan or one of the other options, it’s important you find the best company for you. Every insurance company is different, and all of them have various benefits.

When it comes to IUL, each company is going to have a different take on their policy.

As of 2019 there are almost 6,000 life insurance companies available to purchase life insurance from.  Many companies offer IUL policies, which means you could spend days researching companies and calling agents. Instead of wasting your precious time, let Ogletree Financial do the work for you.

We know shopping for life insurance can be a confusing and overwhelming process, especially when you’re shopping for a complex IUL policy. It’s our job to help you navigate the insurance waters and connect you with the perfect policy.

Unlike a traditional insurance agent, we are independent agents, which means we work with 40 to 50 highly rated insurance companies across the nation. If you’re looking for IUL life insurance, we can help you decide which company will give you the best coverage at the most affordable rate.

You never know what’s going to happen tomorrow, which means you shouldn’t wait another day to get the insurance protection your family deserves. Regardless of what kind of life insurance plan you buy, it’s important you have the coverage they need. If you have any questions about IUL or the other options available, please contact one of our agents today. We can answer those questions and connect you with the best possible plan available. Indexed life insurance is not that difficult to understand once you get past the basics.

If you decide to go ahead with an IUL, the insurance company you select along with our office staff will regularly update you on the status of your IUL account so they’ll be no surprises along the way.

To get immediate advice about IULs from a reputable insurance professional, contact us by completing the quote request form on this page or calling 1-800-712-8519. 

Ogletree Financial Advisors have years of experience working with all types of clients and indexed universal life insurance plans across the country.

You can depend on us correctly implementing your IUL account.


Frequently Asked Questions


How do I make sure my IUL works properly?

Make sure iul works properly

To make sure your IUL earns the interest needed to meet your goals – these 3 things must happen:
1. Structure the IUL properly by purchasing the smallest amount of life insurance possible.
2. Fund the policy with the maximum premium but keep it from becoming a (MEC) modified endowment contract.
3. Make consistent premium payments until the time you want to start taking income from your policy.

What are some good indices to link my policy to?

index options for iul

The S&P 500
The S&P MidCap 400
The Dow Jones Industrial Average
The NASDAQ 100
The Russell 2000 Index
Multi-Index (A blend of the S&P 500, Russell 2000, and the EURO STOXX 50)

What are some reasons to use IUL?

iul for retirement

An IUL policy is a very versatile cash accumulation vehicle and can be a great solutions for many reasons:

1. LIRP – Life Insurance Retirement Plan
2. Tax-Free Retirement Planning
3. Infinite Banking Concept – Create your own bank
4. Estate Planning
5. Non-Qualified Deferred Compensation Plan
6. 702(j) and 7702 plans

What’s the best reason to use IUL?

no taxes on iul income

Save on taxes in retirement, eliminate risk on your investment, create a tax free income stream.

Because the Indexed Universal Life policy is so versatile, it has become a remarkable tool for individuals and businesses who are looking for a wealth accumulation tool that will not be subject to income taxes when it comes time to withdraw funds for retirement or pass the death benefit on to surviving loved ones.

What companies have the best Indexed Universal Life?

IUL pros and cons

We track IUL companies on a monthly basis and rank them based on 20 year and 40 year values. We also pay attention to IUL features such as Company Ratings, policy costs, loan options, index options and caps to name a few. Our top 3 IUL companies as of 4 quarter 2019 are:

1. North American (Builder Plus)
2. Allianz (Life Pro+ Advantage)
3. Ameritas (FLX Living Benefits Index UL)
4. AIG – American General (Max Accumulator +)
5. Symetra (Accumulator Select)