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Unable to work? Are you prepared? Half of Hong Kongers are not

A life without having to go to work; It sounds like a dream, as many of us do have aspirations of someday retiring from the daily grind and spending our golden years kicking back and/or following our true passions. It is somewhat ironic, then, that if we are unable to work before we are ready, our lives can be utterly turned upside down. If you find yourself unable to work for any reason, whether it be downsizing at your employer, an injury or illness that makes you unable to perform, or something else entirely, you need a contingency plan in place to make sure that you are still able to pay for all of your normal monthly costs.

For those of us in Hong Kong, it turns out that there’s a good chance we will not be able to take care of ourselves in the long term in the event that we are unable to work. Here, we examine this issue and discuss the solutions available to make sure that being out of work won’t set you back too far.

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Unable to work and unprepared

Let us start with these questions: Would you be prepared for it if you were unable to work for the next six months? Without receiving your monthly income, would you be able to support yourself and your family; paying for rent, food, utilities, phone, internet, transportation and your other usual expenses? Well, if you are like 50% of respondents to a recent Zurich Insurance (Hong Kong) survey, your answer would be: “No.”

That’s right. Half of the people in Hong Kong would not be able to cover the costs of such an extended period without being able to work. For those among us with significant savings and investments, taking six months off can certainly be doable, but for many others, even those who are not living paycheck to paycheck, six months worth of expenses is simply too large a sum to save. This is especially true for those living in a city like Hong Kong where rent prices alone will quickly be enough to break the bank for many.

The survey also revealed that Hong Kongers are less confident about their financial security than most of the other countries surveyed. While 38% of total respondents worldwide felt like they had less than a 10% chance of lost income due to disability or illness, only 25% of those surveyed in Hong Kong had this level of confidence. The study also revealed that this fear is warranted, as 54% of Hong Kong workers do experience some sort of income loss due to injury or illness during their lives, versus 44% in the other markets. Additionally, among those surveyed globally, 38% of people that saw some amount of income loss experienced it for a period of over six months.

What the experts say

So where did this six month figure come from? Is it simply an arbitrary amount of time pulled out of the air by the creators of the survey? Well, there are plenty of financial gurus out there, and some of them use the same amount of time as a measuring stick. For instance, the third step in the 7 baby steps to financial security created by personal finance talking head Dave Ramsey is to store “three to six months of expenses in savings”.

However, others feel like even this isn’t going far enough. For example, CNBC’s Suze Orman thinks people should plan to have quite a bit more flexibility to truly create peace of mind. She believes people should look to squirrel away eight to twelve months of expenses, as it’s possible that a person can become unemployed for even a full year, and likes to consider the possibility of other large expenses beyond just the usual living costs.

Health insurance

As most of us know, the first best line of defense against burdensome medical costs is to possess comprehensive health insurance. Even if it isn’t comprehensive, having protection for catastrophic illness and other inpatient coverage can be a real lifesaver. This type of insurance will address the most critical and life-threatening of illnesses, and can include coverage for ongoing treatment needed for proper rehabilitation to get you up, about and working again as soon as possible.

If you do end up with a long-term/chronic injury or illness that makes you unable to work, it’s important to note what your health insurance policy’s annual maximum benefit limit is. Beyond this amount, your policy will not provide any coverage, meaning that you can be left on the hook for any excess costs, which can put an unexpected dent in any savings you have set aside to cover your cost of living.

Top-up insurance

Many people are supplied with health insurance through their employers. If you work in Hong Kong, especially if you are an expat, you may have a plan that provides health insurance coverage for your entire family. However, many people find, upon closer inspection, that their existing company-sponsored health insurance plan does not provide a level of protection that they are comfortable with.

In such a situation, there are insurance policies, known as top-up insurance plans, that can add benefits in areas where an existing policy is insufficient. To find out more about exactly where top-up insurance policies can extend benefits on your group health insurance, check out Pacific Prime Hong Kong’s Top-up Insurance Guide, which has been newly updated for 2017-2018!

Personal accident protection and critical illness insurance

To be sure, many situations that would cause you to miss a significant amount of work may also come with an unexpected and expensive cost. For instance, if you are in a car accident, not only might you not be able to work for some time, but you may then also have a large repair bill to go along with it. In this case, another type of insurance coverage that can help you significantly is a personal accident plan.

This type of insurance will provide you with a sizable lump sum of money under circumstances that leave you disabled, as well as in cases of depth. This money can be spent however you or your family see fit. This means the benefits received can be applied to hospital bills or the cost of living expenses at your discretion.

Similarly, critical illness insurance can also provide a large lump sum payment to be used as you wish, but rather than benefits being paid out upon death or disability, critical illness insurance will dispense money to the policyholder in the event one of a particular set of serious illnesses develops. This list includes such ailments as various cancers, stroke, heart attack, kidney failure, blindness and many more.

If you believe that you not being able to work for an extended period would leave you in a tough spot financially, or even broke, you will no doubt want to have some or all of the protections mentioned above in place. To find out about the best Hong Kong health insurance plans available for your needs, contact the knowledgeable insurance experts at Pacific Prime Hong Kong today! Not only can they provide you with a comparison of plans available from all top insurers in the SAR, they will also give you a free price quote.

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