The real cost of Christmas

According to PwC we will be spending an average of £420 on Christmas presents this year

HAVE you ever wondered what is the real cost of Christmas?

Well, certainly in terms of our spending on presents, we are in a position to tell you!

According to accountancy giant PwC's brand new research just out, we will be spending an average of £420 on Christmas presents this year.

That's just an average for the different age groups, though, and some of us will be forking out a lot more.

Christmas will be most expensive for those aged between 35 and 44, where the average spend is going to be far higher – an average of £522.

That's more than a week's wages, on presents alone. The statistics agency Nisra tells us the average wage last year in Northern Ireland was £452 per week, or £23,600 per year. It's wages that are central to our thinking this week, as I'll explain in a moment.

The reason for the higher spend may be that if you're 35-44, you are most likely to have a young family, and perhaps nieces and nephews, to spend your money on, but still have your own parents to buy for as well.

As a trend, we are becoming parents later - the average age of mums and dads has increased by almost four years over the last four decades. At the birth of a child in 2015, mums averaged 30.3 years. That means at 35 you may have a happy 5 year old looking for their first Xbox, or by 44, you may have a 14 year old looking for their fifth.

Does the ever-rising cost of Christmas make you wonder how you could weather November and December if you were off work, and lost that wage I mentioned?

I'm talking about the financial situation that would ensue if you were to have a major health setback. By ‘major health setback' we can think of the most common critical illnesses that render you unable to work: heart attack, cancer, stroke, MS, Alzheimer's, motor neurone disease.

It's a lot more common than you might think. The major insurers are never done pointing out that one in four men and one in five women will have a major health setback, during their working life.

Think about that for a second. Would you feel comfortable about crossing the street, if you thought there was a one in four chance you would be knocked down?

The biggest critical illness is ‘The Big C': the National Statistics Office tells us that more than half of us will get some form of cancer in our lives. And the incidence of heart attacks is right up there too.

Most of us know someone who has been hit by one of the big six diseases named above, so we'd be foolish to believe it could never happen to us, or that we are too young to have to worry. Critical illnesses do not befall only the elderly; the cancer charity Macmillan say that one in 10 cancers are diagnosed in people aged 25-49.

Despite all this evidence, only one family in 10 have critical illness cover to protect their lifestyle, in the event of a major health problem.

How does it work? Critical illness insurance gives you a tax-free lump sum, if you are hit by one of the diseases or conditions covered by your policy.

Some people set it up to cover the outstanding on their mortgage. Others set their insurance to cover two or three years' salary, to fend off financial hardship during a period of convalescence. It's up to you.

So while you're running about in a state of stress, spending your month's wages on presents over the coming week, bear in mind that ‘if God spares us,' you'll be doing it all again next year. But also spare a thought for those who don't have a salary this year, because they're off work ‘on the sick'.

Save yourself the worry about that four in one chance of a mishap - think about critical illness insurance, to make sure your family's festive lifestyle will be secure.

:: Michael Kennedy and Shaun Doherty are independent financial advisers and pensions specialists and can be contacted on 028 71886005 . Further information is available of the Facebook page 'Kennedy Independent Financial Advice Ltd' or the website

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