Is It Better to Save Or Have Life Insurance in Singapore?

Understanding Life Insurance in Singapore

A. Definition and Types of Life Insurance

Life insurance in Singapore is a financial tool designed to provide financial security to the policyholder’s beneficiaries in the event of their untimely demise or certain specified circumstances. Primarily, there are two types of life insurance available in the market:

Term Life Insurance

  • Definition: This type of insurance offers coverage for a specific period, or ‘term’. If the policyholder passes away during this term, the insurance pays out a death benefit to the beneficiaries.
  • Characteristics: Term life insurance is often more affordable and straightforward. It does not accumulate cash value over time and is purely for protection.

Whole Life Insurance

  • Definition: Contrary to term insurance, whole life insurance provides lifelong coverage, typically up to a certain age like 99 years.
  • Characteristics: This insurance type not only includes a death benefit but also has a savings component, accumulating cash value over time. This makes it more expensive compared to term life insurance.

Related: Term Life vs Whole Life Insurance (Which is better?)

B. Key Features of Life Insurance Policies

Coverage and Benefits

Coverage in life insurance can range from basic death benefits to more comprehensive packages that may include accidental death, terminal illness, and total and permanent disability.

The benefits can be a lump sum payment or structured payouts, depending on the policy’s terms.

Premium Payments and Terms

Premiums can be paid monthly, quarterly, semi-annually, or annually. In some whole-life policies, there is an option for a single premium payment.

The term for premium payments varies; term life usually requires payments throughout the policy term, while whole life can have limited payment terms despite offering lifelong coverage.

Riders and Additional Coverages

Riders are additional benefits that can be added to a policy, offering protection for scenarios like critical illness, disability, or waivers of premium.

These riders enhance the policy’s scope but also increase the premium cost.

C. Role of Life Insurance in Financial Planning

Risk Mitigation: Life insurance is a cornerstone in risk management within financial planning. It provides a safety net for unforeseen life events, ensuring financial stability for dependents.

Long-Term Financial Security: Especially relevant in whole-life policies, the cash value component can serve as a form of forced savings, contributing to long-term financial goals.

Estate Planning: Life insurance plays a crucial role in estate planning, offering a tax-efficient way to transfer wealth and provide for heirs.

Flexibility and Adaptability: With various options and riders, life insurance can be tailored to suit changing life circumstances, making it a versatile tool in financial planning.

The Culture of Saving in Singapore

A. Saving Habits of Singaporeans

Many in Singapore save for various reasons: for retirement, to purchase property, for their children’s education, or as a safety net against uncertainties. This disciplined approach to saving reflects society’s understanding of financial security and stability.

B. Common Saving Vehicles

Bank Accounts: Regular savings accounts in local and international banks are the most fundamental saving tool. These accounts offer easy accessibility and minimal risk.

Fixed Deposits: Fixed deposit accounts are popular for their higher interest rates compared to regular savings accounts. They require savers to lock in their money for a set period, ranging from a few months to a few years.

Singapore Savings Bonds (SSB): The SSB is a special type of bond that allows Singaporeans to earn interest over time. They are low-risk and offer good returns, with the flexibility to redeem them without significant penalty.

C. Benefits of Saving: Liquidity, Flexibility, and Risk Considerations

Liquidity: Savings, especially in bank accounts and SSBs, offer high liquidity. This means individuals can access their funds quickly and easily, a crucial factor in emergency situations or for short-term financial needs.

Flexibility: Saving allows individuals to choose how much to save and where to save it. This flexibility lets people adjust their saving habits based on their current financial situation and goals.

Risk Considerations: Generally, saving is considered a low-risk financial strategy. While the returns might not be as high as other investment forms, the risk of losing the principal amount is minimal. This makes saving a preferred choice for risk-averse individuals or as a part of a diversified financial plan.

Comparing Life Insurance and Savings

A. Financial Security and Risk Management

Life Insurance

  • Security: Offers financial protection for unforeseen events like death or disability, ensuring beneficiaries are financially secure.
  • Risk Management: Acts as a safety net against life’s uncertainties, providing peace of mind.
  • Investment Component: Whole life policies include an investment aspect, which can grow over time but also carry a higher premium and inherent investment risk.


  • Security: Creates a financial cushion for immediate or emergency needs, contributing to overall financial stability.
  • Risk Management: Generally lower risk, especially with traditional savings like bank accounts or Singapore Savings Bonds.
  • No Insurance Coverage: Savings alone do not provide risk coverage for life’s uncertainties like death or critical illness.

B. Long-term vs. Short-term Financial Goals

Life Insurance

  • Long-term Focus: Particularly with whole life policies, life insurance is geared towards long-term financial planning and goals, like providing for dependents after the policyholder’s death.
  • Forced Savings Component: Some life insurance policies act as a form of forced long-term savings with a cash value.


