Archive for the ‘Insurance’ Category

Protecting the life (and people) you love

Monday, March 13th, 2017

With more Australians having children later in life, starting a second family and carrying significant levels of debt well into their 50s and 60s, life insurance has never been more important.

Life is full of unexpected twists and turns and you never quite know what is around the corner. Protecting your family against the loss of all the things you have worked hard for over the years is the cornerstone of a sensible strategy to defend your wealth and current lifestyle.

Although most people know this, being ‘underinsured’ – or holding insufficient life-related insurance cover – remains common across all age groups in Australia.

The underinsurance problem

Australians are famous for their laidback attitude and, unfortunately, that attitude often extends to taking out life insurance protection for their families. While research shows more than three-quarters of us understand the need for life related insurance, rating it as important or very important, only 52 per cent of those surveyed said they actually held some form of life insurance.i

Consulting firm Rice Warner has calculated that Australians should hold a total of $4,581 billion in life insurance to be considered adequately protected, but the actual figure held is only $1,811 billion.ii

Although the typical middle-income Australian family with two children needs an estimated $680,000 in life insurance cover to be considered adequately protected, Rice Warner found that the median level of life insurance held by these families is only $258,000.

Paying your bills and protecting your dreams

Without adequate life insurance protection, the financial burden arising from a serious illness, accident or death can cause severe financial hardship.

Such an event is not uncommon, with the Lifewise/NATSEM Underinsurance Report noting 18 families in Australia lose a working parent every day of the week. One in five families is affected by the death of a parent, a serious accident or an illness that renders a parent unable to work.iii

Increases in the number of second and blended families and ageing parents also mean many breadwinners now have more people than ever relying on them financially.

Life insurance protection is also essential for singles, as they often have fewer resources to fall back on to pay their debts and ongoing commitments such as rent and mortgage repayments if they become seriously ill or disabled.

Guarding your wealth

When it comes to developing a comprehensive strategy to protect your financial position, life insurance is a key component as it creates a safety net to protect your current lifestyle and the wealth you have accumulated.

Without adequate insurance protection, many families find themselves facing real financial hardship if the main or secondary income-earner, or the primary carer of the children, becomes sick or dies.

It’s important to look at your options in terms of life-related insurance as part of your financial goal setting. These products provide a highly effective way of protecting assets such as the family home, covering commitments such as credit card debts, paying large medical bills and avoiding being forced to sell off investments assets cheaply.

Life insurance benefits can be used in different ways depending on your personal circumstances and health, with the lump sum payment they provide easing the financial burden during what can be a very difficult time.

A tailored approach

For a complete wealth protection strategy, death cover is usually combined with other life-related insurance products such as critical illness and total and permanent disability (TPD) protection.

  • Life insurance pays a lump sum on your death or diagnosis of a terminal illness, 
  • Critical illness (or trauma) cover pays an agreed amount if you are diagnosed with a specified critical illness, such as cancer or heart disease,
  • TPD insurance provides you with a tax-free lump sum if you are permanently unable to work due to accident or illness.
    These life-related insurances are designed to provide protection against the most common adverse life events and provide you with peace of mind so that if the unexpected happens, you and your loved ones have some protection.

If you would like some advice on the right mix and amount of life insurance for your family and financial circumstances, don’t hesitate to give us a call.

i www.tal.com.au/about-us/media-centre/life-insurance-lacking-in-those-with-most-to-lose

ii http://ricewarner.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/10/INFOGRAPHIC-UnderinsuranceinAus2014.jpg

iii www.lifewise.org.au/downloads/file/aboutthelifewisecampaign/2010_0203_LifewiseNATSEMSummaryA4FINAL.pdf

General Advice Warning This information is of a general nature only and neither represents nor is intended to be specific advice on any particular matter. Michael J Berinson Pty Ltd strongly suggests that no person should act specifically on the basis of the information contained herein but should seek appropriate professional advice based upon their own personal circumstances. Although we consider the sources for this material reliable, no warranty is given and no liability is accepted for any statement or opinion or for any error or omission.

Being prepared for surprises – good and bad – is a smart financial strategy

Wednesday, November 2nd, 2016

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While none of us can predict the future, we can do a lot to lessen the shock that can arise from unexpected events and emergencies at any time of life. For retirees relying on investments for day-to-day living, having a contingency plan means you’ll be prepared for any surprises that could derail your financial security and lifestyle goals.

