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When Insurance Becomes an Investment
After giving birth to her firstborn child, a boy she called Billy, Irene and Pete were given a basket of products as a gift for her family from the hospital. Scattered among the free items was a pamphlet advertising inexpensive term insurance. As she looked over the form letter for the policy, she thought about her old, stingy, tightfisted one-armed father in-law. The old man had already purchased a policy for her son, just as he had done for his own child, now her husband.
As she thought about how difficult it was for the guy to spend any money, she started to laugh to herself.
When that old man was just a six-year-old boy, green and cream colored trolleys, with maroon trim, rolled near his house, and around the corner, on a regular schedule. One of them could not stop. Later, the accident that took her future father-in-law’s arm was blamed on the "new fangled" braking system.
For Pete, it was hard to fault his father for gambling all of the money from the settlement. This was the time of the Great Depression, and the money was just sitting around. Years later, Pete’s father would insist that he remembered when the city solicitors arrived at his home and presented his dad with the check for his family. "Put it in the bank" they advised. "And when the boy needs it for school, it will be there."
"It’s for his education," the big city lawyers explained, as they handed the boy’s dad the money. During these bleak years, taking risks were considered a manly pastime, and gambling became the escape and diversion. And when the men gathered in that room, they had the tools to escape into their dreams.
No one knows when the boy learned the money wasn’t there for his education, but he worked hard and put himself through school anyway. After graduation, working as a procurer for the city and state, he purchased equipment and vehicles for government use. By giving a single dealer most of the business, he was able to buy his own cars much cheaper.
The more money he made, the less vulnerable he felt. As he grew older, he found ways around spending money. Driving miles out of the way to find a pharmacy that sold the medication he needed to treat his diabetes for $2.00 less than the one near his home seemed to be the right thing to do. Of course, on the way home, he would use his key to get into Irene’s home. She remembers driving by her home and knowing that her father-in-law was eating all her food. And yet, this cheap old man had purchased a life insurance policy on his son, who later became her husband. Irene and her husband had used the mature policy to help them get a start in life. The money paid for their wedding and for a down payment on car.
People had to laugh when Irene told them stories of her father in law’s cheapness. Like when his wife went to the store, and he would check the tape when she came home. He went read through the bill, every little item. If there were even a 20 cent mix-up, he would send her back to the store to get the money. He quibbled about every bill, fought with the banks and checked every statement. And yet, this old man had purchased an insurance policy for his son, and now he had done the same for her son.
Once, on a family camping trip in Maine, the family was stuck in a food store for 2 hours. The old man wouldn’t allow anyone to put any items in the cart until he examined the price and compared it with the prices at home. When the cart was finally filled, he refused to buy any of it, saying it was all too expensive. The family left everything in the cart and walked out of the store. Afterwards, one of them did go back into the store to get a little ice for the beer. The old man asked, "What about ice for the food?" The disgruntled group explained that they didn’t need ice for food since there wasn’t any.
This man was so cheap, that his grabby ways even caused him to lose a tooth. Irene remembers the occasion she had taken a ceramics class and painted an Easter basket. Inside the basket were ceramic figurines and a real Easter egg. Thinking that the ceramic bunnies were also real, he chomped down on the ear of one of them.
As the years passed, Irene’s son, Bill, grew into a man, 20 years old. He developed bone cancer in his leg, just like the kind Ted Kennedy’s son had. After going through the treatments, the doctors saved his leg, and he was considered cured. Later, after getting married, Bill learned that the insurance industry considers the fact that he had had cancer to be a pre-existing condition, making him ineligible for life insurance. However, because Irene’s father in law had purchased a term policy for her son, that was still in effect, he would be eligible to add to the policy, in order to protect his own family.
Now that Irene is a grandmother, she has purchased policies on her grandchildren. Maybe the mature policies will help them with college tuition or provide them with a little financial help, or serve to keep them eligible for life insurance.
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