If you're a parent, why I'm begging you to buy life insurance!


If you're a person who's naturally prone to anxiety, the internet can be a scary place. Without even looking for them, horrible stories find their way to the page directly in front of your eye balls only to come haunting your dreams later in the day.  Often the scenarios described are not something you can reasonably protect yourself from, short of locking yourself in a bunker. Even locking yourself in a padded room eating nothing but toast won't protect you from some of the heartbreak that is an inevitable part of the human experience. 

A year ago, this month, I came all too close to heartbreak with the near death of my husband. This essay is a result of that experience. It is a plea for all parents everywhere to buy life insurance.  And before I go on, please do know that everything in this story ultimately turned out fine and my husband’s life insurance policy remains uncashed. (See the many posts he's written for this site). So here goes.


The unexpected can happen to anyone

When I was 24 weeks pregnant with my second child (my daughter was just shy of two years old at the time), my husband had a heart attack.  It was a total and complete shock.  He was 32 and a vegetarian from childhood. 

He woke up one night with searing chest pain and made his way to the Emergency Room not too long after. It took the doctors 2 days to determine that the crisis he had experienced was indeed a heart attack, that the the heart attack was severe, and that he would require open heart surgery. With someone so young and fit, the labs can often tell a very confusing story and that was the case with him. The 10 days my husband spent in the Intensive Care Unit - waiting to figure out what happened, waiting for bloodwork compatible with undergoing surgery, waiting to be stable enough to go home after - were the darkest days of my life. I am so lucky that during that time, and in the many weeks of recovery that followed, I had an amazing community of family, friends, and even acquaintances that went out of their way to provide us with childcare, home cooked meals, help around the house, and countless hours of support, love, and friendship.

This essay has taken me almost a year to write, and the words are still hard to type. During that year, I have had the time to consider what happened from every possible angle.  The initial terror I felt that my husband may not get through the 6 hours of surgery, never hold my hand again, never meet his son growing in my body, grew into a jumble of other emotions. I have felt angry, confused, and helpless.  I have been grateful beyond words for how our village swarmed in to help. And I will admit that I felt a glimmer of relief that we had purchased life insurance the year before all this took place. It provided a small nugget of certainty for me to cling to as I stared into the abyss.

Of all the infinite possibilities I worried about in the days and weeks that followed the heart attack, money was not one of them. Should the worst have happened, I knew that I could afford to pay the mortgage and keep my family living in our house. I knew that I could have kept sending my daughter to the daycare she had attended since she was a baby, the school where she was loved and cared for and happy to go to on a daily basis.  I knew that if I needed to, I could have taken a long time off from working to tend to myself in order to recover from the meteor that had just struck my family.


Prepare for the unexpected

The meteor is what life insurance is for, but there are many barriers that keep people from acquiring it.  So here I offer some advice about how to work through several obstacles and come out the other side with peace of mind.

  1. 1. Money. The cost of a life insurance policy depends on the health of the individual (and of course on how much insurance you want). If you are in good health, now is the time to buy it for a low price. It is absolutely worth it to inquire how much it would cost for you.  If you have health conditions that make it more expensive than you are able to afford, it is often possible to buy extra insurance through your employer, regardless of health status, and even keep it once you leave a job by continuing to pay the premium. Finally, it’s important to consider realistically what financial resources you or your partner have access to, should the worst happen.  It is worth making some sacrifices to know that your loved ones would be taken care of in that scenario.

  2. 2. How much do you need? If you're a household with two working parents, could you afford to pay for your housing and child care on one salary? If one of you stays home with the kids, think about how much it would cost to purchase the services currently provided by the stay-at-home parent (child care, household care, etc.). Everyone’s needs are different, but we roughly figured out the cost to pay off the mortgage, allow for the surviving parent to have a year with no salary, and to ensure that one salary would be enough for the long haul with a little bit of additional savings.

  3. 3. Choosing where to buy. Life insurance policies are largely interchangeable but life insurance companies all calculate your risk differently. As a result, it's worth applying to a couple of them to get the best price. The easiest way to do this is to go through a broker that provides the service of matching you, free of charge.  I went to AccuQuote*, filled out a simple web form, and after a brief phone call with a broker was recommended 3 companies that best matched my health profile.

Many people don't want to spend the money to face their own mortality and if this is you, I urge you to reconsider.  I know it's hard, but picture the practical aspects of what you would need should an accident befall you or your partner. The last thing you probably want to do in that scenario is to have to move out of your house, or further disrupt your children's routines by pulling them out of school. If you’re a single parent, knowing that whoever takes care of your children will have the finances to do so is even more important.

Nobody wants to think of the scary things, but as someone who's had no choice but to face the darkness, I implore you to make a plan for the worst case scenario.

* Most links on this site pay an affiliate commission. However, this topic is serious enough I don’t want anyone to think we’re doing it for the kickback. While we used AccuQuote (who is NOT paying us), I really don’t care who you go with, but please do go with someone. 

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