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Legal & General surveyed nearly 2,500 consumers and discovered little more than one in ten had the insurance which can provide a vital financial helpline to people who are unable to work through illness or injury.

The finding echoes that of consumer rights and campaigning group Which? who described income protection as “a must-have insurance for most working adults, but one few of us currently have.”

“Whilst these findings are not particularly surprising given the historical picture, they remain disappointing because they potentially place so many families and homes at risk,” commented Chase Templeton’s Commercial Director, Richard Holden. “The cover itself need not be expensive with a range of options giving consumers flexibility over the level of insurance they want to purchase and, therefore, the size of their premium. Long-term plans offer the strongest reassurance as they will typically pay out 50-70 percent of your income until you can return to work, reach retirement age or die. But people worried and stretched in the current economic climate can opt for lower cost fixed term schemes.”

The same survey also revealed that the most popular financial protection strategy employed by British consumers was to save. However, the failings of this tactic were laid bare by the finding that the average family had managed to squirrel away an average of only £660. That’s just £80 more than the single average monthly mortgage payment, calculated by Halifax this time last year – before the latest house price boom, for someone who had laid down a 30 percent deposit on their home.

Similarly worrying was L&G’s discovery that 69 percent of people had neither critical illness insurance nor life cover in place.