ULIP Plans in India 2023: Returns, Meaning, Benefits, Types
ULIP or Unit Linked Insurance Plan is a single insurance plan that offers the dual benefit of both investment and life cover. To answer a common question, what is ULIP- they are a popular investment option that apart from security, also offer an opportunity to earn returns and help save taxes for the policyholder.
While you can build wealth over time with ULIP, your loved ones can enjoy life insurance coverage benefits. In a ULIP investment, a portion of the funds is invested towards securing your life, and the rest is parked in equities or debt funds as per your risk appetite. Therefore, your investment in ULIPs must be made keeping in mind your needs and risk capacity. Whether for education, retirement planning, health or wedding, you can choose from a variety of ULIP products to match your goals. Let us understand about ULIPs in detail through this article.
What is ULIP?
To start with the basics, ULIP full form is Unit Linked Insurance Plan, a versatile financial instrument available in the market.
Depending upon the proportion of amount invested in the common pool of market-linked instruments, you will be allocated units that have a daily net asset value or NAV. The NAV of ULIPs fluctuates as they are closely related to the market performance of the investment instruments. The returns generated from the investment component of the ULIP determine the policy value while the sum assured (explained below) will not depend on the market performance and it will largely remain unaffected. Hence ULIP is a hybrid product that combines both investment and insurance.
Important Terms in ULIPs
Before investing in a ULIP, you must understand some basic terms to develop a deeper knowledge that will help you in comprehending the plan. Here are the terms of a ULIP plan you must be familiar with:
- Sum Assured
In the event of the policyholder’s demise, sum assured is the amount given to nominees . You must ensure that this amount in the ULIP plan is sufficient to support your dependents in the unfortunate event of your demise.
- Fund Value
A huge portion of the ULIP premium is invested in mutual funds. The fund value represents the current total value of money invested. To obtain the fund value, you must multiply the number of units you have with the Net Asset Value (NAV) (the monetary value of each unit).
- Net Asset Value (NAV)
The Net Asset Value (NAV) is the value of a single unit of investment of the ULIP, minus the value of the liabilities. At any given day, NAV can be calculated using the given formula:
NAV = (Value of Current Assets + Market Value of Investments Held) – (Value of Current Liabilities & Provisions) / Total number of outstanding units on date.
You must continue to pay the premium of the ULIP policy to ensure its continuity. You can choose the period of premium payment- either monthly, quarterly, half-yearly or annual. Paying the premiums on time is crucial so that the policy does not lapse and you get the most out of the investment to attain your goals.
- Death Benefit
Death benefit refers to the sum paid to the insured’s beneficiaries upon his death by the insurance company. The amount paid will be the sum assured or the fund value – whichever is greater. The benefit amount depends upon the plan you choose and can be paid out in lump sums or monthly instalments, depending on the nominee’s preference.
- Maturity Benefit
Maturity benefit is the fund offered by the insurer to the policyholder if he/she survives the policy period i.e. lives beyond the maturity period of ULIP. When the insurance policy term expires, the policyholder is eligible for a tax-free maturity benefit under Section 10D of the Income Tax Act, subject to certain conditions.
Riders are add-on features offered by the insurance company in addition to the basic ULIP plan. There are multiple riders offered by the insurance companies but the most common are – critical illness and accidental cover riders. Also, for every rider, the insurance company charges an additional premium.
- Lock-in Period
A ULIP’s lock-in period refers to the tenure during which you cannot withdraw your funds. If you decide to surrender your ULIP policy before the lock-in period expires, the fund value switches to a discontinued fund. Once the lock-in period is completed, the policyholder can withdraw funds. In India, ULIP plans have a 5-year lock-in period.
- Surrender Value
Surrender value is the amount which the insurer pays to the policyholder if he/she surrenders the policy before the lock-in period gets over. This surrender value is taxable as per the tax slab of the policyholder.
- Fund Switch
This feature allows you to switch between investment funds. Depending upon the market performance of your investment, you can switch between equity to debt or vice versa.
