What Do I Need to Know About Life Insurance for Older People?

A recent article in USA today states that older workers may still need life insurance. This is true. Here is what you need to know:

1. If your spouse is still dependent on your income, you will need life insurance for income replacement.

2. If you have incurred debts, such as a second mortgage, you will need life insurance so your spouse can pay those off.

3. If your pension distribution will terminate upon your demise, you will need life insurance so your spouse will not suffer the loss of that income.

4. Term insurance may be appropriate, but many times it is not. If you buy 10-year term insurance at age 70, how much higher do you think the price will be if you have to buy more insurance at age 80? Permanent insurance would avoid that problem

5. Remember that if you have insurance in force, but it is not needed by a family member, you can use it as a charitable bequest. Your favorite group that does good deeds would remember you as a hero.

6. These days, life insurance carriers specialize and even sub-specialize in population niches. Premiums can be very reasonable.

7. Specific needs for life insurance, such as estate preservation, might call for a joint policy with your spouse. Pricing here can be very economical.

Be sure to consult with a planner, and a broker who specializes in policies for older ages.


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How to Get Life Insurance and Plan Your Estate

How to get life insurance and plan your estate? That was a topic recently discussed by two close friends and business owners. Ross, a 50-year-old manufacturing industry executive, sits down for lunch one day with long-time friend George, a 68-year-old small business owner now considering retirement. As they spent time catching up on each other’s lives, estate planning came up. Here, we listen in on their conversation.

“Yeah, I just came down here to visit my mother,” Ross shares with his long-time friend, George. “Sort of giving Courtney a little break, you know?” The pair met years before, when Ross walked into the offices of G & A Manufacturing, the most prominent and prestigious corporation in their industry. As a 21-year-old, fresh faced intern, Ross was at the bottom of the corporate ladder. George took a genuine interest in him, becoming first his mentor, and eventually his friend. Ross always appreciated George for his kindness in those early days; years later, he still sought him for important advice.

George nods in agreement, smiling. “Ah, yes. How’s Courtney these days?” he asked.

“Good. She’s real good. We’ve been working together day and night on the business to wrap it up for sale, as well as on our various charitable commitments. Sometimes when I talk to her, it’s easy to see she needs a break, so I take that four-hour trip down here to give her… what do women call it? A little ‘ME-time?’”

George chuckles a bit. “I know what you mean. So, is the buyer financing in place?”

Problem: taxation of wealth.

“Yeah, it is We are all set to close. Now I have to think about paying a hefty estate tax. My net worth is going to increase considerably, even after all taxes from the sale are paid. I need to make sure the kids can pay Uncle Sam after Courtney and I are gone.” George nods, prompting Ross to continue. “Having that heart attack two years ago really ‘woke me up’, George. So, I started looking for life insurance coverage as soon as I was released from the hospital. I had no IDEA how tough it would be! It’s like companies keep saying, ‘Nope. Not with this medical history.’”

George interjects, “Yeah, companies can be pretty stringent with their requirements these days. I had the same problem recently. I read about estate taxation in Denis Clifford’s estate planning book and started the process. I, too, sought to get a policy. Apparently by their standards, at 68 with my health history, you’re an old geezer and nobody would take a chance on me.”

How to get a low rate with a history of serious illness?

Ross smiled at the joke, but the look of concern soon returned. “So, what do we do now?”

“Glad you asked,” George chimed right in, not missing a beat. “I asked some other buddies of mine who, like me, own small businesses, are looking toward retirement, and are trying to get their financials in order.”

Ross perked up, now sitting at the edge of his seat. “And what’d they tell you?”

Getting started.

“Well, it’s a little uncomfortable, so a lot of us put it off, Ross. But you need everything in writing, you know that. Have your attorneys draw up a will, as well as Power of Attorney, in case you’re sick and can’t tell your family what you want.”

“Okay,” Ross replied. “What about the life insurance?” He looked glum. “I really would rather my kids not have to sell properties just to pay a tax bill!”

How to get life insurance and plan your estate? It takes the right broker.

