Archive for May, 2008

Today is World Smokefree Day – 31 May

Posted by Steven



Why are we talking about this on our life insurance blog? 


Because smoking kills… 


… and on average you’ll pay 20% to 50% more for your life insurance policy if you’re a smoker. So if you are a smoker… please just think about it…


World Smokefree Day was first held by the World Health Organization (WHO) in 1988, and first observed nationally in New Zealand in 1998. World Smokefree Day is an opportunity for smokefree promoters and advocates to work collaboratively to reduce smoking.


Smoking facts

  • Tobacco is the only consumer product that kills people when used as the manufacturer intends.

  • Half of all continuing smokers will die from smoking – an average of 14 years early.

  • Tobacco smoking kills around 4,700 New Zealanders every year.

  • Globally, 1.1 billion people smoke. Each year tobacco causes some four million early deaths.

  • By the year 2030, tobacco is likely to be the world’s leading cause of death and disability, killing more than 10 million people annually and claiming more lives than HIV, tuberculosis, motor vehicle accidents, suicide and homicide combined.

  • Smoking causes deaths from lung cancer, Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease, heart disease and stroke.

  • Smoking causes one in four of all cancer deaths in New Zealand.


Second-hand smoke

  • Second-hand smoke is a mixture of smoke breathed out by the smoker (mainstream smoke) and smoke released from the lit cigarette (sidestream smoke).

  • It is the leading environmental cause of preventable death in New Zealand.

  • Around 350 New Zealanders are killed by other people’s tobacco smoke each year.

  • A lit cigarette is like a little toxic waste dump on fire. Second-hand smoke contains acetone (paint stripper), ammonia (toilet cleaner), cyanide (rat killer), DDT (insecticide) and carbon monoxide (car exhaust fumes).

  • Second-hand smoke has been shown to cause coronary heart disease, lung cancer, acute stroke, eye and nasal irritation and nasal and sinus cancer.

The above information has been sourced from Further information is available from the publication Tobacco Control Facts at a Glance [pdf] 


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No tax relief from the Budget?… may as well pay less for your life insurance!

Posted by Steven

Ok, now we know for sure there’s no meaningful tax relief from the new budget. 

Don’t feel alone; with the housing slump, economic slowdown, out-of-control petrol prices and other spiralling costs, everyone’s in the same boat.  Hurting big time. 

Have you thought to take another look at what you’re paying for your life insurance? Do you know that by switching to Pinnacle Life, you get 20% OFF what you currently pay? 

I’d go as far as saying “forget the budget”!!… over the next 5 to 10 years, Pinnacle Life can save you a lot more than Michael Cullen ever could. 

Watch this… 

You’re 45 years old and you’re paying $120 per month for your life insurance. 

Pinnacle Life will reduce that by 20% – that’s 20% saved every year. 

Ok, that’s $24 per month for your first year… but… 

…given that life insurance premiums increase each year as you age, and the increases get steeper as you age, the savings increase proportionally.  So 20% of your premiums over a 5 year period are likely to add up to over $2,000 saved. And over 10 years you’re likely to save close to $5,000… for exactly the same cover. 

This is a genuine opportunity that everyone should look closely at.


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Hello “Generation C”

Posted by Ed

I was taken aback at a reader’s comment on another blog pertaining to the distribution of life insurance in NZ…  She said;  

“In the end, the public will determine how it accesses [life insurance], but it IS clearly an advice process that they want – as evidenced by the number of “web-based” insurance sales outfits that have come …. and gone.” 

“Clearly advice based”????     “… come and gone”??? 

Gimme a break! Too much for me to ignore, this was my response; 

I’m not sure where you’ve sourced your information regarding how people want to access life insurance products (name withheld), but I need to point out there is an entire generation of young adults in their late twenty’s and thirty’s that are very happy to get online and manage their own affairs. And in the next 10 years we’ll see Gen Y come into the life insurance market and these people have never known life without mobile phones, i-Tunes, Google, chat rooms, internet banking, online ticketing, YouTube, TradeMe… the list goes on. 

