Time to review your income protection cover?

If you’ve owned an individual income protection or salary continuance policy in recent years, you may have seen your premiums increase as insurers struggled to cover their large losses on these products.i

Given the ongoing competition and generous features in some products, the Australian Prudential Regulation Authority (APRA) has decided it’s time for some new rules to ensure income protection cover remains sustainable and affordable for customers.

This will result in sweeping changes to these types of policies from 1 October 2021, so it’s essential to review your insurance protection cover before insurers start altering their product offerings.

What is income protection?

Income cover protects against the loss of your most valuable asset – your ability to work and generate an income. If illness or injury prevent you from working, income cover can step in and help to ensure your household needs continue to be supported while you recover.

What’s more, your premiums are generally tax-deductible, so they can potentially help reduce your tax bill.

Major changes to income protection

Reform of income protection policies started back on 1 April 2020, when insurers were no longer permitted to offer customers Agreed Value income protection policies. Agreed value income protection provided more certainty about the amount you would be paid if you claimed and was based on your best 12 months earnings over a three-year period.

Following this initial change, APRA is implementing further changes from 1 October 2021 that will make new income protection policies much less generous. The reforms mean insurers will be offering new policies that base insurance payments on your annual income at the time you make a claim (or the previous 12 months), not on an agreed earnings amount.ii

For people with a fluctuating income, insurance payments will be based on your average annual earnings over a period appropriate for your occupation and will reflect future earnings lost due to the disability.

To further reduce costs, new policies will no longer offer supplementary benefits like specified injury benefits.

Limits on income payments

Other changes include a requirement for the maximum income replacement payment for the first six months to be capped at 90 per cent of earnings, reducing to 70 per cent after six months.ii If your insured income amount excludes superannuation, the Superannuation Guarantee can be paid in addition to the 90 per cent cap.

One of the most significant changes is that the terms and conditions of an existing income protection policy will no longer be guaranteed until age 65. Policies will no longer be offered for longer than five years, so your policy and its terms will be reviewed every five years.

You won’t need to undergo medical review, but any changes to your occupation, financial circumstances or taking up a dangerous pastime will need to be updated in the policy. Even if your circumstances remain the same, you will still be required to review the policy.

If your policy has a long benefit period, you are also likely to face a tighter definition of disability, rather than the previous definition of simply being unable to perform your ‘normal job’. APRA is keen to ensure claimants who are able to return to some form of paid employment do so, rather than remaining at home and receiving a payment.

Impact on existing and new policies

So what does this mean for you?

If you currently have an income protection policy outside your super, you will not be immediately affected by these changes, but it would be wise to check your policy is still appropriate for your circumstances.

Given the extent of the changes to income protection cover, if you have let your insurance lapse or don’t currently have income protection, it could make sense to consider signing up before 1 October 2021 to take advantage of the more generous current arrangements.

Income protection is often overlooked because of a perception that it’s too costly or not essential, but like all insurance, the cost of not being insured can be far greater. This type of cover offers valuable benefits that should be a key component in your wealth creation – and preservation – strategy.

If you would like help reviewing or selecting appropriate income protection cover, get in touch with one of our Financial Advisors on 03 51 20 1400 or book a consultation via our website.

https://www.apra.gov.au/news-and-publications/apra-resumes-work-to-enhance-sustainability-of-individual-disability-income

ii https://www.apra.gov.au/final-individual-disability-income-insurance-sustainability-measures

Material contained in this publication is a summary only and is based on information believed to be reliable and received from sources within the market. It is not the intention of RGM Financial Planners Pty Ltd ABN 36 419 582 Australian Financial Services Licence Number 229471, RGM Accountants & Advisors Pty Ltd ABN 69 528 723 510 or RGM Finance Brokers Pty Ltd ABN 81 330 778 236 (RGM) that this publication be used as the primary source of readers’ information but as an adjunct to their own resources and training. No representation is given, warranty made or responsibility taken as to the accuracy, timeliness or completeness of any information or recommendation contained in this publication and RGM and its related bodies corporate will not be liable to the reader in contract or tort (including for negligence) or otherwise for any loss or damage arising as a result of the reader relying on any such information or recommendation (except in so far as any statutory liability cannot be excluded).