“They won’t have to!” exclaimed George. “My buddies referred me to a broker who specializes in tough cases. He can help you, Ross — I’m gonna recommend you to him. Listen, he knows how to choose the right carrier. He’ll fight to get it done for you, even if you’ve had problems before. Plus, he is licensed in 48 states, so if you and Courtney decide to retire to Florida to be closer to family, you won’t have to find a new agent.”

“Wow, George! I knew I could count on you. I’ll give him a call today.”


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Read my free guide, How To Get Great Life Insurance Rates and learn how you can get life insurance companies to compete for your business, at no risk or extra cost.

How to Face Our Own Mortality? Two Different, Yet Useful, Approaches.

Columns this week in two major publications give us very different advice on how to approach the serious topic of our own mortality. Each is helpful in its own way.

Political activist Bruce Bialosky gives us inspiration. His current essay in Townhall.com presents such diverse resources as religious prayer, the recent book by Dr. Eben Alexander in near-death experiences, and a song by Laura Nyro.

Writer and retired business executive Mike Lewis gives us practical tips. His to-do list in Forbes runs from completing your estate plan to “burying the hatchet” with people. (By the way, this phrase originally meant what it says. See here).


Want to learn more?
Read my free guide, How To Get Great Life Insurance Rates and learn how you can get life insurance companies to compete for your business, at no risk or extra cost.

Check Who’s Benefiting from Your Policy, and Other Estate Planning Tips

A prestigious law firm just published it’s top five estate planning tips for 2014.

Number one on the list?

“Check your life insurance beneficiary designation.”

Life Changes Can Change Your Policy

Margaret Barr of McBrayer, McGinnis, Leslie and Kirkland explains why:

“Divorce, births, deaths, and changes in relationship can alter one’s wishes for who should receive the benefits.”

She urges us to look as well at our stock proceeds and other items. Here is her complete list.

Who, What, When, Why of Estate Planning

CNNMoney explains what you need to know about estate planning, including why you need a will in the first place and how to assign power of attorney.



Want to learn more?
Read my free guide, How To Get Great Life Insurance Rates and learn how you can get life insurance companies to compete for your business, at no risk or extra cost.

Is There a Right Way to Die? The Lisa Boncheck Adams controversy continues.

As a life insurance salesman, a key part of my job is to help my clients deal with their own mortality. In this capacity I pay attention to debates and discussions about that topic.

Here are highlights of the controversy concerning Lisa Boncheck Adams. Please take a moment and and review the sources. What is your opinion: do you think there is a right way to die?

Lisa Boncheck Adams speaks out

Lisa Bonchek Adams is, to me, a brave warrior. She is a wife and mother who has been combatting breast cancer for six years. She chronicles her story on her blog so that others among us who are facing similar medical battles can draw from her strength.

Here is how she summarizes her mission:

This website has come full-circle. More than six years ago I heard the words, “You have cancer” for the first time.

I started writing about my experiences as a wife and young mother of 3 with breast cancer. I began by posting them on my Facebook page. Soon my friends were asking how their own friends and relatives could read my words. I was writing about the darker, richer emotions I was feeling — aimlessness, fear, despair — but also the dogged commitment to always be strong with an enthusiasm for life.

I wrote about death, life, family, sadness, joy and sorrow. I thought it would only appeal to people with cancer, but I was wrong. Instead, the appeal has been far more universal. I receive emails from people who not only have had cancer themselves, but also those with family members who have had it. I hear from people who have experience with other illnesses, and also those who just want to know more about what it is like to confront mortality at an early age. The far-reaching emotional impact of illness affects many people, and they connect with my work.

Bill Keller comments

Bill Keller is an Op-Ed columnist for the New York Times. He recently published a critical opinion of Lisa’s efforts. He thinks some people might get carried away by her “war”.

Here is a summary of his point of view:

Her digital presence is no doubt a comfort to many of her followers. On the other hand, as cancer experts I consulted pointed out, Adams is the standard-bearer for an approach to cancer that honors the warrior, that may raise false hopes, and that, implicitly, seems to peg patients like my father-in-law as failures.

Steven Goodman, an associate dean of the Stanford University School of Medicine, said he cringes at the combat metaphor, because it suggests that those who choose not to spend their final days in battle, using every weapon in the high-tech medical arsenal, lack character or willpower.

