The Difference Between Term Insurance and Life Insurance

term insurance vs life insurance

Life insurance is synonymous with financial protection. Life insurance plans compensate against the financial loss suffered in case of premature death. Moreover, the plans are designed in such a manner that they help in fulfilling your life goals effectively. For instance, there is a child insurance plan which helps you create a secured financial corpus for your child. Similarly, there are pension plans which create an earmarked retirement fund and promise lifelong incomes. Thus, life insurance plans find a place in every aspect of your life and give you financial security.

Life insurance comes in many variants which constitute the different types of life insurance plans. Among these variants, term insurance is often compared with other types of life insurance plans. But is the comparison justified? Is term insurance similar to the other types of life insurance plans?

No, it isn’t. Term plans differ from other types of life insurance plans in various aspects. Let’s understand this difference between term insurance and life insurance in details –

What is the term plan?

A term insurance plan is a type of life insurance plan which covers the risk of premature death. In case of death of the insured during the term of the policy, the policy promises to pay a death benefit. Term insurance plans promise high coverage at low premiums allowing you to avail a high sum assured which would be able to meet your family’s financial requirements in your absence.

What are other life insurance plans?

Term insurance is a type of life insurance plan among others. Besides term insurance, life insurance plans come in other variants too. These variants include the following –

  • Whole life insurance plans
  • Endowment assurance plans
  • Money-back plans
  • Child plans
  • Unit linked insurance plans
  • Pension plans

Term insurance v/s life insurance

Now that you have understood the basic meaning of both, let’s understand the difference between term insurance and life insurance plans. The differences between the two can be outlined in the following parameters –

  • Coverage Term insurance plans promise coverage only against premature death. Under most term plans, the benefit is paid only if the insured dies during the tenure of the plan.

    Other types of life insurance plans, however, also have a maturity benefit. While these plans cover the risk of premature death, they also pay a benefit if the insured survives until the end of the policy tenure. Thus, in terms of coverage, term plans and other insurance plans are quite different.

  • VariantsTerm insurance plans are further divided into the following four variants –
    Name of the variant Meaning
    Level term insurance plan Term plan where the sum assured remains constant throughout the policy tenure
    Increasing term insurance plan Term plan where the sum assured increases during the policy tenure
    Decreasing term insurance plan Term plan where the sum assured decreases during the policy tenure
    Return of premium term plan Term plan where the premiums paid during the policy tenure are refunded back if the insured survives till maturity

    Term plans are, therefore, divided into different variants depending on the coverage that they provide. The goal of all variants, however, remains the same which is financial security or income replacement.

    In the case of life insurance, however, different variants fulfil different life goals. Endowment plans allow you to create wealth through guaranteed returns while money back plans provide you liquidity. Child plans promise a corpus for your child even when you are not around while unit-linked plans help you gain investment returns. Thus, you can choose different plans depending on your different life goals.

  • PremiumTerm insurance plans cover only the risk of premature death. That is why they have extremely low and affordable premiums. You can easily buy high sum assured levels at affordable premiums.

    Other life insurance plans have a wider scope of coverage as they also promise a maturity benefit. The premiums are, therefore, higher than term plans.

  • Coverage durationTerm plans come with long term coverage durations which can go up to 30 or 35 years. Other types of life insurance plans, however, can be taken for shorter durations too as the tenure starts from 5 years and goes up to 30 years.
  • Paid-up and surrenderUnder term plans, there is no paid-up value or surrender value. If you discontinue paying the premium, the plan would lapse and if you don’t revive it the coverage would be terminated. When the coverage is terminated you don’t get anything in return for the premiums already paid.

    Other life insurance plans, however, give you some benefits even if the premiums are discontinued. If you have paid the premium for a specified minimum number of years and then discontinue the premiums, your policy would become paid-up. Under a paid-up policy, the sum assured would be reduced but the policy would continue. You can also voluntarily terminate the policy by surrendering it. When you surrender, you would get a surrender value.

  • Bonus and other additionsThere are no bonuses or other types of additions under term plans. In case of death, the basic sum assured is paid. Under other types of life insurance plans, like an endowment, money back or child plans, you can get bonus additions, loyalty additions, guaranteed additions, etc. These additions enhance the policy benefits.
  • Flexibility Term plans are quite rigid in the sense that they do not have any paid-up or surrender value and do not pay any maturity benefits. Life insurance plans, on the other hand, are flexible. Traditional life insurance plans promise a paid-up value and a surrender value. You can also avail policy loans under such plans. Moreover, if you choose ULIPs, you can also withdraw partially, switch or pay additional premiums.

The difference between term insurance and life insurance can be summarised in the following table too-

Term insurance v/s life insurance– the differences

Points of difference Term insurance Life insurance
Coverage Only premature death is covered Both premature death and survival until the policy tenure are covered
Premiums Very low and affordable. In fact, term plans are the cheapest type of life insurance plans Premiums are higher than term plans
Maturity benefit Usually not payable Payable under most plans
Death benefit Payable Payable under all plans
Term Ranges from 10 years to up to 35 years Ranges from 5 years to up to 30 years
Paid-up /surrender The plan does not acquire any paid-up value or surrender value If premiums are discontinued after a specified number of years, the plan acquires a paid-up value. If the plan is surrendered thereafter, a surrender value is paid
Flexibility Not very flexible Very flexible

Term insurance v/s life insurance – the similarities

The only similarity between term and life insurance plans is their tax benefits. Under both plans, the premiums paid are allowed as a deduction under Section 80C up to INR 1.5 lakhs. Moreover, the death or maturity benefit received is also tax-free under Section 10 (10D).

Which one to choose – term insurance v/s life insurance

To choose one plan over the other is a mistake. Term insurance and life insurance plans have their own relevance. A term insurance policy is a must for everyone as everyone needs financial security against the possibility of premature death. Thus, term insurance plans should be bought by everyone. In case of other life insurance plans, however, the target customers should be the following –

Type of life insurance plan Target audience 
Endowment plan Individuals who have a low-risk appetite and want to create a guaranteed corpus
Money-back plan Individuals who have a low-risk appetite, want to create a guaranteed corpus but also need liquidity over the term of the plan
Whole life plan Individuals looking for a lifelong cover
Child plans Parents who want to create a guaranteed corpus for the future of their child
Unit linked plans Investors who have a high-risk appetite and want to maximise their wealth with market-linked returns
Pension plans Individuals who want to create a retirement corpus and/or create a series of regular incomes post-retirement

Term insurance plans are, therefore, quite different from life insurance plans. You should understand the difference between term insurance and life insurance and then choose the most relevant plan for your coverage needs. Term insurance has a universal need and should not be missed. In case of other types of life insurance plans, though, assess your financial goal and then choose a plan which matches your goals and aims to fulfil it.

Frequently Asked Questions

  1. Can I buy both term insurance as well as another type of life insurance plan?Yes, you can buy as many types of life insurance plans that you like.
  2. If I have a term plan and a money-back plan would I receive a death benefit under both plans?Yes, in case of death, you would receive a death benefit under both term plans as well as money back plan.
  3. What is the tax –free limit on the benefits received from life insurance plans?There is no limit on the number of benefits to which you can claim tax exemption. Whatever death or maturity benefit that you receive from your life insurance policy would be completely tax-free in your hands.

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