She gave little thought to protecting her income against illness or injury until a friend recently was diagnosed with breast cancer and was unable to continue working.

Fortunately, her friend had taken out income protection insurance. Six months down the track, she is still receiving a regular payment which is helping her and her family to meet the cost of her medical expenses and a mortgage.

This episode made Rebecca rethink her own circumstances. Once her savings ran out, how would she cover her mortgage? And her car payments?

Who would pay for her food and utilities? And any medical bills that were not covered by her private health fund or Medicare?

Rebecca contacted an insurance broker, requesting several quotes on a policy that would pay up to 75 per cent of her average gross monthly income.

To make the premium more affordable, she elected to have a longer waiting period of three months before the payment took effect because she would have enough in the kitty to cover her costs during those first few months.

The broker informed her that she would actually have to wait a further 30 days before her payment kicked in because she would be paid a month in arrears.

Rebecca crunched the numbers again and found she couldn't string out her finances for an extra month so opted instead for a 60-day waiting period.

The broker then asked about her age, her health, whether she was a smoker, her occupation and the length of time she wished to be insured. Rebecca elected to be covered until the age of 65 and stressed that the policy must be guaranteed renewable; that is, once she took it out, it would be renewed every year regardless of her health.

She also asked that consumer price index increases be factored in.

One of the key features of an income protection policy is a total disability benefit. Examine the definition of this benefit closely to ensure it matches the cover you require.

There are also two distinct types of policies: agreed value, where the amount of cover agreed to in your application is guaranteed for the life of the policy; and an indemnity contract, where the benefit to be paid is determined at claim time and is based on your level of income at that time.

If Rebecca were in a relationship, she might not need income protection insurance, particularly if her partner was not dependent on her income.

However, if you are self-employed and single with no sick leave or are in a relationship where your income is essential to meet commitments, then income protection is definitely worth considering.

Most insurance companies will have application forms that will ask about your medical history. Most will ask permission to contact your doctor to confirm your details.

If there are any issues, you may be required to have a medical. If you have a particular problem, the policy can exclude claims for that condition.

Within an hour, Rebecca's broker had provided several different quotes. She opted for a tax-deductible premium of $1466 a year. In the event of a claim, she would receive $3125 a month, enough to cover her mortgage and her bills until she could return to work again.