Your financial plan has you on the right foot, but it can be a good idea to make sure you have a sufficient safety net to protect your retirement income, and other long-term investments, from one-off or cascading personal life events that can crop up at any time, which especially affect people at or after retirement. Examples include sudden illness, an accident or disability, the death of a spouse, or those same events affecting close family members such as children, siblings or aging parents. It’s also not unusual for changes to superannuation benefits or pensions to affect retiree expenses.

Other surprise expenditures that can interrupt your income stream might be emergency repairs to your home and investment properties due to everyday wear and tear or a severe weather event; maintaining the family car; or if a beloved pet racks up a large bill from the veterinarian. Having a savings safety net can also come in handy should you need to help out a relative, such as a son or daughter losing a job, or suffering unexpected health or life costs.

Your financial plan may already include a savings safety net – if so, that’s great news. However if you set your plan in place some time ago, you may want to consider talking to your financial planner to ensure that you have enough flexibility in case of a rainy day. Insurance provides another form of safety net, helping you to deal with unexpected losses.

From general insurance covering fire, flood and theft of property and vehicles to life insurance that provides important financial support to a family, many of us take a set and forget approach to our policies. But take the time to review your protection, checking that values are still up to date, perhaps organising for new quotes on policies, and making sure that you are covered for the events of concern to you.

Mind the gap

Preparing for events that may never happen can be overwhelming, but it’s really a matter of managing the gap between enough funds to cover your retirement goals, and a safety net of savings to protect those funds. That’s the ideal scenario, but many retirees and those approaching retirement are carrying more debt than ever before. Average mortgages and other property loans held by people approaching age 65 have more than doubled since 2002, and credit card debt is up 70 per cent, according to a report by Kellyresearch. 1

The report also shows that “increases in wealth through rising asset values, easy credit, and higher earnings” have led to a higher standard of living for working households.2 But a higher standard of living based on debt is unsustainable. That’s why retirees need to be careful about debt liability and having a focus on building up superannuation to the detriment of other forms of saving, because both approaches lock up funds that may need to be accessed quickly. That’s where contingency planning comes in.

1. Household savings and retirement: Where has all my super gone? A report on superannuation and retirement for CPA Australia by KELLYresearch, October 2012.
2. Ibid.

SOURCE: Colonial First State Investments Limited

 

Economic Update – November 2016

Wednesday, November 2nd, 2016

dollars-with-stethoscope-on-it

Within this month’s update, we share with you a snapshot of economic occurrences both nationally and from around the globe.

Global economic growth story strengthens!

– US, UK and EU economic growth surprise on the upside

– China growth strengthens

– Australian inflation strengthens

We hope you find this month’s Economic Update as informative as always. If you have any feedback or would like to discuss any aspect of this report, please contact our office.

The Big Picture

Last month we reported that Australian economic growth surprised with a more than solid +3.3% for the year. This month we can add that United Kingdom (UK) growth came in above expectations at +2.3% for the year – in spite of prior concerns about the negative impact of Brexit. United States (US) growth rounded off the month with a much better than expected +2.9% while the European Union (EU) delivered a more modest, but most welcome surprise on the upside, +1.6%.
China came in again at +6.7% growth but the partial indicators of Retail Sales and Industrial Output backed-up the story. Other indicators were even stronger.

What is really important is that, at last, interlinked growth is emerging as export markets open for each other. Sadly growth in Japan is still struggling but it has been struggling for more than two decades. Japan’s main problem is a falling population. Unlike many other countries, including Australia, net migration inflows help stimulate growth.

While one should never get too excited about one good month’s data, it is the co-ordinated growth that is starting the buzz. As a result, bond yields are starting to rise and that may put a bit of a dampener on our high-yield equities.

At home, inflation also surprised. It came in at +0.7% for the quarter or +1.3% for the year. But that, on its own, is insufficient to change the Reserve Bank’s (RBA) view on what to do with interest rates.

The new inflation data means that the RBA does not have to cut rates for that reason – nor does it have to hike to control inflation. It was a ‘Goldilocks’ number.

