Where do you buy your life assurance?

All life assurance policies are the same? The best place to buy life assurance is online or from your bank? The only thing to consider when buying life assurance is the price? Well in fact the answer to each of these questions is, FALSE!

Life assurance policies differ from provider to provider
The days of life assurance policies all being exactly the same are long gone… With people living longer now than they used to and recovery rates from illnesses improving all the time, the cost of life assurance has fallen significantly in recent years. As a result, the providers now compete both on price and through the addition of valuable policy benefits. Are you aware of the following?

• There are life assurance providers that will give you access to the best doctors from around the world, for a 2nd opinion when you have a serious illness?
• There are life assurance policies that will pay out your benefit immediately while you are alive, if you have been diagnosed with a terminal illness?
• You can get life assurance policies where the cover increases automatically each year, policies that pay out when the first of you or your spouse dies or indeed policies that pay out twice when each of you die.
• You can get life assurance policies to protect yourself, your family, your business partners, key employees, even to protect against you leaving an Inheritance Tax bill when you die.

So all life assurance policies are definitely not the same!

Buying online or from your bank only narrows your options
The problem with buying life assurance online or through your bank is that it will seriously narrow your options. Both of these sales channels will usually only have access to the products of a single life assurance provider. So apart from you potentially not getting access to the cheapest life assurance cover, you may well also miss out on some of the really valuable enhancements available.

A Financial Broker on the other hand has access to a broad range of life assurance products in the Irish market. They will find the right provider, offering the best product at the best price for you and your specific circumstances. They will also do all the work for you in terms of getting the cover arranged!

Life assurance is about more than the price
Of course the price is really important when you are buying life assurance. In fact your Financial Broker will often be able to match the lowest price in the market on the actual product that you want! Now that is really adding value! But your Financial Broker will add far more value than that. Apart from the price and added benefits, they will also consider factors such as,

• The claims payment records of the various providers
• The financial security of the providers
• How easy the providers are to deal with

Your Financial Broker is definitely the best place to buy your life assurance!


What is . . . ?

Life Assurance: This is cover designed to provide a financial lump sum to a family/person/company in the event of the death of a specified individual. There are different kinds of Life Assurance that include:

  • Mortgage Protection – Decreasing Life Assurance – ends at set term

  • Term Assurance – Level Life Assurance – ends at set term

  • Whole of Life cover – Level Life Assurance – No set term

  • There is reviewable and non reviewable Whole of Life cover

    Life Assurance with convertible option: You can request a conversion option on some Life cover. This allows you to extend the lifetime of your policy without having to supply any medical information. This allows some people to choose a shorter term for cover now, at a lower cost.

    An example of this benefit would be if you take out €100,000 Life cover for 10 years with a conversion option. During the 10 year lifetime of this plan you might get sick or be struck with an illness that would prevent you from taking out Life cover in the future. The conversion option would allow you to extend the term of your €100,000 Life cover beyond the 10 years and the Life company could only use your medical information from the original application.

    Serious Illness Cover: This is cover designed to provide a financial lump sum to a family/person/company where a specified individual is diagnosed with a Serious Illness.

    Income Protection: This is a cover designed to be a replacement Income if a person is unable to work due to illness or injury. It is particularly important for self-employed people.

    The cost of these covers depends mainly on your age, your smoker status, your health and the length of time you would like the cover.

    Pensions: During your working life, you can save into a Pension arrangement to subsidise your drop in income at retirement. The main advantages of this are that you get tax relief on your contributions and you get tax free growth on your investment.

    Savings/Investment plans: An alternative to saving/investing money in the bank. The main advantage is that there is a much greater potential to grow your investment. The main disadvantage is that your value can go down as well as up.

Tax Relief on a Life Assurance Policy

Pension Term Assurance is not something that is promoted much, even in my own industry. Not a lot of people know about it, although some people do have Life Assurance cover included in their company Pension scheme. In most cases people keep their Pension savings and their Life cover needs apart but as you will see below, you can keep these policies separate and still avail of generous tax relief.

Is it possible to get tax relief on a Life Assurance policy?

Yes there is a Life Assurance policy that you can take out and get tax relief at your marginal rate of tax within revenue limits. It is called Pension Term Assurance.

So why would you take this kind of policy out?

