When you are young, healthy and just starting your working life the last thing on your mind is life insurance.
In your 20s and 30s your financial focus is more likely to be on saving for a car, holidays, a home or the birth of a child. But failing to protect the lifestyle you are creating could have a devastating financial effect.
Like many Australians young and old, it's possible that you already have insurance cover in your superannuation fund without realising it. But that could be about to change.
Under new legislation proposed with this year's Budget, large numbers of super fund members are likely to lose their insurance cover. The legislation is still before the Senate but if the changes go ahead from July 1, 2019, those aged under 25 or with low super balances will be required to 'opt-in'.
When to consider insurance
The move to 'opt-in' insurance for young members has been generally welcomed, as some may have more insurance than they need at their age and stage of life. But there are concerns that a significant minority could be left underinsured.
No matter how fit and healthy you are, accidents happen – on our roads, while playing sport or on the job. Insurance may be a necessity if you work in a hazardous occupation such as construction. Major illness and chronic health problems can also strike in your 20s and 30s.
While Australians are marrying and establishing families later than previous generations, there are still plenty of people under 25 with a partner, and/or children, who would be financially disadvantaged if they were to die or be unable to work due to accident or illness.
Even though Millennials may not have dependents yet, or the financial commitments their parents have, spending on rent, car loans, credit cards and daily expenses all require a steady income.
So why the changes?
The Government's Protecting Your Super package is designed to protect members' savings from being eaten up by excess fees and insurance premiums.
Most super funds currently make automatic deductions from members' contributions to pay for life insurance. This is known as “opt-out", as the onus is on members to cancel the insurance if they don't want or need it.
Typically, there are three types of insurance offered to members:
Death Cover or Life Insurance – part of the benefit your beneficiaries receive when you die.
Total and Permanent Disability (TPD) – pays you a benefit if you become seriously disabled and are unlikely to ever work again.
Income Protection Insurance – pays you an income stream for a specified period if you can't work due to temporary disability or illness.
Under the new rules, funds will only offer insurance on an 'opt-in' basis for new members who are under 25 years old, members with balances below $6,000 or those who have an account that has been inactive for 13 months.
Good news and bad
Despite the good intentions of the new rules, the bad news is that insurance premiums are likely to increase for most members who retain cover. This is because under the present system younger, healthier members cross-subsidise insurance claims by older members.
According to Price Warner, premiums are likely to increase by about 11 per cent on average.i Premium rates will vary considerably from fund to fund, depending on the benefit design, demographics of the membership, and changes to terms and conditions to deal with switching cover on and off.
The good news is that there is time to consider your options. Funds are required to notify members with low balance or inactive accounts and outline what steps they can take if they have insurance and want to continue their cover.
To find out what insurance cover, if any, you may already have in super, contact your fund or speak to us. We can help you assess your insurance needs and whether you should consider opting-in or taking cover outside super.
i 'Federal Budget average premium increases', Rice Warner, 31 July 2018,