Insuring against illness or disability is often overlooked, but losing your income can make a bad situation much worse.
In 2013 Nikki Thornley, a police officer in Aberdeenshire, set off with her husband for a motorcycle trip around Europe to celebrate his 40th birthday. But an accident in the Borders meant that they never left Scotland.
“I’m still not exactly sure what happened,” says Nikki. “I lost control of my bike and hit a car. After a couple of days in a Borders hospital, I was transferred to the National Spinal Unit in Glasgow.”
Nikki was left paralysed and spent 11 months in hospital. Although she is now back at work, albeit in a different role, at the time of the accident she was on a career break and was not covered by an income protection policy.
“I’d always been fairly blasé about insurance because you get people ringing you up, and I would say ‘I’m covered with work.’ It didn’t cross my mind that I wasn’t covered while not being at work,” she says.
Fewer than one in ten households has any form of income protection.1 With Employment and Support Allowance currently paying up to £73.10 per week for the first 13 weeks (if you’re 25 years or older) and up to £109.30 thereafter, many without protection have to dip into savings or turn to relatives for financial support.
Good health is arguably our most precious asset, and with it comes the ability to earn an income. But it is not something we can take for granted, so income protection should be seen as one of the foundations of comprehensive financial planning. Having it in place gives people the reassurance that a replacement income would be paid during a time they might be off work due to an accident or serious illness.
“[The accident] opened my eyes to insurance. It helped me realise we should have had it in place. If I’d hadn’t been on a career break I would have had,” says Nikki.
Thankfully, Nikki has been supported by the Seven Families campaign, an initiative designed to demonstrate the value of income protection insurance – and the invaluable support that comes with such cover. The campaign has now ended, but it is hoped that the support offered to the families will continue to have a positive ripple effect, bringing income protection to a wider audience.
“[The financial support] was massively helpful and we were so grateful for it… It gave us a safety net, which meant that I didn’t have to rush quite so much to get back [to work]. It allowed us, particularly me, to take a little bit of extra time, and it more or less covered my wages so we could pay bills,” says Nikki.
Stephen Crosbie, protection director at Aegon UK says, “Income replacement should be a central theme to the financial strategies we employ for every stage of our lives.”
It is all too easy to think it will never happen to us but, when it comes to insuring our income, we should compare the costs of having it and not needing it, with those of needing it but not having it.
For more information on the Seven Families campaign, please visit www.7families.co.uk.
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1Family Finances Report, Aviva, August 2015