Sunday, June 18, 2017

Crucial Travel Insurance Advice and Tips

Recently, one of the Spratt Financial Services team was away on a two week vacation in the USA and Canada and though he couldn't quite believe his bad luck, his circumstances give a crucial insight into the necessity of travel insurance anytime you're abroad. Even moreso, it emphasises what to do and what not to do when something goes wrong while overseas.

All circumstances below are real and actually occurred during his travels.

1. Expenses Caused by Flight Delay.

The first incident came when he was flying from Los Angeles to Atlanta. In mid-air the flight was re-directed to Charlotte because inclement storms wouldn't allow the plane to land safely in Atlanta. He was grounded in Charlotte for 8 hours before the airline organised another flight to get to Atlanta. It arrived at 2:30am. Since his organised lift from the airport to where he was staying had fallen through over the delay, he was forced to book an unexpected night's accommodation at the closest airport hotel he could find in Atlanta.

What to do: Some insurers require confirmation of delay or cancellation from the airline, so make sure you get written confirmation from the airline that your flight has indeed be rescheduled or delayed. Also, keep your boarding pass and ask the hotel for a receipt confirming the cost of the stay and payment. This will ensure you have all necessary information and your claim will proceed smoothly.

Travel Insurance for Delayed/Cancelled Flights

2. Lost or Mishandled Baggage.

On a separate flight in the USA, our unfortunate traveller landed and after waiting 30 minutes for his baggage, realised it had not arrived. It turns out it had been put on the wrong flight and redirected to New York City instead. The airline couriered the bags to him 48 hours later to where he was staying in the US and luckily, the contents were undamaged and complete.

What to do: If your baggage is lost or damaged and you have to buy additional supplies/clothing/toiletries/necessities because of it, keep all purchase receipts. To be safe, don't be extravagant in your purchases and try to replace things that were in your baggage like for like. If your bags are lost entirely, get a written confirmation from the airline confirming the contents of your baggage and if applicable, what damage has been done.

What to do when your luggage is lost - Spratt Financial Services

3. Travel Interrupted Due to Sickness.

Lastly, six days before he was scheduled to return home to New Zealand, he was stricken with a severe stomach virus that caused three consecutive days of vomiting, nausea, weakness and intense stomach pain. He was unable to make the six hour flight from Nashville, Tennessee to Orlando, Florida and had to spend more days recovering in Nashville before heading back to LA and then back to Auckland from there instead. This involved a considerable expense or re-arranged flights, plus losing the value of the flights already booked that he was unable to make.

What to do: If you are severely ill while overseas and think that it may affect your ability to travel, it is crucial that you visit a medical professional and get a medical certificate that states that you are indeed sick and unable to travel. Without this, it is difficult or impossible to prove that you were indeed sick and the insurance may have reason to deny or reduce your claim. Also, keep all records of your original travel plans and all receipts and boarding passes of your new flights/alteration fees and proofs of purchase.

Travel Insurance: What to do if you get sick overseas.

Conclusion: Because he invested in travel insurance beforehand and because he was diligent in keeping all the necessary documents and proofs, our team member was spared a loss of over $1,000. In even worse case scenarios, that cost can be even higher, depending on the seriousness of illness or the costs incurred by unforeseen circumstances.

Travel Insurance is generally inexpensive and well worth the investment, but its vital to be aware that just buying travel insurance isn't all there is to it. It's imperative that you take the time to get the necessary documents, confirmations and receipts when something goes wrong. If in doubt, make sure you always get it in writing. Most reputable travel insurance providers are not looking to deny your claim, but they do require the necessary proof that your travel was indeed disrupted in the way you describe. Be careful, and make sure you read your policy wording before you travel.

If you are worried about your upcoming travel or want the responsibility of claims taken out of your hands, we can be your link to affordable and comprehensive travel insurance and offer you our claims management service completely free of charge. If you're interested or would like a quote, contact us anytime here.

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

The Financial Implications of NZ's Aging Population

National’s election policy of increasing the superannuation eligibility age has reignited talk about NZ’s aging population and its various implications. There are several reasons behind the aging population including ‘baby boomers’ getting closer to retirement, falling birth rates, and improving healthcare leading to people living longer. The chart below, projecting the number of New Zealanders who aren’t of working age, illustrates the extent of the issue. Currently, just over 1.6 million people are either over 65 or younger than 15. This is expected to almost double over the next 50 years to just shy of 3 million people (almost half the total population).

