Ask fML Advisers: What Are The Most Common Questions On Personal Accident Plans?

fundMyLife FAs talk about common questions on personal accident plans

[5 min read]

A personal accident plan is a plan that pays out when you are injured, resulting in either death or permanent/temporary disabilities. While it is seemingly simple, there are many considerations to keep in mind when deciding what plans to purchase. As such, there are plenty of questions on personal accident plans.

Where better to hear about these questions and get answers, other than asking financial adviser themselves? We ask the financial advisers of fundMyLife on what they are often asked when it comes to this plan. In this article, Roshan Belani from AIA, Winifred Tan, and Melvin Liu from Manulife share their thoughts on common questions on personal accident plans and their perspectives.

Roshan Belani, AIA

Roshan from AIA
Roshan Belani, AIA

Before I share the most common questions on personal accident plans that clients ask me, I would like to share a personal accident claims story of my own. I was in a team bonding trip in Desaru with my colleagues, and in one of the games I fell. The fall did not hurt me, but two colleagues landing on my foot did. A colleague sent me back to Singapore, where I sought treatment in Mount Elizabeth hospital.

I suffered a hairline fracture in my 4th metatarsal but I did not stay in a ward since I did not need to undergo surgery. In total, I paid around $3,000 for:

  1. MRI scans
  2. X-ray imaging
  3. Digital imaging
  4. Follow-up treatment
  5. Crutches

The Great Eastern Personal Accident Plan helped in defraying the treatment costs. I was out of action for 2-3 months, during which I had to was fortunate enough to have my colleagues’ help with my clients. In retrospect, I would have gotten a plan that provided a weekly payout during the period when I was unable to work. A plan with a weekly payout as a result of lost income would have helped with lifestyle maintenance.

“Is my accident plan on an annual basis or per accident basis?”

This is a question that clients often ask, that whether the accident plan they purchase is on an annual basis or per accident basis. The Great Eastern plan I was on when I was injured in the team bonding exercise had a $10,000/year cover. In contrast, the personal accident plan in AIA has a $4,000/accident cover. As such, the question might arise on which plan is better than the other.

Neither are better than the other – it just depends on your own injury patterns. Ideally, you should have both as these two forms of personal accident plans as these two kinds complement each other. A per-annual basis plan helps to cover what a per-accident basis plan cannot. After all, personal accident plans are generally affordable and are designed to not hurt your budget. However, if you have to choose between either, you have to decide whether you’re clumsy or accident-prone. It would be more beneficial if you anticipate frequent injuries.

Winifred Tan

Winifred Tan, Great Eastern
Winifred Tan

“What’s the coverage like?”

Most people have the impression that personal accident plans are for serious things like car crashes or loss of certain body parts, etc. However, it also covers for temporary injuries like sprains and cuts.

“Does it cover medical expenses?”

Yes, even for Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), chiropractor for some policies under Great Eastern.

“Does it cover dengue and zika?”

Yes, for Great Eastern’s case.

“What kind of accidents are considered accidents?”

Anything that is external, violent, and visible means and are not self-inflicted.

“What are the common exclusions?”

Personal accident plans typically exclude jobs such as sports coaching, military, professional motorcycling. Why? It’s because they take on higher risks! Accident plans are not to be take for granted. It requires you to take precautions as well before going ahead with dangerous activities.

“How long does it take to claim?”

2-3 weeks, if everything – documents in general – is furnished in order for claims.

“What is the claim period from the date of accident?”

Within 90 days after the accident, and normally we allow follow-up claims up to 365 days form the accident.

Melvin Liu, Manulife

Melvin Liu's picture
Melvin Liu, Manulife

“Is personal accident plan the same as life insurance, etc?”

There are two groups of people when it comes to personal accident plans. The first are people who know what they want and why they are getting this plan. The second group of people are relatively more clueless, and confuse personal accident plans with other plans. Personal accident plans are useful because they complement other insurance plans for out-patient treatment and consultation.

“Is it useful to renew the personal accident plan?”

People ask this because they need to renew the plan annually even though they did not claim anything. I would encourage them to do so, since the premiums are affordable and it is truly useful when they need to claim for something. Even I myself have a personal accident plan for my own daughter.

I notice that consumers often do not have questions about personal accident plans, and are receptive to whatever I share with them.

fundMyLife Summary

Roshan first recounted a story on how he got hurt, and how his personal accident plan helped. He also discussed the differences between plans that have an annual limit, and plans that have a limit per accident. Winifred shared common questions on personal accident plans that she encountered with consumers, and provided useful clarification for each of those questions. Finally, Melvin mentioned a common misconception that consumers often have – mistaking personal accident plans with other plans – and encouraged yearly renewal of the plan due to benefits.

In general, from our conversation with some of the advisers, we had an impression that consumers ask many questions on personal accident plans. In addition, they commented that consumers often reply on their company’s group accident plans and do not scrutinize the details unless they need to claim for something.

Actionables:

  1. For freelancers, consider getting a personal accident plan as it will immensely help you when you injure yourself.
  2. If you have a corporate group personal accident plan, read the fine print and see if you have adequate coverage.

If you’ve more questions on personal accident plans or any other insurance plans, head on to our main site and ask our curated pool of financial advisers! Alternatively, if you’d like to connect with either Roshan Belani from AIA, Winifred Tan, or Melvin Liu from Manulife, just click on the link in their names and you can ask them questions directly from their profile pages.

fundMyLife is a platform that aims to empower Singaporeans to make financial decisions confidently. We also connect consumers to the right financial planners in a private and anonymous manner, based on their financial planning questions.

