Welcome to Informed Decisions Blog #19. Thanks for continuing to read and learn about critical aspects of Personal Finance & Financial Planning. If you are new here, welcome! This is a great place to begin the journey if you are a new visitor.
This is the 2nd blog in our 'financial foundations' series, and will further explain one of the many protection options available to us all in today's market. For the first blog in this series, specified illness cover ins and outs, click here. If you are into an oul podcast or two you can check it out here via itunes also.
Income Protection, also known in some quarters as Income Continuance, Income Insurance, Income Cover & Permanent Heath Insurance. Confused yet!!? I'm gonna stick with the label of Income Protection on this one, purely because that is what it is designed to do, protect your income if yours stops!
Before we get into the basics of this potential financial foundation lets picture the following. (Disclaimer: this might seem like an old insurance sales technique but bear with me!!).
Imagine for a second that you had a printer in the corner of your bedroom, every morning as you wake up you hear this printer printing out the equivalent of a day's wages for you. Because there is no such thing as work in this dream-land you survive on your printer's ability to print this money for you every morning. Having said that, like all printers on this planet yours is prone to breaking down occasionally, indeed it is also susceptible to breaking down permanently. If it does your income will stop, cease, finish. Bearing in mind it is your sole form of income would you insure this printer against such an incident, bearing in mind it is your sole form of income? If you woke up one morning and it was all flashing red lights would you feel it prudent to have a back-up plan to help pay the bills?
On the face of it it probably seems like pure gambling to not do so, yet the fact is that a huge percentage of us do not have such a plan in place. If we go back to the analogy of building a home on solid foundations, it would seem that doing so without a core foundation would be a risky approach. So why don't people have this protection in place? Personally I believe there are a few core reasons for that; cost, awareness and understanding of what it actually is! So here goes.............
What is it?
As already mentioned above, it is a type of protection which should pay you an income if you are medically unable to work for a minimum period of time due to an accident, illness or injury. As with the majority of income sources it is taxable. (You will note that this is quite different to Specified Illness Cover which pays you a lump sum (one-off) upon diagnosis of a certain type of illness, and not related to your ability to continue to work or not).
So its Sick Pay, right?
No! Typically 'sick pay' from an employer is paid for a set period of time, for example 2, 6, 12 months, after which time the benefit stops and you are on your own. Income Protection however is designed to continue to provide the income benefit until either a) you are deemed medically able to return to work or b) your protection plan reaches the end of its term, you can select usually between 55 and 65 years of age, at which point the benefit stops.
What about the State Disability Benefit?
Importantly receiving Income Protection, while it is a taxable income, does not immediately impact on your ability to receive your entitlement to State Benefits. The State 'Illness Benefit' is paid for a maximum of:
a) 2 years if you have at least 260 (5years) weeks reckonable social insurance contributions paid since you first started work
b) 1 year if you have between 104 and 259 weeks reckonable social insurance contributions* paid since you first started work
How much Income do I get from an Income Protection Plan?
Depends on how much your printer prints each morning! You can protect up to a max of 75% of your Gross Income with one of these plans. When/If you do claim as a result of being unable to work you make your claim, have it supported by medical evidence of you being unable to work, and the insurance company essentially become your employer, they deduct the tax payable and you get the Net Income paid into your bank account.
Example: You are 34 years of age, an Accountant, non-smoker. Your income is €50k. You put in place an Income Protection plan which will cover 75% of your income (€38k per annum benefit). You are married and 1 child. Your spouse is working also. If you were to become ill/injured/sick for a minimum of 1 week you could apply for State Disability Benefit, if successful it would provide in the region of €940 per month. (11k per annum).
How Much Does it Cost?
The above plan would cost in the region of €130 per month to put in place. Do note however that the Revenue recognise the importance of having this in place and have generous tax relief available on the cost of putting it in place, so if our Accountant above was on the 40% tax rate his actual cost would be around the €70 per month mark...........not bad for a potential monthly benefit of €3,167 if in a claim, and a claim which could last from now until he/she gets to 60 years of age!
Worth noting that the more physically perilous or manual your occupation the more expensive the cover would be for you.
Who Can Have It?
A lot of folks might want it but not everyone can get it! Typically anyone in an occupation which involved mostly driving or very heavy manual labour can have difficulty in getting an application through what is often very rigorous underwriting/assessment. But once you have it you have it! If you are not sure if your occupation would qualify you can easily check this by 'googling' income protection quotes, and they all ask you your occupation, before either quoting you or saying 'thanks but no thanks'!
Likewise, if you have previous medical history or medical/physical illnesses or conditions it may impact on you getting the cover at 'standard rates', which simply means at the price you were quoted for, and covering you for all eventualities.
Are There Any Down-Sides?
Like everything, it is important to know what you are covered for and what you are not covered for with these types of things. For example, you would likely not be covered if you were out of work due to an illness/injury suffered as a result of something you did while under the influence of alcohol, so no climbing trees or lamp-posts after a trip to the 'local'!
Another thing to watch out for, is if you intend traveling for a period of time, as in moving to another country. Most plans will only pay you for a short period of time if you are living abroad at the time of claim, so it's one to be aware of if this might apply to you. As always, read the details, be informed of all the facts.
You need to be medically certified as unable to work, if this is not the case then a company would likely refuse your application. The company covering you are charging you a price which will ensure they make a profit, pay the advisor/agent, and also ensures that other people who have the cover will get paid if they have a valid claim, so it is in everyone's interest to be upfront and honest about what is and what is not covered, and when it would or would not be paid.
As always I will leave it to you to form your own conclusions on this. If your income stopping would have a massive impact on your financial, physical or mental well-being then it could be a worthwhile foundation for you. If you feel the State Benefit would not be sufficient, and you have few other crutches to support you should you be out of work for a considerable period of time, then it could be worth considering, big-time!
Please use this information in the manner it is intended, inform yourself and supporting you in creating a better financial future for yourself. Thanks so much for reading, sharing and spreading the word.
Paddy Delaney (QFA, RPA & Now Qualified Coach too- yay!!)