Thereís a price on my head

   When you own your own business, it seems everyone wants to take out an insurance policy on your life. Partners, investors, wife, ex-wife, children Ė they all want a piece of my rotting corpse.
   Just a formality, they say. We know youíll live forever but, JUST IN CASE, please set us up so weíll live happily ever after once youíre a distant memory.
   I always hesitate. My objection to life insurance, I will tell them, is very simple---I donít want to give anyone a reason to celebrate my death.
  Naturally, theyíll deny it. But when my former partners demanded "key man" life insurance on me, I couldnít help envisioning the scene of them examining my broken and battered body, anxiously confirming my death, and then breaking into song, "Weíre in the money . . .Weíre in the Money."
   Frankly, it gave me the willies, so I managed to avoid any life insurance policies that named them as beneficiaries. And Iím glad I did, because in the last few turbulent months before the partnership finally broke up (unamicably), I would have been overwhelmed by the fear of dying. There was no way I was going to give them the pleasure of cashing in on my death.
   My wife and children, of course, are another matter. When the subject of life insurance is brought up, I quickly defuse it by insisting I wonít be missed.
   "Youíll be fine," I say to my wife, Fidelity. "The business will keep running without me. Letís change the subject."
   No chance, Fidelity, her mind racing, has visions of sleeping with the children in the car, my picture with a big "X" through my face placed delicately on the dashboard.
   "Donít you want to make absolutely certain weíre financially taken care of JUST IN CASE anything happens to you?"
   Of course I care. On the other hand, Iíll be dead. That kind of eliminates the guilt factor.
   "Youíll be fine," I repeat. "Besides, Iím not going to die."
   For some reason, Fidelity doesnít have as much faith in my immortality. "Everybody dies," she says.
   She used to be so much fun. To put an end to the morbid conversation before the children overheard (theyíre too young and innocent to think about Daddy dying, bless their hearts) I tell Fidelity Iíll look into increasing the measly amount of insurance I was already carrying.
   "Great," she replies cheerily. "The Prudential man is coming over tonight to give us some proposals."
   This is not good. I rack my brain, but I canít think of anything I did that would make her be in such a hurry to increase the benefits of my dying.
   The appointment is set, though, and there is little I can do. Best to get it over with. The man from Prudential, the company with the slogan "We Own a Piece of Your Bones" (or something like that), enters my house to value my death. What fun.
   His hands me his card, and I am surprised to see he is not a life insurance salesman. In one of the great marketing coups of our time, life insurance salespersons no longer exist. They have been replaced by financial consultants, financial planners and investment counselors.
   Merchants of Death might be more apt.
   Marketing or no marketing, this guy is selling life insurance. To make it more painless, however, the entire package is couched in investment terms. Noting one of my children crawling under his legs, he wisely explains to Fidelity and me that we can subscribe to the "College Plan," which will generate tax-free savings, enabling us to send the children to college tax free.
   Fidelity sees merit in the plan, and so do I. Of course, millions have similar plans, called universal life, whole and value life, that work well as an investment vehicle. Itís nothing new, or nothing I donít know about. The "college plan" is a nice twist, but it is still life insurance and requires substantial annual premiums for the initial years to maintain sufficient balances.
   For a variety of reasons, we end up getting straight, no-frills term insurance which tells it like it is Ė pay the premium every year, and if you live, you lose.
   Itís certainly no college plan, but then again, maybe Fidelity and the kids will get lucky and Iíll get hit by a truck.
   With the big payoff, they might as well go for postgraduate degrees as well.
   What the heck, itís on me.

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