Borrowing Against Life Insurance: 4 Pros and Cons

“A bank is a place that will lend you money if you can prove that you don’t need it.” 

Bob Hope

Months ago, we asked the question, “Should you borrow against your life insurance policy or withdraw from it?” Today, we continue the topic of borrowing against life insurance by looking at the advantages and disadvantages of doing so.

Image shows signpost with many financial options. What should you do with your money? Should you take a life insurance loan? Should you be borrowing against life insurance?

The Advantages of Borrowing Against Life Insurance

A life insurance loan can be a great way to access your cash while still earning interest and dividends on your full savings. However, because you’re taking a loan against your policy, many people write off this strategy. Here are some of the advantages we think make it worthwhile to borrow against your policy with a life insurance loan.

1. It’s Simple and Quick

There’s NO QUALIFICATION process, no need to fill out an application, have your income or credit checked, nor brace yourself for high fees and taxes (in most situations, see below exceptions). You’ll have your loan in 5-10 business days for most companies, and occasionally they have faster options. This means that if you’re in a pinch and you need cash for whatever reason, you can get it. The bank, on the other hand, may make you jump through hoops and fill out paperwork and still decline your application.

2. It’s Flexible

You can borrow about 95% of the cash value amount of your whole life policy from most mutual insurance companies. And when you borrow against your insurance policy, you can design your own repayment schedule, modify it as needed, or even continue down the path of life without repaying it if your circumstances require. In contrast, most types of non-insurance loans have strict repayment schedules that may or may not work well for you. Especially if what you want is just a little bit of breathing room in your finances.

3. It’s Cheaper Than You Think

Life insurance loans are running in the 4–8% range right now. Yet that does not equate to a bank loan for the same amount. This is because you’re borrowing against life insurance that likely has an internal rate of return of 4-5%, depending on your age and how long you’ve had the policy. And since you are borrowing against your cash value, not withdrawing the cash value, your account continues to grow and earn dividends, which offsets the interest on the policy loan.

4. It’s (Probably) Not a Taxable Event

Although there are exceptions, typically the IRS will never know that you borrowed the money. Like taking a second mortgage or line of credit against a rental property, a policy loan is not considered “income” in most situations.

What Happens to the Interest You Pay on a Life Insurance Loan?

There is a misunderstanding about borrowing against your life insurance. Sometimes people say that you’re “paying yourself interest,” which is not exactly accurate. You’ve neither borrowed from yourself nor are you paying yourself interest. What’s really happening is you’ve borrowed from the insurance company, using your cash value as collateral. The interest is likewise being repaid to your insurance company.

However, in a roundabout way, the interest benefits all policyholders because, with a mutually owned insurance company, they pay policyholders dividends (which represent profits). In a nutshell, interest on loans made to policyholders turns into profit for the company, which translates to future dividends for you, the policyholder.

As the Truth Concepts blog states in a post entitled, “Life Insurance Loans: Where does the interest go?

This is a good deal for everyone because the insurance company earns money, the owner of the policy gets use of the money while their cash value keeps growing, and all the other policyholders know the insurance company is investing their money properly, since the interest charged is reflective of the rates in the marketplace.”

The Disadvantages of Borrowing Against Life Insurance

1. Fewer Assets for Yourself

One disadvantage you may always have when borrowing money from a life insurance policy (or a property) is that you’ll have fewer assets to use or borrow against (unless you are leveraging your asset to acquire a greater asset), plus of course interest to pay. So you always want to evaluate whether the loan is necessary or not, or whether you can simply reduce your spending and avoid taking the loan in the first place.

Always take the time to talk with your advisor or agent to understand the impact that borrowing against your life insurance will have! Don’t assume that just because you have “permanent life insurance” that you can or should borrow against it. Some forms, such as Universal Life and Equity Indexed Universal Life (EIUL) operate very differently from whole life insurance.

2. Fewer Assets for Heirs

Although you don’t “have to” replay loans against your cash value, unpaid life insurance loans (and their interest) reduce total benefits to beneficiaries. One solution to this quandary is to fund some Paid-Up Additions, or PUAs, as you repay the loan. With a PUA, approximately 95% of the money goes to cash value, and about 5% or so goes to incrementally increase the death benefit. PUAs raise the cash value amount available to you for future years, while also raising the death benefit for heirs.

