No; just ignorant salespeople, ironically with the best of intentions.
Most insurance agents are brought up under one of two schools of thought:
1) Sell whatever makes one the biggest paycheck; or
2) Concentrate on the easy sale. This one relies on companies preying on the ignorance of their agents by teaching them the "simple math" of low-cost term and mutual funds, and convincing them that evil insurance companies rake in higher profits from permanent products, when in fact the opposite is true.
The bottom line is that premium (other than comparing apples-to-apples between companies) is not an appropriate consideration when choosing what type of life product to purchase. The only consideration is to determine the objectives that the coverage is to meet and purchase the product or products that best match them.
If the need is permanent, then permanent insurance is the only option. Whole life is the only type of permanent coverage that guarantees every aspect of the product. Other products transfer greater risk to the policy owner.
And as far as buying term and investing the difference, anyone who preaches this sermon and doesn't see the value of variable universal life lacks a basic understanding of financial concepts.
Incidentally, there is absolutely nothing wrong with purchasing a product based on a future need - if the numbers and the timing support the decision. It often makes tremendous sense to lock in one's future insurability.
Finally, in most cases, any type of permanent coverage, including whole life, is more cost effective in the long run than term if the insurance need is for longer than 20 years.
ADDED: Okay; perhaps I was wrong. After reading Nathan's response, maybe "buffoon" was the correct term after all. I keep seeing permanent life insurance described as insurance with a savings or investment component attached. The sad thing is that it's not just laymen who are under this impression. Agents actually believe it!
Whole or universal life does NOT have a "savings" portion attached; it has cash value. In a whole life policy, cash value is in no way to be construed as an added policy expense or separate account. It's sole purpose is to underwrite mortality expenses as they increase over the life of the insured in order to keep the premium level. Universal life was created primarily to allow premium flexibility and to take advantage of potentially lower premium outlay when the policy's internal rate of return was higher than expected. However, if the cash value did not grow sufficiently, the policy was "underfunded" and at risk of lapse. In other words, instead of the insurance company assuming the risk of poor performance, they passed that risk on to the policy owner.
Granted, policies evolved from there to allow for tax-advantaged savings and investment strategies using permanent life products. In the right circumstances, this is entirely appropriate; however, this is not, from an insurance standpoint, the purpose of cash value.
Association of Christian Financial Advisors