Tax Saving on Life Insurance

As a well-aware, net savvy professional, you must be conscious of the need of the life insurance coverage you require to secure your family’s financial life. Today, the provisions of the Income Tax Act offer you provisions under which you can buy life insurance coverage, generate returns and save on tax too.

A large number of people today research for insurance plans online and zero-in on a life insurance plan which is providing best returns, at present. Is that the right approach? Well, it is okay to research and come to know about the best possible life insurance plan.

But, here is the trap. Many people just put all of the insurance money into one single policy. Some insurance agents can urge you to do this. They can show you an online account of one of their clients who has generated returns to the tune of Rs 25-40 per cent in a year. Beware – these are mostly fake accounts which are used to dupe customers. Unfortunately, many insurance buyers fall into this trap.

People buy life insurance policies with a premium amount of as much as Rs 1 -1.5 lakh and then expect that this will bring great returns to them.

It is not advisable at all. You must spread your risks and get different types of policies. Since section 80C of the Income Tax Act provides for tax deductions of up to Rs 1.5 lakh, you can easily buy multiple policies. Here are some useful tips to diversify your insurance investments.

Get a mix of public and private sector insurance companies: Public sector insurance companies are known for their good claim settlement ratios. At the same time, they have a notorious image of producing very low rates of returns. Do not be surprised if an LIC policy gets less than 4-5 per cent returns in a year. Assuming that you are a young professional in the age between 25-40 years, you can buy a policy of not more than 25 per cent of your total insurance corpus.

Prefer leading private sector life insurance companies like HDFC Life, ICICI Prudential, Reliance Life, etc. These companies offer Unit Linked Insurance Plans (ULIPs), which can fulfil your need for financial growth.

Select your funds carefully: If you have decided to invest in ULIPs, good. But that is half job done. Under ULIPs, you have to select funds. An insurance company can suggest you default allocation of funds but you can always apply your mind to it.

Broadly, insurance companies have funds which invest in equity markets and debt instruments. Within these two categories, you have several options. Equity based funds generally have blue chip funds, mid cap funds, so on and so forth. Debt funds invest in bonds and government securities, which offer very low returns but do not carry any risks.

There is also a Balanced Fund under which you funds are equally invested in equity and debt markets. Thus, you have three different options to optimise your insurance portfolio returns.

If you have a traditional life insurance policy from a public sector undertaking, you must prefer minimum allocation to bond funds. You can allocate some 5 per cent in bonds and rest in equity based funds.

You can go for a mix of blue chip and mid cap funds. This strategy automatically balances your risks and generates superior returns in the long run.

Buy the policy online: Today, most life insurance companies offer online buying option. What is the advantage? There are several advantages. First, if you buy online insurance, the insurance company does not have to pay commission to sales agent. Thus, you will have an indirect saving since the life insurance company will be able to invest this amount on your behalf.

In the long run, you will realise that your friends who bought the same policy from an insurance agent is generating lesser returns than the one you bought online. Yes, do not be surprised. It is a market reality.

There are thousands of such cases where insurance companies have to shell out commissions in the range of 10-40 per cent. Naturally, this commission is paid out from the premium you pay. The returns are bound to be low in this case because the insurance company will invest less amount and allocate more funds in the name of expenditure.

Therefore, you must buy life insurance online. If you are facing any issues or have any queries with regards to the plan, you can consult their customer care centres through a telephonic call or online chat.

Even in the worst case situation, there is a free-look period of around 15 days you receive the policy. If you are not satisfied with any of the features, you can return the policy to the company.

 

Life Insurance 101

While many of us understand the basic functions of our life insurance policies, it’s not uncommon for questions to arise long after you purchased the policy.

To help address your policy problems, we’ll answer four of the most common life insurance questions to help you gain understanding and control of your life insurance policy.

Questions Answered

How do I file a life insurance claim?

To begin the claim process, you’ll need to obtain a couple copies of the policyholder’s death certificate. If you have trouble obtaining copies of the death certificate from the hospital or coroner’s office, your funeral director should be able to get you a copy.

Next, you’ll need to contact your life insurance agent. Your agent will help you complete the necessary paperwork to file the claim. If you’re not sure who the insured’s agent was, you can contact the insurance company directly and someone will help you file the claim. Remember to bring a copy of the death certificate for your agent as it will be needed to ensure quick claim submittal.

How will I receive the death benefit?

Once the life insurance claim is submitted, you’ll need to choose how the life insurance proceeds will be allocated.

According to the Insurance Information Institute (I.I.I.), there are generally four ways to distribute the death benefit:

Lump Sum. You receive the entire death benefit in one payment.Specific interest provision. The insurance company pays you both principle and interest on a prearranged schedule.

Life income. You receive a guaranteed income for life. However, the amount you receive depends on the benefit amount, your gender and age at the insured’s time of death.

