Cover for sex, drugs and the dog that bit the postman

It sounds like the silly season in the world of finance when I hear of sick-pay-style insurance to cover prostitutes if they cannot work, insurance for parents worried that their ecstasy-crazed teenagers will turn into vegetables, or even guides on how to protect your pooch.

If you're a prostitute or parent, it's the interestingly named Grip (Goodfellow Rebecca Ingrams Pearson: 0171-264 2012) insurance brokers in London, that's behind both "Professional Cover" and the drugs deal - "cover for the cost of a tablet".

Pet insurance is actually big business, with perhaps pounds 100m of premiums a year paid for hundreds of thousands of dogs, cats, parrots and even iguanas.

The idea is to cover pet owners against soaring vets' bills; theft - burglars have been known to take parrots as well as videos; and being sued if your dog bites the postman.

Owners might be looking at up to around pounds 100 a year. Petplan, now owned by Cornhill Insurance (0181-580 8228) has a free guide: Everything you need to know about insuring your pet.

TALKING silly, research by Colonial Finance says that Pisceans (the fishy ones) are the most likely to take out personal loans, while Cancerians - those stable homemaker-types - are least likely. Brave Leos are also up there in the debt stakes, as are foolish Virgos. Geminis like me apparently are pretty unlikely to want to get in debt, but - predictably - I'm only telling you half the story.

Students, of course, are unlikely to be saved from the horrors of debt whatever their star sign. A survey by Barclays Bank this week revealed that over half of all students said they were aware of the debt problem before they arrived at university and had saved (bless 'em) an average of pounds 1,000 each before the first term.

Some will remember Barclays as the bank students loved to hate in the 1980s for its South African connections. Now, apparently, it's much more popular - it claims to have the most student accounts of any bank. This, of course, has everything to do with its fun-loving image and nothing to do with deals like that for this year's students that includes pounds 50 cash and an interest-free overdraft of up to pounds 1,500.

Student banking deals are better this year than ever before, which is good news for the poor loan-laiden dears. But (large dollop of humbug) they raise questions about why the banks are so keen to chase students instead of us long-suffering, negative-equity-ridden-but-expecting-a-pay- rise-any-year executives.

WE WANT to keep our building societies because they are such nice, caring, sharing institutions, according to research for a building society. We would rather have better rates than windfalls and would certainly not sell out for a quick buck (not less than pounds 3,000 anyway) to a nasty predatory bank, says the Bradford & Bingley (proud owners of Stan Laurel's hat).

But even the society admits the research probably over-estimates how much we really value societies. "There is a guilt thing about admitting you're greedy," says the B&B's mouthpiece John Wriglesworth.

He reckons that if, rather than a fighting a takeover, a society's board of directors recommended a demutualisation that would pay a windfall of just pounds 200 a head, then members would accept. I agree. But given that most societies would be worth much more if they were simply closed down, the question is why more boards aren't even talking about such choices with their members. It has absolutely nothing to do with self-serving fattish cats among building society executives, of course.

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