The starting block

01 May 2014 | Blog
The starting block

Positioned on the starting block can be a nerve racking place to be, and looking towards a successful dental career can be just as daunting.

As Franco Harris the former American Football player said “it’s not how you come out of the starting blocks...” presumably it’s what you do after that counts. And the more prepared and organised you are, after that moment, the more you can enjoy a rewarding and more financially secure future.

Dr Ben Atkins a dentist based in Salford, who owns and manages six practices, including one running an NHS pilot scheme; lectures; gets involved in the BDA; is a trustee of the BDHF; ambassador for Wrigley’s, and still practices dentistry, says “I advise young dentists to work ‘on their business’ and not ‘in it’, as it is so important to be able to step back. Treat dentistry as a job and it will become a passion. It has taken me 15 years to understand my vision, but I find it’s often better to start by understanding what you don’t like.”

Life expenses

From graduation and throughout your career, you may find that your income gets swallowed up in loans and, as you earn more, your expenses may increase as well; perhaps it’s from specialist postgraduate courses, taking on a mortgage or starting a family.

So whether you are employed or in practice it is important to protect yourself, if you are unable to work due to an illness or injury, to ensure you can still cover many of your lifestyle expenses. There are a range of health protection products you may wish to consider, from life insurance and private medical insurance, to critical illness, cover which pays you a one-off lump sum if you suffer one of a specified number of illnesses. Plus there is income protection insurance that pays you a regular monthly income if you suffer from an illness or injury that prevents you from working. Dentists’ Provident is currently paying long term benefits to around 150 of its 13,500 members, some of whom are only in their thirties.

Physical profession

Because dentistry is such a physical profession, requiring flexible hands and fingers, good eyesight and the ability to move freely, it may only take a relatively minor injury to prevent you from doing your job. A slip on the ski slopes or a trip on a night out can result in having to take time off work, while you wait for your injuries to heal. Add to that the risk of stress-related illnesses, back, arm or neck problems and it’s clear that any dental practitioner is exposed to illness or injury, at any age. Musculoskeletal disorders were the largest area for claims paid by Dentists’ Provident in 2013, with 37% of all female claims paid and 35% of all male claims paid.

“The truth of the matter is that dentists often spend more time worrying about their patients’ health than their own,” suggests Independent Financial Advisor Martin Haines from Dental Financial Associates.

Without some form of income protection to support you when you need it, the impact of being unable to work, whether for a couple of weeks, several months or much longer, could be devastating.

Types of provider

A quick search on the internet will reveal that there are plenty of insurers offering income protection policies. Unsurprisingly, however, the devil’s in the detail, so you may like to take professional advice to help you make an informed choice and to highlight the areas of cover that might be most important for your particular circumstances.

For dentists, certain elements of income protection insurance are more significant than for other professions, which is why it can be sensible to consult those with particular experience of this sector. Among the considerations are:

  • Does the policy offer ‘first day cover’? It’s up to you if you wish to use the policy to claim for day-to-day illnesses, from the first day of any sickness, or for longer term illnesses or recovery from accidents. You may have other sources of income in the short term, such as NHS sickness benefit or your employer’s offering that can influence your decision of the type of policy you choose.
  • How much cover would you need? You can be insured for around 65% of your ‘pre illness or accident’ gross income, so decide what level suits you best, considering the company’s policy on excluding other sources of funds.  
  • Is the policy defined as ‘own occupation’? Some providers base your claim on your ability to perform your role as a dentist, whereas others will only pay if you are unable to do say a research job or similar. Some will even only pay out if you are unable to do any kind of work at all.
  • What exclusions apply to the policy? Besides commonly applied exclusions, such as alcohol and drug abuse, some providers also exclude dangerous sports, while others increase their premiums for smokers.
  • Can you take a career break? Some providers allow you to suspend your policy payments for a period if you aren’t earning, due to maternity leave or travelling abroad.

Life in the fast lane can be exciting, but as always, it carries risks. Could it be time to install some protection for the route ahead?

References available on request.

This article is intended for information only. It is not designed to give financial or medical advice, nor is it intended to make any recommendations of the suitability of our plans for a particular individual. Full details of our contract can be found in our rules on our website www.dentistsprovident.co.uk. Dentists’ Provident Society Limited does not accept liability and responsibility for changes made to this information. Some of the information in this article has been obtained from third parties. While we believe the information to be reliable; we make no representations as to its accuracy and accept no responsibility or liability for any error, omission or inaccuracy in the data supplied by any third party.

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