I've never believed in coincidences, luck or fate. I felt that my path was determined solely on my actions alone and that the actions of others didn't have much impact on how my path would unfold.
This view changed when my older brother, Don, died unexpectedly four years ago. To say that his passing has had a profound effect on our family would be an understatement. At the time of his passing he didn't have any life insurance; he died on a Wednesday and when we were at the funeral home on Friday we were met with the brutal realities that death has to offer.This was the first of many lessons that would be served up over the coming weeks, months and years. I'm isolating the financial impact of his passing as it's far too personal to speak about the other impacts that come from a circumstance like this. How could someone with a wife and three beautiful daughters not have proper life insurance?
In reality, I couldn't stand in judgment as I, too, was inadequately prepared with only a modest term policy that I purchased 12 years prior and a group policy through my employer. It turns out that neither me nor my brother were anomalies as the majority of Americans are either uninsured or underinsured. The issue is so pervasive that more American's are uninsured / underinsured than actually have adequate life insurance, it adds up to a staggering $20 trillion gap. It's in circumstances like this that many life insurance policies are purchased: by those that see the devastation that's left behind after an untimely passing. All passings are untimely.
In the months that followed Don's passing I purchased life insurance and felt better for having done so. It's been noted that life insurance buyers don't understand the value of their policy. In my case I had a tangible and vivid reminder each time I looked at my wife and three kids of the value my protection would provide if I were to suffer an untimely passing.
Almost two years following my brother's passing, Swiss Re published a report on the "Mortality Protection Gap" in the US, quantifying the level of underinsurance. Swiss Re had measured the gap for about a decade already and was ready to take our efforts to the next level. I was asked to lead the Protection Gap team to increase awareness and find ways in which we could help demonstrate the value of life insurance.
I found this to be a great outlet to understand the various reasons why American's don't purchase life insurance and why it's so difficult for us, as an industry, to reach the middle market consumer, where the need is so significant. In the period we've been focusing on this a good amount of progress has been made, we've learned a lot and I've seen that there are many smart people working to create a better plan to attract today's consumer, but we are only at the beginning. More needs to be done and we need to be open to different ways to reach these consumers. If only people who don't have life insurance (or adequate coverage) could see the world through my lens, the lens following my brother's passing when the mortgage payment was due, the pending tax bill and now college education for his two daughters. No marketing campaign in the world would compare to the response this would drive. How do we get the average American to see this?
I can't say for sure what role fate plays in each of our lives, but I can tell you that my brother died on a beautiful day in September which happens to be Life Insurance Awareness Month. I wish I could bring him back, but I know I can't. The only thing I can do is make sure that no other family finds themselves financially unprepared in the event of an untimely passing.
Category: Funding longer lives: Social contract