But our employment data continues to worry us. Jobs are increasing in a trend sense – and the unemployment rate is falling. But what continues to happen is a substitution of part time work for full time. Given that the average working week for full-time workers is 39 hours and only 17 hours for a part-timer, the individuals concerned are doing it tougher – but the collective, Australia is doing better!

The US is going to provide even more of a lead than normal in the coming months. The Trump v Clinton election is not as simple as previous elections. The FBI just weighed in by reopening the emails case on Clinton. Trump continues to take flak from all sides. Rightly or wrongly on each side, such a situation spells market volatility in the short run.
In the medium to longer term, even US presidents don’t have that much power. They need the backing of Congress.

The US Fed is possibly going to hike rates by 0.25% in December. Last December, when they hiked for the first time in nearly a decade, they predicted four rate hikes for 2016 but so far there have been none. While many economists, and some Fed members, are calling for the Fed to get the process moving soon the Chair, Janet Yellen, has left the door open for more of a wait and see approach. She has stated that she wouldn’t mind if the US economy ran a little too hot for a while.

So long run economic and market prospects are building strength and the so-called ‘earnings recession’ for listed companies on Wall Street seems to have already turned the corner. Once they have a new US President sworn in, we could have a nice settled, but growing, market. Until then, we might find the road a little bumpy.

Asset Classes

Australian Equities

The ASX 200 looked like having its worst month since January but a great last day made it a less severe 2.2% for October! Interestingly, the index started to ignore overseas leads towards the end of October. Some of this behaviour is probably due to global bond yields rising on signs of economic strength – and a possible hike in US rates by the Fed.

It is so important – particularly in the case of Australia – to note that sectors have been performing very differently at the moment. The so-called high-yield sectors [Financials, Property, Telcos and Utilities] are well down on the year to date by 2.9% – even after dividends are taken into account. But the other seven sectors have collectively experienced strong double digit growth – at +12.5%.

Foreign Equities

Wall Street’s S&P 500 fell a little less than the ASX 200 at 1.9% for the month. On the other hand, the London FTSE posted a gain of +0.9% and the Frankfurt DAX +1.5%. But it was left to Asia for some stellar results with the Tokyo’s Nikkei up +5.9% and the Shanghai Composite gained +3.2%.

Bonds and Interest Rates

The US Fed is the big game in town until we glide into 2017. We think there will be at most three 0.25% increases in the US before 2018. That is a very shallow trajectory indeed. The Fed will not do anything to interfere with the nascent growth story.

The RBA needs to, and probably will, give us one or two cuts down to 1% in the next couple of quarters or so. The government is not getting any fiscal stimulus programmes in place so the RBA is our only hope in the short term.

Our economic situation is far from dire but we do not have an atmosphere of wanting to invest in long-term, full-time jobs’ projects. Our official interest rate is so far above all of the major Western competitors (USA, Europe, Japan, etc.) and there is no reason to keep it there.

Other Assets

Commodity prices continue to stabilise and some big ‘houses’ are even predicting continued price rises in oil. What is important for us is that the dire predictions some analysts and commentators were peddling at the start of the year have vanished.

Commodity prices are unlikely to rise far enough to stunt growth. The important thing is that they are stable and viable for continued investment in the resources sector.

Regional Analysis

Australia

We have lost 54,000 full-time jobs in 2016 to date. With official estimates of population growth at +1.4% there are not enough full-time jobs to go around. As it happens, 47,000 of those 54,000 job losses are for men and only 7,000 job losses for women.

It doesn’t take an Einstein to work out the social impact of replacing full-time with part-time jobs. Data is not readily at hand to work out how much the people losing jobs are being paid in part-time employment – but it seems unlikely to be a good swap.

We will never get the old manufacturing jobs back but we are very good in so many other sectors, parliament needs to assist a solution and quickly.

China

China continues to pump out strong statistics on its economy. Of course some just say the numbers are fudged but there is increasing support from a number of independent sources to suggest China is even stronger than the official figures suggest!

China Retail Sales came in at +10.7% and Industrial Output at +6.1%. China’s inflation was +1.9%. This is an impressive set of numbers.

U.S.A.

The US non-farm payrolls (jobs) data have been slightly better in recent months than earlier in the year, but they are still well below the data recorded in 2014 and 2015. The US too has the problem of replacing ‘good traditional’ jobs with lower paying jobs in the services sector. It is a global problem.

