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what is life insurance

Life insurance is a contract between the policy owner and the insurer, where the insurer
agrees to pay a designated beneficiary a sum of money upon the occurrence of the
insured individual's or individuals' death or other event, such as terminal illness or critical
illness. In return, the policy owner agrees to pay a stipulated amount (at regular intervals
or in lump sums). There may be designs in some countries where bills and death expenses
plus catering for after funeral expenses should be included in Policy Premium. In the
United States, the predominant form simply specifies a lump sum to be paid on the
insured's demise.

The value for the policyholder is derived, not from an actual claim event, rather it is the
value derived from the 'peace of mind' experienced by the policyholder, due to the
negating of adverse financial consequences caused by the death of the Life Assured.

Life policies are legal contracts and the terms of the contract describe the limitations of
the insured events. Specific exclusions are often written into the contract to limit the
liability of the insurer; for example claims relating to suicide, fraud, war, riot and civil

Key Benefits of Life Insurance

Need for Life Insurance

Today, there is no shortage of investment options for a person to choose from. Modern
day investments include gold, property, fixed income instruments, mutual funds and of
course, life insurance. Given the plethora of choices, it becomes imperative to make the
right choice when investing your hard-earned money. Life insurance is a unique
investment that helps you to meet your dual needs - saving for life's important goals, and
protecting your assets.

Let us look at these unique benefits of life insurance in detail.

Asset Protection

From an investor's point of view, an investment can play two roles - asset appreciation or
asset protection. While most financial instruments have the underlying benefit of asset
appreciation, life insurance is unique in that it gives the customer the reassurance of asset
protection, along with a strong element of asset appreciation.
The core benefit of life insurance is that the financial interests of one’s family remain
protected from circumstances such as loss of income due to critical illness or death of the
policyholder. Simultaneously, insurance products also have a strong inbuilt wealth
creation proposition. The customer therefore benefits on two counts and life insurance
occupies a unique space in the landscape of investment options available to a customer.

Goal based savings

Each of us has some goals in life for which we need to save. For a young, newly married
couple, it could be buying a house. Once, they decide to start a family, the goal changes
to planning for the education or marriage of their children. As one grows older, planning
for one's retirement will begin to take precedence.

Clearly, as your life stage and therefore your financial goals change, the instrument in
which you invest should offer corresponding benefits pertinent to the new life stage.

Life insurance is the only investment option that offers specific products tailormade for
different life stages. It thus ensures that the benefits offered to the customer reflect the
needs of the customer at that particular life stage, and hence ensures that the financial
goals of that life stage are met.

The table below gives a general guide to the plans that are appropriate for different life

History of insurance in India

In India, insurance has a deep-rooted history. It finds mention in the writings of Manu (
Manusmrithi ), Yagnavalkya ( Dharmasastra ) and Kautilya ( Arthasastra ). The writings
talk in terms of pooling of resources that could be re-distributed in times of calamities
such as fire, floods, epidemics and famine. This was probably a pre-cursor to modern day
insurance. Ancient Indian history has preserved the earliest traces of insurance in the
form of marine trade loans and carriers’ contracts. Insurance in India has evolved over
time heavily drawing from other countries, England in particular.

1818 saw the advent of life insurance business in India with the establishment of the
Oriental Life Insurance Company in Calcutta. This Company however failed in 1834. In
1829, the Madras Equitable had begun transacting life insurance business in the Madras
Presidency. 1870 saw the enactment of the British Insurance Act and in the last three
decades of the nineteenth century, the Bombay Mutual (1871), Oriental (1874) and
Empire of India (1897) were started in the Bombay Residency. This era, however, was
dominated by foreign insurance offices which did good business in India, namely Albert
Life Assurance, Royal Insurance, Liverpool and London Globe Insurance and the Indian
offices were up for hard competition from the foreign companies.

In 1914, the Government of India started publishing returns of Insurance Companies

in India. The Indian Life Assurance Companies Act, 1912 was the first statutory measure
to regulate life business. In 1928, the Indian Insurance Companies Act was enacted to
enable the Government to collect statistical information about both life and non-life
business transacted in India by Indian and foreign insurers including provident insurance
societies. In 1938, with a view to protecting the interest of the Insurance public, the
earlier legislation was consolidated and amended by the Insurance Act, 1938 with
comprehensive provisions for effective control over the activities of insurers.
The Insurance Amendment Act of 1950 abolished Principal Agencies. However, there
were a large number of insurance companies and the level of competition was high.
There were also allegations of unfair trade practices. The Government of India, therefore,
decided to nationalize insurance business.

An Ordinance was issued on 19th January, 1956 nationalising the Life Insurance
sector and Life Insurance Corporation came into existence in the same year. The LIC
absorbed 154 Indian, 16 non-Indian insurers as also 75 provident societies—245 Indian
and foreign insurers in all. The LIC had monopoly till the late 90s when the Insurance
sector was reopened to the private sector.

Important milestones in the Indian life insurance business

• 1912: The Indian Life Assurance Companies Act came into force for regulating
the life insurance business.

• 1928: The Indian Insurance Companies Act was enacted for enabling the
government to collect statistical information on both life and non-life insurance

• 1938: The earlier legislation consolidated the Insurance Act with the aim of
safeguarding the interests of the insuring public.

• 1956: 245 Indian and foreign insurers and provident societies were taken over by
the central government and they got nationalized. LIC was formed by an Act of
Parliament, viz. LIC Act, 1956. It started off with a capital of Rs. 5 crore and that
too from the Government of India.