When your life (almost) goes up in smoke

Managing Director & Financial Planner
Jessica McGowan CFP™ Chartered FCSI
Jessica began her career in Financial Services in 2001 and has gained a wide range of experience working with clients from all walks of life, guiding them through the many complex aspects of financial planning to ensure that they fully understand their objectives, options and desired outcomes. Jessica prides herself on delivering an excellent service for her clients ensuring that they are well looked after through every stage of the financial planning process, firmly believing in the empathetic and emotional side of the process as much as the facts and financials.


Wednesday 28th February 2024 is not a day I would like to repeat. Around 4.30pm we suddenly noticed a lot of white smoke being blown past the first floor window of our office in Ruddington.

On closer inspection the kitchen at the back of the adjoining pub (our much visited neighbour) was on fire. At this stage it could easily have been something that had caught and been put out. However, the smoke very quickly turned a thick, billowing black and seconds later we had a knock on the door advising that we evacuate as the fire had taken hold and was at risk of spreading along the building.

We immediately got ourselves outside and watched events unfold.

By the time we had evacuated around to the other side of the building, orange flames were now also flicking in amongst the smoke. The first of four fire engines arrived seconds later and then our Great British fire service did what they do best.

Confirming it was an oil fire it actually turned out that the smoke was the worst of it as the fire itself had been very well contained and then managed out. Thankfully everyone had also got clear so nobody was hurt.

In that 15 – 20 minute period though, when the wind was blowing the flames and smoke directly on to our offices (and my car for that matter) I was frantically devising plans for home working, thinking who was due to visit us and would need cancelling, mentally checking and checking again that I’d done everything I was supposed to do.

Within an hour the flames were gone and we were just left wondering about smoke damage. And we were lucky there too. Apart from our entrance hall and stairs smelling a bit acrid thanks to a badly fitting front door (which is imminently being replaced) we had escaped unscathed.

Off I went to the Co-op to buy some air fresheners and Febreze and I could have thought no more about it beyond that point.

However, that evening once I’d relaxed and my practical, problem solving brain had quietened down, I realised I was in a bit of shock. Numb and sluggish from the adrenaline having dissipated I suddenly found myself checking what my family’s position was had something more serious happened, then also thinking about the business, did we have the right things in place for our people?

Far too long into that night I was thinking back to all the protection training I’ve had over my 23 years in the profession and in the cold light of day the next morning I had an appreciation for just how much choice and flexibility there is in protecting what’s important. Whether it’s income, capital, debt repayment; whether it’s against death, terminal illness, critical illness or simply not being able to do your job anymore. Or, more typically, a combination of all of these areas.

So ask yourself, if the worst happened at home or at work – what would you want to happen for your loved ones and what do we need to put in place to achieve this?

As for the pub. After an incredible community effort to rectify the smoke damage, it re-opened for drinks a few days later. Food may take a little while longer whilst they re-build their kitchen but, it could have been far worse.


If we extrapolate the worst of scenarios as a case study. What sort of protection policies would have come in handy. I’ll ignore buildings and contents insurance as that, I would hope is a given for all.

1. Key Person cover – if you have somebody that is key to your business then you, as an employer are able to put in place life insurance so that should the worst happen, you have a lump sum of capital to use as you wish which would then help to keep your business afloat and/or replace your staff.

2. Relevant Life cover – in our Autumn 2023 edition of The Bridge we explored this essentially ‘tax free’ personal life cover which can be funded by your business, not your income.

3. Shareholder Protection – if there are multiple owners in your business it’s important to ensure that you are insured proportionately so that the remaining business owners can carry on running the company and/or buy out the families of any deceased shareholders.

4. Group Life cover – not only a great retention tool to attract and keep staff, this often also includes lots of added benefits like support lines and GP access.

5. Private Medical Insurance – available as a corporate or personal benefit, not relying solely on the NHS could make all the difference to your quality of life at a time when it’s really needed. Not only that, the quicker your staff are back at work, the more productive your company.


Again, thinking of the possible things that could have happened if a team member, or customer had been injured, or worse, killed in this fire.

1. Mortgage Life & Critical Illness cover – cover for a capital amount to repay your families debt in the event of your death or diagnosed critical illness. Taking the financial pressure off at a time when you need to focus on what’s really important.

2. Family Income Benefit – another way to cover against your death or diagnosed critical illness. This time in the form of a tax free income rather than capital. A very suitable product for when you have dependents at home and, for example, are wanting to ensure that education can be funded through to its full term.

3. Income Protection – what if you can’t work due to accident or injury? A policy which complements your employers sick pay policy and comes in to payment once this runs out means you can focus on your recovery rather than feeling pressure to return to work before you’re really able.


So, if push came to shove, do you think you have everything in place that you would want if you weren’t here tomorrow, or if you could no longer work?

Protecting against these sorts of risks is so important to guaranteeing the financial future not only of yourself, but also of your loved ones.

The sad truth is, we won’t all live to the ripe old age of 100; which is the default age we use in our forecasting. Therefore, what can we do to ensure if we’re not here, that our loved ones don’t suffer financially?

Short answer, speak to us and request a full review – if you’re fully covered, we’ll tell you and you’ll have peace of mind. If you’re not, then we can help you make informed decisions and then hopefully never need to think about the policies again!

Approver Quilter Financial Services Limited & Quilter Mortgage Planning Limited. 28/03/2024

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