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UK Life Insurance

The types of product in the UK life insurance marketplace.

The UK life insurance market is unutterably complicated. Term policies just give you protection, whereas unit-linked and endowment policies look more like investment vehicles. Here we find out where the money goes in each case, and how you can expect to benefit.

The UK life insurance market splits out into a raft of different types of policy, and more importantly, ways of maximising what you get for your money.

Whole of life insurance is the most expensive form of protection because it pays out the full sum insured when you die. And whole of life insurance is not limited to a specific period like term insurance, so you’re definitely covered from the moment you sign the papers. (With some policies you will have to pay the premiums until you die, with “paid up” policies you only have to pay until you reach a certain age, usually 65 or 80).

The important bit is that whole of life policies are an investment; the three main types in the UK life insurance market being with-profits, without profits or unit linked. These days, unit-linked policies are very much in the ascendant. A with-profits policy lets you share in the profits made by the insurance company, usually in the form of annual bonuses (and if you’re lucky, reversionary bonuses). A unit-linked policy is linked to the stock market and the amount payable under the policy depends on the value of the investments held in the unit trust administered by your life office; thereby effectively adding another distance between you and your money, but in a period of market instability, almost certainly a safer bet.

Of course, the cheapest UK life insurance products aren’t investments- they’re the term policies which are indeed time-limited and offer a flat rate of return; they’re very popular, easy to obtain, but are unlikely to give you the best possible return… although they’re totally risk-free.