A Beginner’s Guide to Insurance

Having the right kind of insurance is central to sound financial planning. Some of us may have some form of insurance but very few really understand what it is or why one must have it. For most Indians insurance is a form of investment or a superb tax saving avenue. Ask an average person about his/her investments and they will proudly mention an insurance product as part of their core investments. Of the approximately 5% of Indians that are insured the proportion of those adequately insured is much lower. Very few of the insured view insurance as purely that. There is perhaps no other financial product that has witnessed such rampant mis-selling at the hands of agents who are over enthusiastic in selling products linking insurance to investment earning them fat commissions.

What is Insurance?

Insurance is a way of spreading out significant financial risk of a person or business entity to a large group of individuals or business entities in the occurrence of an unfortunate event that is predefined. The cost of being insured is the monthly or annual compensation paid to the insurance company. In the purest form of insurance if the predefined event does not occur until the period specified the money paid as compensation is not retrieved. Insurance is effectively a means of spreading risk among a pool of people who are insured and lighten their financial burden in the event of a shock.

Insured and Insurer

When you seek protection against financial risk and make a contract with an insurance provider you become the insured and the insurance company becomes your insurer.

Sum assured

In Life Insurance this is the amount of money the insurer promises to pay when the insured dies before the predefined time. This does not include bonuses added in case of non-term insurance. In non-life insurance this guaranteed amount may be called as Insurance Cover.

Premium

For the protection against financial risk an insurer provides, the insured must pay compensation. This is known as premium. They may be paid annually, quarterly, monthly or as decided in the contract. Total amount of premiums paid is several times lesser than the insurance cover or it wouldn’t make much sense to seek insurance at all. Factors that determine premium are the cover, number of years for which insurance is sought, age of the insured (individual, vehicle, etc), to name a few.

Nominee

The beneficiary who is specified by the insured to receive the sum assured and other benefits, if any is the nominee. In case of life insurance it must be another person apart from the insured.

Policy Term

The number of years you want protection for is the term of policy. Term is decided by the insured at the time of purchasing the insurance policy.

Rider

Certain insurance policies may offer additional features as add-ons apart from the actual cover. These can be availed by paying extra premiums. If those features were to be bought separately they would be more expensive. For instance you could add on a personal accident rider with your life insurance.

Surrender Value and Paid-up Value

If you want to exit a policy before its term ends you can discontinue it and take back your money. The amount the insurer will pay you in this instance is called the surrender value. The policy ceases to exist. Instead if you just stop paying the premiums mid way but do not withdraw money the amount is called as paid-up. At the term’s end the insurer pays you in proportion of the paid-up value.

Now that you know the terms this is how insurance works in plain words. An insurance company pools premiums from a large group of people who want to insure against a certain kind of loss. With the help of its actuaries the company comes up with statistical analysis of the probability of actual loss happening in a certain number of people and fixes premiums taking into account other factors as mentioned earlier. It works on the fact that not all insured will suffer loss at the same time and many may not suffer the loss at all within the time of contract.

Types of Insurance

Potentially any risk that can be quantified in terms of money can be insured. To protect loved ones from loss of income due to immature death one can have a life insurance policy. To protect yourself and your family against unforeseen medical expenses you can opt for a Mediclaim policy. To protect your vehicle against robbery or damage in accidents you can have a motor insurance policy. To protect your home against theft, damage due to fire, flood and other perils you can choose a home insurance.

Most popular insurance forms in India are life insurance, health insurance and motor insurance. Apart from these there are other forms as well which are discussed in brief in the following paragraphs. The insurance sector is regulated and monitored by IRDA (Insurance Regulatory and Development Authority).

Life Insurance

This form of insurance provides cover against financial risk in the event of premature death of the insured. There are 24 life insurance companies playing in this arena of which Life Insurance Corporation of India is a public sector company. There are several forms of life insurance policies the simplest form of which is term plan. The other complex policies are endowment plan, whole life plan, money back plan, ULIPs and annuities.

General Insurance

All other insurance policies besides Life Insurance fall under General Insurance. There are 24 general insurance companies in India of which 4 namely National Insurance Company Ltd, New India Assurance Company Ltd, Oriental Insurance Company Ltd and United India Insurance Company Ltd are in the public sector domain.

