Asked and Answered: Invest to Insure or Insure to Invest?

by Vinaya HS on November 4, 2011

in Finance

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A reader writes-in:

Is it worth taking term insurance when you’re in your late 30’s? Let’s say I purchase term insurance for a sum assured of 50 lacs and for a period of 22-years. The yearly premium is around 18,000 which means I will be losing nearly 4 lacs by the end of the policy term. Can you suggest a better option so that I am covered on both insurance and investment? I am not interested in other types of life insurance schemes.

Now I fully understand that the purpose of term insurance is death benefit to family who are dependent on me. My only worry is paying such high premiums and not earning any returns. It’s really pinching. Please share if you have any thought that covers life and gives good returns so that my hard earn money does not go to insurance company.

First things first. When you have family dependent on you, term insurance is always great to have. Irrespective of your age — but only so long as you can afford to pay the premium. Next, as you have correctly pointed out, term insurance is a pure-risk cover. You (and several others) pay X amount to Insurer Y in the hope of your dependent family receiving Z (a very high multiple of X). Since Z is a very high multiple of X, it’s not fair to also expect returns on X. You give up earning returns on X so that your dependent family can get Z.

Now, there are indeed some term insurance schemes that do offer a Return of Premium (RoP) (such as this one). Perhaps this might be what you’re looking for. But do note that the premium on RoP-term schemes will be higher than that on non-RoP term schemes.

Here’s another thought. Perhaps you could also stagger/ladder your term insurance purchase. Say instead of buying one term plan for one big amount in one go, you could buy multiple term plans for smaller amounts and with varying maturity periods. This way, as you slowly build your own safety-net or self-insurance corpus, you can easily drop one or more term plans and hence reduce your premium outgo. This does however require some upfront thinking and planning.

This directly leads to a much broader question: Should you invest to [self-] insure or should you insure to invest? Too many of us think of investment as a great side-effect of purchasing insurance (because it is marketed that way and so we obsess over ULIP NAVs!) whereas it should be the exact opposite. But how does investing — not only your money but also your time and your skills — with the purpose of becoming self-insured in most aspects of life sound? When you are self-insured you stop worrying about 99% of the things that generally keep people awake. Very easy to say, not that easy to do, but definitely doable if you keep chipping away at it.

What do you think?

Thanks for reading this article. I'd love to hear your opinion. Please use the comments section below to share your thoughts. I frequently write new articles that also cover several other aspects of personal finance including credit cards, financial goals, health insurance, income tax, life insurance, mutual funds, retirement planning, and much more. You can Subscribe through Email and receive new articles directly in your Inbox or you can Subscribe through the RSS Feed and receive new articles in your feed reader.

{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

Ashutosh Tewari November 4, 2011 at 10:45 AM

A majority of people never buy a pure term cover because of the perceived loss of premium at the end of the term cover, however at the same time are willing to invest in ULIPs (which is the costliest way of getting insured) and remain grossly under-insured.

Return on Premium is a concept that a couple of companies are using now (Birla Sun Life also has a similar product). This can be a way of mitigating the apprehension of losing the premium amount but at the same time is slightly more expensive than a pure term plan.

Other way can be to go for online term plans which are very cost effective. And like you very rightly pointed out one can start by buying a lower cover and then gradually increase it as his liability increases. This modular approach will give him flexibility to also reduce the cover, as the liabilities start reducing.

Rakesh November 4, 2011 at 9:39 PM


Good explanation. I think term plan and SIP’s in MF is a must for everyone.
Though i am under-insured, still looking out for the right online term plan for myself.
Do you have any experience with online term plans?


Vinaya H S November 8, 2011 at 12:43 AM

Here’s an insightful comment that I received over email:

“Insurance and investments. Like drinking and driving. Not advisable. Yes, people do drink and drive. But it’s injurious.”

Couldn’t agree more!

Vinaya H S November 8, 2011 at 9:18 PM


Thanks for your insights. And happy ERE-book reading. :-)


I have zero-insurance right now. Still sitting on the fence regarding purchasing an online term plan because my present situation doesn’t really warrant having one. But I think I need to think ahead and purchase one at a lower-cost today. Will update as soon as I make up my mind.

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