3. Potential Taxes

Outstanding loan balances may trigger a “tax event” (typically the issuance of an IRS Form 1099) if you borrow more than you’ve saved (because of growth) and choose to cancel or surrender your policy at a later date. Certain types of “cash-rich” insurance policies have been designated “modified endowment contracts” (or MECs) by the IRS. Loans against MECs are not tax-free. If you suspect that your contract might be a MEC, be sure to ask about the loan’s possible tax consequences before you borrow. (A properly structured whole life policy will not be an MEC.)

4. Cash Value is Your Policy’s “Emergency Fund”

If you’ve borrowed a high percentage of the policy’s cash value and do not pay premiums on time, your policy may lapse, resulting in the loss of coverage (the “death benefit” paid to the beneficiary) and possibly triggering a further tax event. Since cash value is like the equity of your death benefit, and because cash value acts as the collateral for your loan, having a policy implode like this can mean you’re left with very little in the end. You’ve got to have the discipline (and cash flow) to save into your policy and pay your loans.

Is There a Better Option Than Borrowing Against Life Insurance?

That depends on the situation. Sometimes, there could be better options than life insurance loans that have even lower costs. For instance, it’s hard to beat a tax-deductible Home Equity Line of Credit (HELOC) at rates of as little as 3% APR.

Of course, there are fees and interest involved in borrowing money against a property, and now many lenders are charging substantial prepayment fees for short-term borrowers. Since the real estate market crash, it has also become much more challenging to qualify for those loans. Both the borrower and the property must fit lending requirements, such as sufficient equity, a steady job with income several times any debt payments, and good credit.

Borrowing from or taking money from retirement accounts can generate fees and taxes, and because of employer plan restrictions, some investors find themselves unable to borrow against their 401k, even in emergencies. When they can borrow, they will be typically limited to $50k or 50% of the vested funds, whichever is less. And unless the reason is a down payment on a home, the funds must be paid back within 5 years. Another major issue is that you’ll have to replace the borrowed funds with after-tax dollars—which will then be taxed AGAIN at withdrawal! (unless it is a Roth)

The rules for IRAs are even stricter. They are typically not accepted as collateral and you can only access your funds for a 60-day period in what is considered a “tax-free rollover,” and that time frame is firm. Beyond the 60 days, you’ll pay income taxes, and a penalty, plus lose the ability to put the money back in your IRA.

Should YOU Borrow Against—Or Begin—A Whole Life Insurance Policy?

There’s no better time to start a whole life insurance policy than today, while you’re thinking about it. Besides the benefits of a life insurance loan, there are also many advantages to having insurance. You can protect your income and assets, which helps you live life more freely knowing you’re protected. Plus, it takes some time to build up cash value. If you think you may want to use a policy for life insurance loans someday, it’s a good idea to get started with your saving now.

We can help you through the process of getting whole life insurance, and we can tailor it to your specific desired and financial objectives. If you’re ready, let’s get started.

At Prosperity Thinkers we use Truth Concepts™  financial software to compare different financial strategies. We show you how to create better money methods, and save money with certainty, apart from market risks and instabilities. We can help you consider opportunity costs, taxation, risk and returns, and more. Contact us to find out more.

44 thoughts on “Borrowing Against Life Insurance: 4 Pros and Cons”

  1. I am 64 years old and have had to take early retirement this year due to health reasons. I’m in the process of selling my home, and will be fine financially once that happens. However, I am currently strapped for cash and need to free some up for the interim. I was considering surrendering one of my 3 whole life policies until I read about the possibly tax implications. This policy also has a current loan against it for about $6000. The net cash value of the policy is $11000. I can take an additional loan of up to $10000+. I no longer have anyone dependent upon me, as I am a widow and my children are on their own. Would you recommend taking the loan or surrendering the policy?

    1. Hi Della, Kim recommends definitely taking a loan, which you can pay back when you sell your home. This keeps your options open. An option that might be good for you would be to annuitize the policy for income when you are 75+.

      IF you are still making premium payments on the policy (and don’t want to!) you have some potential options. See

      Hope that helps!