The US economy is getting stronger but it is unlikely to ‘pop’ into overheated growth anytime soon – as it often used to do after a lean spell. But that is a good thing. Stability is something that helps investment planning.

Europe

The UK has not imploded after the Brexit vote. We never thought it would. Sensible discussions are taking place about the best way to exit – and not if they should exit. It is nice to see a mature political debate.

‘Rock star’ central banker, Canadian Mark Carney, has flagged he will step down from the top job at the Bank of England. He plans to exit in June 2019 when the UK is set to exit the EU. He believes in a united Europe and so does not want to work in an economic and social environment that he does not believe in.

The ECB President, Mario Draghi, needs to come up with a new plan soon for stimulus or see the bond-buying plan end. If his form is anything to go by, it will be a slow process of coming to make a plan.

Rest of the World

The conflicts in the Russia/Syria (and more) part of the world are going through major transitions. It is inappropriate in an economic report to comment on the rights and wrongs of the negotiations and struggles. But it does look like the impact on markets might start to subside soon.

OPEC seems to be trying to do something sensible about oil prices but some members – and others – are trying to get special circumstance agreements. Given that supply has been well in excess of the current agreement – for years – the impact of a new agreement is moot.

*Ron Bewley (PhD,FASSA) – Director, Woodhall Investment Research

Important information

This information is the opinion of PATRON Financial Services Pty Ltd ABN 32 307 788 137 908 AFSL No. 307379 trading as PATRON Financial Advice and may contain general advice that does not take into account the investment objectives, financial situation or needs of any person. Before making an investment decision, readers need to consider whether this information is appropriate to their circumstances.

Economic Update – September 2016

Monday, September 5th, 2016

business-world-financial-data-abstract-background-15228374

 

 

 

 

 

Economic Update

By Ron Bewley*.  

Within this month’s update, we share with you a snapshot of economic occurrences both nationally and from around the globe.
With Brexit fears cast aside:

– United Kingdom (UK) confidence bounces back
– United States (US) Federal Reserve claims economy strengthening
– Japan ready to add more stimulus

We hope you find this month’s Economic Update as informative as always. If you have any feedback or would like to discuss any aspect of this report, please contact your Financial Adviser.

The Big Picture

It is just a year since some reports on the China stock market sell-off last August predicted doom and gloom. As we suggested at the time, it wasn’t a major problem because that market was, and is, in its infancy. The market stabilised, and it is now comfortably above those 2015 lows.

At the end of 2015, some nerves were rattled about the prospects of Federal Reserve rate hikes in the US. While occasional bouts of uncertainty continue to cloud market movements, the successive Fed meetings have gone reasonably smoothly.

In January 2016, the Royal Bank of Scotland told us to ‘Sell everything’ and some other big houses made similar dire predictions. Markets are comfortably up and selling wasn’t the answer.

Oil and iron ore prices dived in February 2016. Iron ore prices dipped below $40 but later climbed to $70. Oil was predicted by some to get down to $20, or even $10, when it was $26. Instead, prices have more or less doubled. Another ‘crisis’ averted!

And then there was ‘Brexit’, and the dire predictions that went with it. The ‘leave’ vote won, but consumer confidence jumped 3% in the UK in the first month following the referendum. Markets are stable and the pundits got it wrong again.

Of course, at some point, an event will come along that will have a medium-term adverse impact on our investments, but most of these stories are simply overblown in quiet news periods. At this point we feel that all of those ‘scare stories’ are fading into oblivion and there are no new major known issues brewing.

At home, our labour force data isn’t great, but the mid-year fall in full-time employment seems to have turned around. Unemployment is stable at 5.7%. Our Reserve Bank is expected to cut rates again – from 1.75% to 1.50% sometime this year – but that is more to align our rate with the rest of the world rather than a reaction to avert major issues at home.

News in August was dominated by the Olympics. Australia was disappointed but ‘Team GB’ beat all expectations. There are big lessons for economic management to be learnt from these results.

Australian Olympic success was at a low in Seoul, 1988. Government funding was pumped in with increasing success to match – until, that is, at Beijing and after.
Great Britain (GB) hit its nadir in 1996 at Atlanta, with only one gold medal being won. The national lottery was born with substantial taxes going to sports’ funding.

