Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Insurance and the Art of Lying

Will you walk into my parlour?"
Said the spider to the fly;
"'Tis the prettiest little parlour
That ever you did spy.
The way into my parlour
Is up a winding stair;
And I have many curious things
To show you when you're there."
"Oh, no, no," said the little fly;
"To ask me is in vain;
For who goes up your winding stair
Can ne'er come down again

I keep getting text messages on my phone (I have registered in the “Do Not Call” Registry Long ago) offering me really tempting investment products. Two days ago, I got one, which reads as under:
Sender: +917667396014
“BAJAJ ALLIANZ: DEPOSIT 8800/Yr or 5000/ Half Yr for 3 Yr July 20, Get FREE SPOT 1gm GOLD COIN, Approximately 52800 at 5 Yr, FREE PENSION PLAN, SAVE TAX. CAL: 9840150809”
The arithmetic is very interesting. The return is close to 36% p.a.! Bajaj Allianz must be a fantastic money manager.
Of course, I am a born sceptic. So, I will pass this offer. Alas, no one in the mutual fund industry promises me this return. I do not get any text messages from any mutual fund agent promising me this kind of returns. Other than Bajaj Allianz, I also get similar messages with almost identical numbers citing LIC. The moment I can spare this amount, I am going to invest in a Bajaj Allianz product. In addition, I will get a gold coin! I wonder if I have to pay any tax on it or would I be asked to pay up on account of TDS?
I also wondered at the other fantastic thing. I could either pay 8800 every year or 5000 every half year, with the same end result! So, the investment option has to be fantastic.
With this kind of return assured by Bajaj Allianz, surely other insurance companies cannot be far behind. Then why are they protesting about offering a guarantee of a piddly four and a half percent annual return on pension products? Then a thought struck me. Maybe they want to have a guaranteed rate that is much higher, given that the offer to me was at a handsome thirty six odd percent.
I also think that in my younger days these insurance products were not around at all. Here I have HDFC Standard Life promising me that I can be an independent person in my old age, if they take care of my money. I wonder how they can do so, given that they have been around for less than ten years. But then, I think, it is only an advertisement and if there was anything funny, IRDA would not have permitted it. In my days, LIC would only give guaranteed returns of around eight to nine percent post tax. Now, all of them have moved to much higher numbers, though these kind of text messages (Insurance is the subject matter of solicitation) give me hope that they can give me great returns.
Each day, the phone brings forth text messages that promise me the riches. Stocks that will multiply in price, insurance products that give me usurious returns and many freebies like gold coins etc., I have resisted so far because of age, lack of surplus money to gamble and my innate scepticism. Wonder how many people respond to the messages and enjoy these returns.
It would be nice if any of our readers can tell me if I should give my money to the agent who sent me the text message. And wonder if either Bajaj Allianz or IRDA can confirm the numbers, so that I can also join the elite club that can make so much returns? In case the numbers are not okay, will IRDA step in and do something? I do not expect the insurance company to do anything, because their job is to sell.

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