Health & Medicine

Monday, 20 October 2014 08:57

Financial planning for women: what should you prioritise?

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Insurance claims statistics from Altrisk show that breast cancer and heart disease are the leading causes of critical illness and death claims among its female clients, and yet on both these fronts, women remain significantly underinsured when it comes to securing their financial security during a health crisis.  

Ask yourself this question: Will you and your family be in a position to provide financially for additional expenses and the cost of lifestyle changes that may come with a disability or serious illness, or worse, the loss of an income provider?   Women shouldn’t be lulled into a false belief that serious illnesses such as cancer and heart disease only affect men and the elderly. Altrisk statistics show that women remain significantly underinsured, and yet submit more critical illness claims than men.  

Claims causes

  • Of the total claims by women, 23% are for critical illness, 30% are life claims and 22% are disability claims, often as a result of suffering a disabling critical illness.
  • Of all Altrisk’s 2013 claims by women, breast cancer accounts for 23% and cardiac conditions account for 25%.  Both these illnesses share equal prominence in female healthcare circles, and heart disease is no longer the ambit of middle-aged men.
  • The age band of women with the highest number of critical illness claims submitted is 31-50 years of age, the prime of your life and working career.  The age band with the highest number of disability claims is 41-50 years of age.
  • Of all the cancer claims by women, breast cancer dominates as the leading claims cause, where the highest number of claims is in the age band 41-50, followed by 51 to 60. 
  • Heart disease and strokes are increasingly vying for the leading cause of death and critical illness claims by women, with the largest percentage of women falling between the ages of 41 and 50. This closely maps heart disease statistics in men where the age group 41-50 also registers the highest percentage of claims for heart disease.
  • In terms of female sums assured, the average sum assured on life is R780 000, and on critical illness it is much lower at R320 000.  When one consider the real costs of medical treatment, rehabilitation, lost income and any necessary lifestyle changes, it soon becomes very apparent that women are still woefully under-insured when it comes to dealing with a serious health or life threatening crisis. 

The majority of the critical illness, life and disability claims are made by women between the ages of 41 and 55. This is considered the prime of your life and when you are most reliant on your income for financial security and likely to have significant financial liabilities. 

More women are surviving cancer – but suffering financially

Cancer claims, particularly for breast cancer, are happening at increasingly younger ages.  This could mean that women are heeding the call for early detection and diagnosis.  Altrisk has noted a distinct shift over the past five years, with an increase in early cancer claims, particularly for breast cancer.   There are more claims for stage 1 and 2 cancers, and a decline in claims for more advanced stage 3 and 4 cancers.

“The emphasis on pre-emptive screening and early diagnosis and treatment cannot be emphasised enough in the fight against breast cancer. Early detection and treatment of breast cancer are important factors in winning the battle and surviving with less extensive, invasive surgery – and with your finances intact,” says André Froneman, product specialist at Altrisk. 

This is why it’s essential that you have the right insurance cover in place to protect your financial security, should you contract a critical illness. And women also shouldn’t neglect this type of insurance while they are young, either. “The reality is that you need to have cover in place when you are younger. This is the most productive time of your life, when you are most reliant on your income to meet financial obligations, take care of your family and secure a comfortable future,” he says. 

What many women don’t take into account is that even with an early stage cancer diagnosis, treatment and recovery can be a long and even debilitating process. During this time you might not be able to work, and perhaps even suffer side effects of treatment.   “Besides having to cope with the emotional and psychological trauma of cancer, the side effects of treatment can have a dramatic impact on your normal day-to-day activities and your ability to work and earn an income,” explains André.

Today women are equal contributors to household income, if not breadwinners, and play a crucial role as the primary care giver in many households.  Yet a large proportion of women remain underinsured when it comes to managing a worst case scenario such as a cancer diagnosis.

“Make sure that you understand the financial consequences of what could happen if you were to contract a serious illness, and have a plan in place should this occur, because for most people insurance is the only way to manage the risk cost effectively,” he says.  “The emphasis on breast health, especially during October as Breast Health Awareness month is not without good reason.” 

While it’s worrying that women are now more likely to develop breast cancer than they were a decade ago, there is also good news. Early detection and diagnosis means that survival rates have gone up dramatically too. Almost 2 out of every 3 women with breast cancer now survive the disease beyond 20 years, compared to less than half in the 1990s. Research and early detection are at the heart of this progress.

“No one knows what the future holds and whether you could face a health crisis in future, so make sure that should the unthinkable happen, you have a financial plan in place that makes it possible for you to focus on your recovery, rather than on how to deal with the consequences of a loss of income during your illness.  The real challenge in surviving a disability or illness is being able to provide a future income for yourself and your family, and this is where a financial advisor can help you to develop a financial plan,” concludes André.


* Statistics based on Altrisk’s assessment of its critical illness, disability and life insurance claims, made by women for 2013.


Issued by:
Teresa Settas Communications - Teresa Settas
Tel: (011) 894 2767
Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

On behalf of:
Altrisk – Sarah Coetzee
Tel:(011) 547 7000
Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Published in Health and Medicine

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