For this generation, (sometimes referred to as Generation C) web-based life insurance will be a perfectly natural purchase. The only reason some consumers need advice is because insurance companies have overcomplicated their products and because their old-fashioned distribution methods appeal to older audiences. You underestimate the new, younger, smart, internet-savvy consumer and you overestimate the need for advice at your peril. 

There are several new on-line life insurance websites, some run by brokers and one by a life insurer that are busy gaining momentum and are well placed to ride the new consumer wave. I absolutely agree with your last point though… “In the end, the public will determine how it accesses these products”.

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Does high cholesterol automatically stop you getting life insurance?

Posted by Ed


“I have a friend that couldn’t get life insurance because of their raised cholesterol. Is it usual for life insurers to not offer a policy to people with raised cholesterol?” (name withheld) 


The short answer is, “yes” and “no”.  

If you didn’t find that useful, read on! 

When you apply for life insurance, your application is assessed on its merits.  No two applications are the same. It also comes down to the individual (underwriter) that assesses your application – so there is a human element in the assessment as well. 

Even if two individuals have the same cholesterol reading, there are a raft of other factors that influence the decision. For example, one individual could be an overweight smoker with a family history of heart disease and the other could be of normal weight (for their height) with no family history.  There’s more. One individual with high cholesterol may not even know their last cholesterol reading, or when it was taken – whilst the other may actively manage their cholesterol through diet and exercise, whilst regularly visiting their doctor for cholesterol checkups.  Big difference wouldn’t you say. Clearly one of these individuals may well be offered life insurance whilst the other may have a loading applied to their premiums or they may be asked to apply again at a later date once there is more evidence that their cholesterol is being controlled.  

At the end of the day, insurance companies are merely trying to assess if you are at greater risk of dying earlier than the average of the population for a person of your gender and age. 

And that’s why it’s not quite as straight forward as a “yes” or “no”. 

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‘Instant life insurance’ one year old today

Posted by Ed

Today is the first-year anniversary for Pinnacle Life’s instant online life insurance, launched on 15 May 2007.  

As a world-first, Pinnacle Life broke new ground moving life insurance into the digital age, joining airplane tickets and CD’s. 

The launch was profiled in the NZ Herald 

There was interest from as far away as the UK.  In this article we particularly liked the quote… “If a small New Zealand life insurer can do it, why don’t UK insurers do it”.  

And we’ve had great customer feedback… These are the 7 things customers like most about Pinnacle Life; 

 ·         Great website!!!

 ·         That the products are easier to understand because policy documents are written in plain English

 ·         Being able to buy up to $800,000 online without a medical exam or tests

 ·         Being able to see a copy of your actual policy in ‘draft’ online before you commit yourself

 ·         Having no paper and no need for physical signatures – all done online from start to finish  

 ·         Getting your policy sent immediately by email – not posted to you   

 ·         Being able to buy life insurance online if you are a Kiwi living overseas in specified countries such as Australia, UK or USA.   

And then in January 2008, Pinnacle Life won an IMA international website award. 

Watch this space for new products that will be launched by Pinnacle Life in the next 3 months. 

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Neurotic men have shorter lives

Posted by Steven

Relaxation is good for your health.  

Ok, we know this. But now there’s research. Every time you worry, feel anxious or overreact (as you do) you could be shortening your life. Instead, like good wine, try mellowing with age and reacting to things with more patience. This could increase your life expectancy… good for your life and good for your life insurance  

A study of over 1,600 men, aged 43 to 91, was conducted to examine how “neurotic” men did over time. The researchers used a personality test and defined a “neurotic personality” as someone who worries too much, feels anxiety or depression and reacts to stress negatively. The researchers followed the men for 12 years. They compared men who were either highly neurotic or who increased in neuroticism over time to men who were mildly neurotic or decreased in neuroticism over time. At the end of the study only 50% of the men with high or increasing neuroticism were alive compared to 75-85% of the other group. Even a small increase in neuroticism over the course of the study led to a 40% increase in death compared to a stable person.    

