Life insurance: it’s a topic most people would prefer to avoid. Thinking about life insurance means considering both your own death and adding another item to the monthly budget—two things that aren’t very fun to contemplate!
But avoiding this important conversation could lead to errors that cost you or your family in the long run. Here are six common life insurance mistakes that Australians are frequently making.
1. You’re not covered, because you assume it’s too expensive
This mistake is common, and one that Australians share with people all around the world. In 2008, a survey by the Australian Institute of Superannuation Trustees and the Industry Funds Forum found that 81 per cent of consumers believed that life insurance was too expensive. However, 61 per cent of those surveyed also overestimated the actual cost of a policy.
Many people are surprised to learn just how affordable life insurance can be. Depending on your age, gender and lifestyle, a policy could cost less than a $1 a day. At this price, life insurance can easily fit into many household budgets.
2. You think you’re too young for it
For many, life insurance is something you buy when you’re older. This may be when you get married, after you’ve purchased a house or when you start having children. It might seem like an unnecessary expense for students or those in their early 20s. However, even young single adults might want to consider getting a life insurance policy.
Being young doesn’t necessarily mean you have no responsibilities. Even if you’re single with no children, there may be other people who rely on you for financial support. This might include a parent or grandparent that depends on you to help pay the mortgage or other household bills. You may also carry debts (a car payment, student loan, or mortgage) that won’t disappear if you were to pass away unexpectedly. A life insurance payout could help your next of kin pay off these debts, should the worst happen to you.
Finally, policy premiums are based on many factors, including age and health. The younger you are, the healthier you are likely to be. Getting life insurance in your 20s could mean lower premiums. Older people and those with serious health issues can be excluded from purchasing some types of life insurance policies. However, so long as you pay your premiums, you’ll continue to be covered by any policy purchased before you were in poor health.
3. You’re relying on your superannuation cover
Australian superannuation funds have bundled life insurance with their accounts for decades. While these policies may seem like an inexpensive and easy way to get covered, they also have their downsides.
Life insurance through superannuation is a “one-size-fits-all” deal. This keeps premiums low, but likely means the policy won’t meet your individual needs. The amount of cover offered may be too low to help protect your family from financial hardship, and it can be expensive or difficult to increase your cover level. There may also be restrictions on who you can name as a beneficiary and lengthy delays when processing a claim. An individual policy that is more tailored to your family’s needs and lifestyle may be a more appropriate way to help protect them.
4. You’re thinking about lying on the application
A little white lie never hurt anyone, right? Not being honest when taking out life insurance cover may save money on your premium, but it could cost your family in the end. In the event of a claim, your insurer will likely refuse to pay the benefit if they discover that you lied during the application process.
As with most things in life, honesty is the best policy when it comes to life insurance. Be truthful about your health and habits, especially things like your smoking status. If you have any adventurous hobbies, such as skydiving or bungee jumping, be sure to disclose these too. They may not impact your premiums, but it’s smart to confirm whether a serious accident or death that results from these activities will be covered.
5. Your stay-at-home partner isn’t covered
For many, getting a life insurance policy for the primary breadwinner is a given. Families may also see the need for insuring both partners, especially if they rely on two incomes to pay the bills. But what about a stay-at-home mum or dad who does not bring home a paycheck each week?
Consider all the jobs homemakers do for the good of their family. Childcare, cleaning, laundry, shopping, and cooking are just some of the things you might need to hire someone to take care of if your partner were to pass away or suffer a serious accident. Taking out a life insurance policy on a stay-at-home partner could help cover these costs, or allow you to take time off work to focus on your family’s emotional wellbeing.
6. You don’t review your insurance needs every year
Life insurance shouldn’t be treated as a “set it and forget it” product. As your life changes, your insurance needs will change too. An annual review of your policy could help you stay protected or even save you money.
The policy you took out when you were single or newly married may be too low if you’ve since purchased a home or had children. Increasing your cover to allow your family to pay off the mortgage, pay school fees or continue their current lifestyle may make sense. On the other hand, if you’re nearing retirement age, it may make sense to decrease the amount of cover you hold. If you no longer have a mortgage or large financial obligations, you may only need a policy large enough to cover a funeral or any other final debts.
Thinking about life insurance may not be on the top of your to-do list, but setting aside the time could help you from making these common mistakes. Consider your family’s lifestyle, their needs, and the household budget when deciding which policy and level of cover is right for you.