The biggest pie of non-life insurance in terms of premiums underwritten is shared by motor insurance followed by engineering insurance and health insurance. Other forms of insurance offered by companies in India are home insurance, travel insurance, personal accident insurance, and business insurance.

Buying Insurance

There are an umpteen number of policies to choose from. Because we cannot foresee our future and stop unpleasant things from happening, having an insurance cover is a necessity. But you need to choose carefully. Don’t simply go with what the agent tells you. Read policy documents to know what is covered, what features are offered and what events are excluded from being insured.

1. Know your Needs

Determine what asset or incident must be protected against loss/damage. Is it you life, health, vehicle, home? Next determine what kinds of damage or danger exactly would the assets be most probably be exposed to. This will tell you what features you should be looking for in a policy. Of course there will be losses which cannot be foreseen and the cost of dealing with them can be very high. For instance nobody can predict that they’ll never suffer from critical illnesses no matter if they’re perfectly healthy at present.

The biggest mistake while it comes to buying insurance, particularly life insurance is to view it as an investment. Clubbing insurance and investment in a single product is a poor idea. You lose out on both fronts because for the premiums you’re paying more cover could’ve been got in a term plan and if the premiums were invested in better instruments your returns could’ve been several times more.

Be wary of agents who want to talk you into buying unnecessary policies like child life insurance, credit card insurance, unemployment insurance and so on. Instead of buying separate insurance for specific assets or incidents look for policies that cover a host of possible events under the same cover. Whenever possible choose riders that make sense instead of buying them separately. Unless there is a fair chance of an event happening you do not need insurance for it. For instance unless you are very prone to accidents and disability due to your nature of work or other reasons you do not need an Accident Insurance policy. A good Life Insurance policy with accidental death rider or waiver of premium rider or a disability income rider will do the job.

2. Understand Product Features and Charges

The worst way of choosing an insurance product or insurer is to blindly follow the recommendation of an agent or a friend. The good way to do it is to shop around for products that suit your need and filter out the ones offering lower premiums for similar terms like age, amount of cover, etc. All details you need about the product features and charges will be provided on the company’s website. Many insurance policies can now be bought online. Buying online is smarter because premiums are lower due to elimination of agent fees. If buying offline in case of life insurance, tell the agent that you’re interested only in term insurance.

Before you sign on the contract make sure you have understood what items are covered and what items are exempted from the cover. It would be so devastating to learn in the event of damage or loss that the item you hoped to cover with the insurance was actually excluded. So many people rush to their insurers after being treated for diseases only to realize that the particular disease was excluded. Understand details like when the cover begins and ends and how claims can be filed and losses be reported.

Don’t choose an insurance company because your neighbourhood friend is their agent and never let them coax you into buying from them. Insurance premiums run for years and it means a sizeable amount of money. Apart from the premiums charged look for the service provided. When you are faced with a peril you want the claims collection processed to be complicated with non-cooperating staff in the insurance company’s office. Seek answers from people who have had previous experience with the company for questions like how customer friendly and responsive the company is when it comes to handling claims.

3. Evaluate and Upgrade in Time

As you walk from one life stage to another or when the asset insured changes your policies must be reviewed. Perhaps your cover will need to be increased (or decreased) or you’ll need to top it up with a rider. Some instances when you need to review your cover are when you getting married, when you have children, when your income increases your decreases substantially, when you’re buying a house/car and when you’re responsible for your ageing parents.

How Much Should I Be Paying For Car Insurance? Typical Car Insurance Premiums

Typical car insurance premiums have become a matter of concern, especially for people who want to purchase car insurance. For instance, if a client gives a call to three different car insurance firms, they provide different quotes for insuring the very same car. Below are certain parameters that the insurers take into consideration, for calculating the premiums.

One of the important factors that determines whether the client has to pay low or high premiums is the age of individual involved. Particularly, the insurance firm wants to know, whether the client is above the age of 25 or under it. For instance, clients above the age of 25 years pay lower premiums as compared to those below the age of 25.

