Saturday, July 27, 2013

Why Insurance Matters For Families.

A family unit tends to be just that. A single unit, with many individuals functioning (more or less harmoniously!) as one. Like in a small business, each person fulfills a vital role that the unit can't continue to operate without. Breadwinners go out, work and provide for the family financially, while others contribute to the household, go to school, contribute to the community or help each other out.

Next, let's think about an individual, living alone, providing for his/her own needs single-handedly with no one to take care of but themselves. Most of us are at least a little familiar with the risks of death, critical illness or disability happening to one person. If not, you can read some statistics on critical illness here. When one person is all there is to worry about, for women are facing a one in seven chance of critical illness between the ages of 30 and 60 and for men the chances are one in five (I guess women are more resilient after all!). Protecting yourself against these odds would seem like a worthwhile proposition for most even in this situation. People buy Lotto tickets every week with a one in 100,000 chance of a first division win and think its inevitable it'll happen to them one day, when the chances of a disabling illness are unfortunately hugely more likely!

Critical Illness - Unfortunately much more likely than Lotto.

Unfortunately, for families the situation is even worse. A family is a singular unit that relies on all of its members being healthy and productive for the sake of the group. If both parents for instance are working and require an income to support the family, the chances of one of the pair suffering a critical illness by the age of 60 is an unfortunate one in three. If your family or business relies on three or more incomes, the odds shoot up even further, on to and above 50%. In other words, if you're in a group that relies on the income of 3 or more members, you've got a one in two chance of having one of those members disabled by illness and unable to earn for a protracted period of time, during which regular savings may be insufficient to cover the costs of living and treatment.

So what solutions can insurance provide for families, groups or businesses?  A group medical scheme for instance can be tailored to protect a whole family, paying for any medical expenses that any of its members may need. This option can be cheaper than insuring each family member individually if the right insurer is chosen. Life, trauma and total permanent disablement insurance, through altering the policy ownership details (read more on this here), can be designed to immediately payout to the other members of the group, covering your expenses and creating an artificial income to support you and the rest of the group.

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Superannuation: New Transtasman Portability

Recently, it has become possible for any superannuation fund in Australia to be transferred across the Tasman into your New Zealand Kiwisaver fund.

If you have at any time lived or worked in Australia and had any of your income transferred into an Australian super fund, you can now bring your fund across. Also, if you have done business with a financial adviser across the Tasman and lost contact upon your return to New Zealand, your super fund doesn't have to be lingering in financial limbo anymore. Just get in contact with us and we’d be happy to assist with all aspects of the transfer. The only limitation on this Trans Tasman portability is that your former Australian super fund must be converted into Kiwisaver.

Now you can transfer your Australian superannuation fund into a Kiwisaver account.

"A recent change in Australian legislation means that from July 2013, New Zealand residents will be able to transfer their eligible Australian superannuation savings into their ASB KiwiSaver Scheme account. Members who permanently emigrate to Australia will also be able to transfer their KiwiSaver savings to an Australian complying superannuation fund that accepts the transfer.

If your Australian funds are transferred into your KiwiSaver account, they will be subject to KiwiSaver rules and regulations; however some Australian superannuation rules will still apply.
You will be able to withdraw the Australian-sourced portion of your KiwiSaver account at 60 years of age, if you fulfill the Australian definition of "retired".

Transfers of Australian superannuation funds to your KiwiSaver account will not be considered eligible contributions for the purpose of receiving any member tax credits." 

- ASB Official Superannuation Transfer Information

If you are unsure of whether or not you may have money sitting in an Australian fund somewhere, we can help you with that too. Finally, although the ability to transfer your superannuation from Australia is a new feature, transferring your pensions from the UK is also possible for those who have previously made residence there. If you need any more information, just let us know, and don't leave your funds in limbo overseas when they could be benefiting you here and now!


Sunday, July 14, 2013

The Benefits of Total Permanent Disablement Insurance

This is our second post dealing with Total Permanent Disablement Cover (TPD), the first of which, a basic introduction to what the cover is, the definition of accelerated and stand alone policies and what constitutes permanent disability can be found here.

When looking at different forms of insurance, they each tend to have their own unique benefits and drawbacks. Life insurance is widespread and important, yet only pays claims upon actual or medical death, rendering it unable to cover critical illness and disablement that takes you out of your work and makes you unable to earn money. Income protection does this job but sometimes involves more costly premiums. Health insurance will cover your medical treatments and expenses but will not supplement any lost income your medical conditions could cause.

When people learn about TPD, they typically wonder if its really necessary or beneficial. What does it offer? Is it worthwhile to have, even if I already have life cover and/or income protection? What differentiates it from other forms of risk cover? What are the benefits and drawbacks to this lesser known form of insurance?

