The Insurance Thing

By Larry Teren

Let’s talk about life insurance. No, I’m not trying to sell you any. But, if Dad were still alive and in his working years, he would attempt to sell you into buying an insurance policy. He tried to get me to sell life insurance just as he did for more than thirty-five years. I would always tell him, “I’d rather buy than sell the stuff.”

Maybe it’s all about how old you are and its perspective in thinking about the need for life insurance. Sure, everyone needs auto, homeowners or renters insurance. Maybe even dental or travel or trip cancellation insurance. But, I’m talking about life insurance. There was a time when only the man of the house went out and worked while the mother stayed home, looked after the kids when they came home from school and had dinner prepared from scratch slaving over a hot stove.

In close to sixty years, I’ve seen it all change. Now, both the husband and wife work but don’t worry about leaving the children alone when they come home from school because- who has kids anyway? And who says its husband and wife? Its even cheaper for two older people to live together than to make it legal in order to benefit from better social security payouts.

It seems from reading newspapers that the ones having children aren’t married anyway and are raising kids (accent on plural) as a single parent (usually the result of stupid teenage decision-making). Maybe for them life insurance makes sense. But those idiots can hardly afford to pay the rent.

Back in the 50’s through the 70’s- the heyday of my father’s career- he specialized in selling whole life insurance as well as health insurance. Some people would nay say whole life because the premiums were relatively much higher than for  term life insurance. Dad, of course, would explain that there would be no building of asset value for  term life insurance.

Whole life insurance  was really  level term life insurance which meant that you paid the same amount each year for many years. The premiums on a regular term life insurance policy would increase each year as you got older. And it cost less to begin with. But it also meant you had little to show for it all those years later when you reached a magical age. There was no build-up of equity and therefore no money if you cancelled the policy. And there was no money either if the insurer cancelled your policy when you hit the maximum age.

Back then, if you lived to 70, you got a handshake from the insurer and were told to get lost. Now, insurance agents present actuarial tables when selling a life insurance policy that shows they expect you to be making payments until you are 100. Even if they have to go into the grave and dig it out of your pockets.

If your spouse also works and you have enough money put away for burial plots- maybe even bought them already- why pay for life insurance? Aren’t you better off putting the money away into an annuity? Besides, there is a stigma about the word ‘insurance’ that does not exist when you say ‘annuity’. But that latter word doesn’t role off the tongue as easily and sounds like something only for rich guys who walk around with attache briefcases.

All these years later- do people still buy whole life insurance? Do they purchase  term life insurance? Or is owning an insurance policy a luxury? Of course, there are hybrid policies that combine the best that whole life insurance and term life insurance offer. Because life is no insurance thing.

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