Term Life Insurance Plans in Singapore: Ultimate Guide for 2020

In Singapore, the term life insurance plan used to be the neglected kid at school.

No one wanted to talk to him, but in recent years, he has risen up to become popular.

What changed, then?

With medical and technological advances, Singaporeans tend to live longer now. This led to a drastic reduction in mortality rates (death rates).

Because of this, term plans now reflect a lower cost of insurance compared to before, showing its true nature: high coverage at lower costs.

To add on, insurance companies are competing aggressively, which leads to more affordable rates for the consumer.

In this guide, you’ll get everything you need to know about term insurance in Singapore. Do read till the end as it’ll be the only resource you’ll need.

So, read on!

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The Purpose of Life Insurance

Many have varied opinions on the reasons behind having life insurance coverage.

But in most cases, it boils down to this: income protection.

Your income is one of the most (if not the most) important aspect in your life. 

If not, why are we working for decades? Why do we spend so much time of our daily life at work?

The income that comes in enables you to pay the bills, buy all the things you want, and save for your future goals. Without it, everything else can’t function well.

Here are some goals, commitments and liabilities most people use their income for:

Liability Curve

So then, you’ll always want your income to come in, hopefully till your retirement age.

You would lose your income in these 2 situations:

1) You firing your employer, or your employer firing you

This is only temporary because you’ll likely find another job within 3-6 months in Singapore.

2) Death, Total & Permanent Disability or Critical Illness

With any of these 3 happening, your income will be crippled.

You wouldn’t be able to pay for all the expenses and commitments that you’re supposed to be paying. And that’s why it’s a BIGGER concern.

To counter that, most people turn to insurance payouts to replace a loss of potential income. Usually till their retirement age or till when their dependants turn independent.

Calculating How Much Life Insurance to Have

After knowing the importance of replacing your income, the next stage would be to find out how much life insurance is enough for you.

If you’re earning $100,000 a year right now, and something happens, would it be right to say you would lose all potential income from now till your retirement age?

So if you’re 30 years old now and plan to retire at 65, it would mean a total of 35 years of lost income. And the total potential loss of income works out to be $3,500,000.

For yourself, estimate how much life insurance coverage you need with our calculator.

Now this may seem like a big number, and it is.

There are varied opinions on how to calculate the right amount too. Some may say to just cover your expenses, but in my opinion, that would be equivalent to just surviving day-to-day.

Ultimately, the coverage amount is adjustable to your budget and it’s entirely up to you. As long as you know the possible implications of under-insuring, and are comfortable with it.

The 2 Plans that Provide Life Insurance Cover

After zooming into an amount to cover, the term and the whole life insurance are the most common plans to satisfy that need.

It’s important to mention whole life insurance because it may be the only alternative available.

I’ve written a more detailed article on the pros and cons of term and whole life insurance but here’s an overview:

Term InsuranceWhole Life Insurance
1.PurposePure insurance protectionSome insurance protection together with a savings component 
2.Sum AssuredUsually much higher. Common to see $1,000,000 or moreGenerally lower. But with multiplier, it can be much higher
3.Claim PayoutsSum Assured as per contractSum Assured + Accumulated Bonuses (if any)
4.Cash ValueNo cash valueCombination of guaranteed and non-guaranteed bonuses
5.Coverage PeriodMany options availableLifetime or till 99/100 years old
6.PremiumsLowHigher
7.Premium TermSame as policy termUsually limited pay. Can be 20, 25 years, etc.
8.ComplexityVery simpleSlightly more complex because of the non-guaranteed bonuses
9.FlexibilityAble to cater specifically to individual needs wellCan be quite rigid. Once committed, have to stick with it

You can learn more about whole life plans but as this article is on term life plans, I’ll only focus on the latter from now.

Furthermore, it’s likely that you’ll need a much bigger coverage amount and that’s why a term life insurance may be more suited in this case.

What is Term Life Insurance? 

what is term insurance

A simple definition of a term life insurance plan is that it provides coverage for a fixed duration (policy term) and at a fixed premium.

Once the policy term is over, the coverage usually stops, and the plan terminates. 

