Last Chances

By Richard A. Fallica, RFC, CEP

An open letter to AMAC Members:

I don’t know if we’ll make it out. I want to tell you that I love you and I love the kids.”

-Capt. Walter Hynes, NYFD

This was a voicemail message to his wife. The date was Sept. 11, 2001. Capt. Hynes didn’t make it out. In the Sept. 9, 2006 issue of The Wall Street Journal, Peggy Noonan wrote a column reporting the last words of many who died that day, as recorded on voicemail messages. What was odd, is that Noonan seemed surprised that all the messages were about the same thing: Those facing death wanted their loved ones to know that their final thoughts were of them.

I’m sure none of us is surprised that there were no reported messages of: “Be sure to put out the trash.” Or, “There is a sale on large screen TVs this weekend.”

But even if we are not surprised by the messages, there is still a lesson for those of us charged with providing financial security at death, disability and old age: Whatever reasons the people we meet with give us for delaying the purchase of life insurance now, if they knew for sure that today was their last day on earth, they would buy as much as they could and pay whatever it cost.

We have all been tempted by “last chance” sales to buy something now rather than wait. My experience, and I suspect yours, is that there are very few- if any- last chances to buy consumer goods and products. There’s almost always another sale, another opportunity to buy what it is we want.

But life insurance is different. Every day may literally be our last chance to buy it. And if we miss it, there won’t be another day to pick it up at a second-hand shop or in a used car lot. It very well could be now or never. And, unlike missing the chance to get a great deal on a new plasma TV, when it comes to life insurance, the consequences of “never” for families and small businesses can be devastating.

It is sometimes said- and perhaps some think it’s corny- that we should call it “love insurance” not “life insurance”. Certainly those phone messages on 9/11 were all about love. It’s the most basic human emotion. It is what life insurance expresses. And every day may be our last chance to buy it and tell someone how much we love them.

A lot of what I have written to you came from an article that was published in a life insurance industry magazine I just finished reading. I had just returned from a long Christmas gift shopping trip, and was reflecting on those “things” I had purchased for my loved ones.

It doesn’t matter which holiday you are celebrating in this season, for many of us it is a time to express our love to those we care about. As a child my parent’s sacrificed to put as many boxes underneath our Christmas tree every year. They smiled joyfully as we opened each gift and they were warmed by the looks of pleasure on our faces. They felt that we understood the measure of the love they had for us.

The sad reality is that all the pretty gifts lose their luster with time. The sacrifice my parents endured is somehow just a dim memory after a couple of months. But they gladly repeated this every Christmas as a way of expressing their ongoing love.

Just after my 8th birthday my mom passed away on Thanksgiving Day morning. The family was of course shattered. Little did we know the repercussions of what her death would mean to our family’s financial future. You see the year was 1962, and “radiation therapy” was a new and experimental treatment being offered to people with cancer. Of course my dad agreed to try anything to keep my mom alive. What he did not know was that these treatments were not to be covered by our medical insurance.

The uninsured medical expenses were over $100,000. This was 1962. The value of our home was under $20,000, so that was lost, we moved 11 times over the next 10 years, and my dad spent the rest of his life fighting to repair what was done to his credit and his family. I won’t describe to you what the remaining years of my childhood were like, but as you can imagine they were anything but pleasant. Why did this occur? You see there was no life insurance on mom. For half of what was spent on Christmas gifts alone, they could have purchased a large amount of insurance protection, but didn’t. Sadly, years later, my dad would die without any life insurance, and I, a newlywed would have to pay for much of the funeral costs and other last expenses.

Did my parents love their children? Of this I have absolutely no doubt. Then why were we unprepared financially to deal with what happened. I suspect part of why they had no life insurance, is the false notion that they were still young and had plenty of time to put coverage in place. I also believe it was due to the fact that they didn’t have a financial advisor they could talk to on this and other financial matters.

Take the time to reflect on those you love. Have you provided against such a horrible occurrence? Should there be 1 less gift under the tree in order for additional coverage to be purchased? Only you know. But if this letter causes you to question whether you have adequate protection, know this: unlike my parents- you have someone you can talk to- US.

All of us here at Design Capital wish you the merriest holiday season, and a very happy and healthy New Year

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