Life Insurance: A Real Necessity

We’re all going to die some day.  It’s not something we enjoy talking about–or planning for–but it will happen.  Some of us have short times here on earth and others live well into their 100’s.  Planning for the inevitable falls on us–or for those of us too young or indigent–someone else must plan and set aside funding for burial expenses.

Normally, I would not write about such a topic.  People don’t really like being reminded that they are going to die or that their loved ones will eventually die.  I am with you all in this regard and more so because of how often death has touched my life starting with my mother’s passing in 2000.  Death, though, has not stopped there.

On my first deployment, my family tried to spare me this burden and delay notifying me my Uncle Duke passed away.  On this same deployment, my dad’s (stepfather, legally) father passed away.  My work also suffered the burden of losing one of our own, Captain Brock.  I didn’t think about what difficulties my family members may have undergone if sufficient life insurance was not in place, because it’s not something we (and certainly, many families) discuss or want to discuss.

I didn’t think of what arrangements Captain Brock’s wife made for him; thinking back, I’m assuming he had the maximum Servicemember’s Group Life Insurance, which is $400,000 and he may also have been covered under the $100,000 Family Servicesmembers’ Group Life Insurance.  Thomas and I had this spousal coverage on each other while we were both active duty.

As active duty service members we each had $400,000 worth of SGLI, although when Bart was killed in 2002, his mom told me SGLI had been $250,000 and unfortunately, from her, I learned his parents were not listed as beneficiaries which meant paying for his burial costs without this financial support.  I don’t know about all life insurance plans, but ours recommends reviewing the beneficiaries at least one a year.  Based on my conversation with Bart’s mom, I made sure my parents were listed as my beneficiaries when I was single or dating because they would bear the costs of my burial.  I didn’t update this information again until I was married.  It was updated yet again when we had my daughter.  Should we later adopt, I would update my plan again.

When individuals get out of the service, they can get Veterans Group Life Insurance up to the maximum amount of SGLI they had while serving.

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I imagine someone on the outside would assume these numbers are unnecessarily high, but life insurance can help with more than just the bare necessities of funeral planning and for many people, life insurance that just covers burial costs is not enough.  Inadequate life insurance and no life insurance at all can be devastating for people who lost their family’s sole (or higher) source or income.  The Granite Mountain Hotshots’ lawsuit settlement is just one example of why life insurance planning is an absolute necessary.

However, this conversation is not limited to just replacing an adult’s income.  When I worked for Pinal County, I had the privilege to learn a little, informally, about the handling of birth and death certificates.  A peer there told me about the life insurance policies she has for her children.  I also carry a policy for my daughter, so we would not be financially crippled should the worst happen and we are faced with her burial costs.

The reason I decided to write on this subject today is because I learned via Facebook a 2003 graduate from my high school recently passed away.  I do not know the circumstances of his death, but his family is struggling to pay his funeral expenses.  Given his age–thirty years old–I wonder why he didn’t have life insurance.  Did he think it wasn’t necessary?  Was he barely scrapping by?  A donations request was sent out and donations are coming in to help reduce the burden on his family, but I wonder if it will be enough.

Depending on what options a family explores, burial expenses can be overwhelming (funeral, travel, flowers, etc.).  I took a personal finance class with the University of Wyoming and the following from Garman and Forgue’s Personal Finance (9th ed.) is a useful needs-based assessment:

-Final expenses

-Income-replacement needs

-Readjustment-period needs

-Debt-repayment needs

-College-expense needs

-Other special needs

*Add all these totals together and subtract government benefits and current life insurance assets to get the total life insurance needed.

And while I don’t feel like tackling the whole life insurance and term life insurance debate, I will say I purchase term life insurance.  It’s just appropriate for my life right now.  My premiums are not ungodly which is great since my paycheck is smaller than what I made while on active duty.  My last premium, in fact, was due the day I learned this former student had passed away–if this new is not an incentive to get life insurance (or to make a timely payment), I don’t know what would be.

When I die, I know I want a simple service and I want to be cremated.  I think it’s such a waste (for me anyways) to have an elaborate casket and flower arrangements.  Cremation is less costly and I’m not a big fan of flower arrangements.  After my mother’s death, our house was littered with so many flower arrangements.  These beautiful things competed with each other–in small bunches, they smell beautiful but the combination of them makes an odd urine type smell.  The only flowers that really stuck out in my mind as beautiful were the ones sent by my mother’s former employers from when we lived in California.

As an early warning, when I do die, people are welcome to leave letters on my grave and tuck them in the earth. I will greatly appreciate it if people donate their money to a charity instead of spending that money on flowers.  After two deployments, I can also say I don’t want my family to waste my life insurance money on remembering me.  It’s money for them to maintain their dreams and to keep their basic needs met so they are not burdened unnecessarily whenever it is my time to go.

