Whole Life Insurance Success Stories

Key Takeaway

It might be easy to dismiss the cash value of whole life insurance as insignificant, ​​but some notable organizations including Disney, McDonald’s, and JCPenney used their policies to launch, grow, and save their companies.


Insurance Helped Build ‘The Happiest Place on Earth’

Mickey Mouse might not be around today if it hadn’t been for Walt Disney’s whole life insurance policy. In the beginning, Walt had a hard time raising the money he needed to bring his concept to fruition. He sold a second home, bought large tracts of land through front companies, and borrowed against his life insurance product to raise cash. 

Walt used the money to pay studio employees until banks were willing to finance his dream. Today, we all know that Disney is a very profitable, multinational empire that has been bringing smiles to the faces of fans (young and old alike) for generations.

Even while he was leveraging his policy to build his company, the cash value of the policy continued to grow, and his family was protected if anything happened to him before he was successful.

The Golden Arches Didn’t Grow on Their Own

When Ray Kroc was a milkshake mixer salesman, he was impressed by the efficiency of a drive-through hamburger stand in California. He talked the McDonald brothers into franchising their restaurant and set off on a course that would take McDonald’s to every corner of the globe. 

He had the right life insurance information and used his ​​whole life insurance policy to build wealth. ​Ray borrowed against his two life insurance policies during the lean first years of business to pay key employees. In essence, whole life insurance helped him go on to serve billions and billions of hamburgers to McDonald’s customers.

Pulling a Retailer Out of the Great Depression

James Cash Penny, the founder of the iconic retailer JCPenny, used his whole life policies to keep his department chain from failing during the Great Depression. Even though he had taken the policy as a death benefit to help protect his family, it turned out to be a wiser decision than he imagined. Because life insurance companies were subject to stricter regulations than banks, many of the prominent insurance companies were in much better financial shape when banks started to fail in the 1930s.

Penny took out a large loan against his $3 million whole life policies to purchase inventory, pay salaries, and keep his family business afloat during this difficult time. It took twenty years to fully recover, but his whole life insurance policies helped JCPenny keep their doors open at the time.

Other Notable Use Cases

In more recent years, several well-known figures have used their whole life insurance policies to finance their goals:

  • John McCain borrowed against his $3 million life insurance product to raise money for his political campaign to become President.
  • Doris Christopher borrowed $3,000 to launch a kitchen gadget company that would eventually become the Pampered Chef, which she sold to Warren Buffet for $900 million.

In Summary

Whole life insurance offers a unique vehicle that can offer family members some protection in the event of an unanticipated death and a potential savings program that can be leveraged to finance personal and professional goals. ​ ​Whole life insurance for young adults can also be less expensive than policies that are taken out later in life. 

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The information above is for educational use only and does not represent insurance, tax or legal advice. It is not a recommendation or solicitation to buy insurance. Please talk to your licensed insurance agent for more information about life insurance and your needs. Please consult with the appropriate professional for tax or legal advice. Guarantees are backed by the claims-paying ability of the issuing insurance company.


Article Author: Meredith Bell
Author Bio: Meredith joined Everly in 2022 and has 20+ years of experience in the life insurance industry. She has held various roles in advertising, marketing, communications, sales and distribution support, and product development. Outside of the office, Meredith lives with her daughter Kennedy and their dog Mavis. Meredith enjoys cooking, camping, gardening, hiking, and bourbon (though not always at the same time). She is a live music enthusiast and an avid reader. Her favorite quote is by Thomas Jefferson: "I cannot live without books." Meredith agrees, but would add cheese, movies, and dogs to that list.

Policies are issued by Everly Life Insurance Company (“Everly Life”), Topeka, KS. Everly Life is not licensed in the state of New York and does not solicit or transact business in New York.

A.M. Best's 15 ratings are a measure of claims-paying ability and range from A++ (Superior) to F (in Liquidation). Ratings are current as of January 25, 2024 and subject to change at any time. While ratings can be objective indicators of an insurance company's financial strength and can provide a relative measure to help select among insurance companies, they are not guarantees of the future financial strength and/or claims-paying ability of a company and do not apply to any underlying variable portfolios. The insurance agency from which a policy is purchased, and any affiliates of those entities, make no representations regarding the quality of the analysis conducted by the rating agencies. The rating agencies are not affiliated with the above-mentioned entities, nor are these entities involved in any rating agency's analysis of the insurance companies.

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