Tuesday, February 9, 2010

AIA Achiever - Good or Bad?

In my previous article, I compared an endowment plan with an ILP. Many might think that an ILP is a silly way to save for my child's education. After all, there are much superior ways like "Buy Term Invest the Rest".

Today, I will share with you my personal experience with one ILP that led me to be a little more accomodating towards ILP amidst the anti-insurance stance taken by most people.

AIA Achiever

I bought the above mentioned plan some years back. I believe that it is no longer in the market. Some insurance agent sold it to me as an investment plan and conveniently left out some important details about the "downside" of this policy.

Anyway, for the first few years, I hated the plan. I thought that it was the worst plan that I could have gotten. Afterall, I had to pay premiums for 7 years before I could withdraw the amount out. (When I bought the plan, I thought that I could withdraw the money out once the policy has been incepted for 7 years)

I was really thinking of surrendering the plan very early on as I felt that the 7 year waiting period was simply too long and I could put my money to better use elsewhere. However, the high surrender charges before 7 years made me think twice.

In the end, I continued servicing the plan and recently, I just crossed 7 years of premium payment.

What I Like About Achiever

Now that the 7 year waiting period is over, I have discovered that I actually do LIKE this ILP. When I look at the amount of money inside, I am amazed that 7 years of consistent saving have actually yielded me with results that I am quite pleased. I took up this plan as a means to fund my retirement. It has served me well thus far and the actual cash value is much higher than that shown on the benefit illustration for 9% compounded annual returns.

In addition, I get to log into AIA eCare easily to check on my monthly statements and can do my fund switches easily too.

What I Don't Like

It is of course obvious that there are aspects I do not like about the plan. Here are a few:

1. Policy charges every month.
2. Supplementary benefit charge based on face value of policy. This is payable for 10 years.

However, when I consider this to any endowment plan or whole life plan, I find that it suits my overall portfolio very well. It gives me the necessary protection and savings.

Would I have done things differently now?

I am still torn between the "Buy Term Invest the Rest" strategy and the other whole life approach.

If I had bought term insurance and invested the rest using something like the Share Builder's Plan by Philips Capital, I might have gotten higher returns. I might also have gotten worst returns.

If I could turn back the hands of time, I seriously do not know whether I would have bought this plan.

I know many people have complained about the bad returns or low surrender values from their ILPs. I am perhaps the minority that have actually sticked through with my ILP instead of surrendering it. As such, I now see the "fruits" of my labour. It gave me a disciplined way to save for my retirement and gives me protection as well.


  1. When did you bought the policy? How did ILP fund the monthly premium payment?

  2. Sorry, don't really understand your 2nd question.

    I bought it sometime back already.

    The ILP investment amount was 100% invested into the funds. That is after deducting or the insurance charges and fees and commissions. I figure that around 80% to 85% of my monthly premium goes into the funds that I have selected

  3. I agree with you. I have an ILP plan that which I hate it initially. Was thinking that I got cheated by the insurance agent. Anyway, it is only $100 per month. I did not even bother to look at it. After about 7 years, I was quite surprised that even with the fall in prices, I still make much money than if i put inside the bank.

  4. Yep. The thing about ILPs is that one must commit towards making the payment.

    Over the years, you will be surprised at the amount the savings would have actually grown.

    I have tried many different methods of forced savings

    1. Fixed deposits
    2. Separate bank account

    I realised that the easy liquidity and lack of discipline made me withdraw the money for frivolous use and even stop depositing it altogether. In a certain sense, the ILP FORCED me to save. I could not stop saving otherwise I will lose money. At the same time, the lack of liquidity also made sure that I did not touch it.

  5. You may read this:


  6. ILP being an insurance product is monitored quite closely by MAS (I hope).

    Other products that are more likely to be more risky than ILPs are things like land banking.

  7. I'm an AIA agent whose pet product was Achiever, Just in case you didn't know, you can escape your supplementary charge by withdrawing everything except $1000, and re-investing it as a top-up.

    And in your case, you can also exercise your premium holiday without incurring any premium holiday charges.

    Finally, top-up amounts in excess of $5000 will net you a 5% loyalty bonus every 5 years subject to this calculation; (Top-up) x 0.05 - total withdrawals = Loyalty Bonus.

    Oh, and you can spot tomorrow's fund price by using today's benchmark performance.

    You can reach me at 98627310 if you want to know more about the product.

  8. Hi XnSdVd,

    Interested to know how I can escape the supplementary charge. But if i withdraw my money, won't I incur the 5% bid offer spread by re-investing it into the same funds?