It’s not just us here in New Zealand who are going through this. Most developed nations are in the same boat - Japan being the worst, with 40% of their current population not of working age and their total population actually in decline! The implications of this are much wider than simply the Government’s ability to provide pensions to a growing number of people. It negatively impacts economic growth and overall productivity, with fewer people to turn the cogs.
So how do we solve this issue? There are a few options. One very complex solution involving changing people’s behaviour, is to increase the birth rate. Another is to speed up the adoption of robotics and automation to replace retirees. This will contribute to solving the issue, but requires a lot of investment and won’t necessarily be able to keep pace (50 years ago people were sure we’d have flying cars by now). But it does open opportunities for innovative companies and those catering to the needs of ageing consumers. Another option, and quite possibly the simplest of the lot… immigration. 
We specialise in assisting clients near or in retirement to manage their nest egg to best suit their future needs. You can email us anytime for our latest SPRATT FINANCIAL Term Deposit rates (0.1% Platform fee).

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Spratt Financial Services Newsletter (Autumn 2017)

Check out the new edition of the Spratt Financial Services Newsletter here.

This edition features:
  • The new Cancer Benefit recently introduced to the New Zealand marketplace and how it could be a better option for some than full medical cover.
  • How you could have an Insurance Claim waiting and possibly not know about it.
  • The top Medical Insurance claims for early 2017.
  • Are you entitled to free money from the Government?
  • When life changes: Should your insurance change too? A perspective from our professional insurance team.
Spratt Financial Services Newsletter Autumn 2017

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

New Cancer Treatment Benefit - Is It Right for You?

In response to escalating cancer treatment costs in New Zealand, as well as the inability of many people to afford both a full medical insurance and trauma policy, a new and specific cancer benefit option has been released. As much as 62% of a major insurer's trauma insurance claims were for various forms of cancer, and with the new Cancer Benefit, New Zealanders now have an effective and quality new option to give them the best treatments available.

62% of trauma insurance claims from a major insurer were for cancer.

The new Cancer Benefit can be added to a Trauma Insurance policy and covers you for $500,000 worth of surgical and non-surgical cancer treatment. Crucially, this new benefit covers both Pharmac and Non-Pharmac approved drugs, giving you more options for cancer treatment and covering new and more expensive treatments such as Immunotherapy. The benefit can also come with an optional add-on Specialist and Tests benefit that will cover additional specialist consultations and diagnostics procedures up to $5,000 per policy. If you have children, they can also be covered with their own cancer benefit for no additional cost until the age of 16, making this a great option for families as well.

The Cancer Benefit allows access to new and expensive cancer treatments like Immunotherapy.

The new Cancer Benefit may be right for you if:
    1. The costs of both a full Trauma Insurance and Medical Insurance policy are prohibitive.
    2. You wish to gain access to new and/or more expensive cancer treatments in the event of a diagnosis.
    3. You have children and wish them to have access to outlined insurance protection.
    4. You are looking for a cheaper or more specific option than a full medical insurance policy.
    5. You want additional, inexpensive cover in addition to a Trauma Insurance policy to give you more options and funds if diagnosed.
            Our team is available anytime if you are interested in the new Cancer Benefit or have any further questions about it. We also offer full claims management service to take the stress out of your hands at claim time. Contact us anytime at, use our contact form here or call us at 09 307 8200.

            Monday, February 27, 2017

            How to Avoid Your Insurance Claims Being Denied.

            Sometimes, people can get the image of insurance companies as money hungry corporate folk looking for any possible reason to deny all possible claims. Fortunately though, in the risk insurance market in New Zealand, that image doesn't hold true. The major reputable insurance providers that we deal with have a great record of paying out claims that are owed, provided they meet the specific conditions of the policy (which is why it's always a good idea to read the policy wording and know exactly what's covered).

            In general, there are only a few reasons why your insurance claim could get denied, and as long as you avoid them, you can strongly depend on your insurance paying out when you need it during your difficult times.

            1. Non-Disclosure: If you have a personal risk insurance policy and suffer injury or illness due to a condition you had prior to taking out your policy, and you failed to disclose this on your original applications, the insurance provider could reduce your claim or deny it entirely. We take considerable time with our clients to go through these forms and make sure every base is covered, but if you are going it alone, here are some things to keep in mind:

            • Declare everything, no matter how small or minute you may think it is. If the condition isn't deemed to be serious by the insurers, your policy won't be affected in any way by declaring these things.
            • Consult with your personal doctor or specialist first to remember any health issues you may have forgotten about.
            • It is never a good idea to lie about current health status (or not being a smoker) to save money on premiums. The insurance company will find out upon claims (they are generally thorough) and will reduce or deny your claim because of it.
            • You do not have to disclose conditions you develop after the policy is taken out and they will not affect the premiums you pay or any claims you take out. This is a good reason for you to consider taking out insurance when you are younger and healthier.
            Proper and full disclosure may be the most important thing when taking out a policy.

            2. Premiums Haven't Been Paid: An insurance policy is a contract between you and the insurer, which states that they will pay agreed upon amounts if its conditions are met. One of those conditions is the prompt and up to date payment of the agreed upon premium (the cost of the insurance policy). If the premiums haven't been paid up to date before the claim is formally requested, the insurance company may deny them or ask for payment before the claim is processed. Thus, its important not to get too far behind on your insurance payments as this is generally one of the only reasons claims get denied.

