Want the best cover but don’t know where to start?
Income protection is not a “one size fits all” type of product and finding the best product is actually a matter of finding a product that meets your needs and cover requirements. This guide should give you an idea of what to look out for when comparing policies so you can get adequate protection that won’t send you broke.
How to find the best income protection insurance
We broke down finding the best income protection insurance policy in a detailed walkthrough.
- Benefit periods. Work out how long a policy replaces your income for vs how long you need.
- Waiting periods. Find out how long you'll wait before cover kicks in vs how long you can wait.
- Max cover. Compare the maximum amount of cover you can apply for vs what you actually need.
- Cover type. Decide between "agreed value" and "indemnity value" cover.
- Cost factors. Understand what affects the cost of your policy.
- Premium type. Choose a premium type that suits you.
- Need some help with the above steps? Speak to an adviser below. They can help you understand your needs and simplify the process for you.
Compare income protection from finder.com.au's panel of brands
Best income protection policy of 2017 as voted by Money Magazine
Money Magazine rated the top income protection policies in its 2017 edition of Best of the Best – a publication that reviews various financial products. Key features considered during the rating process were policy benefits and payment rules. Having the policy available for both blue and white collar occupations was also a key criteria.
Best income protection
|Product name||Maximum sum insured (75% of salary)||Benefit period options||Waiting period options|
|AIA Income Protection Priority Protection Plus Optional||$60,000||4||6|
|TAL Accelerated Protection - Income Protection Insurance Premier||$40,000||5||7|
|Asteron Life Income Protection Plus||$60,000||4||6|
We've broken down finding the best policy into three methods:
Researching insurance can be overwhelming at first. After all, who wants to look at a 100+ page policy document? This section takes you step by step through an income protection policy document to help you quickly find out whether the cover makes sense. For this example, we decided to look at a product disclosure statement (or PDS) from a popular Australian brand: Virgin Income Protection Insurance.
Find out how long your income will be replaced for (benefit period)
It's important to be aware of how long your benefit will last. This is often called a "benefit period".
Virgin phrases it as "How long will my benefit be paid for" in its PDS. This PDS included a high level summary of its key features on one page.
Individual policies will vary; as shown in the example above, Virgin offers:
- Quick & Easy Policy with 6, 12 or 24 month benefit periods
- Tailored Policy with the same but up to a 5-year benefit period as well
The longer the payout period, the higher the monthly premiums will be. Note: some policies will only offer coverage up to the age of 60, 65 or 70.
Work out how long a payment takes to kick in (waiting period)
A waiting period is the time between stopping work and receiving your first benefit. The length of this period will vary depending on the policy and can range anywhere from 14 to 720 days.
Virgin goes up to 90 days in its policy.
Here's the key difference between short and long waiting periods:
- A shorter waiting period will incur higher premiums but it means you won’t have to rely on savings or sick leave.
- A longer waiting period means lower premiums but this increases the likelihood of you having to dig into your personal savings to cover living expenses. It’s important to decide how long you can manage your household without an income before choosing the waiting terms.
Find out the maximum cover you're eligible for
Thankfully, it’s easy to estimate a coverage number when you apply for income protection insurance. Since payout is up to 75% of your income, use this calculation to find the number.
Income protection amount per month = (current annual income) x (.75) / 12
So, for an annual income of $75,000, the maximum monthly benefit would be $4,687.5. The PDS might also state a max income benefit per month too, so it's a good idea to check there if you have a high income.
Virgin has up to $10,000 available per month.
Choose between agreed and indemnity value
There are two ways income protection can cover your income: agreed and indemnity value.
- In an agreed value structure, the payout is based on your income at the time you apply. Agreed value will allow you to always know the payout amount; however, the premiums are higher. Agreed value is a good choice for self-employed or small business owners.
- Indemnity value has a payout based on your income at the time of the claim. Indemnity has lower premiums because it can fluctuate with income. This structure works best for those who may receive benefits from other sources if they become sick or injured, or those who cannot afford the higher premiums of an agreed-value plan.
We couldn't find any mention of agreed or indemnity value income protection in the Virgin PDS so we gave them a call. You can select your income (agreed value) without proof of income for any amount under $3,000 per month.
Understand what contributes to your premium
The premium you pay for income protection insurance can change based on a few factors.
Virgin lists premiums in its general information section as Virgin combines its income protection and life insurance policies together.
Look for words like "cost", "affects" and "premium" to find the right PDS section when researching. Alternatively give the insurer or your adviser a call.
Choose a premium type that suits your preferences
There are two different types of premiums which can make for higher or lower long-term costs: stepped and level.
- A stepped premium starts out cheaper but increases over time as you grow older.
- Level premiums start out higher than stepped premiums but will remain consistent throughout the lifetime of the policy.
- Hybrid premiums are a combination of both stepped and level premiums.
Virgin doesn't explicitly state these terms; however, it does mention that your premium will generally go up each year. This implies a stepped premium but as always, check with the insurer.
Should I just go for the cheapest income protection policy?
It’s a common pitfall to decide to buy the cheapest policy in order to save money. While understandable, this should be avoided because it works against the reason you purchased a plan to begin with since it may not be enough to cover you when you need it. Saving money in the short term on a cheap plan may not make up for the income you lose if you are injured or ill and cannot work.
Recap: Questions to ask yourself before you buy
- Agreed value or indemnity value? Agreed value policies pay a benefit based on your income at the start of the policy, which means the level of cover you receive is not affected by any fluctuations in your income. An indemnity value policy is cheaper and requires your income to be verified at the time you make a claim, so it may be affected if you have an unsteady income. This can be a more suitable option for self-employed workers.
