Life Insurance vs. Small Business

By Randell Tiongson on November 9th, 2011

Question: Should I invest in a life insurance or use the money to expand my small business?—Mary Anne Maloles Tesoro via Facebook

Answer: I am a firm believer of life insurance. I make sure my life insurance policies are always in force as they give me and my wife peace of mind. With the way I travel and the many hazards I face like sleeping audiences and bored readers, life insurance is an important risk protection tool for me. Life insurance is first and foremost a tool for risk management by way of a risk transfer mechanism. Simply put, certain life risk such as untimely death or serious physical breakdown can be assumed by way of an adequate life insurance policy. Since I am married, happily at that, and have four lovely children, having the protection of a life insurance policy is a priority.

Life insurance as an investment is another story. The primary purpose of life insurance is to provide financial protection against life’s risk but investment can be a secondary benefit. It is difficult to compare life insurance with other forms of investments because of the nature of insurance itself. Life insurance needs to deal with actuarial tables and a lot of probabilities because of its primary tables. All those probabilities need to be accounted for and adequate provisions must be made. When you invest in a life insurance policy, not all the money goes to investment as some is allocated for insurance premiums. There are many types of life insurance but since you are referring to it as an investment, I assume you are talking about the variable universal life or unit linked insurance—an insurance  policy with an attached investment similar to Mutual Funds or Unit Investment Trust Funds. Variable type insurance will not perform at par with a mutual fund or a UITF because not all the money is invested in the funds—premiums for insurance protection are allocated from the money invested and these are recurring charges. The bigger the coverage, the smaller the amount goes to pure investments. Its advantage, however, is when the insured (or investor) dies, the named beneficiaries will get both the insurance coverage and investments as well as some estate tax benefits.

Comparing life insurance and small business is like comparing apples with durian, which are worlds apart. Further, the issue of risk and return comes to play in this concern and business is always risky and speculative. Business is also where you can really earn a lot of income and it can substantially grow your capital, albeit all the risk it carries. I’d like to look at insurance as a way to protect future income while business or investments is a way to maximize income. Will business be better as an investment? Definitely! A good business idea coupled with a good business plan and impeccable timing can make your capital grow bigger and faster than paper assets. But, as the saying goes, the higher the yields, the higher the risks. Most start-ups fail and the percentage of those that succeeded is quite disappointing. Yet, I believe we should take a wee bit more risk with our money and be a tad more entrepreneurial—as cliché as it sounds, no guts no glory. Just be prudent and know what you are getting into.

Know your objectives. If your objective is substantial capital gain or adequate provision of income, life insurance products are not the answer—business or other investments are. If your objective is moderate capital growth with financial protection against life’s risks, then life insurance is something you can consider. Also, life insurance products are long-term in nature.

Should you choose between life insurance and business? I say you may need both. If you have loved ones depending on you and your income, you definitely need to assess your life insurance needs. If you are disappointed with the gains you get from other investments like time deposits or special deposit accounts (yields are lower than inflation) then do consider other investments, small (or large) business being one of them.

Just a friendly reminder: Before letting go of your hard-earned money, investigate before investing; check out your alternatives and if need be, talk to professionals. Remember, prudence is always a good virtue.

This article also appears at the Philippine Daily Inquirer

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Life Insurance vs. Small Business