ULIPs vs Mutual Funds: Differences, Tax Benefits, Return & Meaning
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When it comes to securing your future financially, investment holds great significance. In addition, mutual funds and ULIPs are the most popular ones.

In diverse investment options, understanding the differences between Mutual Funds vs ULIPs is essential for making informed financial decisions. With this article, you can explore both investment choices by understanding their definitions, merits, tax implications, returns on investment, insurance provisions, lock-in periods, cost-effectiveness, performance, loyalty perks, and transparency.

What are Mutual Funds?

Mutual funds are investment instruments that aggregate capital from diverse investors to fund a well-diversified portfolio of stocks, bonds, or other securities. They bring several advantages, such as expert management, liquidity, tax benefits, and a wide array of investment choices, making them a preferred choice for many investors.

Benefits of Mutual Funds

  • Professional Management: Skilled fund managers make investment decisions, offering expertise and strategy to maximise returns.
  • Liquidity: Mutual funds allow easy buying and selling of shares, ensuring access to funds when needed.
  • Tax Advantages: Investors can enjoy tax benefits under Section 80C and other provisions.
  • Diverse Investment Options: Mutual funds offer a range of choices to suit varying financial goals and risk preferences.

How they work and who manages them

  • Professional Management: Skilled fund managers oversee investments, selecting assets aligned with the fund's objectives.
  • Investor Ownership: Shareholders own units in the fund, representing a portfolio share.
  • Diverse Portfolio: Funds distribute investments across stocks, bonds, or securities to spread risk and optimise returns.

Tax Benefits in Mutual Funds

Section 80C deductions enable tax savings through designated mutual fund schemes, with equity-linked savings schemes (ELSS) offering the added advantage of potentially higher returns alongside tax benefits. ELSS proves a tax-efficient choice, combining financial growth with tax optimisation.

Return on Investment

ULIPs can influence ROI due to insurance-related charges, while mutual funds offer the potential for higher returns by focusing solely on investments, reducing associated costs. Understanding this distinction is crucial for investors to make informed financial choices aligned with their goals and risk preferences.

Life Insurance Cover

ULIPs, or unit-linked insurance plans, seamlessly blend investment and life insurance, incorporating a life coverage component into one comprehensive plan. On the other hand, mutual funds don't inherently offer life insurance, making it essential for investors to acquire a separate life insurance policy to ensure thorough financial protection for their loved ones.

Lock-in Period

ULIPs often impose a five-year mandatory lock-in period, which can limit investors' access to their invested funds. In contrast, mutual funds offer a more flexible approach, allowing investors the freedom to withdraw their funds as needed. This liquidity in mutual funds empowers investors to adapt and manage their investments according to their financial goals and circumstances.


When comparing ULIP charges to mutual fund expenses, it becomes evident that mutual funds generally offer cost-effective advantages. While ULIPs often entail multiple charges, including premium allocation and policy administration fees, mutual funds tend to maintain lower expense ratios. This characteristic renders mutual funds an attractive choice for investors seeking to mitigate the impact of charges on their returns.

Fund Options and Asset Classes

Investors in mutual funds benefit from a diverse array of investment options, with specialised funds aligning with distinct financial goals. Whether it's equity for growth or debt for stability, mutual funds offer a versatile selection. In contrast, ULIPs may limit choices, potentially curtailing diversification and flexibility compared to the broader asset class spectrum available through mutual funds.


Evaluating the 5-year returns of mutual funds compared to ULIPs offers a valuable perspective on their performance as investment instruments. Such analysis can guide investors in choosing the most effective option for their financial goals and risk tolerance. Additionally, recognising the challenges within ULIPs' structure and performance is crucial for making well-informed investment decisions and enhancing overall returns.

Loyalty Benefits

In the context of mutual funds, it's important to note that they typically do not offer loyalty benefits, unlike ULIPs. Mutual funds prioritise diversification and flexibility in investment choices rather than insurance-related incentives. However, new-age ULIPs may entice policyholders with loyalty perks for their sustained commitment.