  2. Hi, my father took out a loan against a policy of $25,000 about 12 years ago. He hasnt been able to pay it back. The current balance is $ 9560 and interest is $750 per year. He is thinking about surrendering the policy for $4000. I am against it but he is on a fixed income and can’t afford to keep paying $750 in interest every year. What should he do? Thank you in advance

    1. Hi Jaye, thanks for your comment. Your father should be able to take a withdrawal from the policy (not a loan) and actually pay the loan off! It will reduce the size of the policy, but much better than cancelling. He should contact the company directly and ask about this option.

      Alternatively, perhaps you (or another sibling) would be interested in purchasing the policy from him. It could be a “win-win.” As the purchaser (new policy owner), you would assume the policy loan, pay it off, make any additional premium payments (of applicable) and become the beneficiary (if you aren’t already). Oftentimes this makes sense for both parties. Hope that helps!

    2. Jaye, one more thing, you might find this article helpful, 7 Ways to Save a Life Insurance Policy:

    3. Hi Jaye, I believe (I hope!) we replied a couple months ago, but comments have been lost in a new website launch. But the best solution in your father’s situation is likely just doing a withdrawal from the policy to pay off the loan. It will reduce the size of the policy, but much better than watching interest grow or surrendering the policy, assuming there is still enough cash value to pay off the loan. Alternatively, it could make sense for you or a sibling to pay off policy loan to keep it in force, but you’ll want to contact the insurance company and do the math. Hope that helps!

  3. My employer’s credit union offers their associates life loans for up to 100% of the Loan Available Balance of whole life policies. For example, $30,000 for 84 months at 2% interest and a collateral assignment is made. We don’t have a whole life policy yet but I’m going to take one out. Since it’s a new policy, how long will it take to have a substantial amount to borrow against using the credit union’s life insurance loan? We have other life insurance so I don’t necessarily care about using the death benefit of this one, nor having a collateral assignment made. Just wondering how long we have to have a whole life policy in force before making a loan like this against it.

    1. Hi Kimberly, that’s fantastic that your credit union offers that! More institutions are recognizing that whole life cash value is excellent collateral. We always encourage people to start with their own bank or credit union, as that type of lending may be available but not advertised.

      As you might recognize these types of loans can be excellent for down payments, cars and other major purchases, as the growth of the cash value can more than offset the costs of a 2% loan. Plus the death benefit gives additional protection and peace of mind (especially as it is permanent and it will also grow… it sounds like you have term insurance, which is useful but of course temporary.)

      Your cash value growth will depend on many things, such as if you are making annual or monthly payments, how much you can save, also your age, health, and the policy riders that you choose. (Some will slow the growth, one accelerates it tremendously.) I would recommend getting a policy illustration so that you can see exactly how that works. I’ll have someone from our team send you an email and if you like, we’d be happy to illustrate how a policy might perform for you and what your expected as well as minimum guaranteed cash values would be.

  4. Dear Kate,
    I’m about 5 years into my whole-life policy. I borrowed heavily to buy more PUA’s. I now see this wasn’t the wisest course. Should I try to pay back/down the policy loan balance before investing in other safe alternative investments? Thanks…

    1. Hi Shaun, I checked with Kim… she said yes to pay off those policy loans first. Then you won’t be leaking $ (the policy loans tend to cost a little more than the Cash value earns, plus you’ll want to be sure you’ll got savings/liquidity before investing for your own financial stability.)

  5. Can I use my whole life insurance policy as collateral for a loan if its a brand new policy? I’ve only had it for 6 months and I want to use it as collateral.

    1. Hi Erica, I’ll answer in two ways, as I’m not sure of your exact situation. If you’re looking to use your cash value for collateral, yes, you can do that, typically you can borrow up to 90% of your cash value (contact the company for details and instructions). Depending on how your policy was set up, you may or may not have much cash value yet, but if the policy maximized your Paid-up-Additions, or PUAs, half or more of the premium you’ve paid could already be accessible as cash value and available to borrow against. You cannot use your death benefit as collateral, though, to be clear.

      Now if you are seeking a bank loan and/or a small business (SBA) loan, they may require life insurance as a condition of the loan (not exactly collateral), and they would be looking at the death benefit amount and not the cash value amount. And yes, a new whole life insurance policy should do the trick. Hope that helps!