Follow us on our fundMyLife Facebook page to get exciting updates and your dose of finance knowledge! Alternatively, the Insurance Discussion SG Facebook group is a good place to discuss insurance-related topics with fellow Singaporeans.

fML Case Study: Aligning Expectations With The Right Financial Advice

fundmylifestories

[3 min read]

Sometimes, getting professional financial advice can be tough – it requires the right expertise, the right experience, and most importantly the right adviser him/herself. Without any of the three, things may go awry when financial goals are not achieved, which does happen.

In this article, fundMyLife follows fML user James* who asked a burning question on our site on an AIA plan. Our AI engine connected his question with one of our fML advisers, Roshan Belani of AIA. After connecting with Roshan on fundMyLife, James and Roshan met up for an appointment. Roshan first spent some time acquainted with James on their first meeting, and they bonded over investing – something that Roshan is an expert of.

Unmet expectations in plan bought

Upon conversing, Roshan discovered that James’ initial goal was to accrue a set amount of savings for a particular financial goal. However, the plan which he was sold by another adviser turned out to be an ILP, and was unsuitable for two reasons:

  1. The plan protected him more than he needed
  2. The premiums he paid in the first two years went to protection first, instead of investments

The plan was not going to deliver what he wanted – savings – in the long term as a large chunk of the premium went to insurance component. As such, his goal was unmet. The initial premium was $500/month, which he reduced to $300/month in the past already.

Weighing the options

James was faced with a dilemma:

  1. Keep the plan going and not reduce the premium
  2. Reduce the premium to $100/month and free up more money for investments

Roshan noted that each of the options had their pros and cons. While the plan wasn’t what James originally wanted, the protection offered by the plan under $300/month was adequate and sustainable. Furthermore, the plan served a purpose by locking down on his health from two years ago – future insurance plans may be slightly more expensive. On top of that, reducing it to $100/month would also result in less insurance coverage. However, the second option provides James with more freedom to do with what he wants to do with the money.

In addition, Roshan also looked at other areas of James’ risk management and gave his perspective on those as well. For example, critical illness coverage, personal accident plans, etc. Impressed by Roshan’s professionalism and expertise, James immediately requested for Roshan to take over his AIA portfolio. Currently, it is an ongoing conversation where Roshan will further assess James’ future needs and identify gaps in finances be it investments or insurance.

Conclusion

It is important to engage the advisers who can give the right financial advice. James found himself in a quandary when the plan he bought did not align with his goals due to unsuitable advice. fundMyLife was pleased to have been able to connect the question James had to Roshan and we are committed to making sure more users like James have access to the right financial advice, by the right financial adviser.

If you find yourself in the same situation as James, or you’ve questions on financial planning, head on to our main site and ask our curated pool of financial advisers! Alternatively, you can also browse our individual advisers’ pages – just click on their profiles and you can ask them questions directly from their profile pages.

fundMyLife is a platform that aims to empower Singaporeans to make financial decisions confidently. We also connect consumers to the right financial planners in a private and anonymous manner, based on their financial planning questions.

Follow us on our fundMyLife Facebook page to get exciting updates and your dose of finance knowledge! Alternatively, the Insurance Discussion SG Facebook group is a good place to discuss insurance-related topics with fellow Singaporeans.

*name was altered for privacy

Ask fML Advisers: What Are Your Opinions on Endowment Plans?

[5 min read]

Usually marketed as a form of “forced savings”, endowment plans are long-term plans designed to help you achieve a certain financial goal over a time period. We have written at length on endowment plans, and what to do if you ever think of selling them. However, while we hear a lot of stories from friends and family about endowment plans, what do financial advisers themselves think?

In this article, we asked three financial advisers of fundMyLife – Melvin from Manulife, Jonathon from Prudential, and Ryan from AXA – on what they think of endowment plans, such as interesting case studies and common misconceptions. Without further ado, here’s what they have to say:

Melvin Liu, Manulife

Melvin Liu's picture
Melvin Liu, Manulife

What is your opinion on endowment plans?

At least half of the people I encountered have the general impression that the returns are guaranteed, that they are safe and likely to hit the projected returns. They forgot that they were told that the projections are not guaranteed, only to remember when I reminded them.

When I look at endowment plans, I study three things:

  1. Guaranteed Cash Values/Projected Yield to Maturity
  2. Liquidity/coupon paying features
  3. Intention and suitability of clients for considering endowments as an option

In general, I noticed that endowment plans have evolved over the past five years and not all endowments are the same since each may differ in features such as premium-paying periods, liquidity options and protection features. The plans nowadays are competitive and the guaranteed amount upon maturity aims to be on par if not higher than total premiums paid.

My personal opinion is that people really need to understand why they are purchasing endowments in the first place. In addition, people generally should not plan to withdraw cash benefits (where applicable) from their endowment plan before maturity, unless its necessary.

What are some interesting stories that you’d like to share with us? 

There were two cases I was involved in.