There’s no cash value in the plan, but to compensate, it provides a much higher sum assured at a cheaper rate.

During the policy term, if an undesirable strikes, a lump sum will be paid out which will help relieve the financial burden on the insured or the family. 

What Can Be Covered in a Term Insurance?

In most term plans, death coverage forms the basic foundation.

And you can add on different types of coverage (as riders) into that plan to make it more comprehensive. 

Here are some of the coverages in a term plan:

1) Death

The basic of all cover and pretty self-explanatory.

Of course, exclusions still apply.

For example, most policies contain the suicide clause: “if death is caused by suicide within 1 year from the policy issue date or reinstatement date, whichever is later, there won’t be a payout.“

2) Terminal Illness

Terminal Illness coverage usually goes hand in hand with Death.

… why?

By definition, it’s the conclusive diagnosis of an illness that will lead the patient to death within 12 months. ​

The Ministry of Health says that 3 doctors, including the patient’s hospital doctor will need to agree that the patient is terminally ill.

If there’s a disagreement, the doctor-in-charge would review his diagnosis, and if he still agrees that the patient is terminally ill, then the case will be referred to another panel of 3 specialists appointed by the MOH.

Because of this, in my opinion, terminal illness may be less likely to be diagnosed in Singapore.

3) Total and Permanent Disability (TPD)

 total and permanent disability

Depending on the insurance company, TPD coverage can be either embedded in the main plan, or as a rider. 

Insurance companies can have different definitions for their TPD coverage (see the policy documents).

But as a broad definition, the name suggest what it covers: TOTAL AND PERMANENT disability.

There may be several TPD definitions included but here’s an example:

 If the Life Assured has suffered total and irrecoverable:
     a. Loss of the sight of both eyes; or
     b. Loss of sight of one (1) eye and loss by severance or loss of use of one (1) limb at or above the ankle or
          wrist; or
     c. Loss by severance or loss of use of:
          i. Both hands at or above the wrists; or
          ii. Both feet at or above the ankles; or
          iii. One (1) hand at or above the wrist and one (1) foot at or above the ankle.

So if you lose just 1 hand, does it pay out?

No. It’s meant to cover severe disabilities that take away the ability to work.

4) Critical Illness (CI)

Critical illness coverage is an important element in life insurance too.

Statistics have shown that critical illness claims exceed death claims.

life insurance claims

Because of this, the cost for CI cover is usually high.

To make CI coverage consistent and transparent, the insurance industry standardised the definitions across life insurance companies.

There are only 37 standard CIs and they’re towards the later stage of an illness.

If you want to view the list of the 37 CIs and their definitions, see here.

But only a few matter…

Of all critical illness claims, 90% of them are from these 5 illnesses:

  1. Major Cancers
  2. Heart Attack
  3. Stroke
  4. Coronary Artery By-pass Surgery
  5. Kidney Failure

5) Early Critical Illness (ECI)

 early critical illness

If critical illness is the “father”, then early critical illness would be the “son”. 

The standard critical illness coverage will only pay out if the insured meets one of the 37 CI definitions.

And that’s when early critical illness coverage can bridge the gap.

Early CIs cover early, intermediate and late stages of an illness.

Technically, ECIs are easier to claim, but they tend to come with higher costs – even higher than the standard CI.

To help you decide between ECI or CI, ask yourself this question, “am I still able to work?”

To me, the main purpose of an ECI cover is to take a break from work to fully recover. It may take a year or 2. But generally, it doesn’t completely strip away the ability for me to work.

This is not the same with CI as it can stop me from working for the long haul.

Therefore, if you have the budget, early CI can be good to have but not critical.

The Different Types of Term Insurance

Like how there are different types of apples (fuji, green, red, etc), same goes with term insurance. 

Here’s an overview of the ones you may have heard about: 

1) Fixed/Level Term Insurance

This would be the plan where most people like you are familiar with and are interested in, and would form the core focus of this article.

Level Term Insurance

Basically, the coverage stays the same throughout the term and only ends when the policy term is up. You can decide on how long the tenure would be, and most Singaporeans would choose a term of at least till their retirement age. 

