Wednesday, December 03, 2003

For non-Japanese teachers or expats living in Japan for extended periods and starting a family, one important consideration is life insurance. I have just changed my insurance provider again. This is my third time around. I will not mention names, or amounts here. My goal with this posting is to explain a little about my experience and what other expats could expect in trying to get life insurance for themselves in Japan.

Some years ago I started a term life insurance plan here that included a retirement supplement. That means that along with the insurance that I paid, I was investing in a scheme that would pay me back some money with interest after I retired. I got out of that last year, because the return on the investment there was so low. Let's face it. With the market in the US now as strong as it is, and with a historical 8% return on investments there, why settle for the tiny return on that kind of an insurance policy.

I just wanted to make sure that my family would get some money in the event that the major wage earner, me, went to meet his maker. I also did not want any of the bells and whistles of money if I were hospitalized for something, or if I were out of work for a while because of illness or injury. I signed up to a term life plan, went to get the requisite physical examination, and while waiting for the results, I did some checking on American plans with equivalent kinds of coverage. American plans consider, not only age in their calculations of premiums, but also whether the insured party smokes, or has high cholesterol levels. They also consider vehicle safety records, records of depression, and family health history. After I saw this, I went to the insurance company and asked whether any of this were factored into the policy and the premiums that I pay.

It wasn't then. It wasn't considered in my latest attempt to find a reasonable policy. If you are a non-smoker, of normal weight, with a gold drivers license, no history of depression, from a family with no history of catastrophic illness, you will pay the same as a chain-smoking, fat person with traffic violations because they are depressed that their parents are dieing of diabetes. My advise if you are going to get life insurance in Japan:

1. Don't. Get insured with a real insurance company before you come here.
2. Get it as early as possible, since age is nearly the only factor considered in premium costs.
3. Take care of investing your money yourself, through a credible broker if you like.
4. Find out your needs before you start talking. Remember, they are sales people and will try to talk you into stuff you don't really need. There are several sites that offer free quotes with several different insurance companies at the same time. This is one of those sites.

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