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Differences Between Mutual Funds and Life Insurance

Bookmark and Share When providing for your family's future, you rely on investment vehicles that grow and protect your funds. Mutual funds and life insurance are two options. Compare both choices as you select the investment vehicle that best provides for your family.

What are Mutual Funds?

You may deposit money into a variety of mutual funds, including stocks, bonds, cash, annuities, real estate or precious metals. Mutual fund accounts can gain or lose money depending on the type of funds you choose and the current market. They are accessible to anyone, though, whether you have hundreds or thousands of dollars to invest.  

Talk to your financial planner or investment banker about mutual funds. Together, you will assess your future goals, beneficiaries' needs, risk tolerance, age and current income and which mutual funds are right for you.

What is Life Insurance?

Life insurance provides financial resources for your beneficiaries after you die. They can use the funds to pay for funeral expenses, daily living expenses, debt repayment, college funds or any use.

You may purchase term or whole life insurance.

  • Term insurance covers you for a certain number of years as long as you pay the premiums. If you die within that time frame, your beneficiaries receive the policy's death benefit.
  • Whole life insurance covers you for a lifetime. The policy accumulates cash value you can borrow for almost any expense.
The policy you choose is based on your beneficiaries' needs, your financial resources and your risk tolerance, so discuss both types of insurance options with your agent as you choose the right policy for your unique needs.

Why Choose Mutual Funds

Both mutual funds and whole life insurance policies carry risk and can increase or decrease in value. However, mutual funds normally perform better than whole life insurance over time. You may also diversify your mutual funds based on your risk tolerance, fund performance and other factors as you increase their value.

Why Choose Life Insurance

Whole life insurance policies typically feature less risk that mutual funds and grow at a guaranteed rate. You may also choose the type of whole life insurance policy you purchase, which can affect its cash value and performance. Additionally, your payouts are tax-deferred, which can reduce your beneficiaries' tax burden.

Mutual funds and life insurance are two options that allow you to provide financially for your family. Know the benefits, disadvantages and risks of both options as you choose the right investment vehicle for your needs or decide to use both options.  For more information on mutual funds and life insurance, talk to your insurance agent.
 

Understanding COBRA: Involuntary Terminations

Bookmark and Share Many employers have grappled with defining “involuntary termination” under COBRA. According to a recent IRS bulletin, here are the standards. Note: These questions apply solely for purposes of determining whether there is an involuntary termination under section 3001 of ARRA (including new Code sections added by section 3001 of ARRA -- but not for any other purposes under the Code or any other law).

What circumstances constitute an involuntary termination for purposes of the definition of an assistance-eligible individual?
An involuntary termination means a severance from employment due to the independent exercise of the unilateral authority of the employer to terminate the employment, other than due to the employee’s implicit or explicit request, where the employee was willing and able to continue performing services. An involuntary termination may include the employer’s failure to renew a contract at the time the contract expires, if the employee was willing and able to execute a new contract providing terms and conditions similar to those in the expiring contract and to continue providing the services.

In addition, an employee-initiated termination from employment constitutes an involuntary termination from employment for purposes of the premium reduction if the termination from employment constitutes a termination for good reason due to employer action that causes a material negative change in the employment relationship for the employee.

Involuntary termination is the involuntary termination of employment, not the involuntary termination of health coverage. Thus, qualifying events other than an involuntary termination, such as divorce or a dependent child ceasing to be a dependent child under the generally applicable requirements of the plan (for example, loss of dependent status due to aging out of eligibility), are not involuntary terminations qualifying an individual for the premium reduction. In addition, involuntary termination does not include the death of an employee or absence from work due to illness or disability.

The determination of whether a termination is involuntary is based on all the facts and circumstances. For example, if a termination is designated as voluntary or as a resignation, but the facts and circumstances indicate that, absent such voluntary termination, the employer would have terminated the employee’s services, and that the employee had knowledge that the employee would be terminated, the termination is involuntary.
Does an involuntary termination include a lay-off period with a right of recall or a temporary furlough period?

Yes. An involuntary reduction to zero hours, such as a layoff, furlough, or other suspension of employment, resulting in a loss of health coverage is an involuntary termination for purposes of the premium reduction.
Does an involuntary termination include a reduction in hours?

Generally no. If the reduction in hours is not a reduction to zero, the mere reduction in hours is not an involuntary termination. However, an employee’s voluntary termination in response to an employer-imposed reduction in hours may be an involuntary termination if the reduction in hours is a material negative change in the employment relationship for the employee.
Does involuntary termination include an employer’s action to end an individual’s employment while the individual is absent from work due to illness or disability?
Yes. Involuntary termination occurs when the employer takes action to end the individual’s employment status (but mere absence from work due to illness or disability before the employer has taken action to end the individual’s employment status is not an involuntary termination).
Does an involuntary termination include retirement?
If the facts and circumstances indicate that, absent retirement, the employer would have terminated the employee’s services, and the employee had knowledge that the employee would be terminated, the retirement is involuntary.
Does involuntary termination include involuntary termination for cause?
Yes. However, for purposes of Federal COBRA, if the termination of employment is due to gross misconduct of the employee, the termination is not a qualifying event and the employee and other family members losing health coverage by reason of the employee’ termination of employment are not eligible for COBRA continuation coverage.
Does an involuntary termination include a resignation as the result of a material change in the geographic location of employment for the employee?
Yes.
Does an involuntary termination include a work stoppage as the result of a strike initiated by employees or their representatives?
No. However, a lockout initiated by the employer is an involuntary termination.
Does an involuntary termination include a termination elected by the employee in return for a severance package (a buy-out) where the employer indicates that after the offer period for the severance package, a certain number of remaining employees in the employees group will be terminated?
Yes.
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529 Plans Versus Life Insurance for College Savings

