If you keep a Return-of-Premium policy in force for the entire term, say 20 years, the insurance company will refund the premium payments you made over that 20-year period. Of course, however there is a price to be paid for this added benefit. The premiums for return-of-premium policies are considerably higher than premiums for standard term policies. The price difference can be 20%, 30% or more. Another factor to consider is that term insurance rates have dropped considerably over the past decade; mostly because people are living longer. If you own a standard term policy, there's really no harm done in dropping that policy in favor of a newer and cheaper term policy. But if you own a return-of-premium policy, dropping the policy before the full term has expired means that you will have paid a high price for your term insurance coverage and the premiums you paid won’t be fully refunded. At best, you'll get a partial refund of the money you put into your policy to that point.
Key Policy Revisions
When considering a term purchase, one thing to keep in mind is that not all term policies are the same. Some may include certain provisions as standard features, while others may require you to pay extra to add these features as "riders" to your policy. So if you're comparing term policies, remember that price is not the only factor to consider. Ask your agent about provisions such as:
- Accelerated death benefits - allows a terminally ill person to collect a significant portion of his or her policy's death benefit while that person is still alive
- Disability waiver of premium - waives premiums when a policy owner suffers a long-term disability, typically one lasting six months or longer
- Accidental death benefits - doubles or triples the benefit in the case of death by accidental means
Another provision that is very important is something called convertibility. Some insurance contracts only allow "conversion" in the first few years of the policy, while others allow it at any point during the term. This valuable feature allows you to convert your term policy to a permanent policy (e.g., whole life insurance) without submitting evidence of insurability. Being able to convert to a permanent policy is a great option to have in the event that circumstances in your life change such as failing health or maybe just the realization that coverage is needed for a longer period of time than you originally anticipated. That's why when purchasing a term policy, it's never a bad idea to find out what kind of permanent policies are offered by the company you are considering. Some companies may only have strong term insurance offerings, while others may have very competitive products in both categories.