  6. If I borrowed max amount out my life insurance and did it pay nothing back been and its it’s only been 2weeks can i borrow money again

  7. Need help determining interest charges. Borrowed 15,000 @ 8% per year. Began repayments of 400 first month and continued each month. Average length between payments is 30 days. What is the formula to determine interest charges? Our insurance company seems not to be able to advise us as to how they determine interest. Off the record, our policy is with TIAA. They seem very confused that we are even paying the loan back. My common sense formula would be principal minus payment times 8% divided by 365. What do you say? Thanks.

    1. The 8% is an annual percentage rate, like a bank would charge,
      levied against any outstanding principal, probably compounded monthly,
      so your $400 a month is currently reducing principal and the interest
      gets charged annually at anniversary date, and you get a bill for this interest.
      However, if you don’t pay it, they just add it to the principal of the loan. (Though we recommend paying the loans off as you are!)

  8. My son has 1.5 years of college remaining in which tuition is around 24K per year. At this point we are looking into paying for the remaining schooling by utilizing our whole life policy. Note that this is our last to put thru college!
    Currently the annual premium for mine is $583.44. and $611.96 for my wife’s with a death benefit of around $85,000.00 each

    Here are some of the options that I have with the policies.
    Surrender the policies which could create a taxable event:
    Surrender Value: $21,120.52 Taxable Gain: $ 5,272.61
    Surrender Value: $28,256.75 Taxable Gain: $11,470.75

    You can take a loan from the policies which would not create a taxable event.
    Maximum Loan Available: $20,622.34
    Maximum Loan Available: $26,734.34

    You may withdraw the dividends available in the policy which would not create a taxable event but you would not be able to repay the dividends which reduces the cash value of the contract.
    Dividends Available For Withdrawal: $ 8,992.57
    Dividends Available For Withdrawal: $11,339.53

    Any suggestions would be extremely helpful.

    1. Bob, I apologize for my delay in getting Kim’s answer back to you (though you may have also heard from her directly), but she says “Absolutely do the loan, that is what it is for. And then you can spend the next few years paying it back (once your son graduates)
      and your policy growth will be largely unaffected 🙂 ”

      While you can take withdrawals in a pinch, the way to maximize the asset is to keep the death benefit in place and keep the cash value growing!

  9. I opened a whole life insurance policy a year ago with the purpose of creating a safe place for cash that could earn for me later. I just hate the feeling that I’m handing my money over to the insurance company and that it’ll take 7 years (best case scenario) to have my cash value equal what I put in (using the guaranteed projection column). After that, it seems like it’ll be an ok deal?? After maxing out 401k’s and HSA’s is this a good place to put money other than into a savings account?

    1. Hi J, We acknowledge, the first few years can be tough… and YES, we think whole life is an EXCELLENT place for cash. Realize that when your cash value equals your premiums, you have ALSO created a permanent death benefit over and above that, essentially doubling what you have put in, without risking stock market downturns. (Cash value continued to earn 4-5% while stocks lost up to half their value in the financial crisis.)

      Like buying a home, it is a long-term proposition, but building equity that is liquid and that can be collateralized creates an important financial foundation that is too often skipped. If you have not yet read Live Your Life Insurance, the C.L.U.E. concept may be helpful for you. Whole life insurance has very modest rates of return (and you are correct, the first couple of years the return is negative), but your 401(k) won’t give you guaranteed growth and liquidity for emergencies AND opportunities that can be used as you see fit… and it is important to have that financial flexibility. Also important to have Control, Liquidity, Equity and Use of your own money (CLUE), which is much more limited in the 401(k) environment.

    1. To clarify, with an SBA loan, life insurance is typically a condition for the loan, but it is the borrowers anticipated ability to repay through their business profits that makes it a qualifying loan in the first place, not the death benefit.

      Permanent insurance cash value (rather than death benefit) is much more acceptable as collateral because it is liquid, particularly with whole life insurance where gains are always locked in.

      Except in very unusual cases, such as that of terminal illness (in which case a policy might be sold for more than the cash value, or a special terminal illness or long-term care rider may allow the insured to access part or most of their death benefit), death benefits are just that. Death benefits can be extremely useful to allow you to spend other assets down first, but they won’t typically put money directly in your pocket.