“I’m the last person to second-guess what she did,” Goodman told me, after perusing Adams’s blog. “I’m sure it has brought meaning, a deserved sense of accomplishment. But it shouldn’t be unduly praised. Equal praise is due to those who accept an inevitable fate with grace and courage.”

Bess Lovejoy responds

Bess Lovejoy is writer from Brooklyn. She published a response to Keller in Slate.com. Her point is that death is a taboo topic in our culture, and that people like Lisa help us deal with it.

Here is her position:

That’s why we actually need more people like Lisa Adams. With a growing elderly population (the share of the total U.S. population 65 and older tripled over the past century) and advances in medical treatment that prolong life for disease sufferers, more and more of us are facing head-on confrontations with mortality even before our own time comes. According to a November report from the Pew Research Center, 47 percent of adults say they have had a friend or relative facing a terminal illness or in a coma within the past five years. But it often seems that we’re more confused than ever about how to prepare for and process death, especially since many Americans now lack the religious scripts that once supplied answers for death and illness-related questions. The same Pew study found that more than a quarter of U.S. adults have given little to no thought about what kind of medical care they want at the end of life, even though that care frequently leaves family members in an emotional and financial morass.

­As the most ancient philosophers and religious authorities have told us, disease, pain, and death are inevitabilities of the human condition. Frank, honest discussions about how to grapple with the darkest of realities—the kind Lisa Adams shares—are helpful for people who are figuring out how to cope and for people who will eventually have to—which is pretty much all of us. We need models for how to talk openly with doctors, family, and friends about the worst of the worst ways that human bodies can go wrong. By tweeting and blogging about the details of her pain, Adams helps to destigmatize such discussions.

Many of us, myself included, have been schooled in an emotional style that prefers to stay away from the dark, icky facts of human life. And talking about sickness and death is undeniably difficult. But it’s reality, and those who dare to do it shouldn’t be shamed or silenced. The only way through this quagmire, this essential knot at the core of what it means to be human, this worm at the banquet, is through public and private conversations about our mortality—messy conversations that may make people like Bill Keller uncomfortable. I hope Lisa Adams keeps blogging, tweeting, and making noise as long as she possibly can.

What do you think?



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Joint Survivorship: When One is More Than Two

Last will and testamentThis article, written by Veronica Daugher, does a fine job of identifying the potential benefits of joint survivorship and a two-insured life policy.

These include:

  • Liquidity for both federal and state estate tax;
  • Protection for illiquid assets, such as a private business, a real-estate portfolio or an art collection;
  • Tax-free funds for heirs to replace the value of assets a decedent left to charity;
  • Estate equalization for people with many children, regardless of net worth. Parents may leave the family home to a child living nearby, then try to equalize their children’s inheritance by making their other children the beneficiaries of the policy;
  • Special-needs-trust planning.

Daugher writes that the premium for two people in a joint survivorship policy is frequently lower then the premium would be for an individual policy on each spouse. I would add that this is especially important if one of the potential insureds has a serious illness, or other higher risk factor.

Do you have assets to protect within your estate? What kind of challenges have you encountered in your efforts to purchase life insurance for this protection?


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Read my free guide, How To Get Great Life Insurance Rates and learn how you can get life insurance companies to compete for your business, at no risk or extra cost.

Who Will Live and Who Will Die This Year?

What a scary, morbid question. Yet, major religions are obsessed with it. The New Year is a big day among Jews, Christians, and even secular Americans who do not practice a faith, but who nonetheless use January 1 as a time for taking stock of their lives.

Renowned educator, radio commentator, moral philosopher and statesman Dennis Prager tackles this question in an essay about Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish observance of the birthday of the world. His insights are illuminating for people of all belief systems. ages and backgrounds. They are especially relevant to those of us determined to make sure our financial portfolios are safe and secure. Why? Because the realization that you will die is the stimulus for the life insurance purchase, and it is this product that protects your other assets. Everything falls into place once you get your priorities in order.

Here are some teachings from Mr. Prager that can help us do just that:

Time is precious.

