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Ulips

 

Unlike a pure insurance policy, a Unit Linked Insurance Plan (ULIP) is a product designed to give investors the benefits of both insurance and investment under a single integrated plan. ULIPs are insurance + investment plans suited for investors with long investment horizons. They work well with investors who may not otherwise keep the discipline of investing as they usually come with long lock ins and high exit costs.

The tempting benefit ULIPs offer is the administrative convenience of not needing to execute the two legs of transactions i.e. insurance and investments separately.

From our experience with investors, we understand that there’s a good chance you already own a Unit Linked insurance plan (ULIP) that either your parents bought for you, or you landed up buying one in the hurry scurry of tax related investments, only to realize later that one should not be mixing insurance and investments.

In the case that you may have purchased a ULIP or you may be contemplating to buy one, it is critical to know a few important items related to them so that you are more aware of what you have or might get yourself into.

 

1. Understand the purpose for purchasing the ULIP – tax planning cannot be the sole motive

While tax planning is clearly on the agenda, you should also assess the objective for which you want to purchase an insurance policy. Is the policy being bought for long term wealth creation, retirement planning or building a corpus for your child’s future? A decision that is prompted solely by the need to save taxes often results in the purchase of a wrong or an unsuitable product.

 

2. Check the charges carefully

All Ulips come with a host of charges. Understanding each of them is crucial to understanding if the product is suitable or not. Such charges include:

  • Premium Allocation Charges: As the name suggests, these fees are to cover expenses incurred by the company to allocate funds, do the underwriting, medical expenses, etc.Your agents commission is also covered under this head.
  • Policy Administrative Charges: These are the charges that are deducted on a timely basis to recover the expenses incurred to maintain the policies under the fund.
  • Surrender Charges: Similar to the exit loadin a mutual fund, these are the charges applicable when encashing a part or the full investment in a plan. As we know that in most of the Mutual Funds, exit load is at about one percent. In ULIPs, surrender charges could vary from a few percentage points to very exhorbitant amounts, basically to deter investors from exiting the plan in a short horizon.
  • Mortality Charges: These are the fees that are deducted on a monthly basis to cover the costs borne by the insurerfor providing a life cover to the policy holder. Depending on the age and the sum insured, these charges are deducted for life cover.
  • Fund Management Charges: The allocation of investment in debt and equity requires the insurer to bear the costs of managing the fund.These are charged as fund management charges.
  • Fund Switching Charges: As the name suggests, switching from one fund to another requires the insuredto pay an amount for covering the expenses borne by the company for making the switch.

 

3. Understand the flexibility to Switch

An investor’s need for liquidity, time horizon, and risk appetite will determine the initial allocation but these change over time. ULIPs offer the flexibility of switching between the funds based on changes in market cycles and changes in investor preferences. The number of free switches during a policy year, the cost of switches and the ease of switching are factors that are important evaluation points when choosing a ULIP.

 

4. Analyse and estimatperformance

With the complexity of the ULIP structure plus the huge list of charges and expenses that comes with it, it is difficult to approximate the kind of performance the product may have given during its existence. Always insist with the insurance agent/advisor to show illustrations and data demonstrating how the fund would has performed and is likely perform considering markets ups and downs. More often that not, data would help you decide better on the decision to invest or not.

 

Probably the only benefit, though largely accidental, of an ULIP is that the investor’s money is locked in due to the structure of a ULIP, forcing him to think long term. However, it is needless to say that other options must also be evaluated in comparison to ULIPs before making a choice to invest in them. The most common strategy might be a combination of Pure Term Life insurance policies along with separate investments in Mutual Funds. But like every investment decision, the first step to take is to determine the investment horizon and risk appetite and not get swayed by fancy words or past performance.

 

 

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SIP Plant

Mutual Funds have surely caught the fancy of the Indian Investor community with net flows crossing one lakh crores in 2017! Unlike in the past years, almost everyone we speak with has probably heard of mutual funds. The strong rise in awareness of this investment vehicle has even prompted the Association of Mutual Funds India (AMFI) to cash in on it, with their recent on going advertisement campaign, “Mutual Funds Sahi Hai”.

