CIVILesbianIZATION: In Life and In Death: What is Insured?
I have a lot of insurance. During times in my life when I struggled to pay bills, the payments for my life insurance and disability insurance were never late, paid automatically from my bank account.
Part of my "abundant" insurance is a result of the fact that I’ve always worked for small non-profit organizations, which aren’t known for having robust employee benefit packages. The real reason, however, is that during my 20s, I saw too many young men live with AIDS, struggle without disability benefits, and then die, leaving family and friends to struggle with funeral costs. At 24, I signed up for a lifetime of insurance.
I don’t wish this experience on others, but I appreciate the respect it gave me for insurance, which - fortunately - I’ve not had to use. Yet. The thing with insurance is that it’s a hedge against bad things in life- a fact that appeals to my slightly pessimistic impulses. That said, the reason I have insurance is not out of pessimistic impulses, but from witnessing others’ negative experiences.
Now, in middle age, I still see people struggling with major life events without insurance. I’ve seen couples nearly bankrupt with a disabled partner; families struggling to provide for young children upon a sudden death. I have a political analysis about these situations that dreams of national solutions for caring for people and their families in times of great need, like disability and death. (And to be fair, programs like social security disability and some state and federal death benefit programs do exist, which provide for some of these needs, depending on the circumstances.) I’d like to see a welfare state in the United States like there is in parts of Western Europe, which ensure that people who are infirm and families of people who die young are not financially hobbled.
I’m thankful, however, that my political ideologies and commitments didn’t prevent me from buying my own private insurance.
A few weeks ago, the beloved and I met with our financial advisor, visiting our modest retirement savings and reviewing our insurance coverage. Being prudent, the financial advisor suggested that a little more insurance wouldn’t hurt us, but we declined additional policies. I tell the beloved, if I die relatively young, she should put her hand back into the fish tank and have another go at a life partnership (preferably with someone with more financial means!).
Apparently, now that I’m at mid-life, the robust insurance of my youth is more modest- which is fine. Hedging the bets with higher stakes when young makes sense to me. For now, in middle age, there’s enough to provide for a disability or a funeral if it becomes necessary. If I die, what the beloved will face is great emotional pain, not financial devastation.
I want to tell everyone, at every age (though particularly when you’re young), to find a financial planner. Buy life insurance; it’s cheap. Buy disability insurance that will last your working lifetime. If you have children, buy buckets of life insurance; pay a modest annual fee for your children’s lives - and college - should something happen to you.
Thinking about disability and death aren’t pleasant thoughts, but buying insurance doesn’t mean you must dwell on them. Instead, linger long enough with unfortunate possibilities to protect yourself and those you love.
The other night on the telephone, my father and I discussed long-term care insurance. That’s a decision the beloved and I will make in the next decade or two as part of our ongoing chatter about our financial lives.
What I’ve learned, through our conversations and by watching friends die when we were young, is that no insurance exists to protect me from love and loss. That, I would buy in a heartbeat.
Instead, I’ll take what’s second best: a small hedge to provide a modicum of financial stability for emotionally devastating events. I hope you are doing the same.