In the first case, it involved a 21-year old lady who was seeking my advice on an endowment plan she recently purchased which she was having 2nd thoughts about her choice. She was contributing a substantial amount of her monthly income, i.e. $750/month, to a 25-year premium paying endowment plan. She got this particular endowment plan from someone she met at a roadshow. Moreover, she was a Malaysian working in Singapore, and having to sustain her premiums for a good 25 years here might sound challenging due to many potential uncertainties, to which she agreed. After consideration, she deliberated between keeping it for another 2 years or so when she could surrender it to take back some cash, or to surrender it straightaway after paying for about 6 months. I showed her objectively the difference in the amount she would lose if she hung on for another 2 years vs surrendering immediately, i.e. $16k+ vs $4.5k respectively, and let her make the call. She eventually managed to resolve it with the agent, and I didn’t probe further on her decision.

In the second case, I was advising a 50-year old lady on her plan to have a regular stream of income in about 2 years time for her retirement. She was surprised that I advised her that she did not need any plans after I reviewed and advised that she was ready to retire with the sum of money she already had. However, she nonetheless was keen to see what options she had to put her in a better financial position while meeting her income needs with a lower risk. We worked out a few options and suggested that she could prepaid an endowment plan in a lump sum so that she can start getting guaranteed cash coupons as retirement income from the second year onwards while maintaining her desired lump sum balance for security and/or legacy.

Endowments are generally more suited for those who wish to take on a lower risk, prefer having a guaranteed cash value component and have a specific time period to save and cash out for their needs.

However, endowments are often promoted also because they are easy to sell and easily positioned as forced savings e.g., for young adults who are starting to work. Like any financial plan, endowments should be recommended as an option only if it meets the client’s needs and not just simply a way to save money.

Jonathon Han, Prudential

Jonathon Han's picture
Jonathon Han, Prudential

What is your opinion on endowment plans?

A major misconception that people have regarding endowment plans is that they think that these plans are lousy. People often compare endowments with investments, which is like comparing apples with oranges – they are different asset classes with different risk categories.

Endowments are good to grow money at a secure rate for timed events, for example an education fund for children or a retirement fund. If you choose to invest in the stock market instead, the time horizon involved, e.g., 20 years, means that you risk a situation where you disappoint your children because the markets are not doing well.

Important point: besides using endowments for retirement and children’s education, it can also be used to build capital towards buying a second property. The advantage of using endowments over investments is that endowments are less susceptible to market fluctuations. On the other hand, property prices and the stock market are correlated; in the event of a market downturn, both stock and property prices fall which defeats the purpose of investing for a second property in the first place.

The second major misconception is that endowments have poor returns. The perceived low rate of returns is due to the financial adviser allocating too much percentage of the premiums to protection instead of investments. Ideally, you should find someone who can advise and allocate the investment-protection proportion correctly. In fact, it is possible that certain endowment plans can beat Singapore Savings Bond and fixed deposits.

Currently, most insurance companies have endowment plans where you can withdraw money after 2 years. However, if you choose to withdraw the money instead of re-investing for further compounding, the returns might be much lower at maturity. As such, I advise clients to take up fixed endowments but pay less premiums for a relatively higher rate of return compared to those cashback endowment plans.

The third misconception is a lot of practitioners introduce the projected 4.75% investment rate you see in the Benefits Illustration as interest, THIS IS NOT ACCURATE. The effective annual interest rate is also something consumers might find it hard to calculate unless they have an access to a financial calculator.

What are your thoughts on picking a good endowment plan?

I believe 80% of people who buy endowments are happy because they serve a good purpose for their needs. Please note that not all endowments are designed to be withdrawal before their maturity. There might be a serious misconception among customer who buy endowment plans from banks that these endowment plans are fully liquid, please bear in mind that endowment plans are never as liquid as compared to your current account.

Secondly, it is important to study the performance of the insurance companies selling the endowment. Endowments are paid of out a participating fund and if it does well, insurance companies have more funds to allocate to policyholders, i.e. 90% surplus to policyholders and 10% to shareholders. As such, it is useful to pick major insurance companies with good track-record of participating funds – you find the information online. Note: past performance is not indicator of future outcomes.

Lastly, decide whether you want the endowment plan to be fixed or flexible. Don’t ask for flexibility unless you need it since it reduces returns in the long term. You should decide also if you need to add on riders for the protection component. However, keep in mind that the cash value of the protection does not increase over time.

Ryan Teo, AXA

Ryan Teo's picture
Ryan Teo, AXA

What is your opinion on endowment plans?

People often have the misconception that the returns are guaranteed. Another misconception that people have is that they mistake returns in the Benefits Illustration with interest rate which are two completely different things.

In general, endowments are pretty standardised. I take into account the length of the policy when it comes to endowments. What I advise people looking into savings plans but have concerns about liquidity, is to invest 1/3 of their funds into the Singapore Savings Bond and the remainder into an endowment plan. This arrangement provides liquidity.

Endowments generally have a trade-off between returns and flexibility. For example, for plans with cashback, the total maturity may be higher but guaranteed sum may be lower than premiums paid.

A thing to take note: inflation should be considered when it comes to endowment plans. At the break-even point, i.e. the point where the surrender value is the same as premiums paid, the duration of the plan also implies that technically the consumer loses a bit of money due to inflation.

fundMyLife Summary

The major misconception that the public have for endowment is that the sum assured is, well, 100% assured. The advisers caution the importance of understanding what you’re in for when it comes to endowments and know exactly why you’re getting what you’re getting.

Melvin shared what he looks for in endowment plans and recounted two interesting client stories – one who benefits from getting an endowment and the other, not so. Jonathon listed three major misconceptions that the consumers have regarding endowments and provides his thoughts on picking a suitable endowment. Finally, Ryan Teo noted the tradeoffs when it comes to flexibility and returns in endowment plans.

