CY­CLONE:

Pro­tect­ing Your Fam­ily Early With Life In­sur­ance

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As a fresh grad­u­ate in 2009, Wain­unu na­tive Eparama Rau­rau­mala did not have a lot of fi­nan­cial obli­ga­tions. So the following year in 2010, af­ter a chance meet­ing with an in­sur­ance agent at an aunt’s place in Lautoka, Mr Rau­rau­mala bought an in­sur­ance pol­icy un­der his fa­ther’s name. Ev­ery fort­night, he’d pay a pre­mium or cost of $45. He saw it both as a way to save and as a form of pro­tec­tion. As the el­dest in the fam­ily, he was able to look af­ter his par­ents and his four sib­lings as his teach­ing ca­reer flour­ished. Life was good. Four years on, Mr Rau­rau­mala got mar­ried and started a fam­ily of his own. He con­tin­ued to sup­port his younger sib­lings and con­tin­ued to pay pre­mi­ums on his fa­ther’s pol­icy de­spite the mount­ing fi­nan­cial obli­ga­tions.

How­ever, as his fam­ily grew, meet­ing his obli­ga­tions ev­ery fort­night be­came a strug­gle. Mr Rau­rau­mala and his wife drew up a bud­get of their in­come and ex­penses, but de­spite their ef­forts to stay within tar­get, there were al­ways ‘un­ex­pected events’ that forced them to spend more money that they had planned to so they looked for ways to make economies and to bal­ance the house­hold bud­get. It be­came a reg­u­lar prob­lem ev­ery fort­night when the in­sur­ance pay­ments were due, and des­per­a­tion set in. Mr Rau­rau­mala con­sid­ered can­celling or “sur­ren­der­ing” his in­sur­ance pol­icy to get some tem­po­rary re­lief from what he saw as the in­creas­ingly painful salary de­duc­tions that he was making. In May, this year Mr Rau­rau­mala fi­nally made up his mind and set off from his home in Waiqanake, out­side Lami, for the cap­i­tal city. He had been pay­ing $45 a fort­night for over six years.

“I can still re­mem­ber the date. It was the 26th of May 2016. I went to the in­sur­ance com­pany and asked to sur­ren­der the pol­icy be­cause I wanted to stop the with­drawals from my salary,” he said. “How­ever when I was in the in­sur­ers of­fice, a help­ful em­ployee there ad­vised me not to sur­ren­der the pol­icy, but in­stead, to take a “pay­ment hol­i­day”. “This stops the pay­ments for up to three months and dur­ing that time, the pol­icy stays in force and the in­sur­ance cover is still there. So I took that ad­vice and I filled in a form to tem­po­rar­ily stop the de­duc­tions - that gave me time to re­cover.” Mr Rau­rau­mala didn’t know it at the time, but his de­ci­sion to hold on to his in­sur­ance pol­icy proved to be one of the best de­ci­sions of his life. Four days af­ter meet­ing with his in­sur­ance com­pany and de­cid­ing to keep the in­sur­ance pol­icy, Mr Rau­rau­mala re­ceived sad news from his vil­lage in Wain­unu, Bua in Vanua Levu.

“I re­ceived a call from my brother at the vil­lage in­form­ing me that my fa­ther had passed away. He had gone to the vil­lage to visit my only sis­ter who had just started her teach­ing ca­reer,” he re­counted. News of Mr Rau­rau­mala fa­ther’s death came as a shock be­cause only hours ear­lier he had been speak­ing with his fa­ther and mother on the phone. On the 31st of May Mr Rau­rau­mala set off again for the cap­i­tal city to meet with his in­sur­ance provider, this time to re­lay the news of his fa­ther’s death, who was the pol­icy holder. “The in­sur­ance com­pany was a great help.” Within two days, as a first step, the in­sur­ance com­pany re­leased enough funds for Mr Rau­rau­mala’s fa­ther’s fu­neral ex­penses. “We bought ev­ery­thing that was needed for my fa­ther’s fu­neral and took it across to our vil­lage for the burial. We also as­sisted rel­a­tives with their travel costs to at­tend my fa­ther’s fu­neral. Three weeks later the in­sur­ance com­pany came back to me with the rest of the money from the pol­icy along with some added bonuses. I shared the money with my mum and my brothers and sis­ters, as well as with mem­bers of my fa­ther’s fam­ily.” Mr Rau­rau­mala was also able to save money for his chil­dren’s ed­u­ca­tion and in­vest some of the funds with the Unit Trust of Fiji. The ex­pe­ri­ence changed Mr Rau­rau­mala’s view about in­sur­ance. He has since bought another in­sur­ance pol­icy and does not in­tend to sur­ren­der it be­fore its end date – the ma­tu­rity date. “I would en­cour­age ev­ery­one, es­pe­cially youths to take up in­sur­ance be­cause we do not know what will hap­pen next in our life,” he said.

Mr Rau­rau­mala’s ad­vice is timely. Its es­ti­mated that only 12 per cent of Fiji’s pop­u­la­tion are cov­ered by some type of in­sur­ance and so many re­main vul­ner­a­ble to a range of un­ex­pected risks that can change their lives for the worse, leav­ing them and their fam­i­lies with a huge fi­nan­cial bur­den. Many peo­ple are un­aware of the ben­e­fits and the pos­i­tive im­pacts an in­sur­ance pol­icy can bring, and how it can help them. It’s ad­vis­able to get in­sured at a young age, as soon as one starts work as the in­sur­ance is cheaper to buy, and like Mr Rau­rau­mala, it can help to set you up for a se­cure fi­nan­cial fu­ture. Peo­ple are ad­vised to talk to an in­sur­ance provider to­day to learn more about in­sur­ance and to find an in­sur­ance pol­icy that suits their needs.

Eparama Rau­rau­mala with his fam­ily.

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