Late Pass: Insurance for the Terminally Ill?


Insurance (Photo credit: Christopher S. Penn)

This is a guest post.

Uh oh. Not only have you put in decades of loyal service for a company that does not offer a life insurance policy to employees, now you have a terminal disease that has numbered your days. You always meant to get a life insurance policy at some point, but it was just one of those things that there was never enough money left for at the end of a month after bills, groceries and just enough fun to make worthwhile.

Your life is one that needs insuring to protect your family following the now-inevitable, but has that ship sailed? Is it possible to make up for lost time by obtaining a life insurance policy as a terminally ill patient?

You already know that insurance companies are experts at assessing risk. Each potential policy holder is effectively examined to determine their likelihood of living a reasonably long time, and a terminal illness is an obvious negative in this department.

Many insurance companies will be hesitant to offer a comprehensive policy that they know they will have to pay out in fairly short order, but you may be able to get a type of life insurance known as graded premium life insurance.

With graded premium life insurance, you pay a monthly premium to retain coverage. If your illness should terminate within two years, your family will receive all the premiums you have paid as a benefit. Should you last longer, the insurance provider pays the full value of the policy. This is a compromise that gives you the peace of mind that a life insurance policy can provide while allowing the insurance provider to minimize their risk.

These policies typically have cash values ranging from $10,000 to $50,000, so while they might not guarantee the permanent stability of your family, it will offer them much-needed assistance through what is sure to be a difficult time in their lives. Premium amounts vary by age and relative health, but generally the closer you are to qualifying for a payout, the more it costs to enter the lottery.

Life is unpredictable except for its certain end, and sometimes this reality leaves us less prepared for the future as we would like. Fortunately, a terminal illness does not make a person completely uninsurable in most cases. Of course, it is much easier and less expensive to get life insurance as a person who is not dying, so the best strategy may be to invest before your health becomes an issue.

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Money Problems – Day 8: Insurance


Image by alancleaver_2000 via Flickr

Today, I am continuing the  series, Money Problems: 30 Days to Perfect Finances.   The series will consist of 30 things you can do in one setting to perfect your finances.  It’s not a system to magically make your debt disappear.  Instead, it is a path to understanding where you are, where you want to be, and–most importantly–how to bridge the gap.

I’m not running the series in 30 consecutive days.  That’s not my schedule.  Also, I think that talking about the same thing for 30 days straight will bore both of us.   Instead, it will run roughly once a week.  To make sure you don’t miss a post, please take a moment to subscribe, either by email or rss.

On this, Day 8, we’re going to talk about insurance.

What is insurance?  Insurance is, quite simply a bet with your insurance company.   You give them money on the assumption that something bad is going to happen to whatever you are insuring.  After all, if you pay $10,000 for a life insurance policy and fail to die, the insurance company wins.

A more traditional definition would be something along the line of giving money to your insurance company so they will pay for any bad things that happen to your stuff.   How do they make money paying to fix or replace anything that breaks, dies, or spontaneously combusts?  Actuary tables.  Huh?  The insurance company sets a price for to insure—for example—your car.  That price is based on the statistical likelihood of you mucking it up, based on your age, your gender, your driving history, and even the type of car you are insuring.  What happens if a meteor falls on your car?  That would shoot the actuary table to bits, but it doesn’t matter.   They spread the risk across all of their customers and—statistically—the price is right.

What kinds of insurance should you get?

Homeowner’s Insurance

For most people, their home is, by far, the largest single purchase they will ever make.  If your home is destroyed, by fire, tornado, or angry leprechauns, it’s gone, unless you have it insured.   Without insurance, that $100, or  200, or 500 thousand dollars will be lost, and that’s not even counting the contents of your home.

Homeowner’s insurance can be expensive.  One way to keep the cost down is to raise your deductible.  If you’ve got a $1500 emergency fund, you can afford to have a $1000 deductible.  That’s the part of your claim that the insurance company won’t cover.  It also means that if you have less than $1000 worth of damage, the insurance company won’t pay anything.

You can get optional riders on your homeowner’s insurance, if you have special circumstances.  You can get additional coverage for jewelry, firearms, computer equipment, furs, among other things.  You base policy will cover some of this, but if you have a lot of any of that, you should look into the extra coverage.

Auto Insurance

Car insurance is required in most states.  That’s because the kind caretakers in our governments, don’t want anyone able to hit you car without being able to pay for the damage they caused.  To my mind, I think it would be more effective to just make whacking someone’s car without paying for it a felony.  If someone is a careful driver or has the money to self-insure, more power to them.

Auto insurance comes with options like separate glass coverage, collision, total coverage (comprehensive), or just liability.  Liability insurance is what you put on cheap, crappy cars.   It will only pay for the damage you do to someone else.


I’ve never had rental insurance.  The last time I rented, I could fit everything I owned in the back of a pickup truck with a small trailer, and it could all be replaced for $100.   Heck, I had the couch I was conceived on.  Err.  Ignore that bit.

Almost everything you can get homeowner’s insurance to cover will also cover renter’s insurance, except for the building.  It’s not your building, so it’s not your job to replace it.

Life Insurance

If you care about your family, you need life insurance.   This is the money that will be used to replace your income if you die.   I am insured to about 5 times my annual salary.   If that money gets used to pay off the last of the debt, it will be enough to supplement my wife’s income and support my family  almost until the kids are in college. You should be sure to have enough to cover any family debt, and bridge the gap between your surviving family’s income and their expenses.  At a minimum.  Better, you’ll have enough to pay for college and a comfortable living.

Life insurance comes in two varieties: whole and term.  Whole life…sucks.  It’s expensive and overrated.     The sales-weasels pushing it will tell you that it builds value over time, but it’s usually only about 2%.  It’s a lousy investment.  You’re far better off to get a term life policy and sock the price difference in a mutual fund that’s earning a 5-6% return.

Term life is insurance that is only good for 5, 10, or 20 years, then the policy evaporates.  If you live, the money was wasted at the end of the term.  The fact that it’s a bad bet makes it far more affordable than whole life.  It doesn’t pretend to be an investment; it’s just insurance.  Pure and simple

Personal Liability Umbrella

An umbrella policy is lawsuit insurance.  If someone trips and hurts themselves in your yard, and decides to sue, this will pay your legal bills.  If you get sued for almost anything that was not deliberate(by you!) or business related, this policy can be used to cover the bill.

If you call your insurance company to get an umbrella policy, they will force you to raise the limits on your homeowner’s and auto insurance.  Generally, those limits will be raised to $500,000, and the umbrella coverage will be there to pick up any costs beyond the new limit.

A little-known secret about umbrella policies:  They set the practical limit of a lawsuit against you.  Most ambulance chasers know better than to sue you for 10 million dollars if you only have a policy to cover 1 million.   They will never see the other 9 million, so why bother?  They’ll go for what they know they can get.

The flipside to that is that you should not talk about your umbrella policy.   Having a million dollars in insurance is a sign of “deep pockets”.  It’s a sign that it’s worthwhile to sue you.  You don’t want to look extra sue-able, so keep it quiet.

Insurance is a great way to protect yourself if something bad happens.   Today, you should take a look at your policies and see where you may have gaps in coverage, or where you may be paying too much.

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