  • Short-term Accessibility: Ideal for short-term goals like vacations, buying a car, or creating an emergency fund.
  • Flexibility: Easier to access and utilize for various short-term needs without the long-term commitment of an insurance policy.

C. The Impact of Life Stages on Financial Decisions

Single Individuals

  • Life Insurance: May not be a priority unless there are dependents or significant debts.
  • Savings: Focus on building an emergency fund, and saving for personal goals.

Married Couples

  • Life Insurance: Becomes crucial to ensure the financial security of the spouse, especially if one is a primary breadwinner.
  • Savings: Important for joint goals like home ownership or starting a family.

Families with Children

  • Life Insurance: Essential to secure the financial future of children in the event of a parent’s untimely demise.
  • Savings: Focus on education, healthcare, and providing a stable financial environment.


  • Life Insurance: Whole life policies with cash value can supplement retirement income.
  • Savings: Critical for covering day-to-day expenses in retirement, especially as a buffer against inflation and healthcare costs.

When to Choose Life Insurance

A. Scenarios where Life Insurance is Beneficial

Providing for Dependents

  • Primary Breadwinners: For those with families or dependents, life insurance is crucial. It ensures that in the event of the policyholder’s untimely death, dependents such as children, spouses, or aging parents, are not left financially burdened.
  • Loss of Income Replacement: Life insurance can replace lost income, helping the family maintain their standard of living and cover daily expenses.

Covering Liabilities

  • Debt Protection: In the event of death, outstanding debts like mortgages, car loans, or personal loans can be a heavy burden on the family. Life insurance can provide the necessary funds to settle these debts, preventing financial distress.
  • Business Liabilities: For business owners, life insurance can be pivotal in ensuring business continuity and covering any business-related debts.

Estate Planning Considerations

  • Wealth Transfer: Life insurance can be an effective tool for estate planning, providing a lump sum to heirs that can help in managing inheritance taxes or equalizing inheritances among multiple beneficiaries.
  • Trust Funding: Life insurance proceeds can fund trusts set up for dependents, ensuring long-term financial support and care, particularly for minors or dependents with special needs.

B. The Cost vs. Benefit Analysis of Life Insurance

Premiums vs. Payout: The cost of life insurance premiums must be weighed against the potential benefits. While premiums for term life insurance are generally lower, they do not offer cash value accumulation like whole life policies.

Riders and Additional Benefits: Assess the cost of additional riders and whether they add meaningful value to the policy in relation to their cost.

Policy Duration: For term life insurance, consider the length of the term versus the likelihood of needing the coverage during that period. For whole life insurance, evaluate the long-term affordability of premiums.

Insurance Needs Over Time: It’s crucial to reassess insurance needs at different life stages. What may be a high priority at one stage (e.g., when having young children) may change over time (e.g., approaching retirement).

Return on Investment: Whole life insurance policies with an investment component should be analyzed for their return on investment, keeping in mind that these policies often have higher premiums.

In summary, choosing life insurance should be a strategic decision based on specific personal and financial circumstances. It is not a one-size-fits-all solution but should be tailored to individual needs, taking into account the potential benefits and costs associated with different types of policies and coverage.

When to Focus on Savings

A. Situations where Saving is More Advantageous

Building an Emergency Fund

  • Immediate Access: Savings are essential for creating an emergency fund, providing immediate financial support in case of unforeseen circumstances like health issues, job loss, or urgent home repairs.
  • Rule of Thumb: It is generally advised to have about three to six months’ worth of living expenses saved in an easily accessible account.

Short-term Financial Goals

  • Specific Objectives: Savings are ideal for short-term objectives like planning a vacation, buying a car, or saving for a wedding. These goals usually require access to funds within a few years.
  • Flexibility: Savings accounts allow for regular deposits and withdrawals, offering the flexibility needed for these short-term plans.

Low-risk Financial Strategy Preference

  • Risk Aversion: For individuals who prefer a low-risk financial strategy, traditional savings methods (like bank accounts and fixed deposits) provide a safe way to store money without the risk of losing the principal amount.
  • Stable Growth: Although the returns on savings accounts are usually lower than other investment vehicles, they offer stability and peace of mind for risk-averse savers.

B. Strategies for Effective Saving in Singapore

Diversify Savings Vehicles

Utilize a mix of savings accounts, fixed deposits, and Singapore Savings Bonds to balance accessibility and interest rates.

Consider higher interest savings accounts that reward account holders for meeting certain conditions like salary crediting or bill payments.

Leverage Government Schemes

Take advantage of government initiatives like the Central Provident Fund (CPF) to enhance retirement savings.