In both cases it took time for athletes to respond, but pumping money into a venture alone is not an investment. Just like with migrants, the expression “The first generation makes it, the second builds on it, and the third loses it” might apply to economies and sports alike. But our athletes might now be doing as well – it’s just that others are rapidly improving.

Importantly, Australia was reported to have concentrated funding on our traditional sports. GB, on the other hand, looked for opportunities in sports they had not previously been good at. GB’s plan seems to have thrown up many unexpected successes.

The reaction to the GFC was for governments to cut back on fiscal spending around the world. Now we need well-tailored programmes to start the next phases of growth. Not pink batts, but spending on considered infrastructure projects and the like could be what we need now. But with our government system living on minority leadership for too many years, it is difficult to see from where such a programme will come.

In the meantime, growth might be a little below par but good enough. A shot in the arm for infrastructure could well be the start for a return to our desired long-run growth path.

Asset Classes

Australian Equities

The ASX 200 did lose 2.3% in August, but that followed a massive +6.3% gain in July. Virtually all sectors lost ground in August but market volatility remains reasonably low.

After reporting season in August our view of the fundamentals remains strong, we expect the 2016/17 financial year to be strong. The calendar year-to-date for 2016 posted a gain of +5.6% including dividends.

The high-yield sectors of Financials, Property, Telcos and Utilities continued to seriously lag behind the other sectors in 2016 y-t-d including dividends. Indeed, capital losses in high-yield have more than wiped out dividend payouts. The total returns of the ‘other’ sectors have exceeded +14% y-t-d.

Foreign Equities

Wall Street hit some new all-time highs in August. The VIX fear index reached quite low levels suggesting markets are quite settled even if August was not a strong month for markets.

With a rate hike in the US unlikely before December, only the Presidential election seems likely to interfere with a smooth finish into the end of 2016.

Bonds and Interest Rates

The RBA kept rates on hold again in Australia. The Fed Reserve’s second-in-command caused some volatility with his comments, shortly after Chair Yellen made her views known. While Yellen saw the chance of a hike strengthening with good economic data, Fischer went further putting September back on the table. December is still our call for the first hike.

Other Assets

Oil prices have seemingly stabilised on talks between OPEC and Russia. At current prices, oil is too cheap to warrant shale oil to come back on stream in the US and too high to cause major concerns going forward.

The VIX volatility – or fear – index reached a low for 2016 during August. Our dollar did vary somewhat over the month but the change on the month was relatively small.

Regional Analysis

Australia

On the face of it our employment data grew strongly, but full-time employment fell while part-time employment did the work. The unemployment rate was steady at 5.7%.

Trend full-time employment – the official preferred method – has started to pick up – possibly because of the earlier rate cut.

China

The month started reasonably well with the Purchasing Managers Index (PMI) at 49.5 for manufacturing – which is just below the break-even 50 level. The services version of the PMI continues to be well above 50 as the domestic economy takes over from infrastructure expenditure.Mid-month retail sales and industrial production did miss forecasts by a fraction but not enough to worry markets.

U.S.A.

Janet Yellen talked up the strengthening US economy at the annual Central Bankers’ conference in Jackson Hole. There is no doubt that employment data has bounced back strongly from the earlier mini-slump. But two good numbers are not enough to eradicate all discomfort.

Europe

The Brexit vote won at the end of July. August Retail Sales surged at +1.4% against an expected +0.1%. UK confidence also surged from a three year low to 109.8 from 106.6. With Olympic success as well, it seems the UK has side-stepped the issues that some worried about earlier in the year.The Bank of England did cut its rate at the start of August and also pumped in some unexpected monetary stimulus.

Germany’s GDP came in at +0.4% for the quarter smashing expectations. There are also other pockets of mild success. Brexit will happen slowly so trade deals can be renegotiated far before trade becomes an issue.

Rest of the World

Japan can’t win a trick, as they just recorded another month of deflation. Japan is pledging to continue to stimulate the economy as required.Japan’s problem is its falling population. Many countries, such as ours, would also look a little glum if populations were not growing!

*Ron Bewley (PhD,FASSA) – Director, Woodhall Investment Research

This article is brought to you by Infocus.

Important information

This information is the opinion of Infocus Securities Australia Pty Ltd ABN 47 097 797 049 AFSL and Australian Credit Licence No. 236523 trading as Infocus Wealth Management and may contain general advice that does not take into account the investment objectives, financial situation or needs of any person. Before making an investment decision, readers need to consider whether this information is appropriate to their circumstances.

PROTECTING YOUR FAMILY

Thursday, August 4th, 2016

3d-person-getting-it-right-

INSURANCE

If you are suddenly diagnosed with a major illness or experience a death in the family there is very little time to plan how the family will cope financially.

You might be thinking insurance is something you can sort out later but research shows that 1-in-5 Australian families will be impacted by the death of a parent, a serious accident or an illness such as cancer that leaves a parent unable to work during their working life. Yet 95 per cent of families do not have adequate levels of life insurance * There are things you can do to ensure that you and your family are covered.

UNDERSTAND THE DIFFERENT COVER TYPES

Unlike general insurance which covers assets such as your car and your home, life insurance can protect the financial contribution you make to your family.

There are different types of life insurance that generally cover different life events:

  • Life cover provides security for your family’s future by paying a benefit if you die or are diagnosed with a terminal illness.
  • Income protection can help replace a part of your income (for a set period of time) which can be used to cover living expenses if you are unable to work due to illness or injury.
  • Total and permanent disability (TPD) cover can provide financial support if illness or injury stops you from returning to work or normal domestic duties.
  •  Trauma cover allows you to protect yourself against the financial impacts of being diagnosed with one of a number of serious medical conditions, such as cancer or a heart attack, by paying a benefit.

In practice, you may need a combination of these products depending on your family’s needs and existing financial resources.

PLAN AHEAD

The best way to plan for your family’s future financial security is to ask ‘what if ?’. What if one parent died or was unable to work due to an accident, illness or permanent disability? With the loss of an income you and your family could struggle to meet their daily expenses and ongoing financial commitments.

While families with children have an added incentive to have adequate life insurance cover, young couples and singles may also need protection. What if you become critically ill and need to take time off work? Do you have enough sick leave to cover the rent or mortgage and other living expenses?

Once you have a clearer idea of the amount of money you would need to preserve your family’s current lifestyle, it’s easier to work out the right level of cover for your circumstances.

Life insurance and income protection insurance allows you to approach the future with confidence, knowing that the life you’ve built is protected.

As a financial adviser, I can help you determine the types and level of cover that you need to ensure so you protect your most valuable asset – you. Call me on 0893492700, and we can discuss this further.

Lifewise/NATSEM Underinsurance Report – Understanding the social and economic costs of underinsurance, Feb 2010

How to make insurance more affordable at tax time

Monday, June 27th, 2016

piggy bankDid you know you can save money by buying your insurance in super? This is because super can offer both cash-flow benefits and tax concessions.

Most super funds offer insurance that can help you, or your dependants replace your income if the unexpected was to happen. This includes Life, Total and Permanent Disability (TPD) and Income Protection insurance.

While these types of insurance can also be bought outside super, you’ll have to fund the premiums from your own cash-flow and you probably won’t get any tax breaks if you buy Life and TPD insurance.

On the other hand, when you insure inside super, the premiums are deducted from your super balance. This means you can arrange the amount of cover you need without having to pay the premiums from your cash-flow.

This may mean you’ll use up some of your super money which could help you meet your living expenses in retirement and while this could make a difference when you’re no longer working, it’s important to think of what could happen to your family’s lifestyle in the meantime if you don’t have the right level of cover.

If you or your family faced financial difficulty you could run out of savings very quickly, well before your intended retirement date. So insuring in super could be a great solution if you don’t have enough cash-flow to pay for the premiums.

Even if you think you could pay the premiums outside super, there are still cost-effective benefits of insuring inside super. This is because if you make super contributions, there are some tax concessions, regardless of whether the contributions are used to buy insurance. For example:

  • if you’re an employee and eligible to make salary sacrifice contributions, you may be able to buy insurance through a super fund with pre-tax dollars
  • if you earn less than 10% of your income from employment (eg if you’re self-employed or not employed), you can generally claim your super contributions as a tax deduction, and
  • if you earn less than $49,488 each year, of which at least 10% is from employment or a business, and you make personal after-tax super contributions, you may be eligible to receive a Government co-contribution of up to $500 in 2014/2015. That could help you cover the cost of future insurance premiums.
    To find out more about insuring inside super, please contact our office.

Source: MLC