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My dad was a healthy, active man until he developed Lou Gehrig's disease. When he died two years after his diagnosis, his life insurance meant my family didn't have to stress financially while we were grieving.
Despite that, I still didn't get life insurance for myself. At the time, I didn't have anyone depending on my income so I figured I didn't need it.
But once I became pregnant with my first child, my husband and I bought policies right away. Now, I pay about $1,600 a year for peace of mind.
Nothing in life is predictable. I learned that truth when my father, a healthy, athletic, 55 year old, was diagnosed with Lou Gehrig's disease in 2009. The disease was swift; my father died two years after his diagnosis.
For many people, the unexpected loss of a vibrant family member will lead to questions of financial stability. My father was, after all, the head of our household, and the one who was responsible for managing our financial futures.
But he was also savvy. When he was much younger, he had invested in a life insurance policy. When he died, that meant that no one had to worry about survival in the days, weeks, months, and years after his death.
When you're busy picking up the pieces from the loss of a loved one, financial survival can be low on the list of priorities. I was fortunate that I didn't have to sort through anything beyond my own grief.
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Still, death can feel far off when you're in your 20s and 30s. Life insurance for myself wasn't actually something I considered after my father's death. No one was counting on me for their survival, after all. So what did it matter?
Becoming a parent changed everything
I didn't start thinking about life insurance in any meaningful way until I became pregnant myself. Suddenly, my life was about more than just me. How was I going to provide for a baby if my husband, our primary breadwinner, died? How would he manage to afford childcare without my income, in the event that something happened to me?
The world before you have children feels full of possibility. And while becoming a parent is joyful and emotional and unparalleled, it also comes tinged with a little darkness.
While the looming specter of death feels distant for an ordinary 30-something, that specter feels a lot more real once babies enter the picture.
At night, I contemplated what would happen if one of us died, cataloging unlikely scenarios, falling prey to the worst impulses of predicting tragedy. We are healthy parents. But so was my dad. Didn't we need a safety net?
And so, my husband and I embarked on a journey to secure life insurance policies. Because we were a little older — 36 and 41 — whole life insurance policies were not an option.
Whole life insurance remains in force for a person's entire lifetime, assuming you pay your premiums. Once the insured dies — no matter how many years go by in between — the policy pays out to the beneficiaries. At our ages, whole life was just too expensive.
Term life insurance, on the other hand, is a type of insurance that provides coverage for a set period of time. It is a less expensive option, especially for older people.
Life insurance is loosely based on life expectancy, so the older you are (and the more health problems you develop), the more expensive your policy. Given our circumstances, and the fact that we became parents a little later in life, term policies were the right fit for us.
Life insurance brings me peace of mind
I can't be sure, in motherhood, that I will always have the answers, just like I can't be sure that I will always have the same amount of money in my bank account. Situations change. Jobs change. The only thing I'm certain about, now that I'm a parent, is uncertainty.
But, even though I don't necessarily know where I'll be in 10 years, or what our lives will look like, I know that my children will be protected, even if I'm not around.
I took out a $2 million life insurance policy, expecting that the money, if necessary, could cover my children's college education, as well as aid in their care without me here.
It's a 30-year term and, because of my overall good health and age, my premium comes to $134 a month, or a little over $1,600 a year. I choose to pay the premium annually because it saves me a little money, but I put aside the money each month in a savings account.
It may seem macabre to contemplate how my children's lives will go on without their parents. We all want the best for our kids, and imagining worst-case scenarios feels, at times, like a spiral into needless fear.
But, as someone who lost a parent prematurely, I also know that the untamed grief that comes with loss should not arrive with any additional unsolvable problems.
Regardless of age, whether they're 3, 13, or 33, I want my kids to be able to survive once I'm no longer here to take care of them. Providing them with a security blanket in the form of life insurance helps me sleep a little better at night.
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And so now, regardless of what our financial life looks like, or how much we are — or are not — able to save, I feel confident that my kids (there are two of them now) will be OK.
Parenting is a scary, fraught experience. For me, life insurance is the security blanket that makes everything a little less scary.
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