Liability limited by a scheme approved under Professional Standards Legislation.

Life cover: More essential than ever

Living through COVID-19 has brought many challenges and shifting priorities as we deal with the financial impacts of the pandemic, and that includes the issue of life insurance.

On the one hand, the pandemic has highlighted the importance of life cover. On the other, those who may have lost a job or lost income are questioning its necessity.

Many Australians continue to view life insurance as a discretionary item. This is in stark contrast to car or home insurance which are seen as necessities. It seems we are willing to insure our property but not the thing that matters most – our life and our ability to earn an income.

Conflicting priorities

survey by KPMG found that only 35 per cent of Australians thought life insurance was essential and just 30 per cent believed they needed income protection. But when it comes to car insurance, 79 per cent viewed cover as essential and yet, during COVID-19, car usage reduced as many were working from home and restricting their movements.

As the COVID-19 health crisis has reinforced our vulnerability in terms of health and the fragility of life, the need for life and income protection insurance has probably never been greater.

What would happen if you became too sick to return to work or if you passed away? Who would pay the mortgage, living costs, health insurance and utility bills for you or the family you left behind? For those with outstanding debt and dependants, life insurance will always be an important consideration.

It should also be remembered that the current health crisis does not rule out people getting sick with other illnesses, some linked to COVID-19 and some not. Mental health is one these health issues and is becoming increasingly prevalent.

Claims on the rise

In the June quarter, the life insurance industry reported a net after-tax loss of $179 million on its individual income protection products, driven largely by claims for mental health issues in the wake of COVID-19.i Mental health claims are expected to grow even further as it is thought most people take more than a year to report such issues.

With claims on the uptick, this has meant the insurance industry is either looking to increase premiums or already has. This, in turn, may discourage people from keeping their cover.

Indeed, the KPMG survey said that 38 per cent of policy holders were looking to cancel their income protection insurance in the next 12 months, and 25 per cent were planning to drop life cover.

On the plus side, many Australians have some level of life and income protection insurance in their super. However, if you were to lose your job, then paying premiums on your insurance in super would come out of your fund balance, reducing your retirement savings over time.

Also, your insurance might well cease when you lose your job unless you opt to take out a private policy. You generally have 60 days to take up this option.

Redundancy payments

If your income protection insurance is outside super, then be mindful that not all policies include redundancy claims. And those that do may have restrictions. For instance, there is usually a wait period of up to 28 days before any payments will be made.

If you are thinking of taking out a policy now to cover you in case of redundancy given the current economic environment, then you will probably have to go through a six-month no-claim period before you can benefit. During that six-month period, there must be no indication from your employer that redundancy may be on the cards.

Many insurance companies recognise the financial and personal difficulties many people currently face and some have offered to reduce or even suspend premiums without any loss of continuity to your policy.

One alternative may be to look at reducing the cover you have so that your premiums reduce. But it’s important to be mindful of your needs and ensure you have adequate cover.

The road ahead

The insurance industry, like many others, is being forced to look at a different way of doing business in a post-COVID-19 world, with simpler policies and flat premiums all being discussed.

In the meantime, making quick decisions on whether you still need insurance, or your current level of insurance, may prove a mistake. If you are thinking about altering your cover, get in touch with us first to discuss your insurance needs.

i https://www.fsc.org.au/news/income-protection

Material contained in this publication is a summary only and is based on information believed to be reliable and received from sources within the market. It is not the intention of RGM Financial Planners Pty Ltd ABN 36 419 582 Australian Financial Services Licence Number 229471, RGM Accountants & Advisors Pty Ltd ABN 69 528 723 510 or RGM Finance Brokers Pty Ltd ABN 81 330 778 236 (RGM) that this publication be used as the primary source of readers’ information but as an adjunct to their own resources and training. No representation is given, warranty made or responsibility taken as to the accuracy, timeliness or completeness of any information or recommendation contained in this publication and RGM and its related bodies corporate will not be liable to the reader in contract or tort (including for negligence) or otherwise for any loss or damage arising as a result of the reader relying on any such information or recommendation (except in so far as any statutory liability cannot be excluded).

Liability limited by a scheme approved under Professional Standards Legislation.






