“We’re not the young people here at work. When did that happen? Now we worry about things like…life insurance!”
As we were discussing careers, a colleague and I lamented this thought. I remember back when I started and was working with people all older than me. They were all people with spouses and kids and mortgages and real responsibilities. I was the young kid talking about going out, showing them how to do the Macarena (it *was* 1996) and not worrying about much else.
Now I look around and I’m in the group with the spouse and kids and mortgage and all the other responsibilities that go along with it. How quickly does it all happen? In the blink of an eye.
A More Serious Take
That’s the kind of fun approach to looking at how things have changed. I have so much more to think about now, but the truth is that there’s a lot more serious part that also fits in, specifically what about if I were to get sick, or even worse, what if I were to die.
Nobody wants to think about it, and when I was back in my 20’s, I pretty much didn’t. At that time, people our age just didn’t die. I’d had older relatives die so it wasn’t like I was exposed to death, but for the most part, nobody that I really knew in my age group had died or even been seriously sick. It was always one of those things to worry about ‘later’.
Later Arrived Much Sooner
There was a guy,Paul, that I graduated college with who was always a pretty cool guy. Paul and I weren’t buddies and we didn’t hang out in the same circle of friends, but our circles overlapped so we saw each other a lot. He was a really cool guy and you could tell that he was really enthusiastic about life and always there when someone needed him.
He and I graduated together and went our separate ways. We never stayed in touch, except when that glorious thing called Facebook came in vogue the opened your circles back up that you’d thought might have been forever closed.
Paul was one of the people that Facebook allowed me to reconnect with and I was able to see that he was doing well. He’d continued his education, gotten his doctorate, and was a professor in Colorado. In addition, he was working to turn a passion, drinking craft beer, into a reality, investing in a new local brewery.
He had a wife and a couple of young kids. A pretty similar story to yours truly.
Then about a year and a half ago he posted that he wasn’t feeling well and was going in for some tests. He actually created a private Facebook group to post updates to those who wanted to know what was going on. I immediately joined.
The news, when it came back, wasn’t good. Paul had a very aggressive form of cancer but he immediately started an equally aggressive treatment plan. The updates to the group were incredible, full of lots of ups and downs, but he always believed that what he was doing would cure him. At the end of his treatment schedule, all of the blood tests and basic scans gave hopes that it might have.
He had to do a more detailed scan at the end of last year, and unfortunately the results were terrible. There was still cancer in every spot where it’d originally been found plus it was in new areas. Long story short, some of the most aggressive treatments available had reduced it but not even wiped one spot clean.
The news was grim. It came right before Christmas, and although Paul expressed a willingness to keep fighting (and he did keep fighting), you could sense a resignation and that he was now also preparing to die. Which, sadly he did this past July. He left behind a wife and two small children, just older than my own.
Later Arrived Again
Another person from my college graduating class posted something last month that shocked me. Her husband, who also graduated with us, though I don’t remember him, had had a series of strokes and was in the hospital and would require brain surgery.
Prior to that, they’d often post pictures of them as a couple doing CrossFit. He was basically an actual iron man. He was in peak physical condition yet now had stroke and brain surgery rehabilitation surgery. It really rattled me.
In this person’s case, the potential for a full recovery is still much higher, but it still shakes you to the bone. when These are people the same age as you and that people the same age as you are getting sick, and not just with the flu or mono.
Planning For Life But Without Guarantees
Seeing these things happen has hit home. It hasn’t turned me into a person obsessed with death or sickness. I don’t walk around thinking about death all the time and I don’t look at everything as a potential sickness. I haven’t changed my diet or exercise (though I probably could stand to).
But I do think about it. I do plan to live, but I now realize that my plans might not come true. You never know what’s going to happen, and you never know when.
Live Life But Plan For Death
Life insurance has always been something I had for years, but really got serious about once we started our family. Back when I was single, I took the basic life insurance plan that was available to me. I figured that if I were to die that I would just need my funeral arrangements taken care of.
After I got married, as the primary breadwinner, I bumped things up a bit, but some of the default options were still just fine.
When we had kids, that’s when things changed. After becoming a father, I really looked at my options seriously. At the time, my employer had very generous offerings, and provided adequate coverage. A couple of years back our coverage options were reduced. I knew that, for the first time, I’d have to look for insurance on the open market.
Once getting started, the process was straightforward.
- Determine who needs coverage. My wife and I both knew that if one of us were to die, the other person would have a financial burden. I work and provide most of the household income, where she stays home, thus providing child care and offsetting other costs. So, we determined that we both needed some level of coverage.
- Estimate the amount needed. We knew that I should have more coverage than her. We ran some numbers through some estimators and came up with what we thought were fair amounts.
- Brush up on verbiage. I spent some time getting to understand the various types of life insurance and understanding some standard options. When you ask for and receive quotes to compare, you want the information to be comparable.
- Get quotes. We got quotes from a variety of sources, including our agent for home and auto coverage. We looked up reputable companies online, reading reviews and using trusted sources (lie fellow bloggers that I’d worked with for a long time) to narrow things down. So much has transitioned to online these days that you can have quotes at your fingertips within moments.
- Compare. We made sure that our quotes were covering the same things and looked at other items and
clauses. I had some phone conversations as well as e-mail exchanges to make sure I had every question answered.
- Look ahead. We ended up getting life insurance that covers 20 years. What this means is that as long as we pay in our annual dues every year, our rates or coverage don’t change for 20 years. When we first signed up, our kids were 4 and 2. We wanted coverage until they would be at or near the point where costs for them to grow up and go to school would be covered, should my wife or I die.
- Keep options open. One thing that I learned that was really key to life insurance is that you can carry multiple policies. So, if we decided we needed more coverage, we can add a second policy to cover our needs. Understanding this flexibility made our decision seem a lot less permanent.
In the end, as with anybody that buys it, we hope that life insurance is something that we don’t use. Paul didn’t make it to see his kids grow up and to get to grow old with his spouse. I hope to do these things, If that’s not part of the plan that I’m not aware of, I’m comfortable knowing that the people who depend on me will not have money as something that they need to worry about.