Friday, May 1, 2020

IBC Mailbag: How Safe Are Life Insurance Companies?

The following is an email I sent to a prospective client with nearly $500,000 in bank CD's who was requesting assurances on the safety of his money if he purchased a contract (life insurance or annuity).

I’ve attached an article I’d like you to read about the solvency of the Life Insurance industry.  (Here's the link:

Regarding the FDIC, it has an interesting history if you study it.  It was created during the Great Depression to alleviate people’s fear for a “run on the bank”.  Banks don’t keep the money you deposit in a vault.  They lend it out right away to earn interest.  Furthermore, banks have the ability to create money out of thin air.  This is called Fractional Reserve Banking.  Banks basically keep no more than 10% of your money on deposit, lend the rest, and thru Fractional Reserve Banking can even create more money out of think based on your deposit.  (Sidenote: due to the pandemic the Federal Reserve has actually lowered bank reserves to 0% meaning they don’t have keep any of our deposits on reserve!)

Think of how mortgages are created.  Banks don’t actually have the money but a signature on a mortgage note creates that money out of thin air.  Then people pay interest to the banks on money that has never existed before.   This is the true definition of inflation (the creation of new money).  Most people confuse inflation with the price of things but that’s actually the end effect when there is too much money in the system which forces prices up over time. 

So FDIC is a government created agency to backstop banks in the event there is a run on the bank panic.  However, the FDIC is actually insolvent.  It has maybe only a $100 billion in assets and this amount insures over $10 trillion in bank accounts across the US.  That said, the government could have the Federal Reserve print more money for the FDIC to bailout people’s bank accounts so there is that.  But for assurances, think about a bankrupt government with an agency (FDIC) that does actually have enough assets to provide a full reserve (that is restore all your money in the event of a bank failure).

The point is that FDIC is sticker of confidence and FDIC doesn’t actually have the money.  The government could make a person’s account whole but if it actually came to that, the money would not be worth as much because of the mass inflation it would cause with all the money printing.  On the positive, people trust FDIC and government to back up a failed bank system and that’s a good thing.  Otherwise, everyone would be running to get their money out of the banks and that would be a very bad thing for the economy.  So it works but it’s built on a very flimsy premise of trust. 

You can read more about how Fractional Reserve Banking works by reading a book called The Creature From Jekyll Island.  Great book.  You can find a link to the book on my website here:

The life insurance industry in comparison puts the banking industry to shame because the life insurance industry operates as a Full Reserve system.

By law, all life insurance companies in the United States must maintain 100% solvency (more assets than liabilities) at all times.  Industry average per life insurance company is 105%.  That means if every life insurance company had to pay off what’s owed, it would still have money left over to continue business operations. 

Also, life insurance companies cannot create money out of thin air.  They are inherently a safer place for money because of this but because people don’t know how the life insurance industry is regulated by law to be a full reserve system, people don’t think of a life insurance industry as a place to park money when it absolutely should.

Since 100% solvency is required by law for life insurance companies to operate, there is no federal safety net like FDIC required for life insurance companies.  In fact, no one who has ever purchased an annuity has ever lost a dime.  That is a fact the life insurance industry goes to great lengths to ensure because the life insurance business is based on promises to pay claims and benefits.

All that said, each life insurance company has a state safety net of minimally $100,000 and as much as $300,000 that works just like FDIC does for banks.  Life insurance companies are regulated at the state level which is why the government safety net is determined by the state you live in.  When you purchase an annuity, you instantly have this safety net guarantee.

Hopefully this gives you some food for thought.  I’ve included an article from Forbes which discuss the safety of the life insurance industry here:

Please let me know if you have any questions about assurances or any other topic I can help answer.  You can reach me at

Thank you,


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