If you're a breadwinner, get covered (or don't get sick)

How would your family get on if you suddenly got ill and had to give up work?
How would your family get on if you suddenly got ill and had to give up work?

This week, the Department of Health told us how long our health is going to last.

This is not the same as life expectancy, which is how long our life is going to last. This tells us how long we’ve got, before we start to fall to bits.

The figures show that men’s healthy lifespan is shorter than women’s.

Once again, we males are reminded of the fact that women are tougher and more resilient than us. This will be no surprise to our female readers.

Male healthy life expectancy is currently 59.7 years, while female healthy life expectancy is 60.8 years. Or, rounding it up, it’s 60 for men and 61 for women.

Disability-free life expectancy is 57.3 years for men and 57.2 years for women.

However, these are just averages, and many people become ill or disabled much earlier. In fact, Legal and General say their average age for people claiming on insurance for being severely ill is 47.

Just think for a minute. Are you the main breadwinner in your house? Perhaps the only breadwinner? If so, then right now, and just this once, ask yourself the following question: how would your family get on, if you suddenly had to give up work?

MacMillan tell us that more than half of us will get some form of cancer in our lives; we also know that about seven million people have heart or circulatory disease. The population of the UK is just over 66 million, so that’s 33 million who can expect to get cancer some day, and over 10 per cent of us can expect heart trouble.

Insurers tell us that cancer, stroke and heart attacks account for approximately 80 per cent of all critical illness claims.

Now, the good news is that far more of us are surviving a heart attack. In the 1960s, seven out of 10 heart attacks were fatal but today, seven out of 10 heart attacks are not. Nonetheless, a heart attack’s still no joke, and if it hits you, you may well need time off to convalesce. That could be a year, and during that time, you will need a replacement income.

We generally don’t dwell on these probabilities, and it’s clear that when we hear them, we don’t seem to take them seriously. Legal and General say that less that 10 per cent of us have insured our health. That means that, while 33 million of us are likely to get cancer, only six million of us have done anything to prepare for it.

We also know that, on average, if we have to stop work due to illness, we have 32 days of cash reserves to pay our bills, before we get into real difficulties. Your savings or financial backup might be another figure well worth working out.

Are you one of the 60 million in the UK who have still to get around to what we call ‘family protection insurances’, including critical illness cover?

:: Michael Kennedy and Shaun Doherty are independent financial advisers and pensions specialists, and can be contacted on 028 71886005. Further information on Facebook at “Kennedy Independent Financial Advice Ltd” or at