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If you have 'normal' hobbies, this article is for you

Heart attacks accounting for 20 per cent of male critical injury claims, compared with only 0.1 per cent of female claims

Are you a bungee jumper, a stuntman, a trapeze artist or an astronaut?

No? Then you have a ‘normal' job and ‘normal' hobbies? Great, this article is for you.

It's about protecting your income and your family in the event that you have to give up your job due to sickness – and the extreme activities described above make insuring yourself a lot more difficult, as we will explain.

Critical illness insurance or ‘CI' is crucial for both men and women, but the figures show that men should be particularly interested, because they are more likely to be knocked sideways by illness than women.

It becomes even more important if you're a mum or a dad, because of course you have some little munchkins running about the place, who are dependent on your working income.

The giant insurer LV= confirm from their research that men are disproportionately more likely than women to claim on their CI policies, in particular as a result of heart disease.

With heart attacks accounting for 20 per cent of male CI claims, compared with only 0.1 per cent of female claims, heart problems show the biggest disparity between men and women.

Is that little voice inside your head telling you ‘I'm too young and healthy to have to worry about this stuff'?

Well listen, illness is not an older person's problem - the average age for a critical illness claim is just 47.

And feeling healthy doesn't mean you actually are. LV='s report also tells us that more than 14 million adults in the UK have high blood pressure, but nearly five million don't know it because they haven't been diagnosed.

So how does CI help you, if you do become critically ill? Simple – it provides a once-off, tax-free payout when you are diagnosed with one of the illnesses listed in your policy.

The questions to ask, when looking for cover, would be: what conditions do I want my policy to cover?

What is not covered by the policy I'm considering? How long do I want to be covered for? And of course: how much does it cost?

The Association of British Insurers demand that all CI policies cover the three core conditions of cancer, heart attack, and stroke. The vast majority also cover MS and major surgery as well. But as I say, these are just the core conditions.

Many common conditions also covered would be Alzheimer's, Aorta graft surgery, benign brain tumour, blindness, coma, heart by-pass surgery, deafness, heart valve replacement or repair, kidney failure, loss of hand or foot, loss of speech, major organ transplant, motor neurone disease, paralysis of limbs, parkinson's disease, third degree burns, traumatic brain injury, and total permanent disability.

Now, if you got all of those you'd be in a bad way, but it's nice to know that if you get one of them, you are covered for almost any eventuality.

Incidentally, many policies have some nice hidden extras, such as illness cover included for your children, and many are flexible in that you can increase your cover if a new baby does arrive.

That's the ‘up' side, but the ‘down' side is equally important. Your adviser can explain the ‘exclusions' of a CI policy – that is, what's not covered. You'll often not be covered if any condition was a result of alcohol or drug abuse, or the unreasonable failure to follow medical advice.

You can also invalidate your cover if you indulge in hazardous sports or pastimes – that bungee jumper and trapeze artist we mentioned – and these activities will, at the very least, make your cover much more expensive. Dangerous jobs can also raise the cost of CI – ‘ladder workers', from window cleaners to building site workers to scaffolders, even long distance lorry drivers are deemed to be high risk by the insurers.

So the cost of CI is directly related to your work, and your general state of health. A cynic might say: the more likely you are to need it, the dearer it gets. The flip side of the coin is that if you are young and healthy at the moment, you're on the pig's back.

If you can live without bungee jumping, could a CI policy be just the thing to protect yourself and your family?

Why not give us a ring and, as independent advisers, we can seek out the ideal policy for you.

Michael Kennedy and Shaun Doherty are independent financial advisers and pensions specialists, and can be contacted on 028 71886005 . Further information on our Facebook page “Kennedy Independent Financial Advice Ltd” or our website www.mkennedyfinancial.com

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