Simon Read: In need of protection? Don't jump in and fall for the wrong insurance cover
Look, I know you don't want to talk about this – I'm not all that comfortable discussing it myself – but if you have financial responsibilities then you really should think about protecting your family.
Why? Because you don't want to leave them with a money mess if a breadwinner ends up being unable to work or dies. Let's face it, if the latter happens and there are no contingency plans in place, then those left behind could end up with a financial headache, as well as heartache.
I'm not trying to scaremonger or persuade you to splash out on insurance you don't need or can't afford. All I know is that having plans in place to ensure that my family will be able to afford their current lifestyle if something happened to me gives me some comfort.
We hope that money spent on life insurance or other protection proves to be money wasted. But, you know, just in case... a few quid a month can offer some peace of mind.
Oddly enough it seems people are more likely to protect their pet than themselves. Research from NFU Mutual shows that while 37 per cent of dog and cat owners have insured their pets against accidents or illness, only 34 per cent have arranged insurance for themselves.
I understand if you put your pet's importance above yourself, but what about your family? That's what we buy protection for, to give loved ones a financial safety net.
Right. Hopefully you're still with me now we've got over the difficult bit, that of raising the issue. Onto the confusing bit, deciding what kind of protection is right. I faced the problem when I became a father 13 years ago. I wanted life cover, I just didn't know what type to get. There were – and still are – lots of different options. Confused? You bet I was.
But I'm not the only one. Research by protection specialists LifeSearch last month shows that there's still a huge amount of confusion out there, even among people who have decided to take out protection.
In fact nine out of 10 people who contacted the firm looking for cover ended up buying a different type of policy than the one they asked for.
That's because most people simply assume they should get life insurance which pays out a lump sum if they die. But there are other options which may be better, or cheaper.
Research by insurance giant Aviva suggests that one in 10 people could end up with the wrong type of protection. While only four out of 10 people read life-insurance documents properly to check the cover is correct, one in 10 doesn't even give them a cursory glance.
In short that means they could be paying out for something that is not really what they wanted. Of course, none of us looks forward to the chore of poring over some detailed, financial document. But you don't even need to do that yourself. There's plenty of advice around to help you choose the right kind of protection.
"Most people don't realise they can benefit from advice until they've received it," says Tom Baigrie of LifeSearch. "For instance, income protection is arguably the most important insurance because it replaces the one thing most need most, our incomes. Yet 10 times as many people buy life insurance, simply because it is cheaper."
Robert Morrison, chief underwriter for Aviva, says: "Unfortunately people don't always understand the different types of insurance cover.
"But it's fundamental that when people take out protection insurance – be it critical illness cover, income protection or life cover – that they understand what they are buying and that it's a policy that suits."
The company's research shows people are particularly confused about critical-illness cover. Four in 10 confuse it with income protection, incorrectly believing it will pay an income if you're too ill to work.
But you really don't need to worry about being confused over different plans. Instead the question to ask yourself is what do you want to ensure happens to your family if you die or can't work anymore. Do you want to ensure that all your debts are paid off? If so you want a policy that pays out a lump sum.
Or do you want to ensure your family doesn't face financial hardship if someone bad happens to you? In that case you'll probably want a policy that pays a regular income to replace the lost one. Once you know what you want, you simply need to ask an expert what's best.
"One of the most common questions advisers ask people is whether or not they want the cheapest option, or the best value-for-money solution," says Kevin Carr of Protection Review.
"Tips such as buying single-life plans and putting policies in trust can be a better move. However, most people don't know about these issues. An adviser can add value, without increasing the cost."
Mark Dampier: How to get an income now that savings are past the 'use by' date
Thousands of UK investors could lose out following collapse of Secured Energy Bonds
Bargain Hunter: Fly off for a winter break in France or Portugal for well under £100
Millions in line for compensation after being sold unnecessary credit card cover
Weekly Money: Round-up of the personal finance stories you may have missed 26-30 January
- 1 Three-year-old boy shoots pregnant mother and father in New Mexico
- 2 Stephen Fry explains what he would say if he was 'confronted by God'
- 3 Jewish community urged to boycott Cornwall village after residents vote for 'Hitlers Walk' sign to be reinstated
- 4 Gorillaz Phase 4: Cartoon supergroup is back as new artwork is unveiled
- 5 Benedict Cumberbatch's Alan Turing gay-rights campaign snubbed by Prince William and Kate Middleton
Stephen Fry explains what he would say if he was 'confronted by God'
The open loathing between Barack Obama and Benjamin Netanyahu just got worse
9 reasons Greece's experiment with the radical left is doomed to failure
President Putin is a dangerous psychopath - reason is not going to work with him
Have we reached 'peak food'? Shortages loom as global production rates slow
Britain's widening poverty gap should be causing outrage at the start of the election campaign
iJobs Money & Business
£40000 - £50000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...