More on level term later on…

2) Group Insurance

Group insurance is common if you’re an employee or have been through National Service (NS).

group insurance

Company Insurance

Employers usually offer company insurance as a form of employee welfare benefit and if needed, the coverage can be enhanced.

It’s great because it’s usually free but why do people still get their own private insurance?

It’s because when something happens, be it minor or major, and if you leave the company (or forced to leave), you wouldn’t be able to continue this coverage.

And at that point of time, if you decide to apply for your own personal insurance, it’ll most likely get excluded or declined, leaving you in “no man’s land”.

That’s why most people would still get their own personal insurance even though they’re covered under the company. 

Aviva’s MINDEF & MHA Group Insurance

As an NSF, you may have been exposed to the Aviva’s MINDEF/MHA/SAF group term insurance.

Even after ORDing, you can still retain the policy.

The premiums are generally affordable but there are downsides to it. Amongst other disadvantages, the critical illness premiums are not levelled and increase with age-band.

Generally, the group term life benefits the older folks more because they’ll be paying the same premium as someone who’s much younger.

3) CPF Dependants’ Protection Scheme (DPS) 

What is DPS?

That’s the question people have when they receive a letter from CPF. And one that is commonly neglected for obvious reasons.

The Dependants’ Protection Scheme (DPS) only pays out a maximum sum assured of $46,000 if Death, Terminal Illness or Total and Permanent Disability happens, and its cover is only till 60 years old.

It’s administered by Great Eastern and NTUC, so if there’s a claim, you’ll need to approach the company that you’re allocated to.

You would be automatically enrolled in if you’re a Singaporean/PR between 21 and 60 years old, and received your first CPF working contribution. The good thing about DPS is that you can use your CPF OA or SA balance to pay for the premiums.

However, the coverage is usually insufficient.

4) Mortgage Reducing Term Insurance

Also known as mortgage insurance or mortgage reducing term assurance (MRTA). The Home Protection Scheme (HPS) also belongs to this same category.

Mortgage Reducing Term Assurance

As the name suggests, the coverage decreases every year and ends up at 0 when the policy term is over. 

The rationale of this is because as you’re paying off your loan, your liabilities decreases too, reducing the coverage that’s needed.

So then, this should be cheaper than the level term?

Not entirely.

As level term rates are very competitive now, they could be cheaper than their mortgage insurance counterparts. It’s also more economical because the coverage doesn’t decrease.

5) Standalone Early Critical Illness Plans

There are standalone early critical illness plans available which cover the early, intermediate and late stages.

However, such plans have negligible cover for death and TPD. Certain term plans do offer the ability to attach ECI cover as a rider.

The only time you should consider a standalone plan is if you wish to purchase just CI cover, and nothing else. 

How a Level-Term Plan Can Help (Case Study of John)

To illustrate the use of a term plan, it’s best to use a case study (information is fictitious)

Overview:

John is 35 years old is a Project Manager.

He’s married to Tiffany who is 33 years old and is working as an Accountant.

They both have 2 kids, Eden (3 years old) and Sally (5 years old).

John’s parents are financially independent, and don’t require any financial support.

Goals:

“The most precious things in my life are my wife and kids. When I see them play together in the living room during the weekends, it warms my heart” – John.

“I know my parents are financially independent. But they were the ones who raised me up from young, and I want to give back. The least I can do is to give them allowances” – John.

“I’m lucky to be at the age where most of my major expenses have been catered for. The main goals I have now are saving towards my kid’s university education and retirement” – John

Income and Expenses:

John earns a gross income of $4,500 per month, taking home an amount of $3,500 after CPF contribution. His monthly expenses is at $2,000 which allows him to have a monthly surplus of $1,500.

Assets:

  • Cash Savings – $50,000
  • Investments – $30,000
  • HDB apartment – $450,000 (Bought 3 years back with a current outstanding loan of $380,000 split 50/50 between him and Tiffany.

Insurance (on his life):

  • 1 Whole Life Insurance with a cover of $100,000 for Death, Total & Permanent Disability and Critical Illness
  • 1 Hospitalisation plan with rider

Can John’s Portfolio (Or Yours) Withstand the Undesirable?

red traffic light

Let’s play out this scenario…

​While on the way to have lunch at Lau Pa Sat, John received a call from an unknown number.