Interest income. The life insurance company holds the proceeds but pays you interest on the policy. Thus, the death benefit remains in tact and goes to a second beneficiary after you die.

No matter which option you choose, you should receive the proceeds from the policy within days of filing the claim. Life insurance companies are required by law to pay claims in this fashion. To learn about the guidelines under which your insurer must pay a claim, contact your state’s division of insurance.

What should I do if I can’t find the policy?

Unfortunately, there’s no database for purchased life insurance policies. That’s why it’s very important to know where the insured’s life insurance policy is at all times. Nonetheless, there are some things you can try to locate a lost policy.

You can start by trying to determine:

  • Which company might have issued the policy
  • Which agent may have issued the policy
  • Whether the policyholder had life insurance through an employer, union or other group

The I.I.I. recommends trying to locate that information by:

Searching records, storage areas and safe deposit boxes. There you may find insurance-related documents, old checks, premium payment receipts or policy notices.Contacting the policyholder’s legal and financial consultants. Previous and current consultants may have some information regarding the deceased’s life insurance.

Contacting the insured’s employer(s). Previous and/or current employers will be able to tell you if the policyholder had a group life insurance policy.

Checking tax returns. By checking past tax returns, you may find interest income from or paid to a life insurance company.

Checking the mail. Even if the policy was paid up, the insurance company will send an annual premium or dividend notice in regard to the policy.

Checking north of the border. If there’s a possibility that the policy was purchased in Canada, you can contact the Canadian Life and Health Insurance Association at (800) 268-8009, or visit them on the Web.

Probing the MIB database. While there’s no database for life insurance policyholders, there is a database for life insurance applicants. For $75, you can search the MIB database, and while it rarely pays off (MIB finds about one in five policies), it might be worth a shot.

If these tips still don’t result in the location of a lost policy, contact your own agent, lawyer or financial consultant as they may have additional recommendations.

What if I can’t pay my life insurance premiums?

Financial hardship can fall on anyone. If this happens to you and you can’t pay your life insurance premium, you should know what to expect.

Generally speaking, if you have a term life insurance policy, not paying your premiums will result in a lapsed policy, which means that the policy will automatically be cancelled and you probably won’t see any proceeds from the policy.

If you have a permanent life insurance policy, the I.I.I. says you’ll have some of the following options:

Cash out the policy. When you cash out, you’ll stop paying the premium and collect any available cash value. However, if the sum of the cash value is more than what you’ve paid in premiums, that cash may be taxed.Non-forfeiture. A “reduced paid-up” option might be available to you, allowing you to stop paying premiums completely for a reduced death benefit and no cash savings. You may also be able to convert a permanent policy into an extended term policy.

Lapsed policy. If you choose to let your policy lapse, you may be able to get it reinstated. Some insurance companies allow you to do this if you do so within five years of lapsing. Reinstatement, however, may be contingent on your ability to pass a medical exam and pay back the premiums owed plus interest.

If you fall on hard times, be sure to contact your life insurance agent right away to work out an arrangement. Depending on your circumstances, it’s generally better not to let a permanent policy completely lapse as you may forfeit the cheap life insurance you had when you bought the policy.

Don’t Let Your Questions Go Unanswered!

If you have questions about your life insurance policy, it’s always a good idea to discuss them with an insurance agent. They can give you new, up-to-date and state-specific information about your life insurance policy so you won’t have any surprises down the line!

 

Common Mistake About Life Insurance

Life insurance is one of the most important components of any individual’s financial plan. However there is lot of misunderstanding about life insurance, mainly due to the way life insurance products have been sold over the years in India. We have discussed some common mistakes insurance buyers should avoid when buying insurance policies.

1. Underestimating insurance requirement: Many life insurance buyers choose their insurance covers or sum assured, based on the plans their agents want to sell and how much premium they can afford. This a wrong approach. Your insurance requirement is a function of your financial situation, and has nothing do with what products are available. Many insurance buyers use thumb rules like 10 times annual income for cover. Some financial advisers say that a cover of 10 times your annual income is adequate because it gives your family 10 years worth of income, when you are gone. But this is not always correct. Suppose, you have 20 year mortgage or home loan. How will your family pay the EMIs after 10 years, when most of the loan is still outstanding? Suppose you have very young children. Your family will run out of income, when your children need it the most, e.g. for their higher education. Insurance buyers need to consider several factors in deciding how much insurance cover is adequate for them.

· Repayment of the entire outstanding debt (e.g. home loan, car loan etc.) of the policy holder

· After debt repayment, the cover or sum assured should have surplus funds to generate enough monthly income to cover all the living expenses of the dependents of the policy holder, factoring in inflation

· After debt repayment and generating monthly income, the sum assured should also be adequate to meet future obligations of the policy holder, like children’s education, marriage etc.