            3. Conditions Have Not Been Met: If the specific condition or occurrence you're trying to claim for is not specifically covered under your policy, the claim will be denied. Sometimes a specific medical condition for instance can range in severity, and if the severity of your condition doesn't meet that specified in the policy, it won't qualify for a claim. The good news is, all of these details will always be specifically and thoroughly outlined in your policy wordings, so reading it thoroughly before, during and after taking out your policy is always highly recommended by our team.

            In our more than two decades in the insurance industry we can assure you that insurance companies aren't looking to deny your claims. In return, their expectations of you are that you are honest, truthful and complete in your disclosures and maintain the agreed upon payments for the policy. If you have done so, you can rest assured that you will have very little to worry about when it comes time to make a claim.


            Wednesday, February 15, 2017

            NZ Market and Interest Rates Update and Analysis

            It's an age old question: What are interest rates going to do? The answer to this question influences decisions for investors and borrowers alike, mostly around the length of time to commit to in order to maximise income or minimise borrowing costs. While interest rates in the United States have started to move upwards, what is in store for New Zealand?

            New Zealand's Official Cash Rate (OCR) currently sits at an historic low as our Reserve Bank has struggled to get inflation up into its 1-3% target range. However, the low interest rates have helped the local economy pick up strongly. This has been aided by significant migration into New Zealand. Yet the increase in migration, whilst giving a boost to the economy, has also supplied additional workers, helping to limit wage increases. Additionally, the resilient New Zealand dollar is helping to keep import prices from rising too fast. The result is that the Reserve Bank will want to ensure that inflation is not only seen in action but also likely to persist before contemplating raising interest rates. For these reasons, while a turn in interest rates is in order, the OCR is unlikely to actually begin rising until later in 2017 at the earliest, with some economists even suggesting not until 2019. When the OCR finally does begin to rise, it will be good news for savers and the increasing number of New Zealanders enjoying their retirement years. In the meantime, at least New Zealand's rates remain well above those in most other developed countries around the world.

            Market Update

            • The NZ central bank left rates on hold at 1.75 percent and while it indicated higher interest rates were possible in the future it's not planning to move any time soon, saying monetary policy will remain accomodative for a "considerable period."
            • Investment funds have had quiet start to the year, seeming to still be on holiday with returns relatively flat during January. Funds' New Zealand share investments rose (and are up 20% over the past year), although the New Zealand Dollar was also up 5% which took the gloss off gains on overseas shares.
            • Despite the new US President providing an ongoing series of news fodder, generally economic confidence around the world is starting 2017 on a high note. This is an encouraging sign in the year ahead for company earnings, one of the key drivers of shareholder returns.

            Jonathan Parsons M.Mgt B.A(hons) Dip Bus (fin.plng)
            09 306 7259 - 027 201 3470

            Tuesday, February 7, 2017

            Smokers and Insurance: How much you could save by quitting.

            Statistics estimate that 15% of adult New Zealanders smoke, or a total amount of around 550,000 people. These smokers in New Zealand have it tough in so many ways. Not only are they mired in an unhealthy and destructive habit, every year this habit takes more and more out of them financially. Since 2010, because of new tax laws passed in parliament, the price of cigarettes and tobacco has risen dramatically.

            A pack of 20 cigarettes has risen from around $13 to between $22-27 in 2017 depending on the brand of choice. With 10% tax increases set in law at least until 2020, smokers can expect that they will soon be paying upwards of $30 per pack or $1.50 for each cigarette. A pack a day smoker will be out $200 per week, a cost likely higher than all their groceries for the week combined.

            In 2017, each of these set their owner back over $1 a piece.

            Unfortunately, that's not all a cigarette habit can cost. If you're a smoker and you have personal risk insurance in the form of life, trauma, TPD, income protection or health insurance, you're paying a lot more in premiums than non-smokers are. This is because as a smoker, you are more likely to develop serious health conditions and thus, you pose a much higher risk to the insurer. How much more will a smoker pay? In some cases it can be up to double the amount of a non smoker of the same age.

            The good news is, that if a smoker manages to quit, their premiums can be revised and changed down to a non smokers level if the smoker manages to maintain it for a significant period of time. For instance, if you quit smoking 12 months ago and are paying smoker premiums on your insurance, you will be eligible to apply for changes and have your costs significantly reduced. A pack a day smoker who manages to quit could easily save between $12,000-$15,000 a year through not having to pay for smokes and the savings on their insurance. That is enough for a significant vacation, a brand new car or many many shopping sprees. Even those who only smoke a pack or two a week could save around $5000 a year by cutting it out.

            With the cost of the habit now sure to increase further in the years to come, now could be the time to dial it back or endeavour to quit entirely. Your wallet would definitely thank you for it.