Q. My house insurance is up for renewal at the end of May. I am a bit concerned what impact Covid-19 will have on my premium and whether it will go up. I hear different things from different people. Some say prices are going up, and others say they are dropping due to fewer claims being made. What's my best bet?
A. Use any spare time you have on your hands at the moment to shop around and do some comparisons. That's the advice of Deirdre McCarthy, of Insuremyhouse.ie. You could be looking at a difference of anywhere from €50 to €150 between the various insurance providers, she says.
People can often be slow to change home insurers, particularly now when everything around us seems so uncertain.
But there is a good chance that you can make big savings if you do, Ms McCarthy said.
Premiums are in flux at the moment given the impact of the pandemic.
On one hand people are at home more, so there is a higher risk of an incidence and claims being made.
The flipside of this, however, is that due to us being at home more, the incidence of theft and break-in has reduced, which is having a dampening effect on the cost of premiums.
Shopping around for a renewal is also a good time to find out if you are over-insured.
Over-insurance occurs when a customer insures their property to the market value of their home, rather than the cost to rebuild it if anything were to happen.
The insurance industry recently announced a raft of measures designed to help customers through the coronavirus difficulties which do contain provisions for home insurance cover.
Be sure to examine your own situation thoroughly with your broker, to ensure that you have as relevant a policy as you can for your own particular needs at this time, Ms McCarthy advises.
Q. I have a pension which I started around 20 years ago thinking I was being clever. But I'll admit I've never been entirely comfortable with the fact that the money is so "locked away" and recent events have made me even more nervous. What if my fund tanks? Or what if I lose it all just before my retirement?
A. Firstly, you were being clever 20 years ago, according to Mark Reilly, pensions proposition lead at Royal London. He says saving for a pension is one of the most financially prudent and tax efficient moves you will ever make.
He added that there is a raft of evidence that shows that pensions, like most investments, are cyclical. So values can fall as well as rise.
The advice is not to panic and not to make any rash decisions. If your fund were to "tank" as you suggest, then it will likely recover over time. History has taught us that, the pensions expert explained.
Losing it all just before retirement should be very unlikely, Mr Reilly said. This is because whoever you have entrusted with making investment decisions on your behalf should be knowledgeable and experienced enough to know the timelines involved. For instance, people may often take a little more risk in investments when they are younger, as their pension may have time to recover should it suffer losses along the way. However, as you get to within, say, five years of retirement, then you might want to consider funds that invest in low or very low-risk assets.
Mr Reilly recommends talking to your pension provider or contacting a financial broker. They should be able to put your mind at ease and help you plot an investment path that suits your attitude to risk.
Q. I have a DeCare Dental policy which is coming up for renewal shortly. Is it worthwhile keeping this type of cover in place?
A. These policies provide excellent overall cover for the likes of routine dental treatment and major treatments such as root canals and crowns, according to Dermot Goode, of TotalHealthCover.ie.
Even though many people have postponed routine dental work for now, many dentists are still dealing with emergency dental treatments which are covered by the plan.
Given that there is likely to be an increase in routine dental treatments once the restrictions are eased or lifted, and assuming that the cost is still affordable, Mr Goode recommends renewing this policy.
Most of these dental policies fully cover two dental check-ups per year. He recommends that these are scheduled to make full use of the cover and its benefits.
People are reluctant to change, particularly at the moment, but there is a good chance that you can make big savings if you change insurers
The advice is not to panic about your pension and not to make any rash decisions. If your fund were to 'tank' as you suggest, then it will likely recover over time.