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Screenshots of Curtis Ray's Tik Tok videos on a colored background
Courtesy of Curtis Ray / Tik Tok

Passionate pitches to invest for retirement through life insurance might be the last thing you’d expect to attract buzz on a social media app popular with people in their teens and twenties. Yet an insurance agent is racking up millions of TikTok views with his video pitches to use tax-sheltered life insurance to create a super-charged retirement plan.

Curtis Ray, CEO of SunCor Financial, sells a proprietary program to use universal life insurance to create retirement income that he claims can yield up to 10 times as much as if you invested the same amount in a taxable investment account.

As with much influencer content on social media, Ray sells his plan -- which he calls MPI, for Maximum Premium Indexing -- with high-flying rhetoric. “It’s a huge jump in the evolution of personal finance,” Ray said of MPI. “It’s a bigger jump than the iPhone from Blackberry or Netflix from Blockbuster.”

Though he’s not above posting the likes of handstand contests with his daughter, most of Ray’s TikTok videos feature him delivering high-speed explanations of his plan, often punctuated by the catch phrase “always be compounding,” which refers to his scheme’s emphasis on the power of compound interest.

He actively responds to comments, both from supporters (“Insurance investments all the way!”) and skeptics (“Sounds like a Ponzi scheme…”), often inviting the latter to ask him questions (“The more you know, the better your investment decisions!”).

Is Ray selling sound advice? On the whole, experts are dubious. Here’s an explanation of Ray’s strategy and how the claims stand up. I also add my own take as a long-time life insurance agent.

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Universal indexed life insurance explained

Ray’s investment vehicle of choice, known as indexed universal life insurance, is nothing new; consumers have been using this form of permanent life insurance for nearly 25 years.

Indexed universal life insurance (or IUL insurance) is not simple, and you need to understand how it works in order to grasp Ray’s approach to exploiting it.

Like other forms of permanent life insurance, such as whole life insurance, universal life insurance is designed to cover you for your entire life. In addition to its death benefit, the policy contains a cash value account that you can fund with monthly or annual contributions. The cash value pays for policy fees and cost of insurance. Excess cash, after policy expenses, may earn interest.