How to shield yourself from sudden financial shocks

Your finances may be motoring along quite smoothly at the moment, but how well would you cope with a sudden shock?

Almost a third of people have experienced an unexpected financial shock in the past five years. Picture: PA
Almost a third of people have experienced an unexpected financial shock in the past five years. Picture: PA
Almost a third of people have experienced an unexpected financial shock in the past five years. Picture: PA

No one likes to think the worst will happen. But, whether it’s due to a sudden job loss, an injury leaving you unable to work or the fallout from a relationship breakdown, new research suggests that suddenly finding yourself in a tricky financial situation may be more common than we like to think.

The Government-backed Money Advice Service (MAS) found that one third (32 per cent) of us have experienced a serious financial shock in the past five years - and many of those finding themselves in trouble did not have the right insurance in place to cushion the blow, with only 35 per cent saying they had cover.

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And when the worst happens, the knock-on effect can often hurt others close to you financially as well.

According to the study, two-thirds (67 per cent) of adults are not the only ones reliant on their income, with children topping the list of dependants, followed by spouses and parents.

Around £77 million-worth of insurance claims are paid out every day to help households and businesses cope with unexpected events, according to the Association of British Insurers (ABI).

The ABI says only one in four (24 per cent) UK households has life insurance, yet protection insurers pay out around £9 million every day in financial support to families to help them cope with illness, injury or death.

Insurers also pay out nearly £8.2 million daily in domestic claims to repair homes and replace contents. But despite an average combined buildings and contents policy costing just £24 a month, one in five UK households (24 per cent) does not have contents insurance.

While insurance can be a sensible way to protect your family’s financial future, building up a savings pot is also key.

StepChange Debt Charity estimates that 6.5 million Brits have been forced to rely on credit in the last 12 months, after their income unexpectedly took a turn for the worse. The charity would like to see stronger support for families to build up a “rainy day” fund, rather than being forced into debt if something should suddenly go wrong.

They estimate that if households had access to £1,000 in precautionary savings, half a million families could be prevented from falling into debt.

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Generally speaking, it’s a good idea to have enough money saved to be able to cover your essential outgoings for at least three months as an emergency fund, which hopefully should give you enough time to adjust to your new situation.

The poor returns on offer on savings accounts may have put many people off, but getting into the habit of putting something away each month can see pots quickly starting to pile up.

The relaxation of rules around ISAs, which are ring-fenced from the taxman, have also helped to make saving more attractive, as people can now put away more than they have done previously and save in a more flexible way, holding all of their ISA allowance in cash, all in stocks and shares, or a combination of the two.

The ISA allowance limit for the 2015/16 tax year is £15,240.

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