Choose life assurance based on value for money

Saturday December 30 2017

You are not investing; you are buying an assurance!

The important thing to bear in mind is that you shouldn’t let the smooth-talking sales agent confuse you with promises of “handsome bonuses” and “high returns on your investment”. You are not investing; you are buying an assurance!  PHOTO | FILE

Last week we saw how life assurance policies work.

The question remaining now is what should one look out for when choosing a policy?

The problem in the market is that insurance company sales agents present all manner of sophisticated calculations to prospective customers promising “handsome returns on investment” yet what they are selling is not an investment!

Typically, the agent will tell you that if you “invest” Sh5,000 every month for 10 years, they will pay you about two per cent of the Sh500,000 every year. Thus in the first year, you will earn a bonus of Sh10,000 even though you have paid in just Sh60,000.

The agent will go ahead and show you that Sh10,000 is 16.67% return on investment – much better than what you can get from bank accounts or even treasury bills! But, as we saw last week, this is a gross misrepresentation of the facts.

The truth is that in such a product, you will get back exactly the same amount of money that you pay in after 10 years. The “return on investment” is zero and this is because the life assurance policy is not an investment. As such it should not be expected to yield any returns.

If that is so, how then should a prospective customer compare several products on offer? The answer lies in determining the value for money. Ask yourself this simple question: what are you getting for the money you are paying?

Forget about the bonuses for a moment. They only confuse matters unnecessarily. Think about it like buying potatoes in a typical Kenyan market. The traders always add a little bonus to the quantity that you purchase – the bakshishi.

Would you choose one trader over another because you’re being offered a better bakshishi? Obviously not! Your decision is dependent on the price per unit. If one trader is offering potatoes at Sh500 per debe and the next one at Sh600; wouldn’t you go for the first one? The added bonus does not feature in your decision!

It should be the same consideration when choosing a life assurance policy. Since the rates of bonuses are usually unknown at the time of purchasing and they vary during the term of the policy, they should not be considered in the buying decision.

Thus you should simply compare the premium to the sum assured. In the example used above, the ratio of these two comes to one per cent (Sh5,000 divided by Sh500,000).

If a second company came along and offered the same Sh500,000 sum assured at Sh4,000 per month for 10 years, then you would be better off with them since they are charging you less.

The important thing to bear in mind is that you shouldn’t let the smooth-talking sales agent confuse you with promises of “handsome bonuses” and “high returns on your investment”. You are not investing; you are buying an assurance!

www.figures.co.ke; @mungaikihanya