Time Management

Thank you again for your patience while my blog entries are a bit spaced out from one another.  April is crunch time for me this semester.  This semester, I’ve tried harder than the last to implement backwards planning (back) into my life.  Last semester, I took on the task of two graduate level courses while fulfilling a typically 40 hour week, which at times, extended into 45 hour weeks.  Offhand, I don’t have the total number of hours I completed overtime, but between semesters, I accrued an additional 21 or 22 hours.  The challenge this semester was taking 9 credit hours.  I DO NOT recommend such drastic actions for anyone, but there were three objectives behind this reasoning:

1.  Immediately earn more income (i.e. a higher rate of pursuit means a higher Post-9/11 housing  allowance.)

2. Reduce the overall time it takes to complete my Master’s degree.

3. Complete Master’s degree before my husband starts law school.

Whereas money is concerned, we’re doing well enough for ourselves.  We are, by American standards of living, potentially average for our age group.  Originally, we were very eager to earn more income to draw us one step closer to a home purchase.  We still are several steps away from  taking that leap and I, more than my husband, must remind myself a home purchase is truly not an essential accomplishment in life.  Many people do not own their own home, but they find happiness through other means (spiritual, social, academic, and so forth).  However, earning more money has enabled us to move out of ASU’s family housing, which no longer fit our lifestyle.

We found a 1,434 sq. foot home with a modest yard and a two-car garage that suits us perfectly.  In nine years of marriage, this is the first residence we’ve rented with a garage! It’s quite a life-changing moment for us.  Other Americans might scoff at our “tiny” residence but it’s a lot of house for us given how well the floor plan was designed.  We have more than sufficient storage.  It’s a safe, friendly neighborhood close to our favorite amenities, and we have the space to add a dog to the family in due time.

Adding a not-entirely planned move to our schedule fit (for me) because I’m trying to use backwards planning on my other objectives and rearranging my plans as necessary.

So, some goals/projects on my plate are as follows and their associated tasks.  I’ve specifically left out the timeframe it took to accomplish these objectives and the days that they were planned.  What worked well in my favor is I had my goals and assigned dates for the mini-assignments.  The smaller assignments gave me other timeframes in which to backwards plan.

1. Final Paper/Presentation due April 28th

  • Prepare topic
  • Get topic approved
  • Scout primary and secondary resources
  • Submit preliminary draft
  • Submit final paper
  • Present to fellow classmates and instructor

2. Graduate Research Conference on April 24th

  • Consider topic (originally presented in December 2014)
  • Review instructor feedback
  • Refocus efforts on public (versus social) pedagogy
  • Scout for additional resources
  • Restructure position
  • Receive feedback from academic advisor
  • Present on April 24th

3. Receive the AZ Humanities Grant Fall 2015 for the Office of Veteran and Military Academic Engagement

  • Consider grant writing organization for grant writing graduate level course
  • Consider mission
  • Submit needs statement for class
  • Submit goals and outcome objectives for class
  • Submit methods for class
  • Submit budget for class.
  • Submit final grant proposal for class
  • Network with Nancy Dallett on a weekly basis
  • Submit intent to apply on April 24th
  • Submit application June 5th

Some things are easier to accomplish than others, because I have a built-in support network.  You can never discount the assistance of your team to accomplish your goals or the goals of your organization.

My instructor, Dr. Nakagawa, encouraged my classmates and I to submit our papers for the Graduate Research Conference.  I was incredibly hesitant to do so; while I love learning, educating others, and talking, I do not enjoy public speaking.  Yes, the irony is not lost on me.  As I get older though, I realize I do not like being the wallflower.  I don’t want others to represent me.  If I want my actions to be more visible in my community, I quite literally must be more visible.

With regard to my research paper, I have a slew of resources not typically available to non-recruiters to support my position on the Marine Corps’ recruitment of female applicants.  I have two recruitment dvds (2008 and 2011) featuring commercials, films, and videos plus the Marine Corps Enlisted Opportunities Book because my husband served as a recruiter.  I will also pull information from the Marine Corps’ Facebook page to help support my position.

Lastly, my grant writing class and rapport with Nancy Dallett, the Assistant to the Director of Veteran and Military Academic Engagement, are crucial to the work for the application for the AZ Humanities Project Grant.  My instructor and the TA give me feedback from my class submissions.  Winning this grant would be a wonderful opportunity for the Office of Veteran and Military Academic Engagement, my office (as the partnering office, if not one of the partnering offices), and our veteran students.  Wish us luck!

Lastly, another crucial area of backwards planning are the multitude of opportunities I’ve taken off my schedule to focus on my academic goals and our recent move. I missed out on Laverne Cox’s recent speaking engagement at ASU.  I decided to not apply for this round of the Edson Student Entrepreneur Initiative.  I think my idea for the initiative will gain momentum but right now my plan isn’t established well enough to be competitive.  I am not taking late summer courses so I have the time to commit to idea development starting at that time.  On the social realm, I bowed out of a friend’s wedding.  Financially, and with my work commitments, it isn’t possible to afford an out-of-state commitment.  As well, like last semester, my gym attendance has struggled.  I’ve put on some weight this semester, which I can easily lose once I resume my fitness habits.

I feel my GPA may not be as stellar this semester, but I will learn from my mistakes and my decisions.  9 credit hours is a bit too much to take on.  However, this choice has brought unique rewards in the form of unexpected opportunities.  We have a great rental home to enjoy.  We are building a financial cushion for ourselves.  I’m honing my grant writing skills and tomorrow, I’m talking to the Veteran Vision’s Project’s Devin Mitchell over the phone.  The world is an exciting place if you get out of your comfort zone (and plan your achievements)!