Walking in insurance wonderland

Poor old Santa. He should be paid royalties given the number of advertisers using his image to sell their products this Christmas. Even insurance companies have been getting in on the act. A good handful of press releases landed on my desk last week using Father Christmas as a seasonal foil to sell everything from motor to travel insurance.

"An accident or breakdown on Christmas Eve could spell disaster for Santa," Ian Chippendale, Direct Line's chief executive, tells me. "We're sure he's an extremely safe driver but, like everybody else, he would need to insure his vehicle." Luckily for Santa, Direct Line has already worked out a package for him, costing pounds 258.30. As the insurer is rarely asked for a quote covering a reindeer sleigh, funnily enough, the figure is based on a high-performance people carrier, a Volkswagen Sharan 1.8 turbo, and includes business use.

Of course, Santa must not forget Rudolph and his chums. But sadly, Direct Line Pet Insurance only covers cats and dogs. He could insure nine deerhounds (one of the largest breed of dogs) at pounds 93.18 for a month. Then there's travel insurance. This works out at pounds 22.03 for a round-the-world trip for one night, which I can't imagine Direct Line gets asked for all that often. Thinking of every eventuality, the policy includes medical cover for any bumps and bruises Santa might pick up falling down a chimney.

Santa will also want to protect his Lapland home, its contents and the reindeer's stables. A year's cover would cost pounds 327.60, although if Santa already has his sleigh insured with Direct Line he'd qualify for a 10 per cent discount.

If we believe everything we read, it seems that Christmas is an accident waiting to happen. The Law Society calls it a "tinsel minefield" as more than 80,000 people will spend part of the festive period in an accident and emergency department after an injury caused at home. So if you have survived the festive period with nothing more than your wallet taking a battering, you can count yourself lucky.

Save, save, save

Regrets, I've had a few. It seems I'm not the only one either. The second biggest regret of the 20th century, according to a survey from Fidelity Investments, is that we have not saved enough money for retirement. More than half of all respondents wished "they could go back in time and change this if possible".

So does this mean that we will see more people saving for their retirement next century? Not exactly. The other finding is that nearly half of those under 35 plan to "spend, spend, spend" in the first half of the new century. While this sounds much more fun than saving for a far-off retirement, it is far harder to build up a sufficient fund if you leave it too long.

The last thing the young, free and single want to worry about is getting old and planning for a comfortable future. But everyone should make a New Year's resolution to look at their pension, or lack of it, and pay in more if necessary. After all, the biggest regret of the 20th century was not taking enough holidays. Those who retire with small pension pots may find they have all the time in the world to take holidays but can't afford to do so.

n m.bien@independent.co.uk