How do ULIPs Work?
As you know by now, your ULIP investment amount is divided between life insurance cover and investment in mutual funds. The investor is relieved of the job of tracking the investments as there is a fund manager who manages them. With ULIPs, you can switch between equity and debt instruments depending upon your market knowledge and risk appetite.
- Before venturing into ULIP investment, you must decide the premium amount, life cover amount, policy term, and premium payment term to match your financial needs.
- You can choose the premium payment frequency on a half-yearly, monthly, or annual basis and also opt for a lump sum, upfront, or recurring payments.
- After deducting certain ULIP charges, your premium is allocated to insurance and investment.
- Equity investment involves money invested in stocks, and debt investment involves channelling funds into government securities, bonds, and low-risk investment instruments. With hybrid funds, you can enjoy the balance of high-returns generating equity funds as well as stable debt funds.
- The amount invested in the funds determines the value of your policy. The longer your investment term, the more returns you can enjoy.
- In the event of an unfortunate event during the policy term, the nominee will receive the sum assured.
Features of ULIP Plans
Let’s take a look at some of the features of ULIP Plans that help them stand in the market:
- Dual Benefit
- Combines investment and insurance cover in a single product, ensuring wealth accumulation and financial security for the family.
- Investment Customization
- Tailored Allocation: Choose between equity, debt, or balanced funds based on your risk appetite and financial objectives.
- Fund Switching: Modify your investments based on market dynamics or personal preferences, moving seamlessly between funds without any added charges.
- Top-Up Facility: Enhance your investments by contributing additional amounts over your regular premiums, ensuring flexibility as your financial situation evolves.
- Liquidity Features
- Partial Withdrawals: Access your funds after the five-year lock-in period for emergencies or planned expenditures.
- Multiple Premium Payment Modes: Opt for monthly, quarterly, semi-annual, or annual payment frequencies. A single premium option is also available for those looking for a one-time investment.
- Tax Incentives
- Enjoy tax deductions on premiums up to ₹ 1.5 lakh under Section 80C. Additionally, the maturity amount received is exempt from tax under Section 10(10D), magnifying your effective returns.
- Flexibility and Control
- Direct Future Investments: Redirect your upcoming premiums to different funds, keeping your investment strategy aligned with changing goals or market conditions.
- Multiple Premium Payment Options: Whether it’s monthly, half-yearly, annually, or a one-time premium, you have the freedom to choose based on your financial comfort.
- Safety Nets and Boosts
- Life Cover: In the unfortunate event of the policyholder’s demise, the nominee receives a death benefit, ensuring family protection.
- Loyalty Additions: Some ULIPs reward long-term investments with additional benefits, enhancing the overall fund value.
- Transparency and Communication
- Stay updated with regular insights about your investment performance and any associated charges, ensuring complete clarity.
- Additional Protection with Riders
- Enhance your coverage with optional riders like critical illness, accidental death, or waiver of premium, tailoring your ULIP to cater to specific needs or concerns.
Benefits of investing in ULIPs
ULIPs are quickly rising to become a popular investment choices for young investors due to the many benefits it offers:
- Dual Benefit
ULIP is the only investment option that provides you the dual benefit of insurance and investment. The insurance option offers you life cover, and you receive maturity benefits if you outlive the term. If you do not survive the term, your nominees can get the death benefits that help them cope with the financial crisis. The best ULIP allows your investment to grow and build a solid corpus that you can fall back on in the later years.
Another reason for investors to choose ULIP is the flexibility it offers. Unlike other investments where money rests in the same vehicle throughout the investment tenure, you can switch between equity, debt, or hybrid funds in ULIPs based on your risk appetite. You can choose the type of units you wish to purchase at the beginning and later transfer funds to high or low-risk funds based on market fluctuations.
- Tax Benefit
The premiums you pay to invest in ULIPs are eligible for tax deduction under Section 80C of the Income Tax Act. If you deduct the premium paid yearly from your yearly total income, you can significantly reduce your tax liability. The maximum amount under this provision is Rs. 1.5 lakh.
