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The life insurance college savings bank.

The cost of post-secondary education has soared in recent years and shows no sign of dropping anytime soon. Though your clients may be well-aware of the benefits associated with investing in life insurance policies, they may not be aware of the possibility of using life insurance as a college savings tool.

Parents looking to fund their children's college expenses have often looked to 529 savings plans or Coverdell education savings plans. While these accounts can be beneficial, use of life insurance as a savings alternative may provide benefits that are impossible to realize through traditional vehicles.

Clients have long looked to life insurance policies as tax-preferred investment vehicles because many whole lifetype policies allow the client to take tax-free loans against the cash value of the policy.

The client can purchase a whole policy today and use the built-up cash value that the policy will accumulate over the years to fund college expenses at a later date. The withdrawal against the cash value in the policy is taken tax-free, and the client can use those funds to finance any expense he chooses--even living expenses that may not be eligible for tax-preferred treatment under a traditional education savings plan. Of course, the longer the cash value in the policy is permitted to accumulate, the larger it will become, so this type of vehicle is usually best for clients who have several years until their children will begin college.

Traditional 529 savings plans require that the funds eventually be used to pay for qualified expenses in order to reap the associated tax benefits. If the child decides to forgo a traditional college education, the client may be required to pay back taxes if he has taken state tax deductions in prior years, along with a 10% penalty on the earnings in the account. Conversely, life insurance can be purchased today and there are no restrictions on how the funds are used in order to maintain the tax benefits associated with the policy.

The downside to using a life insurance policy as a savings plan is that the fees associated with the policy can be greater than those imposed on a 529 savings plan. It is also important that clients are given a realistic portrayal of the anticipated rate of return that can be achieved through investment in life insurance--today's low-interest-rate environment has led to many policies earning at a much lower rate than anticipated when they were purchased.

While life insurance may not be the perfect college savings tool--it requires planning years in advance so that the cash value in the policy has time to accumulate--it can provide powerful tax benefits for your clients with minimal risk. If the college expenses never materialize, none of the tax benefits associated with life insurance ownership are lost and the funds can be used as the client chooses.

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Copyright 2013 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Publication:Investment Advisor
Date:Jun 1, 2013
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