This is for anybody who wants to have a tax efficient Life Assurance policy. In some cases the cost could be up to 40% less than taking it out as a normal life policy.   

Who owns the policy and who benefits?

The person taking out the Life Cover owns the policy and usually it’s their estate (family) that receives the funds in the event of a claim.

So why doesn’t everybody take out Life cover this way?

There are certain restrictions depending on how it is being setup. You cannot assign this Life cover to a mortgage lender. The term of the cover is restricted to your retirement age (up to 75).

It used to be the case that the cost of Pension Term Assurance was higher than the cost of taking out a normal Life Assurance policy but more recently the gap between costs has reduced in many cases.

If I take this out, do I have to contribute to a Pension aswell?

No, a Pension Term Assurance policy is a separate, independent policy. The premium cost (less tax relief) is the only contribution required.

What about self-employed people?

A self-employed person can take out one of these policies. Depending on your company setup you may require an Executive Pension Term Assurance plan. Some self-employed people can set it up with the company paying the premiums with potential extra benefits (corporation tax relief).

Normal Life Cover v Pension Term Assurance

As you can see there are certain limitations and restrictions, but like a normal Life Assurance policy it pays out a lump sum on the death of the assured. And the key reason that you would take out a Pension (executive for self-employed) Term Assurance over a normal life assurance policy is to avail of the tax relief.

Life Assurance Q & A

The following are some of the most frequently asked questions when people are concerned about getting new or replacement Life cover.

A big concern of many people when they are considering changing their life cover is whether or not they lose out by cancelling a Life Assurance policy that they have had for years. The first thing to understand is that once you have completed a Life Assurance form as honestly (medical questions) as possible and once the first premium has been paid, you are instantly covered. That includes even if there is a life assurance claim after only a day of having the cover.

The main benefit to holding onto a Life Assurance policy that you have had for years would really only be if your medical status has deteriorated from when you took it out.

The leading question after this can be is it worth applying for Life cover if there are medical conditions personally or in your family that may affect a Life cover application? Some people do not even make an application for Life cover for fear of getting some sort of medical penalty.

There is little to be lost by applying for the cover, whether you are penalised or not. You do not have to proceed with the cover if you are not happy with the extra cost and it may be a penalty that might only be valid for specified time, which would at least give you an indication of when you will be able to get cover without the penalty.

There are different options for people who have medical conditions that may limit their access to Life cover. There is a Life Assurance company that only offer Life cover to people who have been declined Life cover completely. There is also Life cover for people over the age of 50, who are guaranteed Life cover, without being required to supply ANY medical evidence. It can be quite stressful being declined Life cover, but it is comforting to know that there are alternatives.

Look out for us on facebook under Drumgoole Financial Services Ltd where you can find more information, competitions and tips.

Life Assurance that continues after you stop paying premiums…

I have received many queries about different kinds of Life cover over the last few months. There are different kinds of Life Assurances, but most recently there was a specific one (reviewable life cover) highlighted on the Joe Duffy show. Very long story short, the cost of this cover is reviewed every 5 to 10 years and in most cases the monthly cost increases, particularly when a person is getting into their retirement years.

The normal alternative for people is to take out a different whole of life (non reviewable) cover or a cheaper Term Assurance option. In these alternatives you have to keep paying the premiums until either there is a Life Assurance claim or the policy term finishes.

But there is a third option that has recently been made available; it is a life policy whereby you take out cover for a specified period of time. After this time elapses you will stop paying premiums, but you will continue to have life cover so there is a guaranteed pay-out on death.

Factual Example:

Male – Aged 60 – Non Smoker - €50,000 Life Assurance for 20 Years - €77.18 per month

In this example the person has €50,000 life cover during the 20 years while they pay their €77.18 per month. After 20 years, this person stops paying the €77.18 per month and they will continue to have €20,000 Life Assurance. The total maximum premiums paid during this term will be €18,523, yet once all the monthly premiums are paid; there is a guaranteed life assurance pay-out of €20,000.

As with all life assurance applications, this is subject to medical underwriting. Some people decide not to even apply for Life Assurance because they think they may be hindered by a personal or family medical condition. This is not always the case; you have nothing to lose by sending in an application and finding out one way or another.

Some people like to target their retirement age (65-75) so that the cost of the cover will cease around the time their income reduces at retirement. This sort of cover can be taken out for as short as a 10 year term (so in the above example the cover would last for 10 years after which they would stop paying the premiums and the €20,000 Life cover would continue).

