In recent months, you may have seen TV presenter Jonnie Irwin on television or talking in the press about his terminal cancer diagnosis.
The A Place In The Sun host was diagnosed with lung cancer in 2020 and shared his diagnosis publicly in November 2022. At that time, doctors told him that he may have “months to live”, although the 49-year-old has defied those predictions.
The married father of three has since spoken frankly about his illness, which started in his lungs but has now spread to his brain. He has also talked candidly about the “mistakes” he made when arranging protection for his family.
Read on to find out more, and to discover the “ridiculous” life insurance mistake the TV star made.
A cancer diagnosis just two months after the birth of his twins
Since 2004, Irwin has been a regular fixture on British TV. The presenter has filmed more than 200 episodes of A Place In The Sun and you may also have seen him on shows including Escape To The Country, To Buy Or Not To Buy, and The Renovation Game.
Jonnie married Jessica Holme in 2016 and the couple have three children, four-year-old Rex and two-year-old twins Rafa and Cormac.
When he was first diagnosed with cancer in 2020, Irwin kept his diagnosis a secret from the public as he was worried about not being able to provide for his family. Indeed, he has recently admitted that the “hardest thing” he's ever had to do was tell his wife he had been diagnosed with terminal cancer just two months after she gave birth to twins.
Speaking to insurer AIG Life's The OneChat podcast, he said: “I can remember it like it was yesterday. And I’ve got no memory since my whole brain therapy. But that bloody memory stays in my head. And it is brutal. All I can remember is hugging her and just saying, 'Sorry,'".
Jonnie Irwin’s life insurance “mistake” was to not consider Critical Illness protection
The 49-year-old also discussed what he considers “mistakes” in his preparedness for living with cancer. He told the podcast that he feels "ridiculous" for not considering Critical Illness cover when he took out his life insurance several years ago.
Explaining his financial situation, the father of three noted: “I didn’t take Critical Illness insurance out and therefore I had to keep working.
“Without work, I’ve got no means of paying the bills. And if I had taken the Critical Illness insurance out, that could’ve covered my outgoings and I probably could’ve told the world a lot sooner.”
He added: “I thought I was doing well just taking out life insurance. It’s one positive thing and helped me a great deal in getting a financial position in life to know my wife and my boys are more secure.
“But how I wish I’d taken out that extra cover.”
Irwin has also explained that he had to keep working for a couple of years after his cancer diagnosis, and that he kept his condition secret. He said: “The only reason I kept it secret is because I’ve got to earn, I’ve got to feed my babies, pay the bills.
“And as soon as you say you’ve got cancer, people just write you off. I had to live with it as a secret.”
Indeed, after he went public in 2022, Irwin accused the bosses of Channel 4 property show A Place in the Sun of dropping him and failing to renew his contract.
Financial support when you really need it
Critical Illness cover provides a lump sum if you are diagnosed with a serious medical condition. Common conditions insurers cover under this type of protection include:
- Serious forms of cancer
- Multiple sclerosis
- Parkinson’s disease
- Heart attacks and other serious heart conditions
- Loss of sight, or loss of a limb
- Major organ transplant
- Alzheimer’s disease
The cover is designed to provide valuable financial support that could enable you to repay debts, or take time off work to focus on your recovery.
Not having this cover meant that Jonnie Irwin ended up having to work for two more years, rather than spending his time with his young family.
He says: “I could’ve had two years of living a more open lifestyle. And I want people to learn from that mistake. I think at the time I just thought I can better spend that money elsewhere. Where I don’t know. I’ve not frittered it away. Maybe because I know what benefits it would have had, it just seems ridiculous that I didn’t.”
A critical illness can affect anyone at any time – indeed, Irwin was just 47 when he received his diagnosis. Leading insurer LV= reports that, between January and September 2022, the average age of a Critical Illness claim was 48 years old, while the youngest person to make a Critical Illness claim was just 22.
Having a policy in place to provide financial stability can help you to relieve any financial pressures and focus on your recovery. If you have dependents that rely on your income, Critical Illness cover allows you to provide financial support when you are no longer able to work.
You can often add Critical Illness cover to your life insurance
There are two ways you can take out Critical Illness insurance:
- As a stand-alone policy
- You can include it as an “add-on” with life insurance.
Stand-alone Critical Illness cover typically doesn’t payout on death. This is why many people choose to combine it with a life insurance policy as this means you can protect your loved ones should the worst happen.
If you decide to add it to your life insurance, the policy will usually pay out on the “first event” and then end. So, if you die, the policy will pay the sum assured and end.
If you are diagnosed with a serious illness covered under the policy, it will pay out the sum assured and then end. This can then mean you don’t have any remaining life insurance which could still leave your loved ones in financial difficulty when you die.
Here's an example.
You are married, have two children aged 3 and 5, and a £200,000 mortgage. You decide to take out life insurance with Critical Illness cover to protect your mortgage.
In five years’ time, you are diagnosed with cancer and you make a successful Critical Illness claim. Your policy then lapses. You have to take an extended period off work and so you use the payout to replace your income and to meet your regular commitments.
Sadly, you then die five years later. As your policy paid out on your cancer diagnosis, there is no further payout. So, your spouse may then find they struggle financially to raise two young children and pay your mortgage without any further financial support.
Had you taken out separate stand-alone life and Critical Illness cover, you would have received a payout on diagnosis and on death, leaving your loved ones in a much more secure financial position.
Get in touch to find out how we can help
As life insurance and Critical Illness experts we can help you to find the right cover for your needs. We’ll scour the market for you and find the most comprehensive and cost-effective protection for your unique situation.
This can help you to avoid Jonnie Irwin’s “mistake” and ensure your family receive the financial support they need if you are seriously ill, or you pass away prematurely.
5 things science says can help slow the ageing process and help you to live longer
November 16, 2023
Almost half of those planning a funeral were “stressed by the cost” – here’s what you can do
November 9, 2023
Revealed: The 5 most important things you’ll consider when buying health and life insurance
November 2, 2023
Dementia – here are the symptoms to look out for and how protection can provide valuable support
October 26, 2023
2 in 3 adults worry about money – here are 3 useful ways to reduce your financial stress
October 19, 2023
5 easy steps to finding the right life insurance for you
October 12, 2023
- Critical Illness Cover
- Pre-Existing Medical Conditions
- 3 reasons that you and your partner should buy separate life and critical illness insurance policies
- Leading insurer widens cancer cover as critical illness claims overtake life insurance payouts
- Everything you need to know about critical illness cover