When an insurance policy's guaranteed cash value equals the initial death benefit, it is said to "endow" or mature. Whole Life contracts typically endow at the insured's age 100.
The most recent mortality tables for life insurance (2001 CSO - Commissioners Standard Ordinary) would endow at the insured's age 121. However the Society of Actuaries 2001 CSO Maturity Age Task Force recommended that insurance policies issued under the new mortality table assume all contracts will pay out in some form by age 100.
Some policies have earlier endowment periods. These typically pay the face amount upon death or attaining a certain age or number of years, whichever is first.
Life insurance is intended to help make a loss bearable. It is a mechanism for managing risk and should not generally be considered an investment.