A common response would be that a drawback to TPD is the unlikelihood of suffering a condition that would result in you meeting the necessary conditions to make a claim (described in more detail here). To some extent, this is true. It is less likely that you will ever need to claim on TPD than income protection or health insurance. However, it is not rare enough that the possibility can be readily dismissed out of hand. From the calendar year spanning July 2011 to July 2012, Sovereign paid out over $2.5 million of TPD claims, the highest proportion being for Neurological conditions and Cancer. So, it does happen and it may be worth having. At Spratt Financial, we have personally seen a few TPD claims over the years for substantial amounts, in one case over a million dollars, which formed an income source sufficient to provide for the rest of the client's life.

Also, the more infrequent nature of Total Disability is taken into account in the cost of the insurance, making it an even more worthwhile proposition. Because conditions resulting in permanent disability are rarer, TPD cover can be taken out for a far cheaper cost than other forms of insurance, and the monthly premiums are typically very affordable. Our company founder believes strongly in TPD insurance due to his overseeing of several cases and tries to encourage our clients to take it out wherever possible, as it is very seldom a financial burden and could result in hundreds of thousands of dollars being paid in your moments of direst need.

Overall, even though TPD is a more overlooked and unknown form of cover, it actually has less drawbacks than some of the more popular forms of insurance. It can be useful, it can completely remove your financial worries for life if disablement does strike and it is generally not overly costly. We personally think TPD insurance is generally a good thing to have, and if you agree, we can definitely help you out. Don't hesitate to drop us a line at if you have any questions.

Saturday, July 6, 2013

Income Protection: Unimportant or a Necessity?

"Online research by insurer AIA last year found that 87 per cent of (Adult New Zealanders) have car insurance, 50 per cent life insurance and only 11 per cent income protection insurance."

After reading such figures, outlined in an article by Diane Clement in an article for the NZ Herald, it raises the immediate question; does this reflect the fact that income protection is less important to have than either car or life insurance? Or is it something else?  Could it reflect the fact that the benefits of car or life insurance are generally well known and understood and cover such as income protection is more unknown, more marginalised, or thought of as unnecessary?

We can often foresee the fact that if we were to die, we would leave behind an uncomfortable financial situation for our family or dependants. After all, its hard to earn a living when you've passed on, and that's a fact that's as clear as day. Hence we see a fairly high percentage of New Zealanders find life insurance something worth investing in. Even more of us can see that car accidents are a real and viable risk. We see them every day on the news, many of us have experienced them first hand and hence we see car insurance as a necessity. The need for income protection however, is perhaps not as immediately obvious.

In our minds, critical illness can sometimes become an 'all or nothing' type proposition. Either we are healthy and able to earn a living or we are struck down critically and pass on quickly, at which time our life cover will provide for our beneficiaries. Unfortunately, the stats aren't kind to these assumptions. As covered more fully here, 94% of deaths in New Zealand only come after a protracted and extended disablement process, during which the sufferer will be unable to work or earn a living, and during which basic life insurance will not be able to be claimed upon. This is the time though, that an income protection policy WOULD kick in, replacing your lost income and making sure your expenses are covered as you go through the recovery process.

 "People will often take life insurance cover and reject income protection insurance as "too expensive", says industry analyst Russell Hutchinson of Chatswood Consulting, even though it is the more valuable cover. They underplay their chances of having an accident or falling ill."

This seems to be the sticking point. We regard death as inevitable and so a large percentage of us prepare for it with life cover. But when it comes to our health, we tend to think that things will largely remain consistent, squared and away.

"Other common reasons that people don't take out income protection or related insurances, says Cave, are that they:

* don't know what it costs
* get confused by analysing too many policies, or
* fear they won't be covered for an illness they've suffered in the past."

 All these issues can be fairly easily dealt with and worked through. In our practice, we've seen a lot of cases where income protection has really helped out our clients, similar to the one cited in the original article:

"A 47-year-old customer who suffered a stroke while playing Pictionary. The man couldn't return to work in his profession as a rock driller for the rest of his life. Thankfully his income protection insurance will support him financially until retirement."

If you are financially able, an income protection policy is something that we heartily reccomend. If the costs are prohibitive, and you find yourself having to choose between income protection and other insurance cover such as basic life, trauma or permanent disablement we advise definitely taking the time to check out the benefits offered by each and considering your personal needs, or ask us and we can help you sort out which cover is best for you.

According to the statistics, a working couple has a 1/3 chance of one of its members suffering a critical illness, and with only 11% of New Zealanders having income protection, a scary amount of people are going to find themselves in need of cover and not having it. Perhaps its something worth considering? Stay tuned in the near future for an article describing in more detail the possible types of income protection, their features and possible benefits.