Life Insurance

How to Live Dangerously: 5 Tips for the Almost Uninsurable

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Ryan Ong

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I’m pretty hard to insure. It may have something to do with my blood pressure. Or maybe I shouldn’t have dived out a moving vehicle to retrieve that potato chipat least not with the insurance agent next to me. Whatever the case, they won’t cover me for anything short of death now. And I know I’m not alone. So if you’re in the same situation, pay attention to these survival methods. And in time, even those insurers might change their minds:

 

Uninsurable? What’s That?

To be honest, there’s few people who are completely uninsurable. Insurance companies will cover a one-legged tightrope walker over the Grand Canyon, so long as you pay enough. But the “twilight zone” of almost-uninsurable people include:

  • People who can’t be covered for anything except death
  • People who face premiums they can’t afford (and hence can’t buy insurance)
  • People in extreme risk professions (e.g. bomb disposal, HAZMAT crew, hawker centre toilet cleaner)
  • People with certain types of criminal records (like, you know, insurance fraud)
  • People in circumstances the insurers don’t like (e.g. uncertain permanent residence status)

 

Bomb disposal guy
“Bomb disposal is not dangerous! I’m wearing gloves!”

 

Most of the time, the situation is not permanent. For example, a change of job or improvement in health will bring insurers running. But in the meantime, the near-uninsurable need to be careful. Here’s what they need to do:

 

1. Change Your Insurance-to-Savings Ratio

Under normal circumstances, you’d invest more money than you save. Good financial sense is a 70 / 30 ratio. So if you set aside $1000 a month, you’d put $700 into an investment plan and $300 into your savings account.

For people with insurance issues, this should be 50 / 50 instead. And now I’ll get a fire extinguisher, because investment experts are flaming me. But think about it: If you haven’t got insurance, how do you handle a medical bill you can’t pay? You want to use a credit card?

 

Homeless guy sleeping on the stairs
“So with an income of $0, I can get more security with a 50/50 split?”

 

Then you’ll be agreeing to 24% APR. And if the amount is so great you can’t pay in full (last I checked, the only discount kidney replacement is in a Hangzhou back alley), you’re on the express lane to rollover debt. Unless you recently funded any start-ups named Facebook, don’t count on your investments beating the bank interest.

Without insurance, you have to accrue sufficient savings to handle emergencies. Yes, it hurts worse than straddling a live BBQ pit, because you see your savings stagnate. But the alternatives are too risky.

 

2. Don’t Clear Out Your CPF On a Home Loan

Using your CPF to buy a house? Don’t take the biggest loan you can get.

This is counter-intuitive, because most people assume they’ll never touch their CPF money anyway; first chance they get, they’ll expend it like I would bullets at the Justin Beiber fan club. But without insurance, your CPF is your final bastion. Don’t just count on MediSave to see you through; in the event of loss of income (which you probably can’t be covered for), your CPF money might save you from a cement bed in a void deck.

 

HDB flats
“Cleared out my CPF, but it’s a good flat. A great view is a substitute for food, right?”

 

3. Try to Change Your Job Scope Without Changing Your Job

I learned this from a professional athlete, who was having problems getting insured. He’s a competitive boxer, which in insurance world, is the code for “bleeds a lot…of our money.” Insurers either offered him insane premiums, or funeral wreaths in advance.

A simple job tweak fixed the problem. He took a job as a gym trainer, which allowed him to stay in his line of work (he needs to work out anyway). Except now, he could list his career as “gym trainer” instead of “human punching bag”. If the insurers raised the issue of his boxing, he’d just say: “Hey, it was a sport I took up, it’s not my main line of work.”

A year later, they offered decent premiums. So depending on your line of work, you may be able to pull off something similar. Try to find overlapping work within the same industry.

 

Anarchist
“I’m uh, a beta-tester for law enforcement methods.”

 

4. Keep Nagging Your Employer

If you work for a large company, look at your health plan. Private insurers cut huge deals with companies, since it gets them a few hundred clients at once.

If the relevant insurer won’t give you full coverage, keep bringing the issue to HR. While the HR manager won’t point a gun at the insurer and insist they cover you (not unless you call him every 30 minutes till 4 am), it puts you “on the radar”. Not only will they keep raising your case, they’ll be aware that you’re at greater risk.

 

Guns on display
“LOTS of people have stress issues. What difference does it make if he works in our firearms factory?”

 

If you’re a delivery driver or construction supervisor, this is important. Your employer must be constantly aware you’re at higher risk, due to your lack of insurance. As with point 1, this hurts; it can cost you some opportunities. But it prompts your boss to keep you well out of harm’s way. It also gives you a valid reason to turn down activities you cannot risk.

 

5. Seek Out And Cut Deals With Agents

I don’t avoid insurance agents on the street. In fact, I walk right up and ask “Are you selling insurance? If you can help me, I’ll buy from you right now.”

Most insurance agents will try to dodge you, because they’d rather close deals with insurable people (easier and faster) than try to work something out for you. Also, most agents don’t work for the insurer, but for a company contracted by the insurer. So what can you do?

 

Man falling off chair
“See? Accidents can happen to anyone. That’s why you better cover me. Or who knows what will happen next?”

 

Recruit a currently uninsured friend. I promise agents that, if they can find me coverage, I’ll have a buddy sign up as well. It’s two-for-one. Motivate them to push for your sake; an agent is your toehold on Mt. Insurance. Even if they can’t get you a deal, they’ll have you in mind. If there are any changes to an insurer’s policies, they’ll get back to you.

Image Credits:
carla777, jayarc, fotografr, madcowk, joelogon, Lee J Haywood,

Are you almost uninsurable? Comment and tell us how you survive it!

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Ryan Ong

I was a freelance writer for over a decade, and covered topics from music to super-contagious foot diseases. I took this job because I believe financial news should be accessible and fun to read. Also, because the assignments don't involve shouting teenagers and debilitating plagues.