The average British household would run out of money in less than 14 days if a wage earner fell critically ill or died

Article date: 24 February 2010

  • One in four Britons could access only £100 of disposable cash within a week if they lost their income due to death or a critical illness
  • Nearly two thirds (63%) of British households have no critical illness cover or life insurance
  • One in seven (16%) would sell their TV to get their hands on cash if they fell ill.

New research from Aviva has shown that the average British household may only have enough cash to cover bills for 14 days1 if they or their partner fell critically ill or died. One in four (24%) of British households say they could only access £100 without further borrowing. (See Table one for more details).

The research shows that without further borrowing, the average British household could get their hands on only £914 of disposable cash, less than two weeks of the average weekly household expenditure of £4712. This is less than 1% of the average Aviva critical illness payout of £78,707.

Alternative arrangements
The research shows that, should the worst happen, Britons are drastically under-insured with only 37% of households covered by life insurance or critical illness cover. Should they have to raise alternative income, one in five (19%) Britons would be willing to sell their home, while a third (31%) would give up their car. 

However, others say they would sell their TV (14%), the home computer (13%) or even their pet (6%) to raise cash – possibly indicating the extent to which people underestimate the financial impact of a critical illness or death. Perhaps unsurprisingly, men are less likely than women to sell their PlayStations (24% versus 16%). (See Table two for further breakdown). 

The majority of Britons (59%) consider it their personal responsibility to cover any loss of income, should the worst happen. This is more strongly pronounced in men, where 67% see it as a personal responsibility, versus 55% of women.

However, 17% of Britons see it as the government’s responsibility to cover any income loss due to a critical illness or death, and 9% would expect an employer to fill the gap. Individuals could expect a maximum of £95.15 a week3 from the Government Employment and Support allowance. A quarter (24%) of Britons say they would use their savings.

Louise Colley, head of protection for Aviva, said: “At Aviva we understand the huge impact that a critical illness or death can have on a family, both emotionally and financially. Money worries are the last thing a family would need at such a distressing time, so we would encourage everyone to take the time to consider life and critical illness cover to make sure they have adequate protection in place.

“The majority of British people see it as their responsibility to cover any loss of income in the case of them not being able to work due to a critical illness or death; but most simply don’t have enough money to see them through this period. It is worrying how little money Britons would be able to access without further borrowing, and how big the shortfall could be when we consider how much a critical illness or bereavement could actually cost.

“Currently, 31% of households rely on a sole breadwinner. Britons, especially those with dependants, should consider how they would cope should the worst happen. With the average Aviva critical illness payout currently standing at £78,707, and premiums for life and critical illness cover costing roughly the same as a Friday night takeaway for two4, it’s vital that people have cover in place, just in case.”

To find out more about life insurance and critical illness cover with Aviva, call 0800 068 5549 or visit


For further information:

Press office contacts
Sarah Poulter - 01904 452828 / 07800 691569
Louise Duffy - 01904 452791 / 07800 690693

The Wriglesworth Consultancy
Lee Blackwell / Beth Murray  
Telephone: 020 74271400

Notes to editors: 

Unless otherwise stated, all figures taken from consumer research carried out by Opinion Matters through poll of 1,008 population aged between 16 and 80, undertaken in January 2010, or internal Aviva research.

1 The average household has an expenditure of £471 a week (ONS Family Spending Report, 2009).

2 The average Aviva critical illness payout in 2009 was £78,707.

3 Employment and Support Allowance,

4 Statement based on premiums for mortgage protection assurance with critical illness cover for a 35-year-old non-smoker: £100,000 life sum assured and £100,000 sum assured, as supplied by The Exchange for Aviva 11 February 2010. Monthly premium for males: £16.49 and for females: £17.53. The comparable cost of a take-away from Domino’s Pizzas at 11 February 2010: One large Big Smoky pizza: £15.99 plus 1.25 litre bottle Coca-Cola: £1.99.

Table one: How much money could you get your hands on, with a week’s notice, without further borrowing?

Up to £100


Up to £250


Up to £500


Up to £1,000


Up to £3,000


Up to £5,000


Up to £7,000


Up to £10,000


Up to £20,000


Up to £30,000


Up to £40,000


More than £40,000 (please specify)


Table two: Were you to decide to give up parts of your lifestyle/sell your belongings in the event of critical illness, which of the following would you do?

I'd give up holidays


I'd use my savings


I'd sell my car


I'd give up my hobbies


I'd sell my Playstation and games


I'd sell the house


I'd sell my TV


I'd sell the home computer


Other (please specify)


I'd give up my pet


I'd spend my dependent's university fund / take them out of private education


About Aviva
Aviva, the international savings, investments and insurance group, is the world’s fifth largest insurance group, serving 50 million customers across Europe, North America and Asia Pacific.

In the UK, Aviva is a leading provider of life, pensions, investment, general insurance and health products to more than 20 million customers.  Aviva also provides roadside assistance through RAC. Products are distributed through a number of channels including IFAs, brokers, corporate partners and direct to customers via the internet.

Aviva's UK Insurance business has a market share of around 15%, making it the largest general insurer in the UK. The business is focused on insurance for individuals and small businesses.

Aviva's life and pensions business in the UK has a total market share of 12% and a top three position in its key markets of savings, protection, and annuities.

Aviva’s news releases and a selection of images are available from the internet press centre at

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