Why Inger calls NatWest’s Sajid a ‘guardian angel’: Cashier’s advice helped avert financial disaster when illness struck

How the Income Protection Insurance paid me £1,200 a month when I fell ill

Whenever Inger Wallis visits her bank, she always tells the cashier, Sajid Fanny, “You’re my guardian angel”—much to his embarrassment. She had been saying this ever since her brain aneurysm nearly killed her.

It was Sajid who, on one of her regular visits to the NatWest branch in High Holborn, central London, advised her to buy an income protection policy. He said he would pay her a regular income if a long-term illness meant she could not work.

The Aviva branded policy wasn’t cheap at £129 a month, but it proved invaluable. Inger, 49, says: ‘When Sajid sold me the policy in September 2008, one of my close friends was diagnosed with breast cancer and they had to have a mastectomy.

My Hero: Inger Wallis, who suffered from a brain aneurysm, with NatWest's Sajid Fani.  Her Aviva Income Protection Policy pays her £1,269 per month

My Hero: Inger Wallis, who suffered from a brain aneurysm, with NatWest’s Sajid Fani. Her Aviva Income Protection Policy pays her £1,269 per month

“It seemed logical to protect myself financially in the event of a similar serious illness, so I heeded Sajid’s advice.”

Inger, at the time director of retail at the Royal Academy of Art in London, could not have thought that less than a year after this policy would help replace a large part of her fee.

“I was sitting at home in Bloomsbury one day off watching TV,” Inger says. I remember yawning and suddenly feeling like someone had thrown a pot of boiling water on my head. I knew it was serious right away and managed to call 999.

Someone told me to open the front door. Although an ambulance arrived within five minutes, a paramedic on a bike got to me even faster and took care of me.

Within an hour, Enger had a CAT scan and shortly thereafter had surgery. It’s been touch and go — she even made goodbye phone calls to her daughters Rosie, 23, and Amber, 18, but she made it through.

But Inger is mentally impaired, which means she cannot return to her old role. However, the Royal Academy was supportive, creating for her a less demanding part-time job as an administrator overseeing the training of new recruits.

Its Income Protection Policy has also been a financial savior. It pays £1,269 per month, which supplements the Royal Academy’s £380 income. This meant that she and her husband, Simon, 46, superintendent at the National Gallery in London, were about £200 a month worse than they were before Enger’s disease.

“It took me a year after the illness to restore balance in my life,” she says. Slowly but surely I am dealing with my limitations. But I do know that if Sajid hadn’t sold me this insurance, I would have gone back to work full time and either got fired or had a nervous breakdown from not being able to cope.

How does income protection work?

Income protection, usually paid up to normal retirement age, is one of the three main forms of insurance in the event of critical illness or death. While it pays a monthly benefit, the other two types — critical illness coverage and life insurance — usually pay out in a lump sum.

Critical illness insurance pays in the event of a critical illness such as cancer, stroke or heart attack while life insurance pays upon the death of the policyholder. These two types are often sold together (see right box), usually with a mortgage.

According to the latest findings from Aviva’s Family Finances Report, most families are still underinsured, with 60 percent having no life insurance, 85 percent without critical illness coverage and 90 percent without income protection.

“While no one wants to think ‘what if’, the reality is that the unexpected can and does happen,” says Louise Cooley, Aviva’s Head of Protection.

By having some form of protection, people can have peace of mind knowing that they are protected from some financial blow that can affect a person. Although no amount of money can solve everything, particularly in the event of the loss of a loved one, knowing that money will be taken care of can give people much-needed headspace to focus on the things that matter most.

A NatWest spokesperson says: ‘Inger Wallis’ case shows that in difficult times or when the unexpected happens, protection insurance can prove invaluable. We are delighted that Inger’s experience was positive and that Sajid was able to help her through what must have been an anxious time.
“This is a shining example of our people doing the right thing for our customers and reinforces the importance of building good relationships.”

As for Sajid, he has just been promoted to manager in a branch in London.

Peace of mind is why Peter Roberts, 37, got income protection when he bought his first home with his partner, Jaime Mossard, 26, four years ago. The couple from Northampton bought the cover from a friend’s community LV= through the broker LifeSearch. Peter pays just under £26 a month for the £1,000 cover – much cheaper than Enger’s policy because of his age.

