If you want proof that people don’t like talking about death, consider the phrase “life insurance.” We don’t call flood insurance “dry house insurance”; fire insurance isn’t called “nothing burned”; and disability coverage isn’t about to be renamed “no-one fell off a ladder at work” insurance.
Yet the financial product that only gets used in the event of a person dying is named after “life”. All of which is to say, it can be hard to encourage your loved ones to get life insurance, because it often involves discussing the fact that they might die. But, happily, there are other ways to get those you care about to take steps to look after their dependents if the worst should happen, and to give themselves (and you) some peace of mind right now.
Encouraging your spouse to apply for life insurance
How you broach the subject of life insurance depends on your relationship with the person you’re talking to. If he or she is your partner, you are inevitably part of the discussion, since you’re the probable beneficiary, and protecting your financial wellbeing is the reason to get life insurance in the first place. In that case, it’s reasonable to start the conversation by saying you’re concerned about how you’d manage financially in the event of an emergency, or by asking your partner if they’ve thought about how they would financially cope with your death. (At this point you may learn they already have a plan – perhaps they own an island they haven’t told you about, or feel good about their chances of winning the lottery this year). But the concern of how you’d continue to pay the mortgage, shared debts and other expenses is a real concern and one that life insurance can help you protect against. Remember: both spouses need individual life insurance policies to help financially protect each other.
If you have children, or plan to, you could start by talking about how you’d cover their expenses if the worst should happen: that way it becomes a parenting problem you and your partner are solving together, not a conversation about one of you doing something for the other.
Getting someone close to you to consider life insurance
The life insurance talk is different if the person you’re talking to is a friend, relative or colleague. (Note: If your colleagues count as “someone you love” then congratulations, you found a great place to work, but even if you just like them a lot, they still belong on this list.) Unless the friend you’re speaking to is really fond of you, it’s unlikely you’ll be the beneficiary of their life insurance policy, so in this instance, the discussion doesn’t include you or your family’s needs. Instead, try framing it as a “Have you thought about…” conversation, based around the fact that you are either thinking of getting life insurance and want to kick the idea around, or you’ve already got it, and think your friend/relative might be happy if they did the same. Talk about it the way you’d discuss buying a new TV or car.
Both these approaches avoid a focus on death. When you talk about life insurance, the ghostly specter of the grim reaper is always lurking somewhere nearby, but if you raise the subject without dwelling on mortality, the conversation may be easier for everyone. Once you do get talking, you can encourage your loved ones to get life insurance by addressing these three topics:
Cost and hassle of life insurance
The fact is, when it comes to term life insurance there isn’t much of either. Many people believe coverage will be outside their budget, and that the process of signing up for it will be so time-consuming that it saps them of the will to live (which is not helpful if you’re trying to avoid thinking about death.) In fact, a 30-year, $500,000 term life insurance policy would cost around $35 a month for a healthy 35-year-old man, and it’s possible to apply online and, if approved, get coverage started in minutes.
Healthy people often think they can put off getting life insurance, but this is a bad idea for a couple of reasons – depending on who you’re talking to, you may want to mention one or both of them. The first is that term life insurance is, by definition, for an emergency (i.e. unexpected death), which is usually something we never see coming. The fact that a person is healthy now does not guarantee they’ll remain that way indefinitely, so it’s always better to act sooner rather than later.
The other reason to not put off buying life insurance is that the price an individual has to pay goes up around 10% with every year that they age. A person may look and feel ten years younger than they are, but life insurance companies don’t care about that when they’re working out a premium. Ultimately, they’re looking at factors like your gender, age, and health to determine longevity. Even if someone is confident they’ll be healthy for decades to come, they can’t argue with the simple fact that the price they’ll have to pay for life insurance next year will be more than it is this year. Time marches on, whether we like it or not.
Even if you never use it, it’s still useful
Term life insurance is affordable because insurance companies generally expect you to outlive the term. While this is the best possible outcome (you’re alive!), you don’t get the money back ( unless your policy has a return of premium feature, which significantly increases the cost), so you may need to explain to your loved ones why having a life insurance policy will improve their lives right now, even if it never gets paid out in the future. There are many reasons why buying life insurance is a good idea, including more peace of mind, but if you’re talking to someone who doesn’t like thinking about their own mortality, there’s one particular thing they may find persuasive: once you have life insurance, you won’t need to talk about it regularly. You’ve got it covered. Tell your loved one that it kills at least two birds with one stone, only maybe use a different phrase.
Michael Davis is a freelance writer and editor who has covered everything from fashion and music to parenting, work, and finance. He has been a chef, restaurateur and record label owner.