Monday, November 16, 2015

Term Insurance Or Whole Life Insurance? Which Is A Better Choice?

My Encounters with Insurance

For the longest period of time, whole life insurance and insurance savings plan (endowment plans) were the only thing I know which existed in the market. 9 years ago when I was at the age of 18, I had my first encounter with insurance. I was still a student back then and was approached by a financial consultant on the streets while I was going out. I'm sure many of you have been approached before too. I agreed to hear more about insurance and sat at a MacDonalds with this consultant for the next 1 hour plus listening to what insurance is all about. I was introduced a savings plan and was told the interest will certainly be more than a bank's interest. Besides that, this plan also has death, total permanent disability (TPD) and critical illness coverage. It kinda makes sense that I can put in money, get higher returns for my money and still get the coverage. It sounds so attractive that I signed up on the spot. To this day, I still have the policy which I've been paying for the past 9 years.

The policy which I had, although has a coverage for death, total permanent disability and critical illness, was only $10,000. It is certainly not enough should I have dependants or if I need to provide for my parents in the future. My next few encounters with financial consultants was on the topic of whole life insurance. This time round, I took my time to decide whether to take up an insurance policy as the premiums weren't cheap. Many times, I was recommended policies with $100,000-$200,000 coverage at premiums of $200 per month or $2400 a year. I only just started working back then and didn't have a high starting salary. Paying $2400 a year is still quite a big sum of money to me.

Fast forward to today, I didn't purchase the whole life insurance for only $100,000-$200,000 coverage for $2400 per year. Later on, I found out another insurance called term insurance which I could get One Million coverage for only about $1500 a year. The same $200,000 coverage would only cost $300 a year back then instead of the $2400 which I was recommended. Why is there such a big difference in the premiums?

*Disclaimer: Before I continue, this post is not a recommendation for any insurance policies as I'm not here to do that. I will only list down the facts of what term insurance or life insurance is and let you see for yourself which is a better choice. Let's start!

Term Insurance Or Whole Life Insurance?

During NTUC Income's 40th anniversary dinner, Senior Minister Goh Chok Tong supported the use of term insurances and even asked insurers to put more emphasis on it. Let's see the rationale behind term insurance and whole life insurance and find out which is a better choice?

Whole Life insurance premiums are definitely much more expensive than that of a term insurance for a similar coverage. A person at the age of 20 can get a $200,000 death and TPD coverage for just $300 a year with a term insurance as compared to $2000+ a year for a whole life insurance. For whole life insurance, you get something back when you terminate your policy but for a term insurance, you would get nothing back at all. This is the argument put forth which discourages term insurance.

However, let's understand why we would get something back for a whole life insurance and not for a term insurance? For a whole life insurance, every dollar you pay as premium for the whole life plan, a portion will go into paying the mortality charge that provides you the cover you need. The rest of it is invested into the insurance company’s life fund. The mortality charge portion is never returned back to you. The only reason why you get money back from a whole life plan is because you gave the insurance companies extra money to invest. When you buy a term plan, you are effectively paying only for the mortality charge; you are just buying pure protection.

Have you heard of the phrase buy term and invest the rest? This is saying we should buy term insurance and invest the rest of our money on our own. Instead of putting our money into the insurance company's life fund, we can invest our own money and manage our own fund. This is of course subjected to individual preference. Some may not know how to invest their money and would still be better off putting their money in the insurance life fund.

But, there is a problem with whole life plans. If let's say we want to get 1 Million insurance coverage, it becomes too expensive if we were to get a whole life insurance. A check on DIYInsurance's comparison portal shows that a $100,000 coverage for whole life insurance would cost between $1600-$1900 a year. How much would a One Million coverage cost for life insurance? It could easily be above $10K a year.

DIYInsurance has also launched a term insurance table to compare the premiums across insurance companies in Singapore. The following is a table adapted from DIYInsurance's website for your reference. This Term Insurance table is also updated monthly by them.

We consider the following example of a Male, Non-Smoker:

  • Policy coverage till 65 years old (Eg. when children are independent)
  • S$1million Death and Total Permanent Disability (TPD) Coverage

Annual premiums of insurers in Singapore (S$):

AgeAvivaAXA LifeEtiqaGreat EasternHSBC InsuranceManulifeNTUC IncomePrudentialZurich LifeApply for Cheapest

For a Female, Non-Smoker,

Annual premiums of insurers in Singapore (S$):

AgeAvivaAXA LifeEtiqaGreat EasternHSBC InsuranceManulifeNTUC IncomePrudentialZurich LifeApply for Cheapest
*With information from and comparefirst. Figures are compiled on 5th November 2015.

** Prices reflected in the table reflect ongoing existing promotions and discounts which are in the knowledge of.

Term insurance or whole life insurance? You can make your decision base on the information provided above. There are many ways to compare insurance premiums now in this IT savvy world we live in. All of us can make better informed choices!

DIYInsurance by Providend Ltd

To compare and purchase insurance, DIYInsurance (Do It Your Way Insurance) is Singapore's First Life Insurance Comparison Web Portal by Providend Ltd. DIYInsurance aggregates products from various insurance companies and provides 30% commission rebates in addition to ongoing promotions.

Backed by key people with almost 2 decades of experience, all staff from DIYInsurance are salaried based and do not participate in sales-based compensation or incentives of any kind. Not being remunerated on a commission-basis means there is no hard-selling and over-selling. This is insurance based on no one's agenda except your own. Click here to request a Term Life Insurance quote through DIYInsurance.

*This post is written in collaboration with DIYInsurance. The opinions and expressions in this article are solely based on my own thoughts and experiences. 


  1. Can consider buying from the new MINDEF & MHA Group insurance, which will replace the existing SAF Group Insurance from 1 Oct.

    $1 million term coverage costs $41 per month, flat rate till 65.

    1. Hi,

      Thank you for the link. I'm also currently finding out more information on the plan and how all of us can take advantage of it.