New Zealanders are 2.61 times more likely to suffer serious illness - putting a person off work for six months or more - than we are an accident, and to make matters worse it seems there’s now a whole swathe of cyber ailments like Facebook addiction to contend with.
Even lying on the bed and never leaving your bedroom while spending time on social media could be a risky business, with various researchers reporting ailments like Facebook depression, repetitive strain injury from keyboard and mouse usage and even internet addiction - all increasing our chances of being ill enough to suffer some loss of income.
Bad things only happen to other people...
Despite this and other more commonly recognised serious diseases like cancer, stroke and heart attack, most New Zealanders still think that bad things only happen to other people, and as a result we’re woefully under-prepared.
A Financial Services Council report5 in 2012 found that at least a quarter of Kiwis mistakenly believe that we are more likely to suffer an accident (and get support from ACC) than we are a serious illness.
It’s a mind-set that’s reflected in our attitudes to protecting our incomes.
AMP earlier this year surveyed more than 600 people between the ages of 18 - 39, and discovered that we’re pretty casual about the fact that we might not be able to support ourselves if we were suddenly unable to earn an income.
For example, in the case of choosing one or the other option, half of respondents would rather have flights and accommodation for a mystery break (55%) or $1,000 gift card from their favourite store (54%) instead of years’ worth of life and income protection insurance.
Is the benefit the best alternative?
In New Zealand, an accident victim might get about 80 per cent of his or her income paid by ACC, but people who suffer a serious illness will have to apply to WINZ for a Job Seeker’s benefit (previously known as the sickness benefit), and even then they may not qualify - the Job Seeker’s benefit is unlikely to be anywhere near 80 per cent of your salary.
The moral of the story is that we can fall ill at any time from any number of causes and, instead of relying on other people or the Government for our financial security, it is important to take steps to make sure we have adequate income protection or trauma cover to help make us self-reliant.