Managing investment risk in uncertain times

text: managing investment risk in uncertain times

This year has exposed investors to the end of a bull market and the start of a global recession, all caused by a totally unexpected global pandemic. The outlook for the global economy and investment markets remains uncertain until an effective vaccine is available.

While there is cause for optimism that one of the many vaccines will become available in the not-too-distant future, the road to financial recovery – for nations and many individuals – could be much longer.

Whether you are working towards major financial goals such as buying a home, planning to retire soon, or already retired and looking for reliable income, it’s never been more important to come to terms with uncertainty and manage investment risk.

So how can investors not only survive, but thrive, during this difficult period? Staying the course isn’t easy when you can’t see what lies ahead, but you need to strap yourself in if you want to achieve long-term financial success.

Stay the course

When markets fall sharply, as the sharemarket did earlier this year, it’s tempting to switch to cash investments. All too often, this can mean you lock in your losses at or near the bottom of the market and potentially miss out on the recovery that follows.

After hitting a record high in February, the ASX 200 fell almost 37% by mid-March as the economic impacts of COVID-19 began to sink in. Then against expectations, the market rebounded 35% over the next three months.i

Throughout that period, volatility was high with dips of a few percent one day followed by an equally sharp rise the next. But history has shown that it generally pays to ignore the noise.

There have been many studies about the impact of missing out on the best days for a market over a given period. Missing even a few of these days can have a big impact on your long-term returns.

Looking at the Australian market, a hypothetical $10,000 invested in the ASX 200 Accumulation Index (share prices plus dividends) on 30 October 2003 would have turned into $37,735 by 6 September 2020. Missing the 10 best days would have reduced returns by $15,375, while missing the 20 best days would have reduced returns by $22,930.ii

Manage investment risks

While it’s important to stay invested, that doesn’t mean you should forever sit on your hands and do nothing.

Booming markets can make investors complacent, so a market correction is often a good opportunity to stress test your investments to see if they are appropriate for risk tolerance and personal circumstances.

For example, if you’re in your super fund’s growth option but this year’s roller-coaster markets have kept you awake at night, then perhaps a more conservation option would be more appropriate.

Or if your portfolio has become unbalanced after all the market upheaval, with too much reliance on one asset class or market sector, then you might think about rebalancing your portfolio to plug any gaps.

Investors who are nearing retirement or recently retired may have a greater focus on preserving capital, to provide more certainty that their money won’t run out.

The importance of diversification

Even retirees need to balance their need for capital preservation with capital growth, which is another way of saying they still need to diversify their investments.

By diversifying across and within asset classes, you have the best chance of riding out a big fall in any one asset class. With interest rates close to zero and likely to stay low for some time, investments such as bonds and cash that traditionally provide capital protection with regular income will be hard-pressed to keep pace with inflation.

By including some growth assets such as shares and property in your portfolio, your savings will continue to grow over the long term even as you draw down income to cover your living expenses. Shares and property also provide income in the form of dividends and rent, which retirees can use to diversify their sources of income.

Whatever your age and stage of life, avoiding knee jerk reactions, managing risk and diversification can help you navigate these uncertain times. If you would like to discuss your investment strategy with a financial adviser, please get in touch on 03 5120 1400.

https://www.asx.com.au/prices/charting/index.html
ii https://www.fidelity.com.au/learning-hub/markets/timing-the-market/

Material contained in this publication is a summary only and is based on information believed to be reliable and received from sources within the market. It is not the intention of RGM Financial Planners Pty Ltd ABN 36 419 582 Australian Financial Services Licence Number 229471, RGM Accountants & Advisors Pty Ltd ABN 69 528 723 510 or RGM Finance Brokers Pty Ltd ABN 81 330 778 236 (RGM) that this publication be used as the primary source of readers’ information but as an adjunct to their own resources and training. No representation is given, warranty made or responsibility taken as to the accuracy, timeliness or completeness of any information or recommendation contained in this publication and RGM and its related bodies corporate will not be liable to the reader in contract or tort (including for negligence) or otherwise for any loss or damage arising as a result of the reader relying on any such information or recommendation (except in so far as any statutory liability cannot be excluded).

Liability limited by a scheme approved under Professional Standards Legislation.

