critical illness cover

Do you have a critical gap in your financial protection?

In November 2022, Jonnie Irwin, the presenter of A Place in the Sun, shocked many after announcing he was diagnosed with terminal cancer at the age of just 47.

The beloved presenter first suspected something was awry during the filming of the popular property programme in 2020 after he experienced blurry vision while driving. Following a visit to the doctor, he was told he had terminal cancer and was given “six months to live”.

Irwin kept the diagnosis private for two and a half years, but he recently opened up about his diagnosis and the things he wished he’d done differently. One admission was that he made a “mistake” not taking out critical illness cover before his diagnosis – something that would have provided valuable support to him and his young family now.

Unfortunately, many in the UK still don’t have critical illness cover or income protection to support themselves during times of unexpected hardship. Indeed, Cover reports that, in a 2022 survey of over 2,000 UK adults, only 7% had critical illness cover or income protection.

So, read on to find out the risks involved when you don’t take out adequate levels of protection to support yourself and your family, as reflected by Jonnie’s story.

Jonnie Irwin stated that critical illness cover was the “gap” in his protection

After his terminal diagnosis, Irwin was, understandably, focused on ensuring that his family would be adequately supported after he died. He knew he would be leaving his wife, Jessica, behind, as well as a three-year-old son, Rex, and two-year-old twins, Rafa and Cormac.

During an interview with BBC Morning Live, Irwin explained that he was concerned about his family’s financial wellbeing. He said: “I knew I had to look after my family – as soon as you’ve got family, you’ve got this massive responsibility”.

The host even sold properties he was renting out and looked closely at his savings to ensure his family would be financially secure after his death.

One of Jonnie’s major regrets is not arranging his own protection before his diagnosis, namely critical illness cover. In fact, he stated that failing to do so proved to be a significant source of stress, and has urged others not to make the same mistake.

Critical illness cover can support you financially when you’re diagnosed with a severe health condition

Critical illness cover is designed to give you peace of mind that you’ll be financially supported if you are diagnosed with a serious illness.
Usually, critical illness cover will pay you a tax-free lump sum if you’re diagnosed with conditions such as:

If you’re diagnosed with a severe illness, the last thing you need is to be worrying about your financial situation at a time when you should be focusing on your recovery.

As such, the lump sum provided by critical illness cover can be used to pay off your mortgage or debts, pay for private treatment, or even adapt your home.

Commenting on the “mistake” he made, Jonnie said: “You want to make sure they’re [his family] looked after, but what I didn’t realise is there’s a gap, and critical illness covers this gap.

“When you get a terminal diagnosis, it [life insurance] covers you for when you are gone, and probably for your last few months. But terminal diagnoses can go on for years, and your illness obviously affects your work – so if you’re unable to work and you’re waiting for this payout, who’s going to pay the rent or mortgage?”

He also wished to make the most of every day, though he felt pressured to continue working since he failed to take out critical illness cover.

He told the BBC: “Critical illness is a policy you take alongside that kicks in as soon as you’re ill. I didn’t take that, and that put a lot of pressure on me, having to work on days I didn’t really want to work.”

A package of protection can set your mind at ease

No one wants to think about the prospect of becoming seriously ill and saying goodbye to their loved ones. As Jonnie puts it: “We all put it off because it seems kind of macabre”.

Unfortunately, cancer and other serious illnesses aren’t uncommon. Research from Macmillan Cancer Support shows that, in 2019, roughly 391,000 people were diagnosed with cancer in the UK, which is roughly one every 90 seconds.

Having the proper protection in place is perhaps the best way to gain the peace of mind that you and your loved ones will be financially supported should the worst happen.

Of course, critical illness cover is just one part of the package of protection you should consider, as one complements the other. As such, it may also be worth thinking about:

  • Life insurance – designed to provide you with a lump sum of money after you die, and can reassure your family that they will be able to maintain their standard of living after you pass.
  • Income protection – designed to provide you with a regular source of income if you’re unable to work due to an accident or an illness.
  • Business protection – designed to protect your company against the risks of ill health or the death of an important employee, or even yourself.

Even if you have one form of protection, it may still be worth considering taking out other forms, too.

For instance, if you have both income protection and critical illness cover in place, and are diagnosed with a serious illness, the lump sum from your critical illness cover could support you over the long term and help pay off any important debts, such as your mortgage.

Meanwhile, the short-term monthly payments from income protection could help cover your day-to-day bills.

Along with urging us not to make the same mistake he did by failing to take out protection, Jonnie Irwin hopes his diagnosis will encourage others in a similar situation to make the most of their time.

He said: “I hope that by shaking that monkey off, I might inspire people who are living with life-limiting prospects to make the most of every day, to help them see that you can live a positive life, even though you are dying.

“One day, this is going to catch up with me, but I’m doing everything I can to hold that day off for as long as possible.”

Get in touch

Jonnie’s story shows that a serious illness can strike at any time, potentially leaving you and your family struggling financially should the worst happen. We can help you decide which forms of cover would best suit you and your current situation.

Please email us at advise-me@fosterdenovo.com or call 0330 332 7866 for more information.

Please note

Note that protection plans typically have no cash in value at any time and cover will cease at the end of the term. If premiums stop, then cover will lapse. Cover is subject to terms and conditions and may have exclusions. Definitions of illnesses vary from product provider and will be explained within the policy documentation.

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