Monday, November 17, 2008

Life insurance planning

YOU heard enough about why you should buy insurance. So you wake up one morning and decide to buy yours that day. And then, you realise, you have no clue where to begin. Well, how about here for a start.

Step 1 – Evaluate your life insurance needs
An extremely popular product, life insurance offers a lot more than just tax planning and investment returns. You are afforded the ability to plan for unforeseen events that could adversely affect your family's financial profile.

Factors to consider
Your financial profile and needs are different from your neighbour’s. The same holds true for your insurance needs. Your decision when going for insurance must revolve around the number of dependants and their financial needs.

Factors you should consider
§ Wealth, income and expense levels of your dependants
§ Significant foreseeable expenses
§ Inheritance you would leave them
§ Lifestyle you want to provide for them

How much insurance?
Obviously the above factors don’t mean much unless they are quantified. A time-tested approach used by insurance and financial planners globally is the capital needs analysis method.

When should I re-evaluate?
Whenever any of the factors discussed above change.

Step 2 – Understand the key concepts

Risk cover v/s investment returns
Insurance options range – from low premium policies with that offer almost no returns, to high premium ones that offer returns depending on the fund option you choose.

We recommend you buy policies skewed towards investment returns only if you are in the high-tax bracket, prefer to invest in low-risk, fixed-income options and have exhausted all the other such investment options available.

Whole life v/s limited period
As you grow older, the number of dependants may decrease (since children would be independent). Also, your wealth may reach a level where it can support your dependents’ financial needs in the event of your death.

You should therefore consider whether if you need to insure yourself for whole life or for a limited term. Obviously, the cost of insurance for the latter is lower.

We recommend you go for whole life only if you do not expect your wealth to ever reach a level where it can support the financial needs of your dependents.

ULIP vs traditional
Today ULIPs are more popular than any other option. But your life insurance agent may be the only one recommending you the ULIP. Before you sign the cheque decide which is best for you: ULIP or Traditional endowment .

Tax Planning
The premium paid for an insurance policy also qualifies for tax deduction under Section 80C of the Income Tax Act. But don't buy insurance only to save tax. Read why insurance + investment + tax = a bad combo!

Step 3 - Selecting a policy

Calculate the insurance you need
Consider the current expense profile of your dependents and the current wealth level of your family. Consider also the risk tolerance level of your dependants.

Selecting your Premium Paying Term (PPT)

How long do you want to pay your insurance premium for? This decision depend on the following factors:
§ How many years of regular income you expect
§ Level of your regular savings
§ How much insurance premium you can firmly commit to
§ How long you want to be insured versus how long you expect to pay a premium for

Other important questions
§ Do you want to participate in bonus/ profit share?
§ What is the primary objective - risk cover or investment returns?
§ Do you want accident cover?

Buying insurance can be as easy as buying a cell phone. Find out how and get ready to face those life insurance agents.

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