Permanent life insurance options If you want more than a death benefit from your life insurance policy and like the idea of a long-term savings account (not insured by any federal agency) or investment, you might consider cash value life insurance policies such as whole life insurance, universal life or variable life. But be prepared to pay much higher premiums per $1,000 of coverage because you are now funding a cash value account and paying fees and expenses. In many cash value policies, the annual premium does not increase from year to year. Universal life policies allow you to fluctuate or even skip premium payments, which in turn adjusts your death benefit amounts. Unlike term life insurance, which is easily compared online, cash value insurance is often marketed by agents and brokers in a face-to-face setting, where needs and strategies can be discussed. Because of the complexity and dizzying array of possible outcomes for permanent life insurance, regulators insist that cash value insurance be sold using pre-approved illustration formats. These illustrations can run to 15 or more pages. Pay particular attention to the guaranteed death benefit and premium-payment sections because these columns contain the actual company promises. If you don’t like what you see there, walk away. Another caveat: Many cash value policies contain harsh penalties for surrendering the policies in the early years. Changing your mind within the first few years is an expensive decision. For more on cash value and an example of a policy illustration, read about cash value in life insurance: What's it worth to you?