Do I Really Need More Life Insurance?

A Father’s Day Thought

By John R. Ingrisano, CLU

(The following is a re-creation of an actual discussion between a father with 30 years in the life insurance industry and his adult son.)

Dear Son:  Do you really need more life insurance?  When you ask it like that, the short answer is more than likely no, probably not.  You don’t need life insurance.  But how about Mary and the kids?  That’s the real question. 


Do you need to buy life insurance on yourself to protect them?  That’s your call.  But keep in mind that we’re talking about my favorite daughter-in-law and those beautiful grandchildren of mine, so I’m a bit biased.


Remember, we don't buy life insurance for ourselves.  We buy it because we care about our family.  That's the reason I always owned life insurance, because I took seriously my commitments and my responsibilities to you, your sisters and your mother.


Oh, I know Mary doesn’t want to talk about it.  She left the room as soon as you brought it up the other night.  Can’t blame her.  Well here’s a little secret for you -- and this from your old man, who has been doing education and training in the life insurance industry since 1977 – NOBODY LIKES LIFE INSURANCE!  The idea of it makes some people very uncomfortable.  It’s like it forces them to acknowledge their own mortality. 


Still, life insurance isn’t about liking or not liking.  It is a tool, a necessity, something you buy because you need it and then you forget about it.  It’s like homeowner’s insurance and auto insurance or like drafting your will.  You get it taken care of because you have to.  Period.  (And speaking of wills, have you and Mary contacted your attorney yet?  Please take care of that.  I hate to nag, but it is important.) 


That reminds me.  I met a guy at a party once who told me, "I don't believe in life insurance!"  I just shook my head and walked away.  Life insurance has nothing to do with belief.  It isn't a religion or political philosophy.  It is a financial tool with a proven track record for protecting loved ones and helping maintain their financial security.  People who believe in providing for their families believe in life insurance.


My own father, your grandfather, was always an excellent provider.  We lived well, lacked nothing.  It was years later I learned that he owned only $15,000 of life insurance.  During what I thought was a safe and secure childhood, it turned out that we were only a heart attack away from total poverty.  I asked him why he didn’t own more life insurance? He shrugged and said he just never got around to it.


You also mentioned that you didn’t know what type of insurance you should buy.  You also weren’t sure about the amount.  These can be tough questions.  That’s why you have Tony, your agent.  I’ve known him for nearly 30 years, and I’m pleased that he now has a chance to work with you.  He’s good, knows his stuff. 


Once again, it’s a lot easier than you may think.  If you have an agent you trust – and Tony’s a good guy – he does all the work.  You don’t have to be an expert.  That’s like my accountant.  I don’t have to know the ins and outs of the latest tax rule because I have Jim.  As my accountant, he’s the expert.  I don’t have to worry about it.     


So, my recommendation is to talk to Tony.  And don’t just listen.  Ask him tough questions. What I will tell you, Son, is that life insurance replaces uncertainty with guarantees.  If something happens to you, Mary and the girls will be provided for.  That’s what it’s all about. 


You mentioned in passing that you are young and not sure if you need life insurance.  Two reasons I advise not waiting.  First, now is the time you need life insurance the most, while your children are young.  This is your time of high need.  Once they’re grown up, your needs may decrease. 


When I was young, my father had a friend.  Our two families used to get together all the time.  He had a son, about the same age as me.  Well, the Dad had a heart attack and he died.  I think he was about 40 years old.  After the funeral, I never saw them again.  Years later, my mother told me they had to sell their home and leave the area.  She never told me where.  Talk about scary. 


The second reason I advise not waiting is that, if you buy your life insurance now, you can lock in the premium at your current age.  You do understand that life insurance rates are based on age, and that they will increase every year, right?  But you can lock in your rate for life.  It’s a pretty good deal.  That’s the main reason I bought the policy you have now shortly after you were born.  It was downright cheap.  And it stays that way.


You also mentioned that you weren’t sure how much you needed and didn’t want to waste your money on buying too much.  I appreciate your thrift.  But let’s see.  You were wondering if $500,000 of coverage might be more than you need.  Let’s look at some round numbers, shall we?


If anything happened to you (and believe me, I am not all that comfortable talking about this with my son, but let’s get it done) I’m guessing that you’d want to pay off any debts and final expenses.  Let’s say those come to about $50,000.  Also, how about the mortgage on that new house, so Mary and the kids can stay there?  I’m guessing that could be another $300,000. 


That would leave $150,000 for Mary and the kids to live on.  If that generated a 5% return (and these days, I think that might be a bit optimistic), could she live on $7,500 a year?  Sure, she could return to work.  In fact, she’d have to, but I thought you’d agreed that Mary would stay home to raise the children.  Oh, and then there is college later.


So, in all honesty, if you are thinking that $500,000 might be too much, you might want to think again.  I’m not sure that $500,000 would be nearly enough. 


So, I guess my advice to you is to go ahead and buy the insurance.  I would think that $1,000,000 is the bare minimum.  Talk to Tony about the premium.  Maybe you would be best buying a mix of permanent and term.  And then do what I always did – have that premium deducted from your checking account each month. 


Well, Son, I hope I did not ramble on too much.  My advice is to get it done.  And then forget about it, at least for a few years.  Do it for Mary.  Do it for my grandchildren.  And, yes, do it for your own peace of mind.   






John Ingrisano is a former insurance agent, business journalist, sales trainer and “marketeer” who has developed sales programs, newsletters and marketing campaigns for dozens of major insurance and financial services companies over the last 35 years.  He is also a public speaker and author of several books, including “The Back to Basics Book of Selling:  A Guide to a Successful Sales Career” and “The Back to Basics Book of Money: A Couple’s Guide to Financial Peace.”   John can be contacted by email at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..  
Copyright © 2016 John R. Ingrisano