Additionally, the death and maturity benefits of ULIP are also tax-free. Further, your returns are also tax-exempted if your annual premiums are less than Rs. 2.5 lakhs.
- Varied Investment Choice
ULIPs are flexible and offer you the freedom to choose from a wide range of investment instruments. The fund switching option of ULIPs lets you move between funds, so you can get optimal returns depending on market fluctuations.
- Achieve Life Goals
You may have many responsibilities and goals to attain in life. ULIPs allow you to create long-term wealth that can be used towards your child’s education, wedding, or retirement. Additionally, it provides financial security for your family to achieve these goals even in your absence.
- Market Linked Returns
ULIP offers you the opportunity to enjoy high profits from market-linked investments. This is because in ULIP, a portion of your premium is invested in funds of your choice- equity-oriented, debt funds, or a combination of the two.
Disadvantages of investing in ULIPs
The dual nature of ULIP might be quite a lot to comprehend for new investors, leaving them confused. We are used to one instrument having a single purpose be it savings, investment, or insurance. With ULIPs you need to update your insurance premiums, while also keeping track of your fund NAVs. In addition to this, you need to make constant decisions about switching and redirecting your funds to gain maximum returns out of your ULIP.
Firstly, the premiums charged for ULIP tend to be much higher as compared to term insurance. Also, ULIPs have a lot of charges associated with them which are higher in the beginning as they go towards policy administration and other aspects of managing your funds.
- Lack of Liquidity
The 5-year lock-in period of ULIPs prevents you from withdrawing your investments during the tenure. Even if you surrender your ULIP within 5 years, you cannot withdraw until the lock-in period is over.
- Lack of Transparency
ULIPs are not really transparent about how much of your premium goes to insurance, management, and investing. As a result, the redemptions you receive at the end of the lock-in period are not feasible because the fund value may be low due to greater beginning charges. They also lack the transparency on NAVs, portfolios and fund manager strategies.
- Compromised Returns
While ULIPs offer an opportunity to earn returns, the long series of high charges may compromise the returns in the end. Further, if you compare ULIPs to a standalone insurance plan, then the former will carry greater risks. This is because the cost structure of ULIPs makes it expensive and it becomes difficult to get returns that will cover you for those costs.
Types of ULIP
ULIPs are broadly classified based on:
- Risk and investment
- Death Benefits
Types of ULIPs based on Risk and Investment Objective
The 4 types of ULIP funds, based on their risk and investment objectives, are:
Equity Funds – Primary investment is made in stocks and equity. They are high-risk funds yielding high returns, suited for investors with a high-risk appetite.
Debt Funds – Investment is made in government securities, fixed income instruments, and corporate bonds. These investments offer moderate returns and risk.
Hybrid Funds – These ULIPs are the most stable funds that combine equity and fixed interest instruments. The invested funds are distributed between low-risk debt funds and high-risk equities.
Cash funds – These are money market funds where the invested amount will be diverted towards low-risk, short-term instruments such as government treasury and bank deposits.
Types of ULIPs based on Purpose
The types of ULIPs categorised by purpose are:
- ULIPs for Wealth Creation
- ULIPs for Retirement
- ULIPs for child’s future
Types of ULIPs based on Death Benefit
Types of ULIPS categorized by death benefits are:
Type –1 ULIP – In this, the nominee gets the Sum Assured as the death benefit. Type 1 ULIP plans pay either the Sum assured or the Fund value, whichever is higher to the nominee, as a death benefit.
Type -2 ULIP – In this, the nominee gets both the Sum Assured and fund value as a death benefit. As the benefit in Type-2 is higher than Type-1, the premium amount of type 2 is also more.
Who should invest in ULIPs?
ULIP investments are best suited for the following investor class:
- Individuals who wish to manage their investments closely. As you can change the fund allocation according to the market and risk-ability.
- Individuals who have a long-term investment horizon, as the minimum lock-in period is of 5 years.
