I won’t claim that I am very savvy when it comes to money matters, but I am interested in getting more value for my savings. Recently, I discovered the benefits of traded endowment policies (TEPs), also known as resale endowment policies. Learn more about them here!
Being a little late to the game when it comes to learning about investing, I am naturally cautious and risk-adverse, perhaps like many of you. One thing’s for sure: I was sick of parking my hard-earned money in fixed deposits which give a measly 0.25-1% per year and that is if I lock-in at least $25k for three years. I also read up on Singapore Savings Bonds, but October’s interest rates are even lower at 0.23% for the first year and up to 0.91% in the 10th year, meaning I will get a grand total of $91 interest over ten years if I invest $1k and hold it to maturity.
So I started looking around for short-term, high-interest savings plans and came across the term traded endowment policies on Seedly, Singapore’s biggest personal finance community. The company that I got in touch with to find out more was PolicyWoke, and I highly recommend them to everyone. Find out why!
But first things first, what are Traded Endowment Policies?
Have you heard of endowment policies from insurance companies? Yes, policies where you pay a certain amount for x number of years and upon maturity, you will get the guaranteed portion and a non-guaranteed portion.
Traded endowment policies, also known as resale endowment policies, are ‘second-hand’ policies that an original policy owner gives up for sale in the secondary market. There are many reasons why people give up an endowment policy, and some of them include being unable to service the premiums or identifying other investment tools that work better for them.
But when they surrender these policies back to their insurance company, the amount they get back will be much lower than the premiums they have paid. This is where PolicyWoke comes in. They are a resale insurance broker that offers you up to 10% above surrender value for your policies. So instead of surrendering your policy back to the insurance company, sell it to PolicyWoke for up to 10% more in cash.
Why did I consider traded endowment policies instead of regular fixed deposits or other forms of investments?
Let me start off by saying that I believe in insurance products and financial planning. There are many products in the market and what’s important is getting those that work for you, not based on what others are getting. So that means getting something that fits our savings goals.
Fixed deposits used to be one of my forms of investments. But fixed deposit rates are now really low. Imagine putting in $100k for three years at 1% interest a year. That’s just $1k interest on $100k per year! In comparison, TEPs could offer up to 4.6% IRR (Internal Rate of Return, i.e., the annual rate of growth an investment is expected to generate) and there’s always a guaranteed portion in the policy benefits – and this guaranteed portion doesn’t decrease – it is guaranteed legally, and you will get this amount from the insurance company at maturity for sure. The non-guaranteed portion/bonus depends on how the funds are performing.
For my situation, I had some spare cash after setting aside at least six months of my pay and topping up my CPF. So, instead of letting it sit in the bank or dabbling in high-risk alternatives, I decided to look into TEPs that give me higher returns in a shorter time.
Let me try and explain how this whole process works.
The original policy owner, John, purchased a 12-year endowment policy from an insurance company where he had to pay $7k a year for 7 years, and the funds will be held for 5 years before he gets to enjoy his savings in year 12. However from the 5th year onwards, he could no longer continue paying the premium as he had lost his job. There were 3 years left to pay. He decided to surrender his policy and get back some cash. Instead of surrendering it back to the insurance company, he decided to sell it to PolicyWoke for up to 10% above surrender value.
This is where I come in. By taking over John’s policy, I will only need to continue the premium for the next 3 years instead of paying for 7 years if I had gotten the policy from scratch, as John had already paid for 4 years. Taking over John’s policy means instead of waiting 12 years, I get the funds in a much shorter time. Think of it as putting x amount of money in a high interest fixed deposit for x number of years. For the policy I got, the guaranteed portion is more than the total amount I would be paying. So even in a super worst-case scenario like a financial crisis or market crash, I would still be getting back more than what I paid in the first place. But always read the policy benefit illustration to understand the product you’re buying.
Is this legal?
MAS does not regulate intermediaries nor distributors of TEPs. Throughout the process, no new insurance policies are created. PolicyWoke is simply an intermediary that connects sellers (John, who can no longer service the policy) with buyers (me, who’s looking for higher interest savings in a shorter time) and facilitates the policy assignment process.
Assignment of policy means the transfer of rights and benefits from one person to another and you (the Assignor) can transfer your policy to someone else (the Assignee) for various reasons. Once the rights have been transferred, the rights of the original policy owner terminates, and the assignee becomes the owner of the insurance policy. Read more about Assignment of Policy on Prudential’s website.
The pros and cons of traded endowment policies
One of the advantages is that you don’t need to wait the entire policy tenure like 15, 20 years before you get your funds at maturity as someone else had already paid for the first few years. Depending on what’s on offer, there could be policies that mature in 6-8 years – and you get a much higher interest rate as compared to fixed deposits or bonds. They’re essentially short-term, high interest-savings plans.
For me, there are not a lot of downsides to this. One of them is that these policies are as-is. Apart from changing the payment method or frequency (pay half-yearly or yearly, for example), you can’t make many changes to the policy structure or re-look the premium amount and term as these are pre-owned policies.
I got to know about PolicyWoke from Seedly’s Facebook group. They’re familiar faces and very active in the community. In other words, I’m convinced they won’t take my money and run. That’s a fact – reputation is important. Not only that, they’re very responsive and any questions I had were always almost immediately answered via WhatsApp. They’re super transparent and not once in our online meetings or WhatsApp messages was there any form of hard selling. In fact, I only contacted them via Facebook messenger because I wished to know more about this whole concept (wasn’t even considering buying yet!) and they immediately replied and asked if it was ok to set up a WhatsApp group. From there, we had an online meeting for me to ask all the questions I wanted.
Know more about Jimmy, Ethan and David here – their faces are there so you know they’re real people and not hiding behind some mega organisation. Their founder, Ethan, is an Associate Financial Planner certified by Financial Planning Association of Singapore and I can vouch that he knows his stuff!
One more thing I really like about them is that they publish the actual policy benefit illustrations clearly on their website. These are the benefits table that you may be familiar with as it comes with your insurance policies. So I could make my own decisions based on the actual document from the insurance company – it’s not something they made up themselves.
After I decided to get a policy and made payment (they accept payment through PayNow Corporate, FAST and credit card through TransferWise), we met up at the insurer’s customer service centre two days later and the paperwork for the policy assignment was done in 20 minutes over the counter. 4 working days later, the complete assignment process was complete, and I was the new policy owner.
Feel free to ask me about my experience or get in touch with PolicyWoke: