One simple protection “mistake” a TV star urges you not to make

film crew recording on a sea front in Spain

Ill health is something that can affect you at any time, and often arrives with little warning. In recent weeks you may have seen TV star Jonnie Irwin talk about his terminal cancer diagnosis at the age of just 47.

In November 2022, the A Place in the Sun presenter revealed that he had been diagnosed with terminal lung cancer. The first warning sign of his illness came while he was filming the popular Channel 4 property show in August 2020 in Italy, when his vision became blurry while driving.

“Within a week of flying back from filming, I was being given six months to live,” he said.

More than two years on and Jonnie has been talking about how he wanted to “take control back” following his diagnosis by ensuring that his family would be provided for after his death. He has also outlined the “mistake” he made when arranging his personal protection – read on to find out more.

Critical illness cover was the “gap” in the presenter’s protection

Having received a terminal diagnosis, one of Jonnie’s priorities has been to ensure that his young family will be provided for after his death. As well as wife Jessica, the Escape to the Country star also has three-year-old Rex and two-year-old twins Rafa and Cormac to consider.

Speaking to BBC Morning Live hosts Gethin Jones and Kimberley Walsh, Irwin said: “I knew I had to look after my family – as soon as you’ve got a family, you have this massive responsibility.” He added that he had already sold properties he was renting out and looked at his savings in order to make sure his family would be financially secure.

The TV presenter has also been vocal in urging others not to make the same “mistake” he made when it came to arranging his own protection, in that he didn’t take out critical illness cover alongside his life insurance.

Critical illness cover pays a tax-free lump sum if you’re diagnosed with a serious condition

Critical illness protection pays a tax-free lump sum if you’re diagnosed with a condition covered under the policy during the term.

It most commonly pays out on the diagnosis of serious forms of cancer, multiple sclerosis, or Parkinson’s disease, or if you were to have a serious heart attack or stroke.

It’s important not to confuse this with “terminal illness cover”, which is where your life insurance may pay out early if you are given a few months to live.

Irwin explained: “When you get a terminal diagnosis it [your life insurance] covers you for when you are gone, and probably for your last few months. But terminal diagnoses can go on for years, and your illness obviously affects your work, so if you’re unable to work and you’re waiting for this payout, who’s going to pay the rent or mortgage?”

If you’re diagnosed with a serious condition, or you have a stroke or heart attack, you can use the payout from critical illness protection to:

  • Pay off your mortgage or other debts
  • Replace income if you have to take an extended period off work for treatment or to recover
  • Pay for additional expenses you might incur, such as trips to hospital and overnight stays
  • Adapt your home.

The A Place in the Sun star shared how this gap in his protection meant he was being forced to take on projects during his illness.

He told the BBC: “Critical illness is a policy you take alongside that kicks in as soon as you’re ill. I didn’t take that, and that put a lot of pressure on me, having to work on days I didn’t really want to work.”

Protection can provide real peace of mind

Thinking about the worst happening is difficult – no one wants to consider the prospect of being seriously ill.

However, it’s worth remembering that figures from Cancer Research UK suggest that 1 in 2 people in the UK will be diagnosed with cancer at some time in their life.

And, the British Heart Foundation say that someone is admitted to hospital in the UK, on average, every five minutes as a result of having a heart attack.

Putting the right protection in place is the cornerstone of a good financial plan. It gives you the peace of mind that you and your loved ones will receive financial support when you really need it and helps to ensure that your future plans are not blown off track.

As well as critical illness cover, you should also consider:

  • Life insurance to give your family the reassurance that they can remain in your home and maintain their standard of living if you’re no longer around
  • Income protection to provide you with a source of income if you can’t work for an extended period due to illness or accident
  • Business protection if you own your own company and want to protect against the risks the death or ill health of an important employee could pose.

Let’s leave the last word to Jonnie. “What I didn’t realise is there’s a gap, and critical illness covers this gap. That is the one mistake I made, and I’d say to everyone to get it out. Even if you haven’t got dependents, get it out to look after yourself.”

Adopting a positive attitude to his diagnosis

As well as using his remaining time to urge people not to make his “protection” mistake, Irwin says he has also decided to go public about his diagnosis to try and encourage people in a similar situation.

“I hope that by shaking that monkey off I might inspire people who are living with life-limiting prospects to make the most of every day, to help them see that you can live a positive life, even though you are dying,” he said.

“One day, this is going to catch up with me, but I’m doing everything I can to hold that day off for as long as possible.

“I owe that to Jess and our boys. Some people in my position have bucket lists, but I just want us to do as much as we can as a family.”

Get in touch

If you want to benefit from the reassurance that you and your family will receive financial support if the worst happens, we can help.

To find out more, please get in touch. Email or call us on 01454 416653.

Please note

Note that life insurance plans typically have no cash in value at any time and cover will cease at the end of the term. If premiums stop, then cover will lapse.

This blog is for general information only and does not constitute advice. The information is aimed at retail clients only.

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