- Individuals whose risk appetite might fluctuate during the policy and they need to switch funds.
- Investors of different ages with varied goals at every stage of their life
How to Choose The Best ULIP?
Align Investments with Objectives: ULIPs let you invest in equity, debt, or a blend based on your growth aims and risk comfort. Easily toggle between funds as your goals shift.
Determine Life Cover: ULIPs provide both investment and life insurance. Choose a cover that aligns with your family’s financial aspirations.
Stay Committed, Earn Rewards: Long-term ULIP investments can yield perks like Loyalty Additions or Wealth Boosters.
Understand ULIP Charges:
- Premium Allocation Charges
- Policy Administration Fees
- Fund Management Expenses
- Mortality Charges
Reap Tax Advantages:
At Entry: Deductions under sections 80C, 80D, and 80CCC.
During Growth: The appreciation is tax-exempt.
While Switching: Transition between funds tax-free.
At Exit: Receive tax-free maturity proceeds.
Maximize ULIP Features:
Premium Redirection & Top-Up: Adjust future premiums and add surplus amounts.
Switching Funds: Keep tabs on free switches for easy fund transitions.
Partial Withdrawals: Access funds post lock-in.
Seek Consistent Fund Performance:
Review the historical returns of ULIP funds. Consistent performance is a positive indicator.
ULIPs come with a couple of charges that are crucial when choosing a plan that suits you. Let’s take a look at the charges in detail and what they entail:
- Premium Allocation Charges: These are deductions from your premium before allocation to chosen funds, covering expenses like agent commissions and policy issuance. Generally, they’re a percentage of the premium and are often higher during the policy’s initial years but may decrease as the policy matures.
- Policy Administration Fees: Levied for the upkeep and management of your policy, these charges handle operational costs like paperwork and premium notifications. Typically charged as a fixed fee on a regular basis, they might increase in some policies with time to account for inflation.
- Fund Management Expenses: These charges cater to the management of funds where your premium is invested. They compensate for the fund managers’ expertise, aiming to optimize returns. Deducted daily, they’re a percentage of the fund’s value, influencing the unit price or Net Asset Value (NAV).
- Mortality Charges: Reflecting the cost of the life cover ULIPs offer, these charges ensure the sum assured is provided to the nominee if the policyholder passes away. Depending on age, health, and sum assured, they’re deducted monthly and might increase as the policyholder ages due to the heightened risk.
What Is ULIP NAV?
The per-unit price of the funds in a Unit Linked Insurance Plan is referred to as the ULIP NAV. It is the market value of the fund’s assets, less its liabilities, divided by the total number of outstanding units. NAV, which is calculated daily based on the closing market values of the securities in the fund’s portfolio, assists policyholders in evaluating the performance of their selected fund.
A rising NAV implies a fund that is performing well, whereas a declining one may imply underperformance. The current NAV impacts the amount of units you buy or the value you receive when you pay premiums or make withdrawals from a ULIP. Monitoring NAV is essential for making educated ULIP decisions.
Myths About ULIP Investments
Myth 1: ULIPs are Pricey
Reality: ULIPs’ costs have seen reductions over time. Post-2010, IRDAI set limits on many charges, ensuring affordable long-term investments. Additionally, online plans are even more cost-efficient.
Myth 2: ULIPs = High Risk
Reality: While linked to markets, ULIPs offer a stable life insurance component. Depending on your risk appetite, you can select from various funds like equity, debt, or balance, with the flexibility to switch as needed.
Myth 3: Limited Returns from ULIPs
Reality: ULIP returns are influenced by market trends and fund choices. Smart choices can yield desirable returns. The dual benefit of insurance and investment enhances the appeal.
Myth 4: Exiting ULIPs is Tricky
Reality: ULIPs are designed for long-term gains. After the initial five-year lock-in, you can effortlessly surrender the policy. However, staying invested longer is advantageous.
Myth 5: ULIP Life Cover Drops with Market
Reality: Market fluctuations don’t impact ULIP life covers. In dire events, beneficiaries receive either the fund value or the life cover, whichever is higher.
