Life-insurance agents warned not to use charts for predictions


For years, life-insurance agents have been using computer-generated charts to sell products. The illustrations are meant to show how particular policies will multiply in value, assuming certain interest-rate conditions.

But one industry leader recently criticized this controversial practice. Thomas B. Wheeler, president and chief executive officer of Massachusetts Mutual Life, said that the charts were misleading to consumers, and that agents should stop using them.

"My position is that illustrations are not appropriate to project future performance or to compare contracts," Mr. Wheeler recently told a group of 5,000 top-selling insurance agents.

Rather than trying to predict the future, he said, agents should use charts showing historic dividend payouts. That way, consumers can see how various policies actually have performed.

In other words, don't be fooled by agents promising future riches. When you are buying life insurance, past performance is a much better indicator.

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