  10. I have a life insurance the dont have a cash value only a death benefit I would like to use as a collateral for a loan

    1. Hi Frank, SBA loans (small business administration) loans do accept life insurance with no cash value as collateral, but there must be proven (or anticipated) profits from a business to secure that type of loan. Other types of loans may possibly require term insurance as well as additional security for a lender, but as the insurance companies themselves do not lend against a death benefit, this type of loan may be difficult to obtain. In other words, a death benefit alone won’t typically guarantee a loan, generally you will need steady income, other assets, a business plan, etc. to qualify. I hope that helps!

  11. what FIDELITY BANK give loans because I contacted the bank in my areas and they do not give collateral loan against your life insurance policy.

    1. Hi Alice, yes, not all banks will make secured loans with life insurance cash value as collateral. If you have a relationship with a banker you should try that, and always mention you are willing to use the cash value for collateral. Still, many larger banks don’t make such loans, it’s just outside of what they do, though it never hurts to ask!

  12. Thank you Kate. THis was not set up as a deferred compensation plan. As a manager the owners purchased this policy for me many years ago and always planned on giving it to me when I retired or left their employment. The policy is in my name. THey have paid the premiums for all the years. There are no tax implications from the policy when I retire and it is handed over to me. IF there are tax implications from the employer paying back the loan is what the account is not understanding if there are tax implications on for me , since the company pays back the loan for me, they, as the owner paid it back. It wasn’t compensation so there shouldn’t be tax implications we think………… I think the problem is when the loan was taken out there is nothing on the company books about the loan what does the expense of paying it back go to on the books , so the accountant said it is a question for LIfe insurance experts. My policy is a whole life. The accountant said he doesn’t know what on the P&L it would be expensed to? Wouldn’t red flags go up on an audit and if the loan went to me would they come back to me for income taxes even though it wasn’t considered compensation, would they consider the pay back compensation ?? YEs, its confusing but I have read in material on Taxation of life insurance , and I quote ” if you take out a loan against the cash value of your insurance policy, the amount of the loan is not taxable (except in the case of an MEC) (which whole life is not). THis result is the case even if the loan is larger than the amount of the premiums you have paid in. Such a loan is not taxed as long as the policy is in force.” The confusing part that is not covered in this information is that the loan went to me but the company is paying it back? so is there still no tax implications to me??? hope you can find this out for me. It is very important to know.

    1. Hi Rhonda, Kim says your last statement actually clarified it a bit…

      “There is no tax implication on loan paybacks though the loan payback should not be deducted on the companies books. However, this is an unusual situation and I certainly cannot guarantee how the IRS would react to a situation like this in case of an audit.”

      I hope that helps.

  13. Rhonda Saalfeld

    I have a whole life policy owned by my employer. They are the guarantor of the policy and they had to sign for me to borrow money from the cash value. I am retiring and they wish to make by policy whole for me again. Can they repay my loan since they own the policy without tax liability to me?

    1. Hi Rhonda,
      That’s a tough question… and should be confirmed by CPA since tax-related. I think the employer probably should be able to repay the loan without tax implications, but then when the policy is given to the employee, there may be tax implications, especially if this was set up for a “deferred compensation plan.” So definitely explore a little further with a CPA to get the facts. Kim

  14. Tremendous things here. I’m very satisfied to peer your post.
    Thank you a lot and I am looking ahead to contact you. Will you kindly drop me a e-mail?

  15. We borrowed $8000.00 on our Met Life whole life insurance policy several years ago. We are just now in a position to be able to pay back the loan but our question is this in our best interest? Current cash value is $32,707.31 however the outstanding loan amount is $28,121.78. It has a guaranteed 4% interest rate yet they are charging us 7.40% interest on th loan. Our current monthly premium is $38.38. Policy holder is a 61 year old diabetic so we are not sure he would qualify for a new life insurance policy. Appreciate your assistance in making the best decision regarding keeping or terminating this current policy.

    1. Ernest

      $680 interest charged annually based on your policy anniversary date. Insurance companies calculate interest the same way banks do, but only bill for interest only.


  16. Hi Kate4Kim,

    I couldn’t connect to your site earlier today. I got a database error when I tried to connect.

