Q: What insurance should I get besides life insurance? How do I find the right insurance?—Jizza
A: I think it’s prudent, Jizza, that you are considering your insurance needs. Ignorance is not bliss when it comes to your finances and in particular when it comes to insurance.
I find that, more often than not, the primary focus for insurance needs is life insurance. This focus seems to be that of not only consumers, but also for insurance agents. The resulting risk is that people have the wrong type or amount of coverage or certain types of insurance are outright overlooked.
There is something about the severity of life insurance that makes it seem so important. It’s literally a life or death financial product. Almost anyone who has group benefits has life insurance coverage. And life insurance is definitely the most common policy I see purchased by clients separately from their group coverage.
I find disability insurance is frequently overlooked when people consider their insurance needs. I’d say this should be your number two insurance consideration. Life insurance is for income replacement in the event of death, while disability insurance is for income replacement in the event you can’t work, but you’re still alive.
Disability insurance is important for just about anyone who is working and needs the income from their job, which accounts for most of the working population. Group benefits typically include disability insurance, but often the definitions of disability are strict or the monthly coverage does not adequately replace one’s income. So be sure to look at the specifics on your group coverage, as gaps often exist.
Business owners in particular are at risk because if they aren’t able to work, they may have business expenses to cover and their income may dry up if they’re disabled. At the same time, business owners may find it difficult to get adequate disability coverage because their income may be less predictable than that of a salaried employee.
Critical illness insurance
Critical illness insurance is a newer type of coverage that pays out a lump-sum in the event of one of about 25 critical illnesses like cancer. I think this is more of an optional insurance coverage myself, but you need to assess your own situation, Jizza. If you want a lump-sum of money to provide for medical treatment or for a spouse to take time off work with you in the event of a critical illness, this type of coverage could be worth considering. That said, disability insurance may provide some protection—income replacement—in the event of a critical illness.
A return of premium option is generally available on critical illness insurance policies if you don’t make a claim.
Long-term care insurance
Long-term care insurance is likely to grow in popularity in the coming years as long-term care needs rise, as a bit of a knee-jerk reaction to the number of Canadians who will be in need of long-term care. It provides a monthly or lifetime benefit to cover long-term care expenses in the event you are unable to perform some of the daily activities of life on your own.
It’s a tough insurance coverage to assess, because those with modest means may be hard-pressed to find the resources to pay the premiums. And those with means might otherwise be self-insured. Beyond that, how much you need is a guess at best given your eventual long-term care needs may be short-term, long-term, in the near future, in the distant future, or non-existent.
Once again, I see long-term care as an optional as opposed to a mandatory insurance coverage. But if you want to protect your retirement assets or ensure coverage beyond what the government might otherwise provide, you should consider the merits of long-term care insurance as at you approach retirement.
How do you find the right insurance? I’d definitely take the time to educate yourself on the types of insurance out there, either before or after speaking to an insurance agent. Some insurance is more important than others and some is optional or personal in my opinion.
Consider group insurance coverage options as well as professional associations and alumni benefits as they may offer lower premiums than an individual policy, albeit at some risk if you change jobs or if the rules or definitions of an alumni or professional association’s coverage change. Beyond that, consider a broker who can access competitive quotes at different companies rather than just a single company.
As with all things financial, a little bit of due diligence can go a long way.
Jason Heath is a fee-only, advice-only Certified Financial Planner (CFP) at Objective Financial Partners Inc. in Toronto, Ontario. He does not sell any financial products whatsoever.