Whole life insurance is often maligned by the rest of the financial services world (those who sell registered investment products) as lacking transparency. It’s referred to as a “black box” for its lack of disclosure. Opponents say that it's not so much about how various pieces and parts are calculated, but more about the walls built around their attempt to reconcile results.
Or at least that's what they want you to believe.
In truth, it’s rather easy to compute expenses associated with whole life insurance. Life insurance illustration ledgers have been a compulsory step in the life insurance sales process since the early to mid 90’s in almost ever state and those ledgers explain a lot in terms of what the insurer is doing and plans to do with your money.
It's true that you cannot request a detailed breakdown of expenses under a whole life contract and compare it against other whole life insurance contracts.
You can easily look at ledger details and compare both guaranteed and non-guaranteed values for whole life policies to discern which ones come at a lower cost.
While some people may not want to perform analysis in this way, it’s no different than looking at a schedule of expenses to see who charges more for what. This view is simply bigger picture.
Expenses are relevant when making any decision, however, I would encourage you to focus on absolute value. How much money you have when you reach your destination is more important than the internal expenses you paid along the way. Whether or not something is expensive is always relative to the value it provides.