Ron Attias is a licensed insurance broker. He has no particular loyalty to any one insurance company, so he is able to shop all major insurance carriers. This means that you always get the BEST plan at the LOWEST price. Each plan can be customized to fit your specific healthcare needs and budget.

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Leslie Kasperowicz holds a BA in Social Sciences from the University of Winnipeg. She spent several years as a Farmers Insurance CSR, gaining a solid understanding of insurance products including home, life, auto, and commercial and working directly with insurance customers to understand their needs. She has since used that knowledge in her more than ten years as a writer, largely in the insur...

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Reviewed by Leslie Kasperowicz
Farmers CSR for 4 Years Leslie Kasperowicz

UPDATED: Jul 9, 2019

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Some people consider buying term life insurance a total waste of money, regardless of how low the premiums are.  If you are one of those people, maybe you would be interested in buying a policy that will return your premium back if you don’t die before the term is over?

So, you buy a term life insurance policy for $100 per month for 20 years, and if you don’t die in those 20 years, you will get back $24,000 back. Did I get your attention?

In this article, we will find out if a return of premium life insurance (ROP) policy is really worth it, and also how it works. I will take a look at premium comparisons and exclusions that you should be aware of when you buy a return of premium life insurance policy.

Related: 5 surprising ways to save money on life insurance. 

What Is ROP?

Essentially, a return of premium life insurance policy (“ROP”) is a term insurance policy that returns the premiums paid by the insured over a set period, from the life insurance company at the end of the term period.

For instance, if you take out a 20-year policy with a “Return of Premium” clause, and you outlive the twenty-year period, you will get back all the money paid for the coverage.

The refund will be in a form of a lump sum, tax-free payment (it is not considered income) to the policy owner. Before you jump for joy, though, let’s take a look at some of the pros and cons.

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Return of Premium Pros

  • Getting your premium back after 20 or 30 years can be very appealing, especially for those who see term life as a total waste of money.
  • For those with the means, it could be a safer investment compared to the stock market or real estate market, as they can hedge against other types of riskier investments.
  • High revenue individuals who can’t contribute more to their IRA may just get a ROP because this won’t lose its value.
  • For those who like the idea of whole life because of the saving component but want to pay less, ROP should be appealing.
  • The refund is one lump-sum, tax-free payment.
  • Some policies allow you to take a loan against the principle in the account.
  • A good policy for those who hate to save, because it forces them to stick to a plan.

Return of Premium Cons

  • The money paid toward premiums will earn no interest for twenty years; you only get your paid premiums back.
  • ROP is expensive. When compared with term insurance, expect to pay 2-3 times as much depending on your age and the death amount.
  • You can buy more coverage for the same premium than ROP charges.
  • You better make sure you can pay for the entire time, because nothing would be worse than paying for 19 years, then missing the last year and getting nothing at the end if you’re still alive.
  • You can probably get a better return somewhere else, even putting the money in a money market with the lowest interest will get you more.
  • You are limited to the plan availability by the insurer, for instance you cannot buy a 10-year return of premium; the most common one is 20 years.

Should You Buy ROP?

If it was me, I wouldn’t. I look at a life insurance policy as a vehicle to protect who I love instead of as an investment. Just because I get my premium money back it doesn’t mean that I should jump into buying it.

Money now is better than money later, which means the extra money that I’m paying could be mine now and I don’t have to wait for 20 years to get it back.

Time value of money isn’t paid back, inflation is eating your money. Parking your money may seems safe, but it isn’t ideal. You park it, while the insurance company is investing it and generating revenue, but at the end you get none of the profit.

Life insurance was meant to protect your loved ones in case you die prematurely, so treat it as such and calculate how much you need and for how many years, and that’s it. For most people, once the mortgage is paid and the children are out of college, you don’t really need a life insurance policy anymore.

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Term Life insurance vs ROP Sample Monthly Rates

Male 20-year Term

 AGE $100,000 $250,000 $500,000 $1,000,000
 20 $9.14 $13.17 $20.74 $34.79
 30 $9.31 $13.42 $20.69 $35.53
 40 $11.27 $18.18 $29.36 $52.78
 50 $22.88 $42.79 $78.75 $146.03
 60 $54.68 $111.56 $211.13 $406.93
 70 $172.38 $406.56 $812.58 $1553.16
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Male 20-year ROP

 AGE $100,000 $250,000 $500,000 $1,000,000
 20 $15.75 $30.23 $54.37 $102.66
 30 $18.18 $36.32 $66.55 $127.02
 40 $34.71 $77.65 $149.20 $286.13
 50 $83.69 $165.38 $330.75 $612.50
 60 $179.74 $365.97 $731.94 $1322.13
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Female 20-year Term

 AGE $100,000 $250,000 $500,000 $1,000,000
 20 $7.66 $10 $13.92 $21.75
 30 $8.41 $12.12 $18.19 $29.43
 40 $10.43 $15.44 $25.26 $43.94
 50 $18.83 $31.67 $55.78 $103.55
 60 $37.43 $77.92 $140.83 $269.92
 70 $128.19 $265.90 $531.87 $1016.72
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Female 20-year ROP

 AGE $100,000 $250,000 $500,000 $1,000,000
 20 $11.83 $20.45 $34.80 $63.51
 30 $14.96 $28.28 $50.46 $94.83
 40 $27.06 $58.51 $110.93 $215.76
 50 $58.64 $135.41 $270.81 $500.50
 60 $120.49 $290.94 $581.88 $1089.38
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*All rates quoted on this page are for a super-preferred healthy individual who does not use tobacco. Monthly rates are updated as of Jun 2016 and are subject to underwriting approval.*

Return of Premium Exclusions

Not all insurance companies have the same exclusions. This is only a general list:

  • The return of premium does not include substandard charges.  Meaning, if you were rated up because of health conditions and paid more for the policy, you will only get back what was a preferred rate.  So if you bought a policy for $60 per month at a substandard rate and $45 was the preferred rate, you will only get that.
  • The return of premium does not include a rider charge.
  • Some companies may offer a return of premium if you choose to surrender after 4 or 5 years.
  • If you take a loan against your policy, you will pay 8% per year or more.

Last Word

Return of premium life insurance is just another example of why you shouldn’t buy life insurance by yourself. Things rarely look the way we think they are, and on the surface, it may look really good until you find out that the only reason you bought it is that the agent in the call center had to meet his quota.

You can run the quotes on this page yourself. Remember, working with a broker costs you absolutely nothing so you’re getting all their knowledge and years of expertise for free.