Other Important Factors Affecting Car Insurance Premiums:

Apart from age, the second factor that influences car insurance premiums is your occupation. For clients, who work in an industry such as law or banking, insurers offer them better insurance terms, as compared to those who work in more exciting jobs.

Even gender is a crucial factor, in case of typical car insurance premiums. Women are more likely to pay lower car insurance premiums as compared to men. This is due to the fact that they get in fewer accidents.

Another factor that determines the amount paid in premiums is driving experience. More importantly, insurers look out for the points on the driving license and the past driving record. Drivers having good driving record pay lower monthly installments as compared to those having poor driving records.

The other crucial factor that affects the payment of car insurance payments is the value of the car and the type of car that an individual drives. In the case of expensive cars, such as Jaguars and BMW, the premiums are much higher as compared to those on a typical Ford.

In cars, insurers mainly look at the mileage, model, age, type of engine capacity and registration number of the car. They all play an important part in the calculation of rates.

In some cases, the number of miles that an individual drives each year is included in the calculation of the premium. The place of residence is another crucial factor for typical car insurance premiums. The insurance company also takes into account the car theft rate in the local area.

Important Methods To Save On Premiums:

A great method to save money on car insurance is to ensure that the car is secure. For that purpose, individuals need to think about enhancing the security of cars, to drive down their premium rates. It is a standard method of reducing the cost of coverage for your vehicle.

One standard feature of insurance coverage is theft. If the vehicle is easy to steal or to break into, it comes under the high risk category and becomes an attractive proposition for criminals.

Less risk means that the insurer is less likely to have to make financial compensation. It thus, will be reflected in their monthly premiums and overall coverage costs. You can find out how much or little you will need to pay with the help of one of the websites listed below.

Different Life Insurance Policies, Different Rates – But, Now’s The Time To Reevaluate Your Policy

Here are the top four life insurances listed from most expensive to the least expensive.

Universal life insurance

Whole life insurance

Return of Premium life insurance (R.O.P.)

and least expensive of all – Standard Term life insurance

The least expensive may sound good but it may not necessarily be the best insurance for you and your family. A lot of people may have different policies. Two or even three. Each one covering a specific need.

Okay, let’s get to these important tips that could save you money when shopping for life insurance.

Buy life insurance while you’re young.

The younger you are when you purchase a life insurance policy the better. Your rates will be much lower. Buying life insurance for your children when they are young will keep their premiums low for the rest of their lives. Up to 10 times lower!

Find a life insurance policy that meets all your needs.

In other words, a policy that is’ tailor-made’ just for you and your family. Everyone has different needs.

You have a home with a 30 year mortgage that you would want to protect with a 30 year policy. You are 30 to 40 years of age. You should consider a small Whole life insurance policy with an additional 20 year Term life policy. Perhaps you are close to retirement. A 10 year Term life insurance policy may be right for you.

If you are a smoker, you want to consider a short term life insurance policy. (Just quit smoking!! Get a new policy! Many policies are much cheaper for a non-smoker. You will not only get healthier, but think of the money you’ll be saving! Not just on your premiums, but on all that you spend on tobacco!! )

How much life insurance should you purchase to meet your needs and the needs of your family?

First, you need to sit down and figure out what your needs are and the needs of your family.

You need to be prepared when dealing with insurance companies. Their goal is to make money off you. They will do their very best to try and sell you more coverage than you really need. Only purchase enough coverage that will take care of your family if something should happen to you. Such as, burial expenses, out-standing debts, mortgage, etc. Enough insurance for them to live on in a way they have become accustom to. (Note: An average standard is 10 times your yearly gross income plus any large debts you may have.)

The reason one should need to purchase more life insurance than needed is if you are leaving behind a large estate. This would be to keep the assets of your estate from being taxed.

If an insurance company is trying to push you to buy more coverage than you need, move on to another insurance company! There is no trick to buying life insurance. It’s not only fast and easy; It’s free on the internet! You can get many different quotes from many different insurance companies in no time at all and save you a lot of money.