- How long will benefits last? The benefit period of your policy can be for up to two or five years, or you may continue to receive a benefit until you reach the age of 60 or 65. The more you pay for your policy, the longer the benefit period will generally be.
- How much cover do you need? You will need to calculate how much income you will need to continue to meet all of your ongoing expenses and provide for your loved ones while you are unable to work.
- How much does it cost? Your premiums are affected by your age, gender, health status and pre-existing medical conditions, smoking status, occupation, waiting period and the policy you choose. Premiums will vary between insurers so it is worth comparing a number of different options.
- Stepped or level premiums? Stepped premiums start out cheaper but rise as you age, while level premiums are determined based on your age when you take out a policy but then remain the same. Level premiums will be more expensive to begin with, but if you’re taking out cover for a long period they will eventually be a cheaper option.
- What is the waiting period? This is the amount of time you will have to wait after suffering your illness or injury before you can receive a benefit. These commonly range from about two weeks to one month.
- What about if I become unemployed or am retrenched? Unemployment and retrenchment are not included in cover, but some policies will suspend your premiums while you are out of work.
- Are the benefits indexed for inflation? Make sure that your policy is automatically indexed in line with the rate of inflation. This will ensure that you maintain an adequate level of cover over the life of the policy.
- Can the policy be cancelled? Look for a policy that is non-cancellable, which means that it will be renewed by the insurer every year regardless of changes to your health or whether or not you make a claim.
2. Understanding good and bad income protection policies
What does a quality income protection policy include?
When you’re choosing an income protection policy, the following features will give you an indication of the overall quality of each plan:
- Coverage for a wide range of illnesses or accidents. This can be found in the product disclosure statement (PDS) of your insurance policy.
- Clear definitions of disabilities. Most policies will pay when a disability prevents you from working so make sure what is considered a disability is made clear from the start, eg own vs any occupation definitions.
- Premium waivers. Ability to waive premiums while receiving benefits.
- A shorter waiting period. A 30-day waiting period to receive benefits is a good number to look for as a balance between quality and cost.
- Choice of benefit period. Ability to choose how long you want to receive the benefit with clarity on how much it costs.
- Additional benefit payments. These include in-home care, accommodation or travel cost and reimbursement for family care.
- Occupation-specific benefits. One such feature is needlestick protection which adds cover in situations where HIV or hepatitis is contracted while carrying out nursing or doctoral duties. Other occupation-specific plans can offer special coverage for work-related injuries in construction or labour.
What does a bad income protection policy include?
Just as important as looking for markers of a high-quality policy, it is vital to be aware of common hallmarks of a less desirable policy.
- Exclusions on common accidents or illnesses. It doesn’t offer coverage for certain illnesses or types of accidents.
- It’s cancellable. It can be cancelled if your insurer reevaluates your health.
- A policy that is unaffordable in the future. Beware of the trap of stepped premiums that rise with your age as they could become unsustainable when you’re older.
- A longer waiting period than similar-priced policies. If the waiting period is long and you are paying a higher premium compared to similar policies, it’s worth reassessing.
- A short benefit period compared to similar-priced policies. If you are paid out for a shorter time when compared with similar-priced policies, take a second look.
- A policy that doesn’t notify you of an automatic indexation. While indexing helps you increase your sum with inflation, it can be a shock to the wallet if you unknowingly accept an automatic increase.
3. Getting extra value out of your policy
How do I receive tax benefits with an income protection policy?
The premiums you pay for income protection insurance may be tax deductible. If your policy is held outside of a super fund you can claim a deduction.
Income protection is tax deductible if the benefit is paid in regular instalments and replaces a regular income, and if the benefits are treated as income by the Australian Taxation Office.
How do I get a great policy but not pay too much?
Keep the following tips in mind when looking for a policy that offers both affordability and competitive features:
- Choose an appropriate waiting period. Ask yourself how long you would be able to manage your ongoing expenses if you were out of work. If possible, use this information to choose a longer waiting period and lower the price of cover.
- Choose a shorter benefit period. The longer your benefit period the more you will have to pay for cover, so if you can afford to do so, consider selecting a shorter benefit period.
- Choose optional extras wisely. Ask yourself whether it’s really worth your while adding optional benefits to your policy. While the flexibility to tailor a policy to your needs can be great in some cases, the extra cost may be more than is suitable for you.
- Consider an indemnity value policy. Indemnity value policies are usually cheaper than agreed value policies.
- Choose your premiums. If you’re taking out cover for an extended period of time, level premiums will usually be a cheaper option. On the other hand, stepped premiums can work out to be more affordable if you only want to have your policy in place for a few years.
- Stop smoking. Your smoking status has a huge impact on your insurance premiums, so give this nasty habit away today. Not only will it save you money but it could also save your life.
- Shop for discounts. Keep an eye out for multi-policy discounts, combined cover discounts, large sum insured discounts and savings for paying premiums annually rather than more frequently.
- Review your policy regularly. You may need to decrease your level of cover or you may find that there is another policy available on the market that offers better value for money.
- Compare policies. Don’t just select the first policy you come across; compare the options from several insurers to see how they stack up against the competition.
Ready to start comparing income protection?
Purchasing income protection is by no means a straightforward process and it’s easy to get bogged down in the different policy options, benefits, payment structures and add-ons. An insurance consultant can help you assess your situation to find cover to meet your needs while keeping within your financial means.
* The offers compared on this page are chosen from a range of products finder.com.au has access to track details from and is not representative of all the products available in the market. Products are displayed in no particular order or ranking. The use of terms "Best" and "Top" are not product ratings and are subject to our disclaimer. You should consider seeking independent financial advice and consider your personal financial circumstances when comparing products.