Switching and Rebalancing

ULIPs offer the flexibility to switch between investment options and rebalance the portfolio to adapt to changing financial goals or market conditions. In contrast, mutual funds generally lack the same ease of switching and rebalancing.


ULIPs stand out with their flexibility, allowing investors to rebalance their portfolios to accommodate evolving financial objectives and market dynamics. This adaptability sets them apart from mutual funds, which offer greater access to information. It is important to understand the analysis of Mutual Funds vs ULIPs to make informed decisions. Consequently, it is also important to to understand what ULIPs actually are.

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What are ULIPs?

Unit-Linked Insurance Plans (ULIPs) are multifaceted financial instruments that offer a unique fusion of investment and insurance. They provide a dual benefit by allowing policyholders to invest in a variety of funds while simultaneously offering life insurance coverage. ULIPs are designed to cater to both wealth creation and financial protection needs.

Benefits of ULIPs

  • Investment and Insurance Fusion: ULIPs offer the dual advantage of investment opportunities and life insurance coverage within a single product.
  • Tax Benefits: Policyholders can avail tax benefits, making ULIPs a tax-efficient investment option.
  • Loyalty Benefits: Some ULIPs offer loyalty perks, enhancing long-term value for investors.

Which is better, Mutual Funds Vs Ulips?

Aspect ULIPs Mutual Funds
Flexibility Offers both investment and insurance but less flexible Provides more flexibility in investment choices without insurance coverage
Lock-In Duration Strict five-year lock-in period Most funds (except ELSS) allow redemption at any time
Charges Various charges like premium allocation, mortality, administration, and fund management Typically no entrance load; charges limited to exit load and fund management costs
Fund Switching Set number of free switches annually; charges for additional switches Investors can switch funds without such restrictions
 Insurance Coverage Provide comprehensive insurance coverage, offering a guaranteed sum to the family if the policyholder passes away during the policy period Do not offer insurance benefits of this nature

Difference Between Mutual Fund and ULIP

Aspect ULIPs Mutual Funds
Return on Investment (RoI) Generally offers better returns compared to ULIPs. Carries lower risk but also yields lower returns.
Lock-in Period Shorter lock-in, often one year, or 3 years for ELSS. Has a specific lock-in, ranging from 3 to 5 years, defined by the insurance company.
Cost-Effectiveness Incurs expenses like expense ratio and exit loads. Fund management charges capped at 1.35%, with additional charges like mortality charges.
Investment Options Offers a variety of asset classes and numerous schemes. Limited options, mainly debt and equity variants.
Transparency Transparent about fees and asset classes. Complex structure with less transparency, combining portfolio allocation and risk management.

Factors to Consider Before Deciding Between an ULIP and a Mutual Fund

One should consider several crucial factors before deciding between ULIPs and Mutual Funds.

  • Assess the risk involved: while mutual funds often carry higher risks, ULIPs offer term insurance payouts even with poor returns.
  • Evaluate portfolio flexibility: ULIPs allow adjusting investments between insurance and market-based funds, whereas mutual funds offer clear distinctions between equity and debt-oriented choices.
  • Factor in tax advantages: ULIP premiums and returns are tax-free, but post-February 1, 2021, ULIPs with premiums exceeding Rs. 2.5 lakh are subject to 10% taxation.


Additionally, weigh transparency, risk appetite, and aligning investment choices with financial goals. Remember, insurance and investment are distinct—opt for insurance plans without investment goals and mutual funds for investment purposes.

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Disclaimer: This Article is for information purposes only. The views expressed in this Article do not necessarily constitute the views of Kotak Mahindra Bank Ltd. (“Bank”) or its employees. The Bank makes no warranty of any kind with respect to the completeness or accuracy of the material and articles contained in this Article. The information contained in this Article is sourced from empaneled external experts for the benefit of the customers and it does not constitute legal advice from the Bank. The Bank, its directors, employees and the contributors shall not be responsible or liable for any damage or loss resulting from or arising due to reliance on or use of any information contained herein. Tax laws are subject to amendment from time to time. The above information is for general understanding and reference. This is not legal advice or tax advice, and users are advised to consult their tax advisors before making any decision or taking any action.