Save money by matching the right insurance company to your lifestyle Let’s say that you have a high risk occupation. Such as an airplane pilot or construction worker. Or perhaps you have a high risk hobby. Such as jumping out of an airplane rather then piloting one. Insurance companies are well aware that they are taking a big. Therefore, they will charge you much higher rates figuring that you may not be paying them premiums as long as they had planned on.

The insurance companies will still insure ‘high risk’ people. But the amount of those individuals is limited. Example: An insurance company, let’s say, has a limit of 10,000 policies that they will issue to a ‘high risk’ individual. Each individual pays $1,000 per year for their policy. Now, after the insurance company reaches their limit of 10,000 policy holders, a ‘new’ high risk individual, (#10,001), is going to pay double for that exact same policy. Why? Because insurance companies are NOT going to exceed that limit and put their assets at risk. They need to compensate by charging higher rates to everyone over that limit.

Take notice of fluctuating rates as your insurance policy increases Some insurance companies are willing to give you a bit of a price break when you increase the amount of your coverage. It is possible to get a $300,000 policy from one insurance company for less than a $275,000 from another insurance company, even if both insurance companies charge the exact same price for that $275,000 policy.

It really pays to check both above and below the coverage you are looking at. You may be surprised at what you might find when you compare.

Are you paying too much for life insurance through you place of employment? Chances are, yes! You see your employer and the insurance company work together to agree on one set ‘group’ rate. Meaning, all employees’ pays the same price for their life insurance policy. They are going to figure in the number of ‘healthy’ and ‘unhealthy’ employee’s. Now, we already know that a person who is unhealthy will pay more.

Not the case through work. Everyone pays the same rate. The ‘group’ rate’. Therefore, if you are one of the ‘healthy’ employee’s, chances are, you are pay too much because you are paying a portion of the ‘unhealthy’ employee’s premium payment.

Let’s say that in a normal situation, an insurance companies rate would be $50 per week for a healthy person and $100 per week for an unhealthy person. In a ‘group’ rate situation, a set rate would be $75 per week for everyone. Every employee whether healthy or not.

That means that a healthy employee is getting an extra $25 per week taken out of their paycheck to help pay for a portion of the ‘unhealthy’ employee’s premiums.

If this is your case, the wise thing to do, if you are one of the ‘healthy’ employee’s, is to take that $75 per week out of your paycheck yourself and invest it in a life insurance policy that is tailor-made just for you. You would now be in control. You must also keep in mind that if you should ever leave this job, or retire, most likely you would lose any life insurance benefits you had through the company. By investing in your own policy, (and as long as you pay your premiums,) you would never be in fear of losing a policy that you may have paid many, many years in to.

You may save money by paying your premium payments annually.

By making annual premium payments, your life insurance company may give you a discount rate. After all, they are saving money with less labor and less paper work compared to those who pay monthly. If annual payments won’t work for you, ask the insurance company if they will offer a discount on your monthly premium if you pay by credit card. Many insurance companies don’t just willingly offer a discount. So don’t be afraid to ask!

Watch out for “Age Nearest” in your policy

When an insurance company raises your rates as you get older, these increases may not occur on your birthday as most would assume. The fact is, most insurance companies will raise the rates of your policy six months prior to your birthday. They call this ‘Age Nearest’. This could end up costing you a lot of money over the length of your policy. Make sure that you ask your insurance company ‘how’ and ‘when’ they increase their rates.

When to reevaluate your life insurance policy

There are several reasons for reevaluating your life insurance policy every year or so. Insurance rates are dropping, mainly because the internet has made it so easy for everyone to get life insurance quotes. This is resulting in a fierce competition between insurance companies. People are also living longer these days. That means longer policies for the insurance companies and longer premium payments.

It is possible to double your existing policy without paying any more than you are now. Anytime there is a substantial change in your life, you need to reevaluate your life insurance policy. You could be paying for coverage that you no longer need such as, your mortgage, your debts, or you no longer have dependants living at home.

Or, You may need to increase your coverage because, you had a child or purchased a new home. Very, very few insurance companies will ask you on a yearly basis if there are any major changes in your life. You need to inform them and ask them to reevaluate your policy. You can get a cheap life insurance quote but you have to ask and compare.