But what caused this sudden optimism and acceptance of mutual funds as an investment option? It clearly is not a “new trendy option”, for mutual funds have been around for over two decades. While a lot of its features and advantages may contribute to its overall success, one key factor that really has drawn the Indian investor to mutual funds is its ability to create long term wealth, not only for those who invest big lump sums in it, but more decisively, for the salaried class.

The most commonly availed route to invest in mutual funds for the a salaried investor has been Systematic Investment Plan (SIP). It has become synonymous with mutual fund investing. So how does an SIP work? And how does it help in long term wealth creation?

A SIP is simply an investment process to invest systematically every week or month or quarter into a mutual fund scheme at a periodic chosen date. The intent behind this process is that by investing small amounts over a medium or long term tenure, you are sidestepping the issue of market timing. Market timing being the decision to invest based on your view of market movement. As investments will be done over a period of time, such installments would get both the highs and lows of the underlying market, thereby averaging out the purchase cost. This concept is called Rupee Cost Averaging. But for the salaried class a SIP has been looked as a convenient method of investing, as investing monthly from the salary income is a easily achievable goal.

And what about the question of wealth creation? How can a SIP help with wealth creation?

A SIP is a great example of the Compounding Effect, referred to as the Eight Wonder of the World by Albert Einstein. Compounding, or Compound Interest, is the phenomenon where alongside the principal, the interest earned is also reinvested at the same rate of return. So if in Year 1 the principal invested was Rs, 10,000 at 10% rate of interest, the interest to be received at the end of the year would be Rs, 1000. Now because of compounding, the interest is added to the principal in the second year, making principal amount to Rs 11,000 on which 10% returns are gained, resulting in Rs 1,100 as interest in second year and so on so forth. This interest reinvestment is crucial because with passage of time, the increase in principal results in disproportional returns during the latter periods of the investment tenure.

The following table shows how certain equity mutual funds have grown a modest SIP amount of Rs 10,000 per month in the past 10 years:

Fund Name 10 year CAGR (rolling returns) Total SIP Amount Market Value
A diversified equity fund 24.72% Rs. 12 lakhs  Rs. 51 lakhs
A large cap fund 22.98% Rs. 12 lakhs  Rs 45 lakhs
A flexi cap fund 22.96% Rs. 12 lakhs  Rs 45 lakhs
A large cap fund 18.96% Rs. 12 lakhs  Rs 35 lakhs

(Source: Value Express as on 30th Sept 2017) (Note: All fund data taken for regular plans with growth option)

The following chart shows the value of the investment accelerate due to compounding over time.

compounding effects in SIP

(Note: Fund data used is of Diversified Equity Fund from the above table)

Another factor to consider when thinking of compounding is time. The longer you invest and hold the investment, the better results it will provide. The following table is a clear example of the same. Taking the same funds as in the above table, if an investor started late and had to invest for the second half i.e. 5 years and even if he invested at double the SIP amount i.e. Rs 20,000 per month, he/she would not achieve the same end result:

Fund Name 5 year CAGR (rolling returns) Total SIP Amount Market Value
A diversified equity fund 19.36% Rs. 12 lakhs Rs 36 lakhs
A large cap fund 16.07% Rs. 12 lakhs Rs 29 lakhs
A flexi cap fund 19.05% Rs. 12 lakhs Rs 35 lakhs
A large cap fund 18.92% Rs. 12 lakhs Rs 35 lakhs

(Source: Value Express as on 30th Sept 2017)

(Note: All fund data taken for regular plans with growth option)

As you may have noticed, barring the last large cap equity fund, all other funds performed significantly better over 10 year tenures, resulting in higher gains, even though in both cases the principal invested was the same.

As an investor you may have noticed various advertisements where mutual Funds are showcasing how much an SIP into their best performing star fund may have grown into, in a certain number of years. While the growth story in many such funds has been substantial, the key note all investors must keep in mind is that this is the result of staying invested into the fund for the long haul, including the times when the fund may have under performed. Compounding and a SIP will only go hand in hand when the investor has the horizon and patience to continue the SIP for a long tenure.

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