    I feel bad now that I didn’t see your post, because I went ahead and surrendered the policy. I tried to make the best decision I could from some sites I found on the internet, but it sounds like I didn’t make the right choice. I got worried about interest accruing.

    It’s a bummer because now my plan of $75.23 will according to State Farm jump (their best guess) to around $170/month in say 2 years or so. Does that sound right to you? Do you have any other suggestions for options on another policy?

    Thanks for the feedback; I wish I would have seen your post before I went and surrendered. I’m guessing since I did the electronic signature today that there is no way to back out of the decision now. Is that likely in your experience?

    Thanks again for your help,

    1. We’re not sure if it was too late, but we advised Erik to contact his insurance agent, also to not cash any checks that came in the mail. Oftentimes you CAN cancel your cancellation!

  17. Here is my scenario:

    I have an unexpected situation where I need this cash.

    I am 46 and have had the policy for 10 years. I have a $100,000 universal life policy with State Farm. I can get $6600 cash out of it.

    My current monthly payments on the policy are $75.23. The agent worked up a scenario where if were to get another universal life policy in 2 years it would cost $170 per month. This seems like quite jump, but I do understand that I would be 12 years older that when I took out my current policy

    The agent told me that instead of closing out (surrendering) the policy, I could do a loan. She said that the interest is 8% (I’m not sure if that is fixed or variable).

    She also said I had the option of paying monthly on the loan with a minimum of $15 (I can pay more), or I could choose NOT to pay and at my death the 6600 plus interest would be taken out of the proceeds of the policy.

    So at my age, what would be the best scenario?
    1: Surrender and cash out
    2: Pay off loan monthly
    3: Choose NOT to pay off loan and have it deducted from the proceeds at my death

    Any Pros and Cons of the 3 choice would be appreciated.


    1. Hi Erik, great question, I’m sure a few readers can relate!

      In your situation, we would recommend borrowing against it, pay the 8% which is probably fixed annually if possible, and then pay the principle back monthly. (The sooner the better, just to save on interest, but no need to stress.) Don’t simply withdraw (vs. borrowing against) or cash out policy, as you can no longer get the same protection at the same price.

      Borrowing (and paying pack) from your policy will work fine as you are young and the policy is established (more than 7 years.) If after 5 years or so you haven’t been able to pay back the policy loan for some reason, then you might need to re-evaluate at that time and consider cancelling it, as the interest from the loan will compromise the profitability and even the stability of the policy if interest costs continue to accrue and drain the policy. (UL Policies can “implode” and become worthless if costs drain the cash value, as we detail in “The Inconvenient Truth About the Other Permanent Insurance.”)

      You’re honestly too young to “wait until death benefit pays back the loan”… that will accrue way too much interest to work and it will implode the policy in time.

      Surrendering now does no good as you’ll start over 12 years older and with brand new costs. The least efficient years of a policy (as far as cash value go) are the first few years.

      Hope that helps! We also have an article with more detail on this topic: “Should You Borrow Against Your Cash Value or Withdraw It?” though understand that we are speaking here about whole life, rather than universal life.

    1. It depends what kind of insurance policy you have. Term insurance has no cash value, but whole life and other types often have cash value that you can borrow against very easily, especially if you have been paying premiums for a few years.

      If you’re not sure, contact the agent or advisor who sold you the policy, or locate your policy and call the company. If it says it is a “term life insurance policy” then it will not have a cash value component.

  18. I have used my life insurance cash value to pay the current premiums and it accrues interest too. I monitor my death benefits to make sure they don’t get below my needs> i refinanced with a company in Chicago area, who works with banks to do the loans at lower rates with simplified application process. Paying 4% instead of 8%.

    1. Yes, cash value is about the best collateral you can have, and at today’s rates, it can make more sense to borrow from a bank using the cash value as collateral than from the insurance company, as you discovered!

  19. Update – we have added two recent articles that give some additional details about borrowing against or withdrawing from your life insurance.

    “Should You Borrow Against Your Cash Value or Withdraw It?”

    “Borrowing Against Life Insurance: Why It Pays to Become Your Own Banker”

    We also invite you to opt-in at to get occasional fresh content in your inbox (you’ll also get our Prosperity Pack of resources at no cost.)

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