Bookmark and Share Many parents purchase 529 plans that allow them to save for their children's' college education. Life insurance is another savings vehicle for children, so compare both plans as you choose the best option for your child's future education.

529 Plans

529 Plans are a unique way to save for your child's college education. The money grows tax-free, and distributions are not subject to federal income tax. You can open an account with a 529 Plan manager or your financial planner. Consider these facts about 529 Plans.

Uses: Spend 529 Plan funds on tuition, books and other college expenses at a qualified school, including vocational schools, colleges and universities. If you withdraw the money for something other than education, you will owe penalties and taxes on the distributions.

Fees: Expect to pay a 529 Plan fee based on your portfolio. Additionally, you may owe a broker fee if you purchase the policy through a financial advisor.

Investment Return: When you invest in 529 Plans, you choose the portfolio in which you invest your funds. There is no limit to your return potential, but you also aren't guaranteed a return since you invest in mutual funds, bond mutual funds or money market accounts.

Financial Aid: While 529 Plans allow you to pay for college, they do affect your child's financial aid package. Your child could lose up to 5.64 percent of the 529 Plan's total value in college financial aid.

Life Insurance

Cash-value or whole life insurance policies accrue cash over time. Buy a policy when your child is born, and it could pay for your child's college education in 18 years. These policies grow tax-deferred. Understand several facts about using life insurance for college.

Uses: Life insurance is flexible since you can use the accrued money for any expense. Your child can withdraw the funds for college or buy a car or house or vacation if they get a full scholarship or decide not to attend college.

Fees: Expect to pay regular premiums for your life insurance policy. You'll also owe the insurance agent a commission.

Investment Returns: The type of life insurance policy you buy dictates the returns you receive. On average, you could see a three to six percent return over 10 years.

Financial Aid: Borrow money from your cash-value or whole life insurance policy for school, and you don't have to claim it as income on your Free Application for Federal Student Aid forms. Overall, it will minimally impact your child's financial aid eligibility.

When paying for your child's education, start saving early. If possible, invest in 529 Plans since they're specifically designed for education.
 

Your Attitude Towards Becoming Disabled Depends on Your Profession

Bookmark and Share A new study by MassMutual Life Insurance Company suggests that your chosen profession could indicate how you react to the thought of a potential disability. MassMutual commissioned Harris Interactive during September 2006 to conduct a Web survey of 1,023 U.S. career professionals to determine how they would react to a prolonged loss of income due to disability.

The insurer requested the survey because they wanted to gauge the reactions of attorneys, accountants, engineers, marketing, advertising and other professional services executives to see if they varied by occupation. The conclusion the researchers drew from their findings is that attitudes differ from profession to profession.

The MassMutual Benefits Barometer Survey: Disability Perceptions, as the study was called, accomplished three objectives. First, it rated the various professionals on their emotional response to long-term disability; second, it displayed common reasons for not owning Disability Income insurance; and third, it identified resources the different occupational groups have to help pay their bills if they are unable to work.

When it comes to emotional response, advertising and marketing professionals are the most anxious about the possibility of becoming disabled. Sixty-six percent of this group said they would feel financially insecure, and 26% answered they would be unprepared emotionally if they became disabled. Forty-one percent responded that they would be worried about being able to work again.

Attorneys and executives in professional services, including information technology and financial services, were less emotional about becoming disabled. Eighty-two percent of the attorneys polled felt they would get well and return to work. However, 70 % said that they would have anxiety toward their future financial situations, while 44% responded that they would feel like a burden to their families. The responses received from executives in professional services were neither overly anxious nor optimistic, as compared to other professionals.

When the responses provided by engineers and accountants were compared with all the career professionals surveyed, this group revealed itself to be the most dispassionate about becoming disabled. A mere 35% of engineers responded that they would feel a lack of financial security and only 27% of accountants would be worried about being able to work again.

When study participants were asked why they didn’t own Disability Income insurance, 44% said they didn’t feel they needed it, 30% said it costs too much, and 27% answered that they’re in good health.

The question concerning financial resources available to draw from in the event of a disability also drew some interesting responses. About 21% of attorneys surveyed reported they could live on half of their salary for “as long as they had to.” This group was the most likely to have a variety of resources such as stocks, bonds, mutual fund investments, home equity loans and loans from family or friends that they could use to keep them financially stable if they became disabled.

Advertising and marketing professionals were the least financially stable of all the professional groups and the least likely to say they would rely on stocks, bonds, mutual fund investments or a home equity loan to tide them over until they could return to work.