If you’ve more questions on endowment or any other insurance plans, head on to our main site and ask our curated pool of financial advisers! Alternatively, if you’d like to connect with either Melvin from Manulife, Jonathon from Prudential, or Ryan from AXA, just click on the link in their names and you can ask them questions directly from their profile pages.

fundMyLife is a platform that aims to empower Singaporeans to make financial decisions confidently. We also connect consumers to the right financial planners in a private and anonymous manner, based on their financial planning questions.

Follow us on our fundMyLife Facebook page to get exciting updates and your dose of finance knowledge! Alternatively, the Insurance Discussion SG Facebook group is a good place to discuss insurance-related topics with fellow Singaporeans.

Ask fML Advisers: What Are Your Opinions On Critical Illness?

Critical illness insurance can be a lifesaver, since you are paid a lump sum if you are diagnosed with any of the 37 critical illnesses. We have written quite a bit of this topic, but why not hear it from the advisers themselves?

We asked three advisers of fundMyLife (check out their profiles!) – Jennifer from Manulife, Roshan from AIA, and Winifred – on their thoughts regarding critical illness insurance and what they think are common misconceptions. Here’s what they have to say.

Jennifer Neo, Manulife

Jennifer Neo's picture
Jennifer Neo, Manulife

What are your thoughts and perspectives on critical illness insurance?

In the past, I took up two orphan clients – clients without a servicing adviser – referred to me by a friend from a different company. They owned two plans: Living Choice and Universal Care, taken up in 1997. 20 years later, in 2017, the wife was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease, a long-term degenerative disorder of the central nervous system that mainly affects the motor system. It could reach a stage of paralysis where the legs are stiff frozen, limiting mobility.

At the time of her claim, she was a 53-year old housewife. She was mentally shaken but physically she was still fine. Naturally, one would be worried or scared after knowing what the stages of this sickness are and how it could eventually cause difficulties, such as swallowing and even talking or expressing herself. At this point, when one is physically disabled, he/she would need a caregiver to assist in their daily living.

The couple was very thankful that I helped them in the process of checking the claims status. I could sense their gratitude, expressed in simple terms of gifting me a box of CNY biscuits and angpao as it was during CNY period last year.

For critical illness, you should buy it when you don’t need it, so that when you need it, you will have it. When you are young, you should prepare whenever you can. When you take responsibility for yourself in your younger days, your dependents will be free from the financial responsibility of taking care of your medical bills. Otherwise, they might be the one shouldering the bills on top of supporting themselves.

I would urge young adults to think and look into your critical illness coverage. For example, do you have $50,000 in your bank account? If you don’t, it’s a good time to look into covering yourself with a critical illness plan that can cover you with a lump sum to take care of yourself when the critical illnesses strike.

Two facts to share:

  1. When you buy it at your younger age, you pay lesser! And most likely you would have the good health to buy it. There is a cost of waiting –the older you are, the higher the premiums will be.
  2. And the second cost is there is no guarantee of coverage. A health issue could strike any time leaving you not being eligible for coverage. Waiting just a few years to buy could result in not getting coverage at all. Don’t wait until your health changes because when that happens, the insurance companies might not want to take you on.

Roshan Belani, AIA Financial Advisers

Roshan from AIA
Roshan Belani, AIA

What are your thoughts and perspectives on critical illness insurance?

The wife of a good client of mine was diagnosed with Stage II cancer. The client’s family was quite big, with 4 daughters. Fortunately, they had a hospitalization plan that covered most of the medical fees and an early critical illness plan that provided a lump sum payout. While the wife of the client was a stay-at-home mother, they came to know of an experimental drug that was being used in a clinical trial. Experimental drugs are usually not covered by hospitalization plans.

The cost of the drugs for the entire duration of the treatment was between SGD$150-200,000. The family was willing to fork out the money as the lump sum from the early critical illness plan was able to defray some of the costs – they later found out that this drug was indeed covered by insurance, providing much relief to them and their finances. In this case, the early critical illness payout worked as a peace of mind to engage costly treatment.

One misconception that I’d like to address is that people think that critical illness plans are just for working adults. However, it is not meant to be an income replacement. After all, someone has to bear the costs of medical treatment and aftercare in the household. In the client’s family that I shared above, if the drugs were not covered by MOH, the cost of the treatment would have put a huge dent in their financial plans – retirement plans, investments, and even the education for the four daughters.

Fortunately, the wife is currently receiving treatment and is getting better day after day.

Winifred Tan

Winifred Tan, Great Eastern
Winifred Tan

What are your thoughts and perspectives on critical illness insurance?

Over the years, I have observed that underwriters are quite strict. Even if the applicant is young and has not been diagnosed with any of the 37 critical illnesses, he has a chance of exclusion or extra loading (higher premiums) if there is any prior medical history. A few things that I’d like to share:

  1. Terminal illness coverage refers to a conclusive diagnosis of an illness that is expected to result in death within 12 months
  2. HIV infection is usually excluded, whereas occupationally derived HIV is covered in our hospital plans
  3. Diabetes is NOT considered a critical illness, but diabetic complications are considered
  4. Critical illness (CI) usually covers 37 conditions for later stages unless the policy is a specific early stage policy. Normally, early stage CI covers about 29 illnesses
  5. There may be a maximum amount payable for CI on all policies e.g. $2.5M
  6. Angioplasty & other invasive treatment for coronary artery do not pay out 100% of the sum assured (SA). Usually only 10% of SA
  7. Waiting Period: CI coverage usually needs a waiting period of 90 days from the day of purchase BEFORE any claims can be made (which is why it’s one of the first core components of insurance that people usually get for themselves and loved ones)
  8. Survival Period: A claimant must usually live beyond 7 days, which is also the survival period, for a CI policy to pay out (regardless of early or major stage CI coverage)

