Marriage insurance has not been a good investment for one couple. Photo: iStock

Can a marriage be insured? Mr and Mrs Yang from Sichuan province bought “marriage insurance” 30 years ago, but even after a union lasting so long, they find little to celebrate.

The term guaranteed the Yang couple would redeem 700 yuan (US$104) when one of them passed away, or when they were still married after 30 years, on September 29, 2019.

In effect, the couple purchased a love bond, or a term insurance with a kicked-in bonus for not getting divorced. Many couples do not stay together for 30 years, especially in the modern age, where more than 40% of marriages do not work.

Amazingly, the couple stands to redeem the bond in five months, but find they were actually being penalized for their romantic ties. Initially, they paid 50 yuan as a premium on September 30, 1989. In those days, Mr Yang, for example, earned less than 10 fen (1.4 US cents) a day as a construction worker.

To pay the 50 yuan, they had to raise extra money from friends in their village. Back then, 50 yuan equaled 125 kilograms of rice, or 40 fen per kg.

However, the price of rice rose to 11 yuan per kg after 30 years and the Yangs found themselves worse off because the 700 yuan they will get can only buy 63 kg, or about half of what it was once worth. Also, 50 yuan was the equivalent of 16 months of earnings in 1989. Now it not as much as a worker’s daily salary.

In other words, the world’s biggest economic miracle that China has witnessed in the last 30 years also created inflation that eroded the underlying value of love. And 30 years brought changes that people could not have expected. The underwriter, Peoples Insurance, for example, has become PICC today.

PICC sold the marriage insurance portfolio to China Life, which suspended the sale of this kind of marriage insurance in 1996 because of poor market response. Many people commented online that this sort of marriage insurance was like a scam as it miscalculated the inflation rate and punish those who live long and stay together with their spouses.

But still, the idea of marriage insurance remains an excellent gimmick in the insurance sector.

In 2016, China Taiping Insurance Holdings offered a marriage insurance product for couples, promising a payout of about US$1,600 if the applicants marry their sweetheart within three to 10 years after paying a premium of US$90.

In western countries, the concept of divorce insurance is more popular than marriage insurance. A person will be rewarded if he or she gets a divorce. It makes so much sense to compensate someone who suffers financial difficulties after a divorce.

However, love, not money, is all that really matters and the Yangs will still find lots to celebrate by September.

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