When Andrew Green started suffering coughing fits, he thought little of it. But they persisted and he went to the doctor.
Fond memories: Tracy Green, who lost husband Andrew, used their life cover to pay off their mortgage
Within six weeks he was told he had a tumour on his right lung. Only nine weeks later, 43-year-old Andrew, a hugely respected local footballer and family man, was dead.
His wife, Tracy, 39, says she will always be indebted to St Leonard’s Hospice in York for the care they gave Andrew in the last days of his life.
‘For three days, the hospice gave me back my husband. He was almost painfree. It made his death slightly easier to bear, although I still miss him terribly,’ says Tracy, of Dringhouses, York.
Andrew’s popularity was underlined by the fact that hundreds of mourners attended his funeral at York Crematorium.
His death in 2009 has left Tracy to bring up their son, Jacob, 12, who was just starting secondary school, while she works part time as a customer assistant with Tesco.
She has been helped greatly by her mother, Rosemary Harrison, 75, who lives with her and sees Jacob off to school when Tracy is on an early shift.
Tracy has also been helped by a crucial financial decision she and Andrew made after they married, which means at least she does not have to worry about paying off a mortgage.
The £47,000 Nationwide Building Society mortgage the couple took out when they married in 2003 – they had been together since 1995 – was automatically paid off when Andrew died because of the life cover Tracy had bought at the same time.
She paid £10 a month for Tesco-branded decreasing term assurance, which promised to pay off any outstanding debt on the death of either her or Andrew.
‘It was one of the best financial decisions I’ve ever taken,’ says Tracy. ‘Although I get a small pension from York University, Andrew’s old employer where he was a cleaner, times are difficult.
‘But I don’t know how I would have coped if I still had the mortgage to pay. I would encourage anyone, especially those with young families, to get life insurance.’
But Alan Lakey, an income protection specialist at Highclere Financial Services in Hemel Hempstead, Hertfordshire, says Tracy is in a minority.
Few people, he says, understand the value of life cover, even though a competitive UK market means its cost remains the lowest in the world – even lower than in Japan where people live on average two and a half years longer.
Lakey says: ‘10% of people I meet understand the need for cover and purchase it without fuss.
‘A further 40 to 50% buy it only when a neighbour or close friend dies and they suddenly realise they are not immortal. The rest don’t believe in it, can’t afford it or, more often than not, believe they can’t afford it when in truth they can.’
Research to be released this week by insurer Aviva confirms Lakey’s view. Conducted by Mintel, it says that 39% of adults – about 20m people – have no form of financial protection – whether life insurance, cover against critical illness, income protection or death in service benefits provided by an employer.
And even if someone received a pay rise at work, they would save it, use it to pay off debts or treat their family rather than buy life cover.
Tomorrow, Aviva will launch a television campaign starring Paul Whitehouse of BBC’s The Fast Show, aimed at highlighting the importance of taking out life cover.
The advert has a ‘deceased’ Whitehouse looking on as his family go about their daily tasks – with a daughter off to university and a son enjoying his swimming lessons.
It is intended to demonstrate that life insurance can make a real difference to families when a parent dies.
Louise Colley, head of protection marketing for Aviva, says: ‘Every 29 minutes, a child under the age of 16 loses a parent in the UK. Yet millions of families are still under-protected financially.
‘With this advert, which sets out to make an emotional connection with parents, we want to tackle the traditional barriers that prevent people taking out life insurance.
‘Rather than people saying “we can’t afford it” or “we don’t need it”, we want them instead to sit up and take action.
‘It’s a bold approach we’re taking, but people told us they needed to be prompted – even shocked – into putting life cover in place.’