In addition, people often confuse critical illness plans with hospitalization insurance! They think it pays out for hospitalization, but it is not. Normally, I’d say that hospitalization insurance as “reimbursement of bills” and CI insurance as a complement to hospital insurance for income replacement! People also think that critical insurance looks “critical”, that is the illnesses are too major/serious to get it at a young age. That’s because they do not know about early CI as well.

fundMyLife Summary

The misconceptions that the public generally have is that critical illness plans are seen as income replacements, which should not be the case. Instead, they advise us to view the plan as a form of illness aftercare, when we need the resources to recover.

Jennifer advocated to start buying a critical illness plan early because firstly it’s cheaper and secondly there’s no telling when the consumer may not be eligible for it. Furthermore, critical illness plans can be seen as a way to reduce financial burden of recovery. Roshan’s story about his client’s wife agrees with that sentiment and he said that there’s always going to be someone in the household to bear the costs of treatment. Winifred shares important facts that one needs to consider when purchasing critical illness insurance, e.g., possibility of exclusion due to family history, survival period, waiting period, etc.

If you’ve more questions on insurance, head on to our main site and ask our curated pool of financial advisers! Alternatively, if you’d like to connect with either Jennifer from Manulife, Roshan from AIA, and Winifred, just click on the link in their names and you can ask them questions directly from their profile pages.

fundMyLife is a platform that aims to empower Singaporeans to make financial decisions confidently. We also connect consumers to the right financial planners in a private and anonymous manner, based on their financial planning questions.

Follow us on our fundMyLife Facebook page to get exciting updates and your dose of finance knowledge! Alternatively, the Insurance Discussion SG Facebook group is a good place to discuss insurance-related topics with fellow Singaporeans.

3 Ways A Relationship Can Sour in Professional Financial Planning

Purchasing insurance can be quite a scary affair. After all, you’re putting a part of your hard-earned money into protecting yourself from an event that may or may not occur.

Given the fact that clients and their financial planners have to maintain this professional relationship over a long time, it is inevitable that there is a chance that the relationship can sour. How so? fundMyLife explores various ways how things can go awry in client-planner relationships.

Financial Planner Quits

It’s hard being a financial planner in Singapore. Turnover rates are extremely high because of the sales-oriented nature of the job. Apart from the general public’s wariness of financial planners, it’s also quite demoralising to see a low salary for the initial part of the career.

In our own data analysis of LinkedIn profiles and personal accounts from our network of friends, attrition rates are the highest in the first two years. What does this mean for the consumer? It’s a classic story for a client to purchase a policy from someone, e.g., a friend fresh in the industry, and the friend happens to quit afterwards.

In such a case, the client is then left hanging after the company assigns him/her random planner. It is understandable why adopter planners are hesitant to take up orphaned clients. There is little incentive in servicing clients whom you do not earn commissions from. However, it is also heartening to find that there are planners out there who choose to take these orphaned clients out of duty to their calling.

In addition, unless the adopted client makes the effort to contact the assigned planner, the next time he/she requires the help of a planner it’d most likely be when it’s time to make claims. It’s a pain for both the consumer and the financial planner as both would be meeting under times of crisis, e.g., an accident or illness.

Financial Planner Goes to Another Company

Good financial planners are hard to find, and talent recruitment can be quite aggressive. In June 2016, 200 out of 400 financial planners from the Peter Tan Organisation – one of Prudential’s largest group of agency units – resigned, with a group of them joining Aviva’s financial advisory firm. In Sept 2017, around 300 financial planners from Great Eastern joined AIA Financial Advisers.

Under such cases, either of the two things can occur. The first case is the same as a client’s personal financial planner quitting, i.e. be assigned another financial planner from the company. The second case – various government and consumer bodies have expressed this concern – is when the jumpshippers convincing their clients to drop their original plans from the old company and buy new ones from the jumpshippers in their new companies to fulfill their quota.

Bank-Insurer Relationship Ends

Ever received a call from your bank, asking if you were interested in their insurance? That’s bank insurance, or bancassurance, right there.

In theory, bancassurance is not a bad idea. After all, you get both banking and insurance done at the same time. However, what happens when the partnership ends? A member in the Insurance Discussion Group, Chan KH, commented that in these partnerships the bank acts as an agent. The banks work as distribution channels in this partnership, offering bank clients insurance products as well.

Once the partnership ends, the insurer will then take over the portfolio of business servicing from the banks and assign the client to an agency or a group of financial planners. He also recounted how his own client messaged him about a Prudential plan he bought via Maybank in the past; it was not performing, but since the partnership ended the client had to call Prudential itself to inquire more.

Is it all terrible? Not exactly. Especially if you don’t sweat the details and would like to get all of your finances done at the same time. In addition, banks like DBS are getting innovative; DBS incentivizes consumers to purchase/transact their insurance under the DBS Multiplier account to enjoy higher interest rates (we wrote an analysis on it, btw).

You just have to be prepared to be on your own after the bancassurance partnership ends.

What Should I Do As A Client?

