Monday, August 29, 2016

How close we were to disaster

It scares me even now, some 40 years later. I was a young father working at entry-level jobs at the beginning of a career in journalism, a field widely known as being low-paying. We survived through intense frugality, cautious family finance, and a willingness to endure whatever came so long as we could be together.

We look back on those days nostalgically now, but what scares me is this: I had a grand total of $10,000 in life insurance. My wife was not employed; she stayed home with three small children and made home and life better for all of us. It surely occurred to me, but I put it out of my mind. I had only $10,000 in life insurance. If anything happened to me — if my car skidded on an icy highway, if a drunk driver failed to see me jogging or biking along the shoulder of the road, if I suddenly developed a cancer or some other fatal illness — my wife and children would not have enough money to last them three months.

Somehow, I must have convinced myself, my still young and beautiful wife would find another husband, one who made enough money to support her and the children better than I had. I was deluding myself — no single man wants a wife laden with three children.

The truth is, had I died with only $10,000 in life insurance, it would have been catastrophic for my family. They would be impoverished, dependent upon government assistance and the generosity of relatives to survive. Even now, it makes me shudder to think of it.

These nightmares are irrelevant now. My little children are grown; they are self-supporting and successful; they have children of their own. My wife has completed her college degree and has a successful career. Each of us has enough life insurance to see us through the fiscal trauma of the loss of a spouse.

Still, I shudder thinking about how close we were to disaster, and I count my blessings that I not only had all that I had then and have now; I was blessed that my family never had to face life without me and without better life insurance.

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