Insurance – How much is enough?
We had a case recently of a client who was in severe pain from her knee, and needed a replacement. The dilemma for her was that if she took off the 4 months required to recover from a knee operation, then how would they meet their home loan repayments and keep up with their other household costs? She was the primary earner in her family as her husband was suffering from a long running illness and only earning sporadic part time income. She did have 4 weeks of personal leave owing to her, but that wasn’t enough to get them by. They had little in savings, surviving with a growing family on essentially one income.
The good news was that she had taken out Income Protection Insurance many years ago and had maintained the cover even though it was getting quite expensive. The problem was that although she was in pain, she was still functional at work and so the surgery was effectively “elective”. Consequently, she was still capable of earning an income and it was questionable, whether the insurance company would cover her for “lost income”.
We queried the insurance company and they agreed that they would pay her under the policy, even though the operation was effectively elective. She had her operation, the insurance company paid up and she is now back at work pain free and the family finances are no worse off.
The moral of the story is that good quality insurance policies with good quality companies are worth the few extra dollars.
With the New Year upon us, we are recommending that you review your insurances to make sure they are adequate and suitable to your personal needs. Researchers commonly find that most Australians are “chronically under-insured”. That means that they don’t have enough cover and consequently, in the event of their death or illness, they will not only leave an emotional hole in the heart of their family, they will also leave a financial hole in their future.
Most of us have no idea how much insurance is enough so we let someone else make the decision for us. The most common amounts covered are, firstly, to pay out loans (because the bank said it was a requirement) and secondly, the default amount provided by our superannuation funds (because we didn’t make a choice).
There is nothing wrong with that, as something is better than nothing, but really, what is the right amount and will the insurance company pay up when you lodge a claim?
The answer is, it all depends! Answers to the following questions will help you decide how much is right for you:
- How much debt do we have?
- How much savings/superannuation do we have?
- What other financial costs do we have?
- What can we afford?
When determining affordability, remember that generally, premiums get higher as you get older, so consider taking out a level premium option if you think you will need the cover for a long time. Level premiums start out more expensive, but work out cheaper over the long run. Consider splitting the policy with a level premium for long term needs and a stepped (cheaper) premium for short term needs.