If you find yourself under such cases, the best thing you can do is make sure you make contact with the person who is in charge of you as early as possible. Responsible planners, upon leaving the company or industry, will do a proper handoff to the assigned planners. However, in the case of sudden disappearance of planners, your best bet is to contact the main companies’ offices to find out who your assigned planner is.

Hindsight is 20/20, but for those who haven’t found a financial planner yet, it’s important to engage someone whom you know will stay in the industry for a long period of time. Where to find such responsible planners?

At the risk of tooting our own horns, fundMyLife takes pride in conducting numerous quality control measures to ensure that the financial planners that join us are capable, credible, and client-oriented.

If you find yourself in a rut or have a burning financial planning question, come to our site and ask away!

fundMyLife is a platform that aims to empower Singaporeans to make financial decisions confidently. We also connect consumers to the right financial planners in a private and anonymous manner, based on their financial planning questions.

Follow us on our fundMyLife Facebook page to get exciting updates and your dose of finance knowledge! Alternatively, the Insurance Discussion SG Facebook group is a good place to discuss insurance-related topics with fellow Singaporeans.

Review: Udemy Marketing Class for Insurance Agents

Written by Jackie Tan. Jackie is part of fundMyLife, the platform that connects financial planning questions to the right advisers.

Social media is often described as yelling into a crowd of people. Paying for social media ads is akin to getting a bigger and louder loudspeaker – you’d reach out to more people. However, with proper digital marketing techniques, it turns your loudspeaker into a walkie-talkie that buzzes the right messages to the right crowd.

There’s almost no excuse for a company to maintain a social media presence to get ahead of competitors, and insurance agencies and agents are no exception. However, it was quite surprising that they still do not leverage the power of social media. In our (casual) survey of Facebook pages of insurance agents, we find that the adviser pages surveyed have a median of 125 fans and 1% 7-day engagement rate, implying a low reach compared to the industry average of 5%. Hence, there’s a need for a marketing class for insurance agents.

As such, it was a delight when fundMyLife stumbled across an Udemy course titled “Facebook Marketing for Insurance Agents”.

What is that? A Marketing Class for Insurance Agents?

As the name suggests, it is an online course containing a series of lectures that aims to guide insurance agents market themselves online on Facebook.

It’s taught by a digital marketer named Jay from Malaysia, but we thought that the insurance scene in both countries were similar enough that agents from Singapore would benefit from the course as well. The course is 5 hours long, and is composed of several parts in the syllabus:

  1. Welcome
  2. Building Your Online Presence
  3. Advance [sic] Facebook Strategies
  4. Take Action Now
  5. Buying & Building A WordPress Website
  6. A Real Entrepreneur Journey
  7. Step by Step Guides

So far so good, let’s dive into it.

The Content

The lecture starts with an introduction into what digital marketing is, and how it differs from traditional marketing. In the part on building an online presence, he shares a strategy called the ATOM strategy: Always Think Of Me and to do that, the marketer has to 1) Educate, 2) Share (Case Study, Testimony), 3) Part of Community, 4) Appear Live In Person, 5) Humor.

ATOM Strategy. Consists of Educate, Share, Part of Community, Appear Live In Person, Humor
The ATOM (Always Think Of Me) strategy that helps the insurance agent build his/her online presence. Screengrab from online course.

The points on establishing an online presence are relatively self-explanatory; those are wise words as it helps to engage your audience and doing so establishes yourself as an opinion leader. These actions are simple in theory, but it’s exceedingly challenging to execute.

Creating content is hard. There is a severe shortage of consumer education when it comes to products, case studies that highlight interesting situations that consumers faced, and opinion pieces of agents on their respective speciality.

Next, he proceeded to share some advanced Facebook strategies – he shares some of the common pitfalls that novices do. For example, one mistake that people tend to do is share too much information in the picture. He gives an example of a post with too many words.

A slide titled "Split Testing" is shown, together with two different images. The image on the left is wordy and the image on the right is less wordy.
Split testing helps the marketer discover which image, text, or caption used is more effective in targeting a particular audience. Screengrab from online course.

Another common mistake is pressing the “Boost Post” button to promote a post instead of setting up a proper ad campaign. Indeed, you miss a lot of opportunity for further targeting and experimentation when you merely boost posts.

Moreover, he suggests that advisers set websites up for email collection for the subsequent steps in the lead generation funnel as the email collection helps and that embedding a Facebook pixel aids in tracking and segmenting the Facebook audience further.

A Venn diagram showing the ideal target user is someone who knows about you, who is near you, and is part of the demographic you are targeting
It is important to get people who are not just in your geographical area and are in a certain demographic, but also people who have seen your posts and/or website. Screengrab from online course.

Sound Advice So Far…

Jay also introduces the idea of a marketing funnel, a series of steps designed to convert strangers online into eventual leads and customers.

A picture of a marketing funnel
While this marketing funnel is sound in theory, it can be quite challenging to implement with regards to insurance. Screengrab from online course.

He advises to build a website to offer something in exchange for the website visitor’s contact, such as an e-book or a guide, and let the product be an introduction to the insurance agent. Once the visitor is convinced that the agent’s expertise is sound, and has a taster of his/her advice in the e-book and website, the visitor can then be converted into a lead and eventually a customer.

The course ends off with a step-by-step guide on buying and building a WordPress site (1h 28 mins) and a sharing on his entrepreneurship journey (1h 5 mins). We won’t cover those, but the former is very useful if you don’t know how to create a WordPress site and the latter is inspiring; it is a call to action to put into practise what you learned.

