Friday, December 03, 2010

The Game of Life

In the past two weeks, I've had the privilege of helping the families of two clients who have passed away. I say "privilege" because it means that we were able to help grieving loved ones with something more tangible that condolences and more lasting than a casserole (which is in no way meant to minimize the value of either). Long after the flowers have wilted and the cookies are gone, the cold, hard cash that is the ultimate result of a life insurance policy will be there to help pay the mortgage, fund a son or daughter's college education, and pay off hospital bills.

The first of these two folks had been a client for many, many years. He lived a reasonably long life, passing away at age 81. His wife, also a client, knows that any expenses left behind will be taken care of, and she and her children and grandchildren will benefit from his legacy for years to come.

The other is more tragic: cut off at the painfully young age of 53, she leaves behind a grieving husband and three daughters, one of whom is to be married in a few short weeks. As a labor and delivery nurse, she was responsible for helping to bring life into this world; as a matter of fact, she helped to deliver our youngest. How does one console the family of one taken so young?

The other day, my good friend Bill M sent along an email he'd received, with the provocative title "Sue thanks God Greg had life insurance:"

"Tuesday, October 18th was one year to the day that my friend and client Greg Murphy died suddenly. He left behind a wife and two children. He was only 52 years of age ... Sue, Greg's wife, is one of the fortunate ones. Greg left her a substantial amount through a life insurance policy. If he had not, their family would be doubly devastated; emotionally and financially."

The scary part came a bit later:

"Statistics show that 34% of Americans have no life insurance [and] 48% don't have enough life insurance for proper family protection."

But that's just one email, right?

Turns out, there's more. A lot more. According to today's McPaper:

"The percentage of U.S. households with life insurance coverage is at its lowest in 50 years, leaving millions of families without a safety net, industry experts say ... Only 44% of households have an individual life insurance policy, and 30% have no individual or employer-provided life insurance."

Professionally, I discount group-based life insurance because it is specifically designed not to be in force when it's most needed. Nonetheless, it's arguably better than none at all. What's so mind-boggling is that, from a simple cost standpoint, life insurance rates are at historical lows.

As always, there's a raft of excuses for why folks keep putting off that purchase. Personally, I think the internet has a lot to do with it: there's so much information, and so many quote-sites vying for attention, that information overload sets in, and the decision-making process grinds to a complete halt. Which is a shame, because it means that there are going to be a lot of un (and under-) protected families out there.

Don't be one of them.
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