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Life insurance or life assurance , especially in the Commonwealth of Nations is a contract between an insurance policy holder and an insurer or assurer , where the insurer promises to pay a designated beneficiary a sum of money the benefit in exchange for a premium, upon the death of an insured person often the policy holder. Depending on the contract, other events such as terminal illness or critical illness can also trigger payment. The policy holder typically pays a premium, either regularly or as one lump sum.
Other expenses, such as funeral expenses, can also be included in the benefits. Life policies are legal contracts and the terms of the contract describe the limitations of the insured events. Specific exclusions are often written into the contract to limit the liability of the insurer; common examples are claims relating to suicide, fraud, war, riot, and civil commotion.
An early form of life insurance dates to Ancient Rome ; "burial clubs" covered the cost of members' funeral expenses and assisted survivors financially. At the end of the year a portion of the "amicable contribution" was divided among the wives and children of deceased members, in proportion to the number of shares the heirs owned. The Amicable Society started with members. The first life table was written by Edmund Halley in , but it was only in the s that the necessary mathematical and statistical tools were in place for the development of modern life insurance.
James Dodson , a mathematician and actuary, tried to establish a new company aimed at correctly offsetting the risks of long term life assurance policies, after being refused admission to the Amicable Life Assurance Society because of his advanced age. He was unsuccessful in his attempts at procuring a charter from the government.
It was the world's first mutual insurer and it pioneered age based premiums based on mortality rate laying "the framework for scientific insurance practice and development"  and "the basis of modern life assurance upon which all life assurance schemes were subsequently based".
Mores also gave the name actuary to the chief official—the earliest known reference to the position as a business concern. The first modern actuary was William Morgan , who served from to In the Society carried out the first actuarial valuation of liabilities and subsequently distributed the first reversionary bonus and interim bonus among its members.
Premiums were regulated according to age, and anybody could be admitted regardless of their state of health and other circumstances.
The sale of life insurance in the U. Between and more than two dozen life insurance companies were started, but fewer than half a dozen survived. The person responsible for making payments for a policy is the policy owner, while the insured is the person whose death will trigger payment of the death benefit.
The owner and insured may or may not be the same person. For example, if Joe buys a policy on his own life, he is both the owner and the insured. But if Jane, his wife, buys a policy on Joe's life, she is the owner and he is the insured. The policy owner is the guarantor and he will be the person to pay for the policy. The insured is a participant in the contract, but not necessarily a party to it. The beneficiary receives policy proceeds upon the insured person's death.
The owner designates the beneficiary, but the beneficiary is not a party to the policy. The owner can change the beneficiary unless the policy has an irrevocable beneficiary designation. If a policy has an irrevocable beneficiary, any beneficiary changes, policy assignments, or cash value borrowing would require the agreement of the original beneficiary.
In cases where the policy owner is not the insured also referred to as the celui qui vit or CQV , insurance companies have sought to limit policy purchases to those with an insurable interest in the CQV.
For life insurance policies, close family members and business partners will usually be found to have an insurable interest. The insurable interest requirement usually demonstrates that the purchaser will actually suffer some kind of loss if the CQV dies. Such a requirement prevents people from benefiting from the purchase of purely speculative policies on people they expect to die.
With no insurable interest requirement, the risk that a purchaser would murder the CQV for insurance proceeds would be great. In at least one case, an insurance company which sold a policy to a purchaser with no insurable interest who later murdered the CQV for the proceeds , was found liable in court for contributing to the wrongful death of the victim Liberty National Life v.
Special exclusions may apply, such as suicide clauses, whereby the policy becomes null and void if the insured commits suicide within a specified time usually two years after the purchase date; some states provide a statutory one-year suicide clause. Any misrepresentations by the insured on the application may also be grounds for nullification.
Most US states specify a maximum contestability period, often no more than two years. Only if the insured dies within this period will the insurer have a legal right to contest the claim on the basis of misrepresentation and request additional information before deciding whether to pay or deny the claim.
The face amount of the policy is the initial amount that the policy will pay at the death of the insured or when the policy matures , although the actual death benefit can provide for greater or lesser than the face amount. The policy matures when the insured dies or reaches a specified age such as years old.
The insurance company calculates the policy prices premiums at a level sufficient to fund claims, cover administrative costs, and provide a profit. The cost of insurance is determined using mortality tables calculated by actuaries. Mortality tables are statistically based tables showing expected annual mortality rates of people at different ages.
Put simply, people are more likely to die as they get older and the mortality tables enable the insurance companies to calculate the risk and increase premiums with age accordingly. Such estimates can be important in taxation regulation.