Are your insurance needs covered?

The start of a new year is always a good time to check whether your insurance policies are still serving your needs. But this year there is even more reason to review your cover.

If your super balance is less than $6000 or you are under 25 and are a new fund member, life insurance in your superannuation will no longer be automatic come April.i

Letters have already been sent out to those affected by the change which is part of the “Putting Members First/Protect Your Super Package” legislation. If you don’t respond to the letter by advising your super fund that you want to maintain your cover, it will be cancelled.ii

Since last year, super accounts inactive for more than 16 months have been in a similar situation with automatic cancellation of life insurance if the member doesn’t opt in to continue their cover. There are a few exceptions, such as defined benefit funds, so contact your super fund if you’re unsure.

Of course, most Australians with super won’t be affected as their balances exceed $6,000 and they are aged over 25. Indeed, due to the existence of default life insurance offered through super, many more Australians have cover than in previous times.

Sometimes, however, this cover may be insufficient to cover your actual costs, should you need to make a claim.

Underinsurance still common

A 2017 survey by Rice Warner found the median death cover was only twice the median household income. Yet it’s estimated that people in their 30s with children would need replacement income equivalent to eight times their family income to continue their current lifestyle if one parent were to die.

Similarly, total and permanent disability (TPD) cover is generally only three times the median household income when four times is ideal. TPD pays you a benefit if you become seriously disabled and are unlikely to ever work again.

While life and TPD cover have grown thanks to super, only about 30 per cent of the working population has income protection insurance. Income protection pays you regular income for a specified period when you are unable to work due to temporary disability or illness.iii

Given the size of mortgages these days and the cost of raising a family, this low level of income protection cover is concerning.

You probably don’t think twice about insuring your car or your home, so why think twice about insuring your ability to earn an income should something unexpected happen?

Do regular check-ups

Insurance needs vary depending on your income, your age, your family situation and your working status.

Clearly if you have a young family and a mortgage, your financial commitments will be greater than if you have paid off your mortgage and your children have flown the nest.

That’s why it’s important to check your insurance when it comes up for renewal and/or when your personal circumstances change. For instance, if you have recently married, had a child or retired you may need to alter your level of protection.

Inside super or out?

For some, life insurance outside super may provide more tailored cover than insurance offered inside super, or you might decide to have a combination of the two.

Life insurance in super is often cheaper because super funds can negotiate group rates and your premiums are paid with pre-tax dollars. Generally, you will be covered without having to undergo a medical, but there are drawbacks.

Unlike insurance inside super, cover outside continues when you change jobs. And claims are likely to be faster as benefits are paid directly to the policy owner and not to the fund.

Also, outside super, you can insure “own” occupation rather than “any” occupation with a TPD policy. This means you will get a payout if you can’t continue working in a similar occupation to your current one. “Any” occupation is a much broader definition and can lead to a lower chance of making a successful claim.

Life insurance is a must for most people, but it will be of limited use if you don’t have adequate cover should you make a claim.

If you need help determining your current insurance needs, give us a call on 03 5120 1400 and speak to a financial adviser.

i https://www.apra.gov.au/putting-members%E2%80%99-interests-first-%E2%80%93-frequently-asked-questions

ii https://www.sunsuper.com.au/employer-news/legislation-update-oct-19

iii
https://www.ricewarner.com/life-insurance-adequacy/

Material contained in this publication is a summary only and is based on information believed to be reliable and received from sources within the market. It is not the intention of RGM Financial Planners Pty Ltd ABN 36 419 582 Australian Financial Services Licence Number 229471, RGM Accountants & Advisors Pty Ltd ABN 69 528 723 510 or RGM Finance Brokers Pty Ltd ABN 81 330 778 236 (RGM) that this publication be used as the primary source of readers’ information but as an adjunct to their own resources and training. No representation is given, warranty made or responsibility taken as to the accuracy, timeliness or completeness of any information or recommendation contained in this publication and RGM and its related bodies corporate will not be liable to the reader in contract or tort (including for negligence) or otherwise for any loss or damage arising as a result of the reader relying on any such information or recommendation (except in so far as any statutory liability cannot be excluded).

Liability limited by a scheme approved under Professional Standards Legislation.