2. Choosing the cheapest policy: Many insurance buyers like to buy policies that are cheaper. This is another serious mistake. A cheap policy is no good, if the insurance company for some reason or another cannot fulfil the claim in the event of an untimely death. Even if the insurer fulfils the claim, if it takes a very long time to fulfil the claim it is certainly not a desirable situation for family of the insured to be in. You should look at metrics like Claims Settlement Ratio and Duration wise settlement of death claims of different life insurance companies, to select an insurer, that will honour its obligation in fulfilling your claim in a timely manner, should such an unfortunate situation arise. Data on these metrics for all the insurance companies in India is available in the IRDA annual report (on the IRDA website). You should also check claim settlement reviews online and only then choose a company that has a good track record of settling claims.

3. Treating life insurance as an investment and buying the wrong plan: The common misconception about life insurance is that, it is also as a good investment or retirement planning solution. This misconception is largely due to some insurance agents who like to sell expensive policies to earn high commissions. If you compare returns from life insurance to other investment options, it simply does not make sense as an investment. If you are a young investor with a long time horizon, equity is the best wealth creation instrument. Over a 20 year time horizon, investment in equity funds through SIP will result in a corpus that is at least three or four times the maturity amount of life insurance plan with a 20 year term, with the same investment. Life insurance should always been seen as protection for your family, in the event of an untimely death. Investment should be a completely separate consideration. Even though insurance companies sell Unit Linked Insurance Plans (ULIPs) as attractive investment products, for your own evaluation you should separate the insurance component and investment component and pay careful attention to what portion of your premium actually gets allocated to investments. In the early years of a ULIP policy, only a small amount goes to buying units.

A good financial planner will always advise you to buy term insurance plan. A term plan is the purest form of insurance and is a straightforward protection policy. The premium of term insurance plans is much less than other types of insurance plans, and it leaves the policy holders with a much larger investible surplus that they can invest in investment products like mutual funds that give much higher returns in the long term, compared to endowment or money back plans. If you are a term insurance policy holder, under some specific situations, you may opt for other types of insurance (e.g. ULIP, endowment or money back plans), in addition to your term policy, for your specific financial needs.

4. Buying insurance for the purpose of tax planning: For many years agents have inveigled their clients into buying insurance plans to save tax under Section 80C of the Income Tax Act. Investors should realize that insurance is probably the worst tax saving investment. Return from insurance plans is in the range of 5 – 6%, whereas Public Provident Fund, another 80C investment, gives close to 9% risk free and tax free returns. Equity Linked Saving Schemes, another 80C investment, gives much higher tax free returns over the long term. Further, returns from insurance plans may not be entirely tax free. If the premiums exceed 20% of sum assured, then to that extent the maturity proceeds are taxable. As discussed earlier, the most important thing to note about life insurance is that objective is to provide life cover, not to generate the best investment return.

5. Surrendering life insurance policy or withdrawing from it before maturity: This is a serious mistake and compromises the financial security of your family in the event of an unfortunate incident. Life Insurance should not be touched until the unfortunate death of the insured occurs. Some policy holders surrender their policy to meet an urgent financial need, with the hope of buying a new policy when their financial situation improves. Such policy holders need to remember two things. First, mortality is not in anyone’s control. That is why we buy life insurance in the first place. Second, life insurance gets very expensive as the insurance buyer gets older. Your financial plan should provide for contingency funds to meet any unexpected urgent expense or provide liquidity for a period of time in the event of a financial distress.

6. Insurance is a one-time exercise: I am reminded of an old motorcycle advertisement on television, which had the punch line, “Fill it, shut it, forget it”. Some insurance buyers have the same philosophy towards life insurance. Once they buy adequate cover in a good life insurance plan from a reputed company, they assume that their life insurance needs are taken care of forever. This is a mistake. Financial situation of insurance buyers change with time. Compare your current income with your income ten years back. Hasn’t your income grown several times? Your lifestyle would also have improved significantly. If you bought a life insurance plan ten years ago based on your income back then, the sum assured will not be enough to meet your family’s current lifestyle and needs, in the unfortunate event of your untimely death. Therefore you should buy an additional term plan to cover that risk. Life Insurance needs have to be re-evaluated at a regular frequency and any additional sum assured if required, should be bought.

Conclusion

Investors should avoid these common mistakes when buying insurance policies. Life insurance is one of the most important components of any individual’s financial plan. Therefore, thoughtful consideration must be devoted to life insurance. Insurance buyers should exercise prudence against questionable selling practised in the life insurance industry. It is always beneficial to engage a financial planner who looks at your entire portfolio of investments and insurance on a holistic basis, so that you can take the best decision with regards to both life insurance and investments.