£30000 - £35000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager - Marke...
£13000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This Pension Specialist was established ...
£23000 - £26000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: Market Research Executive...
Day In a Page
A minimnalist four-bedroom home designed to the highest spec, featuring glass walls and a kitchen space lit by a glass roof
Hibernate during winter and make your living during the summer at this busy guesthouse with panoramic sea views, in the village of Lynton
A four-bedroom penthouse next to the Tate with direct views of St Paul's from two floors of luxurious living space
A four-bedroom detached home surrounded by spacious gardens and woodland, close to New Pudsey
An 18th-century, three-bedroom home near Langstone Harbour built from ships beams with vaulted ceilings and wood burning stoves
A five-bedroom semi-detached home with a mix of period and modern features in a popular and convenient location
This five-bedroom red-brick beauty overlooks the village green and sits in just under two acres of land
A three-bedroom villa with self-contained flat, minutes from Lake Windermere
A deceptively spacious, beautifully presented Georgian home with 3000sq ft of living space and five reception rooms
A five-bedroom Victorian home with four receptions, superb gardens and paddock in Pembury
An eight-bedroom house on the south side of the The Green with cinema, wine cellars and summer house
This 17th century beauty is full of rustic cosiness, while the detached home office means you can also run a business
Four exclusive apartments in a Grade II-listed former medical school with 2,275 sq ft of living space and 18ft ceilings
A five-bedroom terraced house on the popular Peterborough Estate, ideally located for both Eel Brook Common and South Park
A state-of-the-art farm-building conversion on the former Cliveden Estate, with 11,420sq ft of internal space, cinema and wine cellar
A three-bedroom, 15th-century cottage with original features in the picturesque village of Sissinghurst
A six-bedroom terraced house with large south-facing roof terrace, cinema room and wine cellar
A new seven-bedroom home built in Queen Anne-style with swimming pool and parkland views in Mortimer
A listed, four-bedroom farmhouse in the rural hamlet of Rushall with detached barn, four acres of gardens and paddocks
A first-floor flat with two bedrooms, a spacious reception room and communal grounds in a leafy part of London
A three-bedroom flat with a spacious rootop terrace and balcony, accessed from a private gated courtyard
A Grade II-listed pile with six bedrooms, stables and 39 acres of grounds in Standlake
A two-bedroom flat with boutique hotel-style interiors, close to the foodie haunt of West End Lane
A two-bedroom flat in a beautiful old vicarage, with many original features, close to the city centre
A three-bedroom 16th-century home with an aga kitchen, private gardens and heated outdoor pool, in Hadleigh
A three-bedrom home in sought-after Queen's Gate Mews, with Italian marble-finished bathrooms
Surrounded by glorious countryside in the village of Udimore, sits this impressive four-kiln oast and barn conversion
A five-bedroom house in the picturesque village of Kettlewell, north Yorkshire
An 18th-century former coaching inn with original staircase, open fireplaces and beams throughout
A Grade II-listed Georgian town house with three bedrooms and a south-facing courtyard, near Arundel Castle
Feel on top of the world at this über chic penthouse on the 37th floor of one of Europe’s tallest blocks.
A Grade II-listed Victorian villa with six bedrooms and two further cottages, all with spectacular sea views
A grade II-listed, Georgian cottage with mature 50ft garden, perfect for summer entertaining
A magnificent Georgian pile with turrets, seven bedrooms, a heated pool and four acres of gardens
Fairoak Farm has five bedroom suites, gym, outdoor swimming pool and golf course
Chic two-bedroom river-fronted flat with a private lift that delivers you directly to your home
A spectacular seven-bedroom Tudor pile, once owned by Henry VIII, with 18 acres of land
A seven-bedroom Georgian property previously used as a picturesque wedding venue
A split-level flat in a church conversion with two en suite bedrooms and 1,200sq ft of living space
A three-bedroom bungalow situated behind an impressive stone wall, £645,000
Windsor Castle overlooks this three-bedroom Victorian cottage located on one of Windsor's smartest roads
Chapel House is a former vicarage with nine bedrooms in the beautiful Upper Wye Valley
A five-bedroom B&B and separate owner's accomodation with potential for conversion