Thursday, 23 July 2015

Wanna bet…on my life?

Do you know how long you’re going to live?   If we did, it would be so much easier to get all our financial affairs in order and make arrangements to limit the impact on everyone around us.  

But we don’t, so what’s the alternative?

We could have a bet with ourselves on how long we’re going to live and use that to plan our preparations.   

The World HealthOrganization calculates the average life expectancy in Canada, in 2013, for females is 84 years and males is 80 years.  So I could bet I’m going to live until age 80 so I’ve got a while to get things all straightened out but wait that’s only part of the story.  Since this is the average, roughly half are going to die before this age and half this age.  So now I’ll be flipping a coin on which side of the average I’m on but still don’t know how far away from that number I’ll be.  This bet is just getting worse and worse.

Aside: For readers in other countries, the World Health Organization has numbers for you as well!

So the self-bet is a non-starter.  I wish there was a way to make sure my loved ones are spared the financial burden (e.g. debt, decrease in standard of living and maybe even funeral expenses) my death would have on them.   Of course there is and this is the reason for the existence of Life Insurance.

The basics of life insurance are quite simple:  I (the Insured or policyholder) agree to make regular payments to an insurance company (the Insurer) in exchange for paying a lump sum amount to my named dependents (called beneficiaries) when I die.  The insurance company creates a pool of money with all these payments from a large group of people.  They determine the amount of the payments and how to manage the investment of the pool to ensure they have enough money to pay everyone when they die and of course make some money because they are a business.  The insurer determines if they will enter into an agreement or contract (called a policy) with me using a process called Underwriting.  I buy the policy from a specialist (called an Advisor, Agent or Broker) licensed to sell insurance in your province or territory.  So far so good?

Where it gets complicated is when you start considering the factors impacting the payment amount, the features of the insurance agreement (or policy), when it covers multiple people and if it is straight insurance or if there is an investment component as well.

In the next few postings, we’ll be discussing the different types of insurance, when you should consider having some, how much, the different features and factors affecting its cost.  This is a long topic so I’m going to break it up into bite-size pieces so it’s easier to digest and this is the first bite.

 A couple of last words.  My future posting ideas survey is still running if you want to vote.  The top three are still: (1) Alternative payment systems (PayPal, Apple Pay, Google Wallet) (2) RESP basics and (3) Life Insurance basics.  

If you want to do some further insurance reading before my next posting, here are a some links for you.

James Whelan

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