As well as the basic parameters of age and gender, the newer tables include separate mortality tables for smokers and non-smokers, and the CSO tables include separate tables for preferred classes.
The mortality tables provide a baseline for the cost of insurance, but the health and family history of the individual applicant is also taken into account except in the case of Group policies. This investigation and resulting evaluation is termed underwriting. Health and lifestyle questions are asked, with certain responses possibly meriting further investigation. Specific factors that may be considered by underwriters include:.
Based on the above and additional factors, applicants will be placed into one of several classes of health ratings which will determine the premium paid in exchange for insurance at that particular carrier. Life insurance companies in the United States support the Medical Information Bureau MIB ,  which is a clearing house of information on persons who have applied for life insurance with participating companies in the last seven years.
As part of the application, the insurer often requires the applicant's permission to obtain information from their physicians. The mortality of underwritten persons rises much more quickly than the general population.
At the end of 10 years, the mortality of that year-old, non-smoking male is 0. Other costs, such as administrative and sales expenses, also need to be considered when setting the premiums.
Most of the revenue received by insurance companies consists of premiums, but revenue from investing the premiums forms an important source of profit for most life insurance companies. Group Insurance policies are an exception to this. In the United States, life insurance companies are never legally required to provide coverage to everyone, with the exception of Civil Rights Act compliance requirements.
Insurance companies alone determine insurability, and some people are deemed uninsurable. The policy can be declined or rated increasing the premium amount to compensate for the higher risk , and the amount of the premium will be proportional to the face value of the policy.
Many companies separate applicants into four general categories. These categories are preferred best , preferred , standard , and tobacco. Preferred best is reserved only for the healthiest individuals in the general population. This may mean, that the proposed insured has no adverse medical history, is not under medication, and has no family history of early-onset cancer , diabetes , or other conditions. Most people are in the standard category.
People in the tobacco category typically have to pay higher premiums due to the higher mortality. Recent US mortality tables predict that roughly 0. Upon the insured's death, the insurer requires acceptable proof of death before it pays the claim.
The normal minimum proof required is a death certificate , and the insurer's claim form completed, signed, and typically notarized. Payment from the policy may be as a lump sum or as an annuity , which is paid in regular installments for either a specified period or for the beneficiary's lifetime.
The specific uses of the terms "insurance" and "assurance" are sometimes confused. In general, in jurisdictions where both terms are used, "insurance" refers to providing coverage for an event that might happen fire, theft, flood, etc. In the United States, both forms of coverage are called "insurance" for reasons of simplicity in companies selling both products.
Life insurance may be divided into two basic classes: Term assurance provides life insurance coverage for a specified term. The policy does not accumulate cash value. Term insurance is significantly less expensive than an equivalent permanent policy but will become higher with age. Policy holders can save to provide for increased term premiums or decrease insurance needs by paying off debts or saving to provide for survivor needs.
Mortgage life insurance insures a loan secured by real property and usually features a level premium amount for a declining policy face value because what is insured is the principal and interest outstanding on a mortgage that is constantly being reduced by mortgage payments. The face amount of the policy is always the amount of the principal and interest outstanding that are paid should the applicant die before the final installment is paid.
Group life insurance also known as wholesale life insurance or institutional life insurance is term insurance covering a group of people, usually employees of a company, members of a union or association, or members of a pension or superannuation fund. Individual proof of insurability is not normally a consideration in its underwriting.
Rather, the underwriter considers the size, turnover, and financial strength of the group. Contract provisions will attempt to exclude the possibility of adverse selection. Group life insurance often allows members exiting the group to maintain their coverage by buying individual coverage.
The underwriting is carried out for the whole group instead of individuals. Permanent life insurance is life insurance that covers the remaining lifetime of the insured. A permanent insurance policy accumulates a cash value up to its date of maturation. The owner can access the money in the cash value by withdrawing money, borrowing the cash value , or surrendering the policy and receiving the surrender value. The three basic types of permanent insurance are whole life , universal life , and endowment.
Whole life insurance provides lifetime coverage for a set premium amount see main article for a full explanation of the many variations and options. Universal life insurance ULl is a relatively new insurance product, intended to combine permanent insurance coverage with greater flexibility in premium payments, along with the potential for greater growth of cash values.
There are several types of universal life insurance policies, including interest-sensitive also known as "traditional fixed universal life insurance" , variable universal life VUL , guaranteed death benefit , and has equity-indexed universal life insurance. Universal life insurance policies have cash values. Paid-in premiums increase their cash values; administrative and other costs reduce their cash values. Universal life insurance addresses the perceived disadvantages of whole life—namely that premiums and death benefits are fixed.
With universal life, both the premiums and death benefit are flexible.