Life was good for my family in 1989. My father was the well-paid president of a marketing company, and made extra income from his side consulting business. My mother stayed at home raising my sister and me. She hadn’t worked since 1980, when my sister was born.
My mother set the budget, handled the mortgage paperwork on our new home and paid the bills. Around the time I was born, she took a look at my dad’s life insurance coverage through his job. Many basic policies from employers will pay only about $30,000—not enough to support a family our size for very long.
So she set about calculating how much we would need if something were to happen, taking into account things like our mortgage and living expenses. She took out an additional term life policy to cover him, and a whole life policy for herself that was also meant to finance my sister’s and my college educations.
She didn’t know at the time, but it would turn out to be the smartest financial decision she would ever make.
A few short years later, my mother was at my grandparents’ house on a step ladder when she suddenly felt faint and needed to lie down. My grandmother sees this as proof of my mother and father’s tight bond, because at almost that exact time in New Jersey, my father radioed the airport, saying the right engine of his plane was on fire. A few minutes later, he radioed again, saying the engine had broken off and he was in a downward spiral. Those were his last words. The official report listed the damage to the plane as “destroyed.”
The thing is, life went on, and I have many happy memories. I remember my mother asking me a few months later what color I wanted my new bedroom to be. (“Pink!”) I remember Mrs. Stamp’s private pre-school, where I learned about cocoons and how to spell “cat.” I remember walking, my hand in my sister’s, on the way to our grandparents’ house for a delicious Southern dinner of chicken and dumplings. I also remember my mother tapping numbers into her desk calculator, and the “chit chit chit” of it printing the results on ticker tape. She never looked at the numbers on the tape with panic or worry.
None of this would have been possible without life insurance.