Mind the gap

mind the gap

It’s key to always assess your long-term insurance requirements, writes Neesa Moodley-Isaacs.

A recent survey by the life assurance industry revealed a startling gap of R24 trillion between the amount of life and disability cover that people have taken in South Africa vs. what they actually need. However, before you panic, you need to make a careful assessment of your long term insurance requirements.

Financial coach, Gregg Sneddon, says the bottom line is that you need to consider your life assurance requirements vs your financial budget. “I tell my clients that they need to consider to what extent they might be able to count on family or extended family for support in a time of crisis,” he says. Sneddon points out that insurance is a grudge purchase and most people want to spend as little as possible on it. “You want to insure against risks that you can’t afford to or don’t want to take so it is important to identify what those risks are and to also note that those risks will change over time,” he cautions. For example, if you are single with no dependants, then you only require disability insurance and no life insurance. However, later in life when you marry and have children that are dependent on you, your life assurance requirements will become significant.

The third insurance gap study was commissioned by industry body; the Association for Savings and Investment South Africa (ASISA) was carried out by True South Actuaries & Consultants and the UNISA Bureau of Market Research (BMR). According to the study, the national life assurance shortfall now stands at R9.3 trillion while the disability cover shortfall is R14.7 trillion. This translates to an average life cover shortfall of R700 000 and a disability cover shortfall of R1.1 million per average income earner.

Schalk Malan, executive director at BrightRock, lists the following reasons for the gap in life assurance cover:

  • People are simply unaware of their insurance needs. Instead of looking at a lump sum amount as a large sum of money, you need to look at how that figure will translate into a monthly income for your dependants and how long it will last, taking into account inflation.
  • Affordability concerns. You may be aware of the need for more insurance cover but simply unable to afford it.
  • Sustainability concerns. You might avoid taking out insurance entirely on the premise that you might not be able to afford it in the future.
  • Inefficient product design. Insurance products need to be designed so that you get more cover for lower premiums.

A cut in expenses required

trim costs

Peter Dempsey, the deputy chief executive of ASISA, says the majority of families will be forced to drastically cut their living expenses if an earner of the household dies or becomes disabled. He further points out that it may come as a shock to South Africans that the group most critically underinsured are those who earn more than R150 000 a year.

According to the study, the average insurance shortfall for this group means that if an earner dies, a household earning more than R150 000 a year would need to source an additional R10 000 a month or R20 000 a month if an earner is disabled. While earners in the lowest income bracket, with an average gross annual income of R9 000, are likely to have a disability cover shortfall, the government disability grant is effective at replacing lost income in this category.

“The only group likely to have sufficient life and disability assurance are high-income earners older than 50. This is because this group has generally benefitted from group life and disability cover through years of membership of an employer’s pension fund,” he says.

Sneddon says while he agrees that South Africans are underinsured, he feels that those who are insured, are more likely to be over-insured than not. “The downside is that, for example, if you are over insured for disability insurance, the extra premiums that you paid are forfeited at claims stage. Often I find that clients have cover both through their employer and independent cover that they have taken out, outside of the work environment,” he says.

Change on the way

status quo

Malan suggests a possible solution to increase the uptake of life assurance is a drastic change to the traditional life assurance model. For example, BrightRock offers term life cover as opposed to whole-of-life cover. This means that instead of buying a life assurance policy at the age of 25 that will provide you with cover for the rest of your life, you could buy a 20-year life assurance policy. That policy is also not a simple lump sum but has various allocations for your different financial needs. For example, you could buy a 20-year R1 million life policy at the age of 25, which includes a R400 000 allocation to cover your home loan in the event of your death. However, at the age of 45, your home loan will be paid off and you can then change the allocation within your policy for a different need or reduce your life cover and channel the savings towards a retirement annuity.

“As an example, the initial premium on a traditional whole-of-life cover of R1 million would be R211 a month. However, the initial premium on a 20-year cover of R1 million would be R153. That’s an initial saving of 39%,” Malan points out.

This article was first published in City Press on 8 December 2013. 

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