The biggest advantage to this cover is that you know from the start exactly how much cover you will have at all times and how much it will cost. The monthly cost and the cover will remain the same unless you choose to have an increasing option (where the cover increases yearly).

If you have a Mortgage you should read on...

I had a text from an old friend recently asking if I would like to play some football with him. I was delighted as I have been looking to get into a local 5-a-Side group recently. The day after the game, while nursing sore limbs, I got a call from my friend. He said that he had long thought of reviewing the life assurance policy that he took out when he setup his mortgage and it only occurred to him after playing football with me that I was a financial adviser who could possibly save him some money.

He emailed me his basic details – Date of birth, smoker status, total cover and remaining term on the plan. He was paying €49.49 per month and very long story short when I quoted him a current price it was coming in at €17.07 per month. There were numerous reasons why the cost decreased, but he was extremely surprised by the significant drop in cost.

There are other reasons where the topic of Mortgage Protection can come up in conversations. I met up with a person in their late forties, to discuss their Pension needs. During the meeting they asked me “are you obliged to have Mortgage Protection cover with a mortgage”. There are certain exceptions, but in general your mortgage provider would expect you to have a policy to cover your mortgage.

This client didn’t have any mortgage protection cover and stated that in the event of her husband’s death she would get “half of his pension”. I asked would this, coupled with her current salary be enough to service her current mortgage. It certainly made her think and she asked me to send her out a quote for mortgage protection cover. Much to her surprise, it was relatively cheap at €28 per month for both herself and her husband.

I suppose what I am trying to say is that its prudent to regularly  consider either taking out new or reviewing your life assurance needs.

Worried about applying for Life Assurance because of your health?

I was speaking with a neighbour recently about Life cover and they were concerned about whether or not they would get Life cover. There were specific health concerns in their family that convinced them that they would not be able to get life assurance. I thought it might give some people peace of mind to know a few things about the medical side of a Life Assurance application.

Genetic test

Under the provisions of Part 4 of the Disability Act 2005, an insurer cannot request, take into account or process the results of genetic tests.  This applies to both positive and negative tests. The recent public discussions about the BRCA gene would probably be the most recent example of a gene that would be covered under this act.

However this exception does not change your legal obligation to provide the insurance company with full details of any symptoms experienced, non-genetic laboratory tests or investigations, treatment, and family history when answering the questions on the application form.

Other Concerns

I have spoken to people who are reluctant to send in an application because they want to improve their current health by losing more weight or giving up smoking. This is not a very prudent strategy because of the potential implications to their family if they were to pass away before reaching their healthy goal.

The important thing to remember is that until you put in an application you will never be fully sure if your current health situation will make any difference. There is a lot of incorrect assumptions about Life assurance medical underwriting that prevent people from trying to either improve on their existing cover or taking out a new plan.

There are specialised Life companies who offer Life Assurance to people who are medically higher risk but have been declined by mainstream Life companies in Ireland. I would encourage people to not let their current health situation put them applying for the Life assurance they want.

Some Life Assurance Queries

If you are in doubt as to whether or not you should review/change your life cover, you should be aware that in practically all cases, you get no benefit from remaining in your existing cover for the entire term. Hopefully the next few questions will help clarify some of the regular queries I have been receiving.

Question: When I took out my Mortgage, the Mortgage Lender insisted that I take out something called a Mortgage Protection policy, what exactly is this?

 A Mortgage Protection Policy is a Life Assurance policy. This is the cheapest Form of Life Assurance available and starts from as little as €10 per month. The cover on this kind of policy decreases over time as the policy is designed simply to pay off the balance of your Mortgage if you should pass away at any time.

Question: Other than for a mortgage, why would I want any Life Assurance?

Life Assurance should be thought of like Car Insurance in that you are not taking the cover out so that you get a financial gain. You are taking out both types of cover to protect yourself (or your family) in the event that you need to make a claim on these policies. Ideally, you will never need to make a claim on either, unless something happens that requires you to do so.

Question: Is it easy to change my Life Assurance?

Yes, it is very easy and once your medical situation hasn’t changed since you originally took out your cover, you may make significant savings for the exact same cover. Indeed you may even be able to get added benefits on your Life assurance while also saving money at the same time.