“When we took our mortgage out of Northern Rock, we called LifeSearch Life Insurance,” says Peter, director of product development for a commercial insurer. “When they turned around and said we should supplement any life cover with income protection, we thought it would be foolish not to keep up.” We now have peace of mind that if anything were to happen to us, it would initiate our coverage and give us a level of financial protection.

Although the income protection cover is the least common of all financial protection insurances, LifeSearch’s Matt Morris insists it’s the most important. “Income protection, for most people, should be the first financial protection policy they buy,” he says.

In light of the continued decline of the welfare state, it is imperative for consumers not only to provide for their dependents when they die, which most common life insurance does, but to support themselves and their families if they are too ill to earn a paycheck.
Sick pay and savings will likely only last a few months while the state now offers only a very basic safety net.

“For these reasons, it is more important than ever to enforce your income protection policy.” Currently the statutory sick pay is £81.60 per week and is payable for a maximum of 28 weeks.

Vulnerable: Anita Hazel, along with her son Max, has been put into financial jeopardy after the sudden death of her partner

Vulnerable: Anita Hazel, along with her son Max, has been put into financial jeopardy after the sudden death of her partner

I learned the hard way about proper living coverage

The life cover is cheap but has to be set up properly – as Anita Hazel found it cost last year when her partner of 14 years, Mark O’Brien, died of a pulmonary embolism.

“Mark had a cold,” says Anita, 33, a part-time personal assistant at an auto body shop. He suffered from cabin fever after three days of being sick, went to pick my mom up in the car and passed out at the wheel.

Somehow, I managed to steer the car into a parking lot, but by the time the ambulance arrived, Mark was already dead. It was a terrible shock. Mark was fit and healthy and lived for football. And he had a gabbling gift – he was a carpet salesman and he was brilliant at it.

After the ordeal of the funeral, Anita begins to put the family’s finances in order, relieved that she and Mark, now 34, have life insurance.

Anita believed that legal and public policy would pay off the Barclays’ mortgage on their flat in Basildon, Essex, giving her some financial space to breathe. But to her horror, she discovered that since she and Mark had never married and did not draw wills, the proceeds from the life insurance would not go to her but rather be placed in trust for the benefit of their nine-year-old son, Max.

“I was shocked,” says Anita. Mark always said we were going to sort out the will, get a pension we didn’t get together and then get married. But it was always next year, not this year.

Fortunately, Anita was saved from severe financial hardship when Mark’s employer agreed to pay her death-in-service benefits without the need for a will or marriage certificate, enabling her to clear the mortgage.

“I learned the hard way, but a lot of my friends have sorted out their will as a result of my experience and made sure any life insurance cover was set up properly,” she says.

Pensions specialist Alexander Forbes has produced a helpful guide, Coping with Bereavement. Copies are available from alexanderforbes.co.uk/bereavementguide. For details on an independent advisor who can ensure life insurance is set up correctly, visit the Unbiased website.

Affordable protection: Buy peace of mind from as low as £21 per month

Financial protection is not as expensive as you think. For example, take £100,000 critical illness and life cover bought for 20 years where the premiums are fixed. For a 30-year-old non-smoker to buy cover from Ageas, the monthly cost is £21.42 while for a woman of the same age comparable cover would cost £21.86.

The same cap for a 40-year-old non-smoking man would cost £41.01 while for a woman it would be £48.64.

The cost of income protection varies depending on your age and whether you smoke. It also depends on the occupation and how much time you’re willing to wait before the monthly payments start.

Dangerous jobs cost more to insure while premiums come down if you’re prepared to wait for your monthly benefits to kick in.

For example, a 30-year-old clerical worker who is willing to wait 13 weeks before benefits start and requires £15,000 a year of cover would pay £34.63 a month with Aviva while a man would pay £21.72 with Ageas.

In contrast, a 30-year-old delivery driver would pay £47.17 and a female driver £80.24, both with insurance company Unum. Benefits will begin automatically after 13 weeks, provided policyholders are no longer able to do their previous job.

All data is provided by Alan Lakey of Highclere Financial Services (0144 223 4800).

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