Myth 6: No Room for Extra in ULIPs
Reality: ULIPs are versatile. They let you top-up your primary investment, allowing for more significant growth and tax perks.
What Are the Tax Benefits Associated?
ULIPs come with many tax benefits, as we briefly stated above. Let’s take a look at them now:
- Entry: Premiums paid for ULIPs qualify for deductions under Sections 80C, 80D, and 80CCC of the Income Tax Act, reducing your taxable income.
- Growth: Any earnings from your ULIP investments are not subjected to tax, ensuring the full value of your growth.
- Switching: ULIPs allow transitions between equity and debt funds without tax implications, giving you portfolio flexibility.
- Exit: Upon maturity, the proceeds received from ULIPs are completely tax-free, ensuring you get the entire amount without deductions.
What Are The Risks Associated With ULIPs?
Like every other investment, ULIPs come with their fair share of risks. Here are some of the ones that stand out the most which could concern investors:
- Charges and Costs: ULIPs have various fees, such as premium allocation and administration charges. These expenses can eat into your overall returns.
- Interest and Market Dynamics: ULIP investments in market-linked funds face fluctuations due to market volatility. Additionally, those invested in debt securities can be influenced by interest rate changes, affecting the Net Asset Value (NAV).
- Liquidity Limitations: A typical five-year lock-in for ULIPs reduces immediate liquidity. Exiting early might have financial repercussions.
- Management Matters: The competence of the fund management team can directly impact returns. Inefficient decisions can lead to lower yields.
- Policy and Protection: Non-paying premiums can cause a policy lapse, causing loss of insurance coverage. Separately, mortality charges associated with the life cover aspect might increase, influencing the investment portion.
How Does Ulip Compare With Other Investment Options Under 80C – Comparative Analysis
|Investment Option||Features||Risk Level||Liquidity||Returns||Tax Benefits|
|ULIPs||5 years, but premature withdrawal is possible with penalty||Market-linked||5-year lock-in||Varies with fund choice||Exempt|
|PPF||Govt. backed, Long-term savings||Low||15 years with partial withdrawal from 7th year||Fixed, revised by Govt.||Exempt|
|ELSS||Equity mutual fund with tax benefits||High due to equity exposure||3-year lock-in||Market-linked||Exempt|
|NSC||Govt. backed, Fixed savings||Low||5 years||Fixed, revised by Govt.||Interest taxable, Principal gets 80C benefit|
|Fixed Deposits||Fixed interest savings||Low||Interest taxable, Principal gets 80C benefit.||Fixed, set by banks||Only the principal gets an 80C benefit|
|Sukanya Samriddhi||A mix of insurance & investment||Low||Till the child turns 21||Fixed, revised by Govt.||Exempt-Exempt-Exempt|
|For seniors above 60 years||For the girl child’s future||Low||5 years, with extension||Fixed, revised by Govt.||Interest taxable, Principal gets 80C benefit|
Things to Keep in Mind Before Selecting a ULIP
If you’re new to the arena of ULIPs, here’s a short summary of the things that you could keep in mind before selecting an ULIP to do it in the best way possible:
- Coverage: Opt for a sum assured that meets your beneficiaries’ needs, keeping in mind the tax benefits under section 80C.
- Cost Analysis: Familiarize yourself with associated ULIP charges, like fund management and mortality fees.
- Insurer Reliability: Investigate the insurer’s solvency ratio to gauge their financial stability.
- Asset Choice: Tailor your asset allocation based on your risk appetite—debt for conservative, equity for risk-takers, or a balanced mix.
- Comparison: Research and compare multiple ULIPs, noting their past performances.
- Decision-making: Understand ULIP facets thoroughly for effective utilization of its benefits.
How to Buy a ULIP Plan Online?
- Official Surfing: Start by heading to your chosen insurer’s official website.
- Product Evaluation: Browse through the ULIP offerings available, aligning one with your investment and insurance aspirations.
