I love young people. They have such spirit and think they are invincible. Unfortunately, the very thing I love about them often gets them into trouble. Young people in their 20’s and 30’s never think about getting sick or dying (unlike my 71-year-old husband who faithfully reads the obituaries over his breakfast every morning—I think he wants to make sure he’s not there). I don’t want to be a killjoy here, but let me lay out the reality.
We plan ahead for natural disasters and economic hardship by preparing 72-hour kits and food storage. Why on earth would we not want to protect our family from economic hardship in the event of illness or death?
What Happens if You Don’t Have Insurance?
Let me give a real life personal example of what can happen if one isn’t prepared.
My stepson was 35 years old when he was killed on the job as a highway worker filling a pothole on Interstate 5, leaving behind a wife (who is ill) and three children. His stepson was about 18, but the girls were 8 and 10 years old. He had no will, no trust, and no burial plan. His wife had no idea what to do. Despite the fact she (and the rest of us) were grieving, we found ourselves shopping funeral homes. The first funeral home quoted us a price of $18,000 to put him in the ground (and it was an ugly cemetery). At that point we were more than grieving, we were in sticker shock.
The second shock was to find out that funeral homes won’t bury you until they have the cash in hand. They don’t bury you and then wait for life insurance policies. No money; no burial. We were extremely fortunate to discover that one particular funeral home has a special plan for state workers who die on the job. They give you a FREE $15,000 funeral (and it is a gorgeous cemetery). If it had not been for that, I don’t know what we would have done. Well, actually, I do. Every single weekend without fail, as we drive down the two main boulevards close to our home, we see families holding car washes to earn money to bury loved ones. Yes, that would have been my family. Who would have guessed that this big, healthy 35-year-old man would be gone in an instant? He had not prepared his family for it, and neither had we.
He passed away in December of 2007. After his funeral, my husband and I decided that right after Christmas we were going to start working on our own burial plan so that our children don’t have the mess that we dealt with when my stepson died. We bought the plots first, and when they were paid off, we bought the funeral plans. It gives us great peace of mind to know that our children won’t be washing cars to put us in the ground. By the way, burial plots are real estate that can be sold if you move out of the area, and you can repurchase burial plots in the new area—just like a house—so don’t let instability keep you from planning ahead.
Life insurance is essential, and it is much less expensive if purchased while you are young. Many people wait too long and then discover they are not insurable, or at least pay a horrible price, for health reasons. My father sold life insurance, and he told me once that he could tell how much a man loved his wife by how much life insurance he carried. (When I married my husband, Dad fixed me up just fine. J)
Women also need life insurance. After I went back to work full-time, there came a point when I made as much money as my husband did (more if his benefits weren’t counted into the mix). We suddenly realized that if I died, his income to support our children would be cut in half. I had two small life insurance policies. One my father paid for when I was 16 years old (with options to purchase more at certain times in my life), and the other was a policy I bought with one of those options. Dad hadn’t figured I would ever make as much money as my husband, and he passed away before it became a problem. We were faced with purchasing more life insurance for me (at a higher cost because I was an older, overweight and out-of-shape mom).
Important Documents and Decisions
Wills, trusts, and durable power of attorney for health care are critical documents to have. Who will take care of your children if something happens to you? Have you provided the resources for that person to care for them? If you are ill and unable to make decisions, who will make healthcare decisions? What are your wishes with regard to prolonging life? Does your family know your feelings about organ donation? These are things that need to be talked about and handled while you are young. It is important to review and update wills, trusts, and durable power of attorney for healthcare documents on a regular basis. Put it on your calendar to review at least every two years.
Put together a binder of important documents. Wills, trusts, durable power of attorney for healthcare, social security cards, passports, birth certificates, marriage certificates, divorce papers and child custody documents (if a second marriage), grant deeds, military documents, insurance policies, and other important papers should all be together in one place. Make sure someone knows where to find it if needed. I would suggest having a second copy of these documents outside your home in case your house burns down, floods, or is burglarized. Let your attorney, a relative, or the executor of your estate keep copies for you, or purchase a safety deposit box.
Who has a key to your safety deposit box? Does someone know where your unpaid bills are kept? Does someone have access to your computer passwords (especially if you bank or pay bills online)? Does someone have a spare key to your home? Do they have the burglar alarm code? Who will care for your pets in an emergency?
Take pictures of the inside of your home, including the inside of closets. This is so easy to do with digital cameras these days. You could even make a little video. Send a copy of the pictures or video to your house insurance agent, or a relative (preferably the executor of your estate). If your home burns down or floods, you want to be able to prove what items were really in your home. If you can’t prove that Grandma’s diamond ring was in your possession, you won’t get reimbursed for it. Make sure to put those valuable jewelry items, antiques, and silverware on your house insurance policy. Update those pictures and video every couple of years as you purchase new furniture and life changes for you.
Marriage is about responsibility and getting real. Young couples, please learn that you are not invincible. Prepare for the unthinkable to happen. Forego the Netflix, the iphone, the ipad, take the bus or ride a bicycle to work instead of buying the second car—whatever it takes—but provide a plan for your family in the event of illness or death.
Paul wrote to Timothy:
“But if any provide not for his own, and specially for those of his own house, he hath denied the faith, and is worse than an infidel. (1 Tim. 5:8.)
Tudie Rose is a mother of four and grandmother of ten in Sacramento, California. You can find her on Twitter as @TudieRose. She blogs as Tudie Rose at http://potrackrose.wordpress.com. She has written articles for Familius. You will find a Tudie Rose essay in Lessons from My Parents, Michele Robbins, Familius 2013, at http://www.familius.com/lessons-from-my-parents.