    I don't exercise premium holiday because I am treating this as my retirement fund. Well sort of.

    How do you spot tomorrow's fund price? Let's say for China Equity Funds...

  9. Yup, it should be in Pg. 6 of your product summary under "Charges and Fees" it states that the supplementary charge is calculated at 0.14583% of you REGULAR premium policy value a month. I.e. It doesn't include the top-up amount.

    As for the 5% loss you'll make, you recover it in the long run since there's no supplementary charge(Comes up to 1.5% a year) and from the loyalty bonus every 5 years.

    As for premium holiday, you can just do yearly top-ups of $1200 if your monthly premium is $100. Or $1500 if you were on the older achiever scheme. Hopefully the agent didn't convince you to put down more than the minimum since that would give you unnecessary death protection and increase your monthly mortality charge. Do the math, all those charges work out to a pretty large amount in the long run.

    Next up, to spot the Greater China Equity(Rubbish fund IMO, India and Global Resource outperform it by almost 2x)

    You need to track China, Taiwan and Hong Kong's stock exchanges. Problem here is that they're in different time-zones and in different currencies. It's abit of a mess but if you're on a mac or iPhone, just have you Stocks widget track the following companies:

    China Mobile Ltd
    Hon Hai Precision Industry Co
    China Life Insurance
    China Construction Bank
    Industrial & Commercial Bank of China
    Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co
    Hengan International
    Cnooc Limited
    Sun Hung Kai Properties
    Mediatek Inc

    They make up 31% of the GCE holdings and are pretty representative of the smaller companies. So, today's average performance for these stocks is tomorrow's fund price performance

    Oh yeah, you can email me at xnsdvd@hotmail.com easier than communicating through a blog post :p

  10. thanks for sharing more info about the plan. i bought the achiever plan too (agent left out a LOT of details about it too...), but it's been losing a lot of money and my agent doesn't help me to manage the funds at all. i'm really confused how someone can just not care about the policy and still make money in the end. in fact if i can get back the same amount i put in i will be happy already... i wonder if you have any advice for me...?

  11. Hi anonymous,

    Firstly, I think the achiever plan is already extinct. AIA has replaced it with a new plan.

    Secondly, never rely on an agent to manage your funds for you. You ought to take an active interest in your own funds. Call up the customer service if you need help.

    Thirdly, Achiever is an ILP plan so it involves an insurance component too. Make sure you make use of this function and don't just treat it like an investing tool. If you want pure investment, go for fundsupermart.

    Fourthly, make use of LIPPER to screen through the funds in AIA and select the funds that meet your criteria.

  12. hi ff, thanks so much for the advice. just as some background, i was basically tricked into buying this quite some years back... it's a long story and i won't bore you with it. i'm not interested in investment AT ALL as i neither have the aptitude nor the ability to manage all these strange numbers. but i'll google up what LIPPER is to see if i can help myself somewhat. thanks very much for the help. :)

  13. ILPs i think are for long term. Last time I also just buy and leave it, after 10 years, it does reap decent profits. They also give me insurance protection. For me, I just invest for long term. A friend of mine gave it up within 3 years and there was substantial losses.

  14. Yes, ILPs like AIA's achiever are meant for long term.

    For any policy, if you surrender it early, you can expect to make a huge "loss". ILPs are meant for BOTH protection and investment. So remember that giving it up means giving up both aspects of it.

  15. I'm a Financial Service Consultant (FSC) with AIA, and also a qualified CPA / ACCA..

    We are still marketing AIA Achiever Plus and I monitor these policies for my clients on a regular basis.

    On a monthly basis, I send monthly Fund valuation update to all my clients.

    If you would like to request for a change in their existing FSC, do drop me a text at 96813366, and we could arrange to meet up. Thanks.

  16. I bought this product too but sorry to say, I did not like it after that, and is just waiting for the period to be up to withdraw for other investments.

    At of the current moment, I am about par or with a slight loss, taking into account the amount put in (I excluded the rider for the insurance portion since it is not meant for the investment portion). With all the opportunity loss, I'd just consider this a bad investment.

    Thanks for highlighting the supplementary charge though, I was not aware until I read this posting. Will have to re-look at the policy details.

    Oh, by the way, my insurance agent does absolutely nothing!

  17. Referring to the supplementary charges... doesn't AIA deduct charges from the top up unit and not from the regular premium anymore ? Meaning the moment you do a top up to your policy, the mortality charges will be deducted from the top up and not from the regular premium...

