Universal life insurance offers many features of whole life insurance, but allows greater flexibility once the policy is in force. Like whole life insurance, universal life insurance is a permanent policy. It protects the policyholder until death—however long that may be. Also like whole life insurance, universal life insurance accrues cash value over time.
Unlike whole life insurance, universal life insurance breaks the death benefit and cash value accumulation into separate components. This allows the policy holder to make changes in the policy. For example, if the policyholder wants to increase the death benefit, he or she puts more of the premium money into the insurance account and less into the cash value account. The reverse is also true. The policyholder can decrease the death benefit and increase the cash value contribution. To reduce premiums, the policyholder can pay only the insurance portion.
Once the cash value has accumulated, the policyholder can withdraw the money. The money must be paid back, or else the death benefit will be decreased. Some people use the universal life insurance policy as a savings account to draw on as they get older. Others use the accumulating cash value to increase the death benefit so they have more to leave their loved ones. Universal life allows these choices and decisions to be made throughout your lifetime.