Why are women charged more than men for income protection?

Financial literacy advocate Pascale Helyar-Moray shares 3 key tips women can take to make sure they don't lose out despite paying more for life cover.

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Pascale Heyler-Moray

We spoke to Pascale Helyar-Moray – an Ambassador for the Australian Gender Equality Council, and Founder and CEO of Super Rewards – to ask what steps women can take to make sure they don't lose out.

Important: Any information here is general and should not be taken as personal advice.

When it comes to life insurance, I've always thought it's better to have more and not need it, than to need more but not have it.

With the cost of living skyrocketing, this poses a problem for women, who let's not forget earn around $25,000 a year less on average than men.

You'd think due to the fact women live longer than men, they'd be less likely to claim on insurance and this would be reflected in lower premiums.

But things aren't that straightforward. I found this out when speaking to a life insurer recently. I learned that, at around the ages of 35 to 40, there's a shift in pricing against women. And, after digging into it more, it's basically because – wait for it – women take better care of their health compared to men.

A financial adviser Finder spoke to also confirmed that women pay more for income protection than men. Typically, women also pay more for trauma insurance. This inequality is compounded by the fact these life covers tend to cost more than death cover, which women are less likely to claim on as they tend to live for longer.

Women are punished for taking action on their health

If they feel that lump in the breast, they're more willing to go straight to the doctor about it and this necessitated treatment.

On the other hand, and we're of course talking in generalisations here, men tend to put off the problem about a strange lump or ailment.

But life insurers know that women are more likely to take action. Therefore, there's going to be a higher degree of medical treatment and a cost outlay required. And that's why women are charged more.

A lot of traditionally male jobs have an increased risk factor of dangerousness to those jobs as well. So, again, you'd reason that men would pay more to reflect that higher risk profile as well. Not so.

My 3 key tips for women

Tip 1. Act now on life insurance

It sounds obvious, but first thing's first, keep going to the doctor. It's a no-brainer as your health isn't something to leave to chance by doing nothing.

Ask yourself, what's the bit I can control here? Don't put off 'What if' scenario planning, even though it can be very confronting when it comes to illness, disability and death.

While it's counterintuitive, you'll want to consider life insurance when you're in tip-top shape.
This is absolutely a worthwhile investment of your time and helps provide a safety net – both financially, and mentally.

Go and get your life insurance and lock it in early to get better terms if you can. If you wait and get your cover at a later date, you might find the specific condition you've since had is excluded from your policy.

Tip 2. Shop around

Even if you don't want to sit down with a financial advisor, or you aren't necessarily comfortable with shopping around by looking at multiple policies, it's important to start somewhere.

You could reach out to an insurer and get advice from them on whether they think you are adequately insured. You could ask them what the cost would be for a certain amount of cover if you were to join them as a new customer.

Then, you could go back to your existing insurer and ask them if you can increase your cover while remaining on the same premium the other company was offering you.

I wouldn't assume your insurer has your best interests at heart. You're part of various cohorts and algorithms to them. So why not put them to the test?

Tip 3. Lean on your networks

Seek out second and third opinions – such as anyone who you can lean on from your personal or professional networks who has a history with life insurance – so that you can learn the fundamentals from them. They could help you to join the dots and ultimately have a better picture of what a good deal looks like.

Also, I'm a big fan of Facebook groups that help with budgeting and managing your household finances. Even with over 20 years of experience in finance, I still gain a lot of learning from these free groups.

Examples include Women with Cents and She's on the Money. Then there's the Barefoot Investor. Also, there's also a group called Thalia Stanley that I follow and it's dedicated to really helping educate women on the basics of finances.

These aren't necessarily content from a financial advisor's perspective. Instead, it's actual lived experience from other users, which is very powerful. Each has really engaged and educated members who invariably want others to do well. There's a whole lot of learning that can come off the back of that.

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