  18. aia achiever = aia cheater !

  19. wow bravo, a blog site become aia agent advertising site. ILP has so many charges, associated with it and the deduction of insurance charge does not happen directly onto the premium paid, but thru deducting units after the premium has been used to pay for the premium. This means the client kena lugi twice. But to be fare comparing other insurance company ILP with the old AIA Achiever, AIA achiever is a better plan because 100% of the premium goes into the plan (if you dont surrender the plan in the first 7 years)

  20. I bought this plan a few years back. Don't see any good returns till date. The loss is on the monthly charges for the policy and seems that there are also charges from the auto selling and buying of units every month. Is there anyway to stop it?

  21. Yes. There is loss on monthly charges and there are also high surrender charges if you surrender in the first few years. The auto selling and buying I believe are basically as such:

    When AIA receives premiums, they buy into the units that you have chosen. For the monthly charges, they sell the units to pay for the monthly charges. So there is no way to stop it because you have to pay the monthly charge.

  22. Referring to the monthly charges, my achiever plan invested $5000 per year or $416.67 per month. However, total monthly charges reflected on the statement is $80.65. Based on the calculation, this is 19% of the investment cost. This is outrageous. How can the fund be profitable when monthly premiums already got so much hair cut? I am thinking switching to yearly plan to avoid the high charges but this beat the purpose of dollar cost averaging or regular savings. Any advise?

  23. I bought this plan too when I was very young (23), and it is a disaster indeed. Here are the problems I find with the plan.

    1. Too much additional cost which eats into the return (not even highlighted when I bought it).

    2. No advise whatsoever by the insurance adviser (only for 1st couple of years). I was not even sure if it is decent advise. After that, absolutely no contact. If there isn't any professional opinion offered, I might as well manage my own funds without incurring the hefty charges.

    Now that my lock-in period is over, I am re-looking at the policy. My returns are now about -16 to -17% (yep, you read that right, it's negative), but I am also not sure if there are additional costs upon surrender. I still need to call the AIA hotline to enquire about the policy details.

  24. My comment is take it out if the plan just started. This plan is an absolute disaster if you are looking for returns.

  25. darn it ! Same here too....next year is the year i turned 28 and going to cash out everythinggg and put to time deposit is better ! grrrr....i have been loosing at 15% now and still loosing...should put it in e bank is better and get separate life insurance policy like health shield gold elite !

    Anyway...good thing is...got to save money la...if not keep on withdrawing...hehe...anyway good luck to anyone with achiever's plan that is going to cash out soon ! cheers~

  26. I have this plan, this month is the 8 years anniversary.

    I'm reading this page because I'm going to surrender it. I also had the other similar one with lump sum investment, with no surrender penalties, I took it out years ago.

    Yes it's bullshit plan, the funds are hopeless. I did not make any money, barely break even, and I have to actively monitor market conditions and shift funds here and there.

    The death benefits are also pathetic, if I wanted death benefits, I would buy other products.

    Look at the funds portfolio and prospectus, none of them are performing. I would want to be a fund manager there, just start a fund and collect management fees for the rest of their lives.

  27. Hi all,

    Thanks for the comments on the AIA Achiever plan. We are perhaps in the same boat. I barely broke even. Currently in 10 year already.

  28. I am the anonymous one posted on Feb 27.
    I terminated, and received a cheque for 60% of my plan! 40% withdrawal charge
    I dunno wtf? My Contract says 7years you can withdraw full.
    This is really bullshit. Insurance...
    I'm going check and update...

  29. Hi,

    Did you pay 7 FULL YEARS of ANNUAL PREMIUM. I read the policy contract and it says there should be no charges if 7 full years of annual premium is paid. If you went on holiday premium before, then that might explain it.

    do let us know as I am also interested.

  30. Hi there, I have an Achiever plan which was bought 5 years ago. Over the years, the policy have already charged me almost 10% of the premiums I have invested so far. The charges include death benefit charge, administrative charge and supplementary charge. Of all, the administrative charge is the highest. Is there any way I can lower the charges?

  31. I am just very confused and annoyed that why MAS allows the insurance company released such a money sucking product to the consumers.

    No doubt that the cunsumer bears the responsibility of understanding / buying such product. However, if there are unhearted insurance agents (who simply wants to hit selling targets & conmmissions) or so called financial advisor, no consumers can be spared off from such money sucking product after being pursued with so many "good facts / numbers" before signing up the plan.

    Are there any ways to launch complaint or request MAS or any regulator agency to probe into such money sucking product? Thanks.

