Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Does Pension Plans make sense ? - Should you invest in Pension Plans?

Recently IRDA has allowed Insurance companies in India to launch Pension plans after a gap of over 2 years . Earlier, the insurance companies did have pension plans in the market, but , the regulator viz IRDA had asked them to withdraw all such plans and as such we had a situation where there were no "Pension" plans available in India for some time. However, it has been allowed again . While doing so IRDA has mandated few changes in the product design/features which are aimed at safeguarding the investors interest like offering minimum guaranteed returns etc. 
So , as a person wanting to secure your post retirement years, should you be investing in them? The short answer to this question is NO . Let me elaborate on this. 
1. High charges : Most of Pension Plans offered by Life Insurance companies today, have very high cost structure. Most of the Products have charges to the tune of 4-5% of the overall yearly premium/contribution that you make in the plan. This is against 1.5 to 2% charges on most of the well diversified Mutual Funds. Thus it is one of the most expensive ways of planning for your retirement.

2. Lower guarnateed returns offered  : Most of these plans have guaranteed returns promise attached with it . While on the face of it, guaranteed returns gets people /investors excited and thats the reason why it is offered in first place. What companies dont tell you that while the guarantee is mostly of the premiums paid only ( or negligible returns over it) what they dont tell you i\with as much enthusiasm is that they charge you for providing you that guarantee too . Yes , they have something like guarantee charge in the cost structure.

3. Lower than FD returns on annuities : The annuities offered ( pension ) in most of these plans range from 6-7% annually. This is even lower than what Bank FDs pay today . So there is no compelling reason why one shouldnt simply put money in FD ( the corpus if one has) and get superior returns from it.

4. No Option to buy annuity from other company or pension provider. Another drawback of these plans is that most of them make it mandatory to buy annuities from them only . So if you invest with ABC company , then you are locked with them and will have to necessarily buy the annuity also from them irrespective of the rate they offer you. So , even if there is someone else in the market offering you better annuity rate, you will still not be able to move to that firm for your annuity. This is a serious drawback considering that Pension Sector is proposed to be reformed and opened up in India, which will drive competition among players thereby making it imperative on them to lure customers with better and superior products. 
So , short answer is that planning for retirement doesnt have to be done only by investing in Pension Plans offered by Life Insurance Companies . One would be better off investing in PPF , NPS etc for Pension Planning.
What do you think?


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