A Catholic perspective on Life Insurance needs

While it may seem like a single sentence or cute slogan should be able to sum it up in 150 characters or less.  The truth is, your entire life shouldn’t be able to be summed up in a few carefully crafted sentences, and neither should important decisions like your Life Insurance needs.

The first thing we need to distinguish is the difference between a want and a need.   This is probably the hardest part for most people to distinguish in their own lives.  If you hear someone complaining about how they have prayed and prayed to God and still they haven’t won the lotto, you would likely laugh and assume they are joking; however, most of us have prayed for things we want and do not need.  The truth is God promises to give us what we need for our eternal salvation not what we want to fulfill our own desires.  In fact, it was the first temptation by the Devil when our Lord was in the desert: Matthew, 4 “If thou be the Son of God, command that these stones be made bread”.  Jesus (from a human standpoint) certainly was in need of food, but Jesus could have walked out of the desert and got food without divine intervention.  The Devil was trying to tempt him to the sin of sloth and disobedience to God.  In this case, making God divinely intervene when you can and should do the task yourself.  The other part of the temptations was to get Jesus to disobey his father by breaking the fast and give into Jesus’ own human hunger.  On the other hand, God also knows we have temporal needs: Mark, 8 “I have compassion on the multitude, for behold they have now been with me three days and have nothing to eat”.  You’ll also notice, Jesus didn’t send them all home with a year’s supply of fish and bread!

In contrast, I’ve had a client say “I NEED a Yukon Denali! (seriously not joking in the least)”,  so your definition of a “need” is a major factor in determining what’s appropriate.

Needs from a Catholic perspective: As a father and a husband it is not only my duty and responsibility to protect and provide for my family it is my station in life, and my primary calling.

Providing for my family’s needs doesn’t mean just filling the bank account so they can have the material things they desire in life.  Providing for their spiritual needs is a far greater priority.  This is a far harder task than punching a time card and buying the biggest TV I can find for their video games.  Jesus commanded us to be perfect as our father in heaven is perfect.  Matthew 5:48 “Be you therefore perfect, as also your heavenly father is perfect.”  Unfortunately for my wife and children I often fall short of that commandment.  Hopefully, I’ll succeed more than I fail so God will see fit to keep me around for as long as possible. However, if I should die before my duties are fulfilled here on earth, I can say to my creator that I toiled everyday both spiritually and temporally to fulfill that calling.  While it was a minuscule thing and God could certainly have done a far superior job than I, I shared in his labor by building the faith in my family. Even though I couldn’t continue to instruct them spiritually I purchased Life Insurance so their temporal needs are fulfilled, and my wife can continue to be a full time mom and instruct them in their faith.

“Every home is called to become a ‘domestic church’ in which family life is completely centered on the lordship of Christ and the love of husband and wife mirrors the mystery of Christ’s love for the Church, his bride,” Pope Benedict XVI said in his Feb. 7, 2007, general audience remarks.

 

A number of factors come into play when people are considering starting or stopping their Life Insurance coverage.

Some people fall into superstitions like “If I get Life Insurance I’m tempting fate” or “If I cancel my Life Insurance I’ll die the next day”

Some have religious concerns “I’m not trusting in God’s providence if I get Life Insurance (or cancel it)”

Some will obstinately put God to the test “God will proved for whatever my family needs!”  By this same thinking you also shouldn’t go to work, after all “God will provide”

There are probably as many reasons for concern as there are insurance companies, but when it comes to life insurance all concerns can be addressed with the same answer: We’re all going to die one day, and no one knows the day or time (except God of course).  No amount of conjecturing or contemplation is going to change that fact and tomorrow we are all one day closer to our expiration date.

As a Financial Professional I can provide a very thorough needs analysis and determine how much insurance someone needs to accomplish a goal, but I can’t set their goals for them.  From an industry standpoint we’re usually looking to maintain the current standard of living for a determined amount of time.  It is also part of insurance law and regulation that the purpose of insurance is to protect against a loss and restore things to their original state.

Here is where things get a little tricky in the real world we add in things like:

Budget (everyone has one)

Health conditions

Wants, desires, and fears

From the strictest standpoint if you have enough savings that your spouse could finish raising the children and they wouldn’t have to work till the day they die, then and only then you wouldn’t need Life Insurance.  However, most people in this position want Life Insurance but for other reasons.  By the way, the answer “as long as they don’t live more than a week” is not acceptable.

Budget and Health conditions are a product specific topic and I don’t want to get into products and types of insurance here.

Let’s talk a little more about wants, desires and fears from a Catholic perspective.

When Catholics are talking about wants, desires, and fears we always want to be sure we are directing them and they are not directing us.  We know that God placed in us all these things, but too often we fall and these things become disordered.  Our wants turn from wanting to be charitable to wanting the biggest house and the best toys to fill them with.  Our desires turn from attending mass, knowing God, and exploring his creation to gluttony, lust, and greed.  Our fears turn from fear of offending God to fear of the unknown, not keeping up appearances, and being disliked by our peers.

I often hear clients say they just want coverage while their children are young or till they are out of college.  To be fair, this is sometimes justified out of budgetary concerns, but since my children are getting a little older now I have to remind myself that no matter how big, successful, or old my kids get, they will always be my children and my love for them will not diminish. I will always want to provide for them and give them nice things when I can.  Additionally, I will still have the responsibility of providing for my wife till she passes away. Many don’t understand that Social Security is a major part of most retirees income and when one spouse passes away their household income is cut roughly in half, but the bills remain roughly the same.

In all the Needs Analysis I’ve done I can count on one hand the number of times someone had requested to bequeath (donate) a portion of their Life Insurance to charity or the church.

Things that do make the list:

Paying off the mortgage –  College funding  –  Survivor income  –  Credit card debt  –  Other Debt  –  Gifts to Grandchildren

Finally, if you have plenty of savings and you will have plenty left over to fund your desires when your are gone than, you don’t need Life Insurance.

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