Most couples depend on each other financially in some way. Whether it’s splitting the cost of your rent or mortgage, or covering the bills, the weekly food shop together, and any other day-to-day expenses. And once you’re used to a shared income and shared lifestyle, it can be difficult to adjust if one income is suddenly missing. In most cases, one income isn’t enough to cover everything.

Becoming unable to work because of health condition is one reason why your income could stop. But having income protection in place means you know you’ll always have money coming in if you were to lose your income for health reasons. It provides financial peace of mind that the cost of your shared life could be provided for as normal, even if you couldn’t work.

What is income protection?

Put simply: income protection is an insurance policy that pays out if you’re unable to work for any medical reason – physical or mental, illness or injury. It doesn’t pay out for any other kind of income loss, like redundancy.

The idea of this kind of cover is to protect yourself financially in case you couldn't work for a long time for health reasons. People typically claim on their income protection policy for things like long-term back pain, serious injuries caused by accident, and depression, but also for other illnesses like cancer, heart attacks and strokes.

Income protection offers a longer-term solution than something like sick pay – and also prevents you from needing to use your savings, take on debt, or significantly change your lifestyle. And if you have a partner, income protection could help protect the expenses and lifestyle you share.

How does income protection work?

As with any insurance policy, you pay a monthly premium to be insured; then, if you’re signed off work for any medical reason, you’ll receive monthly income protection payments.

Most insurers will cover up to 50-60% of your income, which is usually enough to make sure the essentials are covered – like your rent, bills and food. And all income protection policies will have a waiting period before they start paying out. The longer your waiting period, the cheaper the insurance will be – but you’d need to be able to tide yourself over without an income for the time that you’re waiting.

When buying cover, you have the option of short-term income protection, which covers you for a fixed amount of time if you’re unable to work (like 1, 2 or 5 years), or full-term income protection, which will cover you for as long as you can't work, however long that is. Full-term is more expensive than short-term for that reason, but as it covers you indefinitely, it gives you complete peace of mind that you’d always have money coming in, however long you were off sick.

For more on the ins-and-outs of income protection and how it works, read our complete guide.

Do I need income protection if I’m in a couple?

It depends how you'd be affected by losing your income for health reasons. If you’ve been medically signed off work, for whatever reason, income protection makes sure you’ll still have money coming in. This is especially pertinent for couples who often are tied together financially in ways that require regular upkeep: splitting the rent, covering shared expenses like food shopping or car insurance, or just being able to split the bill for a takeaway or a holiday. With income protection, you have peace of mind that your shared way of life can carry on as before while you recover.

What’s the risk of not having income protection if I’m in a couple?

Partners tend to have shared financial commitments that can often be too much for one income to cover. Paying the rent or mortgage, for example, can be affordable when there are two incomes – but can quickly become impossible to keep up with if one income is suddenly missing.

Being unable to cover shared expenses could lead to further financial consequences down the line. Having to cover your normal outgoings with one salary could mean eating into any savings you’ve accumulated, or even borrowing money for elsewhere. In short: it can really set you back and could affect your shared future plans.

  • Income protection is an insurance policy that pays out a monthly amount if you can’t work for medical reasons
  • If you become too ill or injured to work and lose your income, it can affect you and your partner financially
  • Income protection makes sure you’ll always be able to cover shared bills and expenses, even if you can’t work for medical reasons
  • For couples, income protection provides peace of mind that losing your income for health reason would not put your shared lifestyle at risk

This post is intended for informative purposes only and does not constitute advice.