Only problem is that the data doesn’t tell us ‘why’ this is so. There are a couple of theories though… the first being stress. Neurotic people are likely to have more stress hormones in their bodies, causing all sorts of problems and complications. The other is that the lack of a ‘positive outlook’ may impact your mortality.   

Whatever the case, if you feel your level of neurosis increasing as you age, consider learning some techniques for stress reduction and relaxation to increase your longevity. Start with breathing techniques, yoga or simple meditation.  

Source: Psychological Science 5 May 2008

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‘Birth insurance’ arrives in Australia – but to no applause…

Posted by Steven

Much debate has emerged surrounding a new life insurance style product for pregnant mothers recently launched in Australia and reported here in the Sydney Morning Herald.  We couldn’t find the policy details on the insurer’s website so we’ll just have to rely on what’s been reported…

The product is aimed at women aged 16 to 40 and pays out up to $50,000 if there are complications during pregnancy or if the child is born with defects such as Down syndrome or blindness. Whilst on the surface such a product sounds like a good idea, the insurer appears to have come under fire from all sides, with criticism leveled at the way the product has been designed, the pricing and even it’s very purpose. 

For example, the NSW Midwives Association has reportedly criticised the policy, saying the insurer is marketing fear to expectant mothers” and “Insurance companies are going to go where they can make a buck …” whilst the president of the Australian Medical Association said it was an “interesting approach to a vulnerable market”.  Ouch! 

There’s been several pot-shots at the product design as well.  For instance, the policy pays child benefits up until age two.  But many defects or inherited conditions are not diagnosed until after age two, such as autism and a raft of other motor or nervous conditions, resulting in policy holders that would miss out on a claim.  Furthermore, the policy is supposedly designed to deal with the fact that women are bearing children later – well into their 40’s.  Yet, the policy is unavailable to women over 40 – in other words, unavailable to the very women that need the policy most!!!  Big help. 

And then just to cap this off, it seems you can only buy this product if you first buy a life insurance policy from the same insurer. Nice touch! 

Finally, the Sydney Morning Herald article quoted a monthly premium of around $37 for a non-smoking professional woman aged 32.  The policy pays a maximum of $50,000 for conditions such as an ectopic pregnancy and as little as $10,000 for a still birth.  

But wait a minute, the same 32 year-old woman can buy $1,000,000 of life cover for the same $37 per month!!! So maybe there’s room for the insurer to shave a few pennies off the price??? If this was an investment product we’d be calling it ‘fully priced’.  

So to wrap this up…. good idea in principle, but jury’s out on the product that’s on offer. 

Interested in your thoughts. 


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Spare a thought for asthma suffers – today is World Asthma day

Posted by Ed

So why are we writing about asthma on our blog?

Because asthma kills between 100 and 200 New Zealanders every year and because New Zealand has one of the highest prevalence rates of asthma in the world.

Around 15% of adults and 20% of children aged 6-14 have asthma. This equates to 1 in 6 New Zealanders – almost 700,000 people in total. That’s like all the people living in Wellington and Christchurch!!

And that’s precisely why most (if not all) life insurance companies want to know if you’re an asthma sufferer before offering you a life insurance policy. If you are, they’ll generally follow a line of further questioning or tests to try and predict if you are likely to die from asthma.

But insurers would also admit (if you could corner them over a beer) that identifying high-risk asthma suffers is a challenge. One of the key indicators is supposedly the number of previous life-threatening asthma attacks you’ve had. Yet in a US study of around 900 patients in whom fatal or near-fatal asthma was reported, only 36% were admitted to hospital in the preceding 12 months and just 6% had ever been admitted to an intensive care unit.

It’s interesting that whilst we know a lot about what triggers asthma and how to manage it, we still don’t yet fully understand what causes people to develop asthma in the first place. Likely causes have been established such as diet, weather, climate and the timing and number of respiratory infections in early life.

Obviously a lot more still to learn.

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