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Are ULIPs a costly form of term insurance plus MF investments?

This article compares Unit Linked Insurance Plan (ULIP) with a combination of term insurance & Equity Linked Savings Scheme (ELSS) investment, and judges the utility of each strategy. (ULIP versus Mutual Funds – MF)


What we have learnt so far

In “ULIP v/s Endowment Plan for Life Insurance“, we saw that Unit Linked Insurance Plans (ULIPs) are better than traditional endowment plans. But then, in ““Term policy” is the best policy“, we discussed that investments should be separated from insurance, and therefore, we concluded that term plans are the best form of insurance.

So, here, let’s see how the benefit of Unit Linked Insurance Plans (ULIPs) can be achieved (and bettered!!) using a combination of Term Insurance and Equity Linked Savings Scheme (ELSS) mutual fund (MF).

Let’s recap the benefits of Unit Linked Insurance Plans (ULIPs):

  1. Flexibility to choose the type of investment scheme – Mostly equity, mostly debt, and various combinations in-between
  2. Transparency – You know where your investments are being made, and you know the charges incurred by you

(For more details, please read “ULIP v/s Endowment Plan for Life Insurance“)


How are we going to compare the two?

Here is what we are going to do: First option is to buy insurance using a ULIP. The second option is to buy insurance using a term plan, and since term insurance is a lot cheaper than ULIPs, invest the difference in the premiums in ELSS.

Let’s walk through a real-life example and see how both these options compare.

Here is a comparison of charges for a ULIP and a term plan for a sum assured of Rs. 10 Lakhs for a 30 year old male (Policy term is 25 years):

Insurance CompanySBI LifeSBI Life
Scheme NameSBI Horizon II (ULIP)SBI Shield (Term Plan)
Premium (Per Year)Rs. 80,000Rs. 2,963


Thus, for our option B (combination of Term Insurance and ELSS), we would invest the difference – Rs. 77,037 per year – in an ELSS.


Fees charged by ULIPs and MF ELSS Schemes

ULIPs charge a fee, called “Premium Allocation Charge” every year. Generally, this fee is very high in the initial 2-3 years, and goes down for subsequent years. Apart from this, ULIPs also charge a yearly “Fund Management Fee”, just like mutual funds. (The names for these fees may differ a little among fund houses). These fees are charged as a percentage of money invested.

For the ULIP in our example, the Fund Management Fee is 1.5%, and the “Premium Allocation Charge” is as follows:

Year 115%
Years 2 and 310%
Year 4 onwards5%


As you can see, the charge is the maximum in the initial years. This is the biggest disadvantage of ULIPs – since the investment is for a very long term, the higher fee in the initial years has a huge impact on your final returns due to the compounding effect. (We would see it illustrated in our example)

The premium of a ULIP is broken down into two components. The first is the “Mortality Charge”, which is the amount for insuring your life. The second is the remaining amount, which is invested in the option you choose.

Let’s say that the mortality charge for the ULIP is also Rs. 2,963. Thus, the amount remaining for investment is also Rs. Rs. 77,037 per year. If we deduct the “Premium Allocation Charge” and the “Fund Management Fee”, the amount remaining for investment is:

Year 1Rs. 64,499
Years 2 and 3Rs. 68,293
Year 4 onwardsRs. 72,087


On an average, ELSS schemes have a fund management fee of 2%. Thus, amount actually invested would be Rs. 75,496 per year in the case of ELSS.


Comparison of the returns

The following table compares the returns generated by our two options, if we assume the rate of return to be 12% per year for both these:

{filelink=25} Download the spreadsheet for the calculations


value of investments
value of investments
Year 164499722397549684556
Year 26829315739675496179258
Year 36829325277275496285325
Year 47208736384375496404120
Year 57208748824275496537170
Year 67208762756975496686186
Year 77208778361575496853085
Year 872087958387754961040011
Year 9720871154131754961249368
Year 10720871373364754961483848
Year 11720871618906754961746465
Year 12720871893913754962040597
Year 13720872201920754962370024
Year 14720872546888754962738983
Year 15720872933253754963152217
Year 16720873365981754963615038
Year 17720873850636754964133399
Year 18720874393451754964713962
Year 19720875001402754965364194
Year 20720875682309754966092453
Year 21720876444924754966908103
Year 22720877299052754967821631
Year 23720878255676754968844783
Year 24720879327095754969990712
Year 2572087105270857549611274154


What do we see? At the end of 25 years, ULIP returns Rs. 1,05,27,085, whereas ELSS returns Rs. 1,12,74,154. There is a net gain of Rs. 7.47 Lakhs!! This, when the insurance cover for both the schemes is the same!


There’s more…

But that’s not all – it can get even better. With ULIPs, your investment options are limited to the 4-5 schemes offered by your insurance company. Whereas in ELSS, you have a wide choice among fund houses, and you can switch between them if you feel your investment is not giving adequate returns.

Thus, although we have assumed the return to be the same of ULIP and ELSS, the return for ELSS can definitely be better. Even if it is 13%, the returns would be as follows:

{filelink=25} Download the spreadsheet for the calculations

value of investments
value of investments
Year 164499722397549685311
Year 26829315739675496181712
Year 36829325277275496290645
Year 47208736384375496413740
Year 57208748824275496552837
Year 67208762756975496710016
Year 77208778361575496887629
Year 872087958387754961088332
Year 9720871154131754961315126
Year 10720871373364754961571403
Year 11720871618906754961860996
Year 12720871893913754962188237
Year 13720872201920754962558018
Year 14720872546888754962975871
Year 15720872933253754963448045
Year 16720873365981754963981602
Year 17720873850636754964584521
Year 18720874393451754965265819
Year 19720875001402754966035687
Year 20720875682309754966905637
Year 21720876444924754967888680
Year 22720877299052754968999519
Year 237208782556767549610254768
Year 247208793270957549611673198
Year 2572087105270857549613276025


We see that the return generated by ELSS is Rs. 1,32,76,025 – this is around Rs. 27.5 Lakhs more than the Unit Linked Insurance Plan (ULIP)! The best part about this is that this is a very likely scenario, as you would have the most flexibility to invest your funds while using Equity Linked Savings Scheme (ELSS).


Income Tax Treatment

The full amount invested in a Unit Linked Insurance Plan (ULIP) is eligible for Section 80C benefit. The full amount invested in an Equity Linked Savings Scheme (ELSS) and the amount spent to buy Term Insurance is also eligible for Section 80C benefit. Thus, both the options – Unit Linked Insurance Plans (ULIPs) and a combination of Term Insurance and Equity Linked Savings Scheme (ELSS) mutual fund (MF) – have the same tax implication, and there would be no impact on the returns even if we consider income tax.



The combination of Term Insurance and Equity Linked Savings Scheme (ELSS) mutual fund (MF) wins hands down as compared to Unit Linked Insurance Plan (ULIP). Following are the benefits:

  • Better returns – The example clearly illustrates why separating investment from insurance makes better financial sense! The potential for superior returns is very high compared to a ULIP.
  • Full flexibility – You can choose not just ANY mutual fund (MF) scheme, but can also switch MF houses. This is IMPOSSIBLE in ULIPs!

As always, there remains one universal condition for getting these superior returns – you need to be disciplined in your investments. You should invest regularly in the ELSS, and you should not withdraw any amount form your corpus before time.

Happy investing!

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