man sitting down holding a mug

What is universal life insurance?

Universal life insurance is more affordable than whole life insurance and can offer cash value growth, along with features that can give you flexibility as your needs change over the years.

What can it offer?

In addition to lifetime protection, universal life insurance offers a unique combination of benefits to help meet your needs, including:

Plan flexibility

You can change the protection level, how frequently you pay your premium or even the premium amount, as long as you remain within set boundaries.

Access to the cash value

If your needs change, you have the potential to build and borrow from the cash value while you’re alive.

Long-term care coverage

You have options for covering potential long-term care expenses — for help with things such as bathing, dressing, eating, food preparation and household cleaning.

Tax advantages

All life insurance products offer tax advantages, including a tax-free death benefit and tax-deferred cash value growth.

How does universal life insurance work?

person silhouette and shield icon

A portion of your premium payment goes toward the insurance, which includes any fees and death benefit coverage.

dollar bills icon

The remainder of your premium payment adds to the policy’s cash value, which you can withdraw or borrow against.

There are several types of universal life insurance products, and the cash value growth rate in your policy — either a fixed rate set by your insurance company or a rate based on the performance of market indexes — will depend on the product you select. With a universal life insurance policy, you have the ability to withdraw or borrow against your cash value. If you pass away, the income tax-free death benefit will be paid to your beneficiaries.

woman sitting on a porch talking to a man

Who may benefit from universal life insurance?

Universal life insurance is designed for people who are looking for:

  • Protection for your family in case of your premature death
  • Potential cash-value growth with tax advantages to use for things such as supplemental retirement income
  • Built-in flexibility, in case something happens and you need to adjust your premium or death benefit value
  • Options for covering long-term care expenses
  • A way to transfer wealth to future generations in a tax-efficient manner

Could universal life insurance be right for you?

See how it compares to other types of life insurance (e.g., universal life vs. whole life) to get a better idea of whether it meets your needs.

Universal life Term life Whole life Variable universal life
Death benefit checkmark icon checkmark icon checkmark icon checkmark icon
Designed for low cost checkmark icon
Access to your money1 checkmark icon checkmark icon checkmark icon
Market participation checkmark icon
Tax advantages checkmark icon checkmark icon checkmark icon checkmark icon
Flexible payments2 checkmark icon checkmark icon

Our products

Indexed universal life

Cost-efficient death benefit protection with the potential for cash value accumulation that you can use to help meet a variety of planning needs.


Guaranteed universal life

Affordable, guaranteed protection that can be customized to meet your needs today, while still being flexible enough to evolve as your needs change.

Survivorship universal life

Permanent life insurance on two people that helps protect your family by paying a death benefit when the second insured passes away.

Linked-benefit universal life

A universal life insurance policy and long-term care coverage in one hybrid policy.

Tools and resources

Money award logo
We'll be here when you need us
Nationwide® has been named among Money.com’s Best Life Insurance Companies of 2021 with the Highest Customer Satisfaction.

How to buy universal life insurance

You need to work with an insurance professional to buy this type of product. If you don’t have one, our life insurance specialists are here to help.

Give us a call today at 1-866-207-9160 for a no-obligation consultation.

Hours of operation are 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. ET, Monday through Friday.

[1] This assumes that the contract qualifies as life insurance under section 7702 of the Internal Revenue Code (IRC) and is not a modified endowment contract (MEC) under section 7702A. Most distributions are taxed on a first-in/first-out basis as long as the contract meets non-MEC definitions under section 7702A. Loans and partial withdrawals from a MEC generally are taxable and, if taken prior to age 59½, may be subject to a 10% tax penalty.

[2] This assumes there is sufficient cash value to cover monthly policy charges. Keep in mind that variable universal life insurance has market volatility so it’s possible that you may need to pay an additional premium on your policy.

Guarantees and protections are subject to Nationwide’s claims-paying ability.