That’s All Folks

Aren’t you glad we spent the $18 so you don’t have to? To summarize, here are the pros and cons of what we found from the course:

Pros:

  1. Covers basic ideas surrounding digital marketing
  2. Inspiring life story of the lecturer at the end of the course
  3. Step-by-step walkthrough on buying a WordPress site
  4. Shares precaution to avoid classic mistakes
  5. Teaches tried and tested digital marketing techniques

Cons:

  1. Has breadth, and less depth
  2. Incomplete case studies

Verdict: Like nasi lemak without sambal, or chicken rice without the fragrant rice, this Udemy course lacks a certain punch that makes it a complete dish. As such, you will have to do more research if you’re an insurance agent looking to modernise your sales channel after this course.

You’ll just have to find an alternative course online to study – preferably free – or hire someone to help you out.

fundMyLife is a platform that aims to empower the average Singaporean to make financial decisions confidently. We also connect consumers to the right financial planners in a private and anonymous manner, based on their financial planning questions. Follow us on our Facebook page to get exciting updates and your dose of finance knowledge! Let us know what you want to know about finances or something that you wish your friends knew! 

Post-script: What is 7-day engagement rate?

The 7-day engagement rate is a high-level metric used to approximate the level of engagement (duh) in a Facebook page.  Engagement is defined as actions that a user takes on your page, e.g., liking, reacting, or sharing. A high 7-day engagement rate demonstrates consistent interaction with the content on the Facebook page, and implies that the followers of the page are high quality.  There are several tools out there to measure this metric – we used Meltwater’s Likealyzer to analyse the pages.

Opinion: Investing is gambling, or is it?

RyanCoverPhoto

Written by Ryan Teo, edited by Jackie Tan. The opinion series is dedicated to sharing our advisers’ thoughts and opinion on personal finances. Ryan Teo is a part of fundMyLife, the platform that connects financial planning questions to the right advisers.

“Investing in the stock market is just like gambling.”

Or so the saying goes. And people develop a fear of investing from thinking that way.

It depends on our perception on how we think about it.

The problem is that a lot of people do treat the stock market like a casino, hoping to win the big bucks quickly.

Let me ask you a question

Let’s say a friend who approaches you. He says:

“Eh bro! I’m opening a cafe that’s based on the latest dessert trend from Tokyo. It’s huge in Japan. Guarantee make a lot of money one la. If you interested, you can invest $10,000 in my business.”

What will you do? Are you going to hand over the cash to him just like that? I’m sure you will expect some sort of return of investment and do some research on your own.

So you will probably ask questions such as:

  1. What are your costs/expenses?
  2. What are the type of food will you be serving?
  3. What are the profit margins?
  4. When will the business be projected to break even?
  5. What are your staff costs? And so on.

Now, the question is whether you would do the same when you invest in the stock market.

Why don’t we ask ourselves these same questions when we invest? Do you research on the business fundamentals? Most people don’t. They just take the word of friends or analysts and follow the latest stock tips.

One of the most common misconceptions is that when the share price of a company falls, it means that the business is failing.

For example, if the price of Singtel shares starts to drop every day, it doesn’t mean that a couple of shops is closing down every day.

On the contrary, it offers us the opportunity to invest or to buy a part of the business at a cheaper price. Hopefully, you can be a part of the company’s long-term goal.

Investing isn’t optional

The truth is that many people haven’t made peace with the fact that investing isn’t optional. In life, there are only two main types of income. One is from your work or business; the other is from your investments.

If you only have money from working ONE job or have ONE business, you only have ONE income stream.

When I ask others why they were not investing, the one reason that keeps repeating is fear. With the rising cost of living in Singapore, having only one stream of income is also taking a huge gamble. However, think about it this way – the wealthiest people in the world got rich by building successful businesses.

As such, people can either start a business themselves which carries a lot of risks in itself and maybe capital, or they can be a partners of a business.

Essentially, that’s what the stock market offers us – the opportunity to partially own a business.

Sure you’ve heard the saying before “Don’t put all your eggs in one basket.” So, why then do we stubbornly accept a single source of income?

Isn’t that more of a gamble?

If you have any questions to ask me, I’m happy to answer them over at fundMyLife!

fundMyLife is a platform that aims to empower the average Singaporean to make financial decisions confidently. We also connect consumers to the right financial planners in a private and anonymous manner, based on their financial planning questions. Follow us on our Facebook page to get exciting updates and your dose of finance knowledge! Let us know what you want to know about finances or something that you wish your friends knew! 

Just graduated? Just started thinking about your financial planning?

Written by Winifred Tan, edited by Jackie Tan. Winifred is a part of fundMyLife, the platform that connects financial planning questions to the right advisers.

What can you do with your paycheck? What about Financial Freedom?

Whether you are reading this from the confines of your office or the comfort of your home, one thing is clear: you have cleared the dreaded years of ‘coffee mugging’ during your JC, Polytechnic or University days, and are finally earning your own keeps. For that, you deserve a pat on your back! Some graduates call this ‘financial freedom’. But truth to be told (being a graduate myself as well) – financial freedom is certainly NOT about liberating oneself from parental allowances! Read on to find out more about what does it really mean to be financially free.

For the ladies, the paycheck is a conduit to derive an artificial high from shopping for more clothes, new (branded) bags and accessories. For the men, saving for big‐ticket items like a car or a branded watch may be in the books. Whatever the case may be, there is no crime in pampering yourself with that extra Chanel Timeless Classic or going for a good holiday in Europe.

