A Life’s Worth

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I had never seen anyone cry like that before.

Streams of salty sadness poured down his face. His body remained completely still, drained of every ounce of its strength. It was as if all energy had left him, but the tears just wouldn’t stop. His eyes anguished, lost and frightened. His heart visibly broken.

My own heart ached. For him. For the life that had ended too soon. And for his young children who would likely only remember their Mom through photos and stories.

I had never seen anyone cry like that before.

As Financial Advisors, we witness firsthand the triumphs and the tragedies of the human experience. We help our clients plan for the future, identify risks and opportunities along the way and prepare them for the unexpected. The true test of whether we have done our job well happens in those moments when we are sitting across from a grieving spouse and we wonder, “Could we have done more?”

People often ask me, “How much life insurance is enough?” I can tell you truthfully that in moments like the one I had that day, no amount would have been enough. The true value of a life is immeasurable. No death benefit has ever or will ever mend a broken heart or bring a loved one back. No amount of money can replace a mother’s hug.

But I also know that life insurance can help the people left behind move forward, however broken they may be and however small the steps they take. It can provide an orphaned child with the continued comfort of their own bedroom and keep a “For Sale” sign off a lawn. It can give a widower the choice to take time off from a stressful career and stay home, until he is ready to face the world again. It can allow a mother to keep her son in hockey camp, even though his Dad is no longer sitting in the bleachers. When designed correctly, I know for certain that life insurance can at least lessen the financial burden that a death can place on a family.

Most people are thinking well into the future when discussing their need for life insurance. However, we have to determine how much coverage is needed, based primarily on what we know today.

All outstanding debts (mortgages, lines of credit, business loans, etc.) should first be listed. Then other expenses - like the cost of a funeral and taxes - should be added up. Usually, any sources of cash already available are then factored in, such as RRSPs, CPP and other savings. This exercise is often a real eye opener for people, painting a very clear picture of the impact their death would have on those left to pick up the pieces.

But addressing lump sum needs is only part of the equation. You must also consider the impact the loss of your future earnings would have, especially when others rely on you and that income. Consider the many families in this Oil & Gas fueled province, whereby one person is the primary income earner and the other the primary caregiver. I would argue that the premature death of either of these spouses could financially wipe out their family pretty fast, not just the death of the income earner. The goal is to have enough of a benefit remaining - once all debts are paid - to invest conservatively and replace at least some of the income that’s been lost.

It’s one thing to have a mortgage-free home. It’s another thing entirely to be able to keep the lights on and the fridge stocked.

A few short months before my client’s wife died, we had met and completed this type of analysis. We “did the math” and figured out how much life insurance would be appropriate for each of them based on what we knew today. But they were busy, working parents. They always planned to get around to it, but there never seemed to be a perfect time.

General George Patton once said, “A good plan vigorously executed right now is far better than a perfect plan executed next week.” Sure. Take the time to do the math. But - more importantly - make the time to get some coverage in place, right now.

Usually the biggest regrets people have are of the things they never did. Choose to live your life - for all its worth - without regrets.

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Recent comments

  • Jerry Curtis
    November 20, 2013 - 18:38

    Powerful! You are a born writer m'dear - and a strong motivator, for sure.

  • Lisa
    October 26, 2013 - 08:37

    Words of wisdom!!