You shouldn’t assume that life insurance policy illustrations show future results exactly. With variable life insurance, there can be wild variations.

Suppose, for example, a 45-year-old male who wanted $1 million worth of variable life coverage back in 1999. By projecting 9 percent returns, the annual premium would have been around $5,500 for 20 years; with a 7 percent illustrated return, the annual premium would have been $9,000 for 20 years.

Four years into the policy, the policy projecting a lower return (and requiring a higher premium) would have had much greater cash value and would have called for lower ongoing premiums to keep the policy in force. Generally, projections in the 7 percent-8 percent range are reasonable for the long term but you should be prepared to persevere during periods when returns are weak.