- Tailored Selection: Set your preferred policy duration and an ideal premium amount based on your budget.
- Checkout: Navigate to the payment gateway to complete the purchase.
- Payment Flexibility: Opt from various payment methods – be it net banking, credit/debit card, or a digital wallet.
- Finalize & Flourish: Complete the transaction and embark on your ULIP journey, reaping insurance and investment benefits.
How to Manage ULIP Funds?
What: Change how your money is divided between different funds, like moving between safer debt funds and riskier equity funds.
When: Consider more debt during market lows and more equity during highs. Adjust as you age or hit life milestones like having a child.
- Automatic Allocation:
What: Let expert managers decide the best place for your money.
Wheel of Life: Changes based on your age and needs.
Trigger-Based: Adjusts with market events.
Personalized: You pick based on your goals.
Auto Transfer: Regular, timed shifts from one fund type to another.
- Top-Ups: Add extra money to your investment during good market times for more growth.
- Get Expert Help: If confused, always seek advice from professionals or your insurer.
Making Changes: Switching between funds is usually easy on the insurer’s website. But use this feature wisely, and remember some plans may offer free switches.
How is ULIP Structured?
ULIP investments are structured in a manner similar to mutual funds. ULIP plans pool various investors’ investments and allocate them to different fund options according to investors’ preferences. The assets under ULIP plans are managed by experienced fund managers who focus on achieving specific investment objectives. You can either choose to invest all units in a single strategy or diversify across many market-linked funds.
When you decide to buy a ULIP fund, you must choose to make a lumpsum payment and then pay periodic premium payments. The premium varies from one plan to another, depending upon several factors.
ULIPs allow investors to choose their funds and adjust their preferences according to their needs throughout the policy tenure.
Whether you are planning for a retirement corpus, saving for a child’s education, or aiming for any other financial goal, ULIP investments might prove to be a great tool in your portfolio. However, before investing you should do intensive market research to select the right and trustworthy provider.
Frequently Asked Questions about ULIP
- Is ULIP a good investment?
ULIP is an ideal investment option for long-term wealth creation and the achievement of financial goals. Money invested in ULIPs is compounded, thus increasing the net returns.
- Is the ULIP maturity amount taxable?
No. The maturity amount of a ULIP plan is free from tax under Section 10D of the Income Tax Act.
- When can I withdraw funds from the ULIP plan?
ULIP allows you to partially withdraw your money before the maturity period is over. However, there are certain conditions:
- You must be 18 years of age
- The policy’s lock-in period of 5 years must be completed
- You have already paid all the premiums due
- Are ULIPs a safe investment?
ULIPs are safe investments to make good returns, but equity funds are slightly risky for inexperienced investors.
- Can I discontinue ULIP?
Yes, you can choose to discontinuance your policy during the 5-year lock-in period by. The policy will be converted to a “Discontinued Life Policy” and the life insurance cover would be discontinued with fund value being transferred to Discontinued Life Policy fund. You will receive this funds at the end of the lock-in period.
- What is the full form of ULIP?
The full form of ULIP is Unit Linked Insurance Plan.
- Is ULIP a Good Investment Option for me?
ULIPs have a fairly good potential to gain monetary rewards. These results can be achieved due to the flexibility to choose between equity and debt funds. However, buying a standalone term insurance and a mutual fund plan will increase your chances of getting the real benefits of both these products.
8. What is the difference between a ULIP & SIP?
ULIP is an insurance plus investment product, while SIP is a method to invest in mutual funds regularly.
9. Is ULIP better than FD?
ULIP offers insurance and investment, whereas FD is a fixed-term, low-risk savings tool.
10. How ULIP works?
ULIP premiums are split into insurance coverage and investments in chosen funds.
11. How to calculate fund value in ULIP?
Fund value = Total units held x NAV (Net Asset Value) of the day.
12. Will I have to pay tax on the ULIP maturity amount?
No, maturity proceeds from a ULIP are tax-free in India.