Q: I have been a loyal customer to the same health insurer for 10 years now, with no claims made. Is there any point in negotiating some type of "no-claims" discount before I renew in September?
A: Unfortunately not. All insurers have to comply with community rating which is a central part of the legislation governing how the healthcare market operates in this country, according to Dermot Goode, of TotalHealthCover.ie.
This is basically the opposite of what we see in the likes of the car insurance or life assurance market. Mr Goode said that essentially it means that everyone will be charged the same premium irrespective of their age, gender or health status (except for age loadings that may apply to new members over 34 on joining). It means that you will never be penalised financially for claiming, but this also means that there is no reward or "loyalty factor" for not claiming, he said. The best advice to all consumers is to shop around for the best-value cover to suit your needs and don't let loyalty get in the way, Mr Goode said.
Q: My daughter has just started driving. She has her full licence but is still a little bit nervous. She asked me a question the other day, which I didn't actually know the answer to. If she was in an accident, say a minor collision, what would she need to do for insurance purposes? Would she need to ring gardaí, take photographs etc?
A: That is a question that many experienced road users wouldn't know the answer to, according to the managing director of Insuremycars.ie, Jonathan Hehir. He said all incidents are different. But if it is just a minor accident with another driver, where neither party has suffered injuries, then the general guidance, for insurance purposes, would be to first take the details of the other driver and give them yours, Mr Hehir said. This refers to the name, contact number, insurer's name and contact details and policy number and vehicle make, model, colour and registration number. Mr Hehir said taking photographs of both vehicles, any damage done, and the positioning on the road can often prove very useful. This means it is advisable to do this. Any incident on the road, no matter how small, can be unnerving for those involved.
He said it important to remind your daughter that if something like this was to happen, to try not to panic. Once all the information has been exchanged and she is leaving the scene, she needs to be sufficiently calm to drive.
Q: I am a 20pc director in an architecture practice. Since Covid we have all agreed to a 30pc pay cut which we hope to revise at the end of the year. I am three years off retirement, and I am concerned as to how this reduction in salary will affect my occupational pension fund and my allowable contributions.
A: Market volatility may have affected the value of your pension. But bear in mind that the credit crisis showed us that making knee-jerk reactions to fluctuations in the investment markets can cost investors dearly, said head of business development at the Independent Trustee Company, Glenn Gaughran.
When it comes to funding for an occupational pension, the first thing to remember is that service accrues in any year in which salary is received from the employer. As you are relatively close to retirement it is important to ensure that you do not over-fund your scheme, leaving you with a problem at retirement.
You will have to keep in mind the rules for calculating salary at retirement, Mr Gaughran said. Final salary for a 20pc director is calculated based on the average of three or more years ending in the last 10, he said. For someone who has not seen significant increases or has had decreases in salary in the last few years, it is likely that they will be able to identify three earlier years that will suffice. For individuals who are not 20pc directors, the calculation of final remuneration is even wider. It can be based on the amount of pay for any one of the last five years or the rate of pay at retirement. You do not mention if the pay cut affects employer contributions in the year. You will need to check this. You may have an arrangement in place to make personal contributions from your salary, that you need to consider during this period. It would be sensible to talk to your financial adviser about doing a funding review on your pension, he added.