It has always been a misconception that insurance agents and property agents earn hundreds of thousands of dollars or even millions every year by pushing sales to the customers. After all, the media likes to feature the top performers. Just last week, Sunday Times interviewed a 23 years old part time insurance agent who earned $200,000 in his first year in the business.

Maybe MAS is thinking the same way and feeling that the rogue agents must be torn down and proposed Financial Advisory Industry Review (Fair)  to ban the commissions.

But is the insurance industry really so rosy?

In yesterday’s Straits Times article “Insurance body against fee-based compensation”, Mr Leong Sow Hoe, who chairs the insurance industry alliance noted that “agents do not earn anywhere near as much as many people seem to think”.  It noted that an agent’s median annual income was miserably $33,000, even below the $35,100 national level.

How about property agents?

According to a Channel News Asia report, dated 30 Jan 2012, the number of agents in 2011 was 34,300. Based on the recent analysis from, the total commission generated by the real estate industry would amount to about $785 million. You can easily calculated that average commission each agent would get is just about $22,886 (or about $1,907 per month).

Million-dollar agents are more the exceptions

Agents who earn million dollar commissions a year are generally the minorities, just like any other industry. It is also difficult for most of them to sustain their performance with increasing workload of servicing their existing clients. Despite the hard truth, the agency managers who needs to recruit new agents have to paint a picture that agents making a good income and there is easy money to be made in the insurance and real estate industry.


I have met many agents. Those who stay the industries for long are mostly hard working and ethical. I personally welcome this Financial Advisory Industry Review, those who were doing good jobs for their clients will stay. Why should insurance agents offer the customers “free advice” and be perceived  as rich rogue salesmen where they themselves are struggling to feed their own family?

In the long run, the professional image of financial service industry should be raised and so should the average income level.

About the Author

Ivan Guan is the author of the popular book "FIRE Your Retirement". He is an independent financial adviser with more than a decade of knowledge and experience in providing financial advisory services to both individuals and businesses. He specializes in investment planning and portfolio management for early retirement. His blog provides practical financial tips, strategies and resources to help people achieve financial freedom. Follow his Telegram Channel to join the FIRE community.
The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author. This does not reflect the official position of any agency, organization, employer or company. Refer to full disclaimers here.

  • This is a very balanced and objective view of the situation.

    As it is, many agents are already struggling with all the paperwork and compliance issues. If there are more demands expected of them, there might then be more agents quitting the business and thereby having less agents left to service the customers.

    The moral of the story is everyone always thinks others are making too much money with too little effort and it is not fair. If it is so simple, why not be a life insurance agent or property agent and see if it is easy to make $200,000 a year!

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