The Goodbye Kiss: Providing for Your Loved Ones
- Monday, March 15, 2004
I'm sitting at the gate waiting for my flight to the Sunset Church of Christ where I'm due to present No Debt No Sweat!, the Christian money management seminar that I teach. Before she dropped me off, my best buddy (spelled, w-i-f-e) gave me a great good-bye kiss. The sky-cap, the gate people, even the girl who sold me my Diet Coke have been nice-but that goodbye kiss is what I'll remember most.
There are all sorts of goodbye kisses. Some are long and embarrassingly passionate. Others are pecks on the cheek-expressing all the warmth of a corporate merger. Some are between husbands and wives, others are between sisters and brothers, or children and parents. Personally I'm always uncomfortable when, in Russia or Cairo, another guy tries to kiss me goodbye. (Culture only goes so far.)
Recently I witnessed a different type of goodbye kiss. It occurred between a mother and her daughter, and was one of the most touching goodbye kisses ever. Actually, it wasn't a physical kiss at all. Instead it was the way Sandra (not her real name) said goodbye to her 14-year old daughter, Bonnie.
Sandra and I had been friends for years. She was the sunshine that I looked forward to in the Sunday school class I teach at the Antioch church. She was always ready to take on a project, lend a hand, or give me a word of encouragement when I needed one.
But about four years ago things for Sandra changed. Sandra learned she had breast cancer. The time since has been both good and bad. Some days have been filled with smiles-others have been spent sick in the bathroom. As this year passed, so did the better days. Sandra became sicker and sicker. Four months ago I prayed with Sandra, kissed her forehead, and committed to the loving hands of God.
It was about a month ago when Sandra's parents asked me to help them review the financial plans for Bonnie's future. I suppose my heart sank a little. I've been through this before-too many times. Someone dies without planning for the dependants left behind. Then a tough situation becomes even worse.
What a pleasant surprise I got when I asked, "Did Sandra leave anything for Bonnie?"
"Yes," her mother told, "she bought a $400,000 life insurance policy several years ago-it all goes to Bonnie."
"Wow-thank you Lord," I thought, "what a beautiful goodbye kiss!"
Maybe this sounds like a strange subject for an on-line Christian magazine. But I don't think it is. As I get older, I'm learning that my God is the God of the real world. He knows we live where the rubber meets the road. And I believe it is God's will for us to do the best we can here in the nasty now and now, while we're waiting for the beautiful bye and bye.
I, also, realize that there are those who will differ with me on this point. Some people feel that it is more spiritual simply to "trust God to provide than to depend on the devices of man." But I find it curious that these same people are often willing to use other "devices of men" like door locks and seatbelts.
Let me share some quick thoughts on blessing others with the insurance decisions you make today:
1) Generally, I encourage people to carry 8-12 times their income in life insurance. Typically, this is enough to help a family get through the roughest times and get their feet back on the ground.
2) In most cases, I recommend term insurance over whole-life coverage. Frequently referred to as "pure insurance protection," term insurance doesn't include the cash value feature that distinguishes whole life. Accordingly, term is usually significantly less expensive than the same amount of whole life coverage. (If a 35-year old can purchase $250,000 of whole-life insurance for $3,000/year; he could probably buy a $250,000 term policy for $180-$300/year.)
3) Even with term, there are some things to consider: This form of insurance covers you for a specified period of time (often 10, 20 or 30 years), and then it expires. If you are still alive, you get no money.
4) I'm big on stability, so I prefer policies that have a guaranteed level premium for the term of the policy. Annual renewable term policies can raise the premium every year, until the policy is surrendered. If you are only going to keep the policy for a short while, annual renewable term may be cheaper, but experts warn that in the long run it will probably be more costly.
5) Also, I prefer term insurance that guarantees level term benefits. This means that if you buy a 20 year, $100,000 policy, your beneficiary will get the full $100,000 whether you die in year 2, 10, 18, or whenever. Decreasing term is another type of policy that will pay a lower benefit the closer it is to the end of the term. Sometimes sold by banks as mortgage protection, decreasing term benefit coverage is a big profit maker for the banks, but many experts don't believe it's very good for consumers.
6) Guaranteed renewable can help safeguard an uncertain future. Of course the goal is to get to the point where you don't need insurance coverage at some point. And, besides, if you still do need coverage at the end of your term-you can just buy some more insurance at that time, right? Not necessarily. It's possible that you may still need insurance at the end of your term, and it's also possible that health conditions could make it impossible to get decent coverage. What to do? I encourage people to consider buying their original policy with the guaranteed renewal option. This may make it possible to get more coverage at a later date. However, be aware that future rates can be prohibitive especially if you health declines. Get detailed future rate information before you buy. However, you need to know that future rates can be very high-check before you buy.
No, I'm not a life insurance salesman. I'm simply a concerned Christian who knows that studies indicate that 65% of Americans are woefully underinsured. As I travel to churches teaching God's people how to use God's money God's way-I see lots of our folks really dropping the ball in this arena. These are Godly people who love and sacrifice for their families. Yet they haven't made the connection between love and providing for dependants in the event of their death.
Personally, I am persuaded that one of the most loving things any of us can do is bless the loved ones whom we may precede to heaven. It's the perfect goodbye kiss.
Steve Diggs presents the No Debt No Sweat! Christian Money Management Seminar at churches and other venues nationwide. Visit Steve on the Web at www.stevediggs.com or call 615-834-3063. The author of several books, today Steve serves as a minister for the Antioch Church of Christ in Nashville. For 25 years he was President of the Franklin Group, Inc. Steve and Bonnie have four children whom they have home schooled. The family lives in Brentwood, Tennessee.
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