  32. i have an aia achiever as well.........

    after 11 years and 33k of premium paid, my portfolio is only worth 25k.... WTF

    to the pple who are having positive returns, would you be kind enough to share with me? thanks a million!

    1. I had slightly positive returns. Got back all my money after I withdrew it some years back so it is almost like free insurance for the past 10 over years.

  33. But let's not forget that this ILP also has an insurance component, so even if you've paid 33k and your portfolio is only worth 25k now, you have been enjoying insurance coverage for the past 11 years -- which, at 8k (33-25) or less than $800/year, isn't that bad right?

  34. I had invested AIA Achiever since Year 2005.
    First 2 years is SGD 6000;on the 3rd year onwards I reduced the payment to minimun SGD 1500 due to YEar 2008 economy crisis.But Now,AIA informed me that I short of payment of the Investment Link.If I withdraw now I cannot withdrawn full amount,I will get some penalty (65%).I find the AIA investment is very funny.We buy unit trusts in Achiever but ended up term insurance .Somehow being cheated for so many years.Very regret to see this investment being somehow ended up in wrong eggs.In future ,I dared not buy AIA products.Be it insurance or investment...The name is spoilt already in my whole life.

    1. Hi Eileen,

      Sorry to hear about your bad experience with this product. My experience has been mixed. Won't say that I am very happy or disappointed with the product. In terms of coverage it was good. But returns wise not that good since I chose the wrong funds. The fact that you reduced the premiums in year 2008 is probably the reason why you still incurred the surrender penalty even though you have paid it for more than 10 years.

  35. Just want to share my comments as an ex banker as well. I was sold AIA achiever Plus APR 2010, $100/ month. There is no protection tied to it other than lame death benefit too little for me to care.

    Now fast forward today 16 May 2017, the projection was $5800 for Apr 2017 but my value is already $7989.52 today. I already break even in less than 6 years (premiums paid $7200).

    So what does this mean? Why some people haven't breakeven after 10 yrs? It depends on the funds your agent recommend you. And i am very surprised many insurance agents are not savvy in investments i talk to them and its obvious they dont bother to read daily market news. Im lucky to be an ex banker so I did my own switching of funds since my agent MIA. I already had one foot in and since the amount is just $100/mth lol, i stayed on with this ilp and monitored the performance.

    This little savings of $100/month since I was 25 is projected to give me $169,000 when I turn 60. Total premiums paid would be $42,000. 302% profits ok (excluding ur principle sum!) And i am already ahead of projection at year 6. Endowments can't earn this amount lol serious, bo ko leng.
    ILP is possible to earn money but u have to do periodic switching to churn the most out of it. Still, if you ask me, it is better for u to seperate investments and protection. Luckily mine no protection tied to it.

    Some tips for new investors:
    For ilp, due to dollar cost averaging it should be a total different strategy from those lump sum investments.

    U shld buy slightly volatile funds (but pls be funds tt have gone thru at least lehmen brothers and still survived today) so that you will be able to buy in cheaper constantly to have more units and when the unit price go up, you shld take ur profits by switching to another fund with potential (low priced). dont let ur profits erode or else you wont ever breakeven like the folks here.

    Using Bloomberg App to track ur ILP fund price:

    Is it very troublesome to track your own investment? Nope, to be honest unit trust movement usually move slow you seldom get alot of heart attacks (even for volatile funds such as technology) You can just check your price once a week using the Aia e-care or for my bank customers i used to tell them to download bloomberg business so we can discuss market news over whatsapp. There is a tracker to track whatever unit trust there is such as those in banks,fsm, insurance companies,etc. U just need to save the fund name once in your watchlist and in future with 2 clicks via bloomberg u can see all the funds you add to the watchlist in ur cab or train anytime.

    Somebody mentioned aia china fund sucks somewhere above here years back. I made 10% within these 2 months on a seperate investment. Lol it really depends on the timing lah guys. Xi just
    t pledged 1.25 trillion to roadworks etc. See! Its abt market!

    I hope u guys can get out of ur ilp woes, singaporeans v ke lian already lol. Cheers.

    If you need free advice call/text me at 81387920, you can follow what I buy in my ilp. Login aia e-care and switch yourself without going through ur agent if u hate his face. Lol. I dowan ur commissions just go save yourselves for those who are stuck. Switching is free go and switch u can do it yourself without meeting anyone! As of 2016 today i have some in global Technology and China. If u r reading this in 2020, mmmm it should be high already so lol

    Gd luck!!



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