As some people may know, I live in Florida, the Sunshine State, and like most residents here, I take reasonable precautions to protect myself from the sun’s damaging effects. More than reasonable, my husband would say. When we go to the beach, I’m the one who is wearing unflattering long-sleeved shirts. I also insist that we use two beach umbrellas, not one, and of course, I slather on the sun block. On more than one occasion, my husband has jokingly wondered if I might be descended from vampires.
So imagine my surprise, despite all my precautions, I was diagnosed with skin cancer right before the Christmas holidays last year. I woke up one morning and noticed that I had something resembling a sty in the corner of my eye. “Hmm…that’s interesting,” I thought, but I had no reason to be alarmed. I waited a few days, thinking it would go away, but after a week and seeing no change,
I decided to consult a dermatologist. She looked at it and said I needed to have it biopsied and that I should immediately go to an oculist to have it done. The test results came back the following week that it was cancerous and I was scheduled for surgery.
Naturally, all of this put a dent in the holiday celebrations around my house. My husband and I were a bit stressed and both had lurking questions in our minds. What happens if my vision is permanently affected? What if it has spread? I also realized my vanity, what if I am forever marred? In addition, it called into question many long-standing assumptions I had about the extent of my life, health, and disability insurance coverage.
As an insurance professional with 25 years of experience, I believed that I had more than adequate coverage to ensure that my family would be well-taken care of in the event something happened to me. But in the wake of this sudden, real-life health crisis, I found myself asking a variety of questions:
Do I really have enough life insurance to take care of my family in the way that I would truly want them to be taken care of? What if my operation had permanently affected my vision and I was no longer able to work? Would I be able to support myself and my family in the event that I could no longer earn an income?
Suddenly, these questions became very real to me. In the insurance industry, we are very adept at generating hypothetical simulations, projections and models to determine how a client’s future portfolio might look as one prepares for retirement. And that’s fine, those are valuable services we offer our clients, but what if something happened tomorrow? Are you prepared for that?
Personally, I am reconsidering the extent of my life insurance coverage. As I said, faced with a real-life situation, I had to genuinely imagine what life would be like for my husband and son if I were no longer here. Also, I had a realization about the cost of insurance premiums. Suddenly, they no longer seemed expensive; the protection and care they would offer my family seemed priceless to me.
As for disability insurance, I know that my ability to earn an income is my greatest asset and so I already have the maximum amount of disability coverage available to me. But that’s not the case for most people. You have to ask yourself, “Am I financially able to take a “permanent vacation” starting tomorrow? If the answer is “No” then you need to have disability insurance in place.
Another consideration is the health insurance plan one chooses. I have always been a very healthy person and so I enrolled in a lower premium/high-deductible insurance plan. Last year, I also enrolled in a Health Savings Account (HSA). Due to the terms of my plan, I had to pay a considerable amount of money out-of-pocket for my operation which, of course, was entirely unexpected.
As for me, I’m fine now, though I must admit there were a few occasions when I was standing in front of the mirror – one eye completely closed and severely bruised, and the other one only marginally better – wondering if I would ever be myself again. But I’m fortunate; the cancer was caught early, it hadn’t metastasized at all, and except for some stitches that still need to be removed, I’m almost back to normal.
I wanted to share this experience in order to stress the importance of thoughtful decision-making when it comes to insurance. The choices we make have real-life consequences and none of us can predict the future. Sudden, unanticipated events occur and when they do, we want to make sure that we and our families are thoroughly protected and covered. I can’t think of anything more important than that.
United Capital Financial Advisers, LLC d/b/a Goldman Sachs Personal Financial Management (“GS PFM”) is a registered investment adviser and an affiliate of Goldman Sachs & Co. LLC and subsidiary of The Goldman Sachs Group, Inc., a worldwide, full-service investment banking, broker-dealer, asset management, and financial services organization.
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