Opinion & Analysis
Beware of the mundane
21 Jun 2023
How do you get people switched on to protection? It’s a perennial challenge that providers and advisers have thought long and hard about for years. Bringing up the topic of illness and injury is never easy; neither are great conversation starters that will spark any kind of excitement or enthusiasm.
To grab people’s attention, many often resort to scare tactics, plunging straight into discussing worst case scenarios and life-threatening conditions. Talking about cancer, strokes or heart disease may initially make people sit up and take notice, but is this tactic really the best way to make them think positively about protection and entice them to ask for more information?
No one likes to think they’ll be ill, let alone suffer a critical illness. Facing up to our own mortality is uncomfortable. It’s impossible for many to imagine it can happen to them, especially while they are of working age. While of course the unlucky few do get seriously ill, the risk of serious disease does increase with age, particularly post-retirement. For example, half of all cancers occur in people over the age of 70 and just over 70% of people who die each day from heart or circulatory disease are over the age of 75.
Rather than not being able to work for years due to a serious illness or injury, people are much more likely to be off for a shorter length of time because of something much more mundane. Our income protection claims statistics back this up. In 2022, the top three reasons for claims were accidents, musculoskeletal conditions, such as a bad back, and infections. Together, these accounted for well over half of all claims for the year.
These are ailments we can all imagine getting. They affect millions of people every day. For example, on average most people will break two bones in their body over the course of their lifetime and a whopping 80% of UK adults will experience back pain at some point. Accidents can happen to anyone and can impact mental as well as physical health. It is estimated the ‘ripple effect’ of road crashes impacts more than half a million people each year.
While all these may not require someone to take a huge amount of time off work, how many people can afford not to be earning for even a month or two, especially if they are the main breadwinner?
We know that a significant number of people have little or no savings and rely heavily on their regular monthly pay cheques. The cost-of-living crisis has made this even worse, putting millions on the brink. Suffering from a common, mundane condition could send them spiralling into serious financial difficulties very quickly, meaning their homes could be at risk.
If we are serious about raising the profile of income protection and want to help more people understand and embrace its benefits, perhaps it’s time we changed tack. Is it time to start recognising it is not just the big, scary diseases that people should be worried about but the everyday afflictions that can befall anyone. If we dialled down the rhetoric a notch or two and talked about scenarios that are much more relatable, would we get more success?
Removing the drama and talking about real-life scenarios that people can both relate to and trust, feels like a more authentic and honest approach. Being open about our claims, sharing claims rates and revealing what people claim for is all part of building this understanding and showing that income protection is as much about protecting people for everyday ailments as it is for the serious conditions. Demonstrating that small bumps in the road can send homeowners as much off course as big potholes might just be the answer to shifting perceptions around protection.
Alan Waddington, Distribution Director Cirencester Friendly