Explore supplementary schemes like the CPF Investment Scheme (CPFIS) for potentially higher returns on CPF savings.

Automate Savings

Set up automatic transfers to a savings account each month. This “pay yourself first” approach ensures consistent saving habits.

Take advantage of automated savings plans offered by banks, which can help in steadily building savings over time.

Emergency Fund as a Priority

Prioritize building and maintaining an emergency fund before allocating funds to other savings goals.

Keep the emergency fund in an account that combines ease of access with a reasonable interest rate.

Monitor and Adjust Savings Goals

Regularly review and adjust savings goals to stay aligned with changing personal circumstances, inflation rates, and interest rates.

Utilize financial tools and apps to track savings progress and manage budgets effectively.

Get your personalized financial strategy here

Combining Savings and Life Insurance

A. How Savings and Life Insurance Can Complement Each Other

Holistic Financial Security

  • Comprehensive Coverage: Life insurance provides security against life’s uncertainties, while savings offer immediate financial resources. Together, they ensure comprehensive financial protection.
  • Balancing Short and Long-term Needs: Savings cater to short-term goals and emergency needs, whereas life insurance addresses long-term financial stability, especially after the policyholder’s demise.

Diversification of Financial Strategies

  • Risk Management: While savings offer a low-risk financial buffer, life insurance can include investment components (in the case of whole-life policies) that can grow over time.
  • Complementary Benefits: The cash value of a whole life insurance policy can act as an additional savings tool, supplementing traditional savings.

B. Case Studies of Balanced Financial Planning

Case Study 1: Young Professional

Scenario: A young professional, just starting out, might prioritize saving for immediate needs like rent and an emergency fund while taking a term life insurance policy to cover debts and provide a safety net.

Outcome: Balances immediate financial requirements with long-term security.

Case Study 2: Family with Young Children

Scenario: A couple with young children might focus on a whole life insurance policy to ensure the children’s future is secure, while simultaneously saving for education and family holidays.

Outcome: Ensures family’s long-term financial security and meets growing short-term needs.

Case Study 3: Pre-Retirees

Scenario: Individuals nearing retirement may focus on maximizing their savings for retirement while maintaining a life insurance policy to leave a legacy or cover final expenses.

Outcome: Prepares for a comfortable retirement while ensuring estate planning needs are met.

C. Tips for Integrating Both into a Comprehensive Financial Plan

Assess Personal and Financial Goals

Consider individual life stages, financial objectives, and family responsibilities to determine the right balance between savings and life insurance.

Consider Affordability and Flexibility

Choose life insurance policies and saving plans that are affordable and offer flexibility to change as income and financial commitments change.

Regular Financial Reviews

Conduct regular reviews of financial plans to adjust savings and insurance coverages as life circumstances and goals evolve.

Utilize Employer Benefits and Government Schemes

Maximize employer-provided insurance benefits and government schemes like CPF in Singapore to enhance overall financial planning.

Seek Professional Advice

Consult with financial advisors to understand the best ways to integrate savings and life insurance into a cohesive financial strategy.

Start Early

Begin with a basic plan and evolve it over time. Starting early in life allows for a more manageable approach to building both savings and adequate insurance coverage.

In summary, a balanced approach to financial planning that includes both savings and life insurance can provide comprehensive financial security. By understanding and utilizing the strengths of each, individuals can create a financial plan that not only protects against unforeseen circumstances but also builds a foundation for achieving short-term and long-term financial goals. Regular reassessment and professional guidance are key to ensuring that this combination remains aligned with changing personal circumstances and objectives.

Factors to Consider in Decision Making

A. Personal Financial Situation and Goals

Income and Expenses: Evaluate your current income, monthly expenses, and existing financial obligations to determine what you can realistically allocate towards savings and life insurance.

Financial Objectives: Align your choice of financial products with your short-term and long-term goals, such as saving for a home, retirement planning, or securing your family’s future.

B. Understanding of Different Financial Products

Product Knowledge: Educate yourself about the different types of savings plans and life insurance policies available, including their features, benefits, and limitations.

Risk Tolerance: Assess your risk tolerance level to choose products that match your comfort with potential financial risks and rewards.

C. Advice from Financial Experts or Consultants

Professional Guidance: Seeking advice from financial experts can provide clarity and direction, especially when navigating complex financial products and strategies.

Personalized Recommendations: Consultants can offer tailored recommendations based on your unique financial situation, helping to optimize your financial planning.

In conclusion, effective decision-making in financial planning requires a careful evaluation of your personal financial situation, a solid understanding of various financial products, and, when necessary, the insights from financial experts. Balancing these factors helps in creating a financial strategy that is both practical and aligned with your personal goals and needs.


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