“Hello?” he answered. No reply. “Hello??” he repeated. Still no response…

Slightly irritated, John hanged up the phone.

He took a step forward, not realising there was a faint red light in front of him.

“BANG.”

He got into a car accident and suffered Total and Permanent Disability.

In this situation, John is not likely to being to earn an income anymore.

But existing expenses (and more) still continue on. He has to rely on whatever he’s left with to live on. 

What can help him?

1st Line of Defence: Insurance Payouts

His whole life insurance will pay out $100,000. How long would this be able to last?

Payout/Annual Gross Income = $100,000/$54,000 = 2 years.

After 2 years, this payout will run out.

(calculation is used with annual gross income because his income is also meant for future goals like kid’s education and retirement too)

2nd line of defence: Liquidable Assets

Next, when the insurance proceeds have run out after 2 years, John has to liquidate all his cash savings and investments (total of $80,000), which would give him another 1.5 years ($80,000/$54,000).

With that being said, imagine having to dip into your hard earned money that you’ve saved over the years.

At this point of time, his insurance payouts and liquidable assets will only last a total of 3.5 years.

His youngest kid, Eden would then turn 6.5 years old (3 years old + 3.5 years).

What happens after? There’s still a long way to go until Eden and Sally becomes of independent age.

3rd line of defence: Spouse, Family, Friends

unhappy spouse

After all finances have run out, the last line of help will be firstly, from his wife, Tiffany.

She would’ve to take on the full burden of John’s loss of income and the family’s expenses.

In Singapore where dual income becomes a necessity, would she be able to cope?

She’ll need to work doubly hard, thus spending less time with her family, and wouldn’t be able to see her kids as much as before.

As John, would you want to see this happen?

If Tiffany can’t cope, there’s a need to rely on family, relatives and lastly, friends.

This is a situation no one wants to experience, but may potentially face.

Fortunately, you can eliminate the financial risk of this scenario happening and be self-sufficient.

With a term insurance, a much higher coverage amount can be paid out to John and his family.

The payout will then be able to pay for current and future expenses, commitments, and goals.

Want to find the best term plans? Get a term insurance comparison of the top providers in Singapore now.

How Long Should You Cover Till

Generally most would cover till their retirement age or retirement age + 5 years.

But because of the nature of the term plan (which has no cash value), this question always comes up: “how long should I cover till?”

Why?

The plan will terminate after the coverage period. And if any of the insured events happen after that, there will not be any payouts, even if it’s 1 year after the expiry date.

So there will be difficulties in choosing when to cover.. till 65.. 70.. 75.. 80… there are even term plans that can cover till 99 years old, but that’s for leaving a legacy behind.

If we take a look at the average life expectancy in Singapore, it’s currently at 83.2 years and it’s expected to be 85.4 in 2040.

Does it mean that you should cover till 85?

In my opinion, covering till your retirement age will be the most important as those are your income-generating years. If you have the capacity to expand the length of cover, then it’s all up to you.

Why Term Insurance Can Be a Great Strategy for You

compare term insurance singapore

Using a small percentage of your income, you’re able to eliminate a huge financial risk, which creates a greater peace of mind.

With a term insurance, you don’t have to worry about uncertainties, and just go about your life doing what you love to do.

This is half of the picture though…

By having a term insurance, it solves only your protection needs – the “what ifs.”

What if, all goes well then?

If your goals are to save up for your kid’s education or retirement, you’d need to allocate resources to accumulate wealth which is when the phrase: “buy term, invest the rest” comes in, but let’s leave that for another day. 

For now, protecting your income is one of the most fundamental aspects of financial planning.

And there’s no better way to do that than by having a term insurance plan.

Take the first step and eliminate the uncertainties when things don’t go well. Start by comparing term insurance in Singapore and get yourself protected.

Abram Lim

With over 7 years of experience in the financial advisory industry, and previous stints in Citibank and UOB, Abram eagerly shares his knowledge by publishing research-backed articles. Learn more about Abram