However, money is multi‐functional, and the real timeless classic “saving for a rainy days” still rings true.

Thoughtful financial planning can easily take a backseat to daily life, by Suze Orman
Take time to ponder over this quote and how it can apply to your life

Infant Steps to Wealth Accumulation

There are a myriad ways to kick‐start a good financial planning strategy for yourself, and your loved ones. No right or wrong way per se, because at the end of the day, it boils down to the end‐product of wealth accumulation and what your initial targets you’ve wanted to achieve.

1. The first thing you should do is put aside three to six months’ of your pay as emergency fund, as I’ve always reminded my clients and prospects who have met me before. This is to ensure that in the event of some family emergency, you can take a hiatus from work without having to worry about the basic necessities for the next couple of months.

2. Accompanying this, you should also look into pledging part of your paycheck into contingency assets, i.e. insurance. Some people do not believe in insurance. Yet, insurance is not a religion or faith, it is a simple financial instrument which guarantees some lump sum (for example $100,000…the payout varies of course) and income replacement, should you meet with some unfortunate incident e.g., death/accident/critical illness. People who take up such plans do care about their families and loved ones enough to ensure that this risk of kicking the premature bucket is well‐hedged against, and to ensure they take responsibility of these risks are borne by themselves so as not to burden their loved ones.

More importantly, you may be making regular savings of up to $1,000 per month (or more). That translates to $12,000 per year, and eventually more than $120,000 after 10 years after taking into account accumulated interest/bonuses declared year-on-year. You would not want any part of this $120,000 to go into paying for hospital or other unforeseen bills. Many graduates do not recognise that they are taking over the mantle of breadwinner from their parents. They are, and will continue to be, the economic life‐force of their families in years to come. Hedging risks then, becomes more than necessary.

3. The next step is saving and investing for your future. These days, society has evolved and women are now becoming more empowered, financial savvy and independent. With the power of compounded interest over time, those who start young (i.e. graduates in their 20s) are prime candidates to grow and accumulate massive wealth by the time they retire. Most of them just don’t do it early enough.

Employing the services of reliable financial professionals to do the job is definitely encouraged, i.e. consulting your advisor/planner, as it frees up your precious time to do other things and develop your skills in your speciality, instead of spending hours everyday pouring over financial news and worrying over the stock market.  It is for that reason why people hire lawyers for their professional services as well.

So now, you could be wondering: “It’s time for me to start something! Tell me how!”

A word of warning before I begin: it is going to be technical (it is still somewhat a science, although I mentioned “art of planning”!), and it’s going to be very general. The Art of Planning is still specific to the needs and wants of every individual.

Ideally, you should be spending a maximum of 40% to 50% of your monthly paycheck on fixed and variable spending (food, transport, bills, entertainment, shopping, etc.).

The remaining amount (50‐60%) can be split into short-term (ST) and long‐term (LT) savings and investments. I’m sure my clients might find this familiar as I often re-iterate this to them. UK financial planning expert Bhupinder Anand breaks it down: Short‐term goals would include debt‐consolidation (credit‐card payments, loans) and insurance. Medium‐term goals would be mortgage loans, and savings (general/specific). Long‐term goals would be investments (general/specific), retirement planning, and long‐term care.

This would be how I actually plan for my clients, especially the fresh graduates! Talk to me more to find out how to build up your wealth management plans in-depth!

Your Road‐Map

Everyone’s road‐map is unique. What is vital is not whether yours is better than someone else’s. It is whether it is there, and whether you have committed to it diligently and make strategic modifications part-way when there are changes in your life stages. It is akin to a Personal Trainer’s (PT) strategy to help his trainee lose weight. He would have planned out an exercise regime based on the needs and physical abilities of the trainee. But, along the way, there might be situations that would call for a slight change in strategy, such as the trainee sustaining injuries or becoming ill along the way, in which the PT would have to modify the workouts a little.

Your life stages and situations may change along the way, e.g., buying a house, getting married, and only your trusted financial planner would be able to help guide you by your side, tweaking your strategy a little but still ensure your resulting goal is still achieved in the end. That is assuming your goals are still the same.

Yearly review of goals with your planner is therefore essential as it gives him/her an idea whether your road-map needs major or minor revamps. It is always important to keep your relationships close with your planner as he/she will be there for you to guide you through your life stages, and be there when claims arise.

Last words of advice

Financial pitfalls can be avoided with the Pay‐Yourself‐First method. It basically means getting your paycheck, and immediately channelling the funds to another account to save and invest, instead of saving at the end of the month with what’s left behind. Usually, your bank account would be emptied, the victim and aggressor both being yourself. Most of the times, I would advise my clients and prospects to have at least 2 bank accounts, one for spending and the other is where they should channel their salary in a save up. Transfer only a fixed amount of funds to your spending account every month. An alternative method would be to transfer funds from the “savings/salary” account to your spending account when the spending account runs low.

So, play hard with your money, but make your money work harder. You’ll live to enjoy it more.

If you have any questions to ask me, I’m happy to answer them over at fundMyLife!

fundMyLife is a platform that aims to empower the average Singaporean to make financial decisions confidently. We also connect consumers to the right financial planners in a private and anonymous manner, based on their financial planning questions. Follow us on our Facebook page to get exciting updates and your dose of finance knowledge! Let us know what you want to know about finances or something that you wish your friends knew!