“The fact is that knowing we will die is one of the most beneficial realizations we can have. First, death forces us to value time. If we never died, why would we do anything we didn’t absolutely have to do?”

“Knowing that our time is limited forces us use it more productively. Years ago, a Swiss lawyer, after being told that he had incurable cancer, wrote a book during his last year of life. Among the first things he decided to do was to stop watching television.”

Perspective, not experience, gives us wisdom.

“Second, death confers wisdom. Knowing that we will die gives us wisdom: Death puts things into perspective.”

“Knowing that we will die clarifies what is important and what is trivial. It is one reason that human beings have always associated age with wisdom. The usual explanation for associating age with wisdom is the longer one lives, the more wisdom one accumulates through increased life experiences. But I believe something else is at least as much at work here. And that is that the older one gets, the closer to death one gets. If people could expect to live, let us say, 500 years, I am not sure that 80-year-olds would have as much wisdom as they do today.”

Things of enduring value are close to the heart.

“Another proof of how much death clarifies what is important is the funeral. It is well worth paying attention to eulogies. If you do, you will notice that much of what we deem to be of major significance is virtually never even mentioned in any of the eulogies for the deceased.”

“For example, many parents …deem what college their children get into to be the most important goal of their child’s life. Virtually everything is dedicated to that goal — getting into the best preschool, the best elementary school, the best junior high and high school, getting the best grades, and spending whatever it takes. But have you ever heard any eulogy mention — even in passing — what college the deceased attended? Has any rabbi, priest, minister, spouse, child or friend of the deceased ever said anything like, ‘We will miss Sam, who, you will recall, attended Harvard’?” (1)

Mr. Prager stresses that the ultimate confrontation with death forces us to talk about what is really important. You know what that is: your spouse, your children, your family, your business, and your legacy. That is why it makes so much sense to provide them with financial security.

(1) “Who Will Live, Who Will Die?” Jewish Journal News. N.p., n.d. Web. 28 Aug. 2013.


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Light and Legacy

Life insurance is frequently used for legacy planning. At the time of your death, a significant sum of money is made available for the beneficiary to carry on your legacy.

What, exactly, does that job entail? We can start with a definition from the dictionary:

leg•a•cy (lg-s); n. pl. leg•a•cies
1. Money or property bequeathed to another by will.
2. Something handed down from an ancestor or a predecessor or from the past: a legacy of religious freedom. See Synonyms at heritage.

Synonyms: heritage, inheritance, legacy, tradition
These nouns denote something immaterial, such as a custom, that is passed from one generation to another: a heritage of moral uprightness; a rich inheritance of storytelling; a legacy of philosophical thought; the tradition of noblesse oblige.

With a legacy, something you stand for – something that you carried on from your family, or from your people – is passed on to the next generation. These practices sustain our loved ones and enable them to give their lives meaning. They help us leave our mark on the world, to make our own unique contribution to the common culture.

It is important to note that the life insurance benefit is a means to an end here, not an end unto itself. The $100,000 or $1million or $10million you bequeath to your children or grandchildren, is merely “fuel for the fire”. They must already be inspired to “carry the torch”. Otherwise, odds are they will drop it.

What can we do to secure the family heritage? How do we encourage our progeny to take the lead?

Lord Rabbi Jonathan Sacks is one of the premier social philosophers and moralists of our age. He serves as the current Chief Rabbi of Great Britain. He offers tremendous insights into how we lead others:

“There are two forms or dimensions of leadership. One is power, the other, influence. Often we confuse the two. After all, those who have power often have influence, and those who have influence have a certain kind of power. In fact, however, the two are quite different, even opposites.”

“We can see this by a simple thought-experiment. Imagine you have total power, and then you decide to share it with nine others. You now have one-tenth of the power with which you began. Imagine, by contrast, that you have a certain measure of influence, and now you share it with nine others. How much do you have left? Not less. In fact, more. Initially there was only one of you; now there are ten. Your influence has spread. Power operates by division, influence by multiplication. With power, the more we share, the less we have. With influence, the more we share, the more we have.”

Rabbi Sacks goes on to describe how kings have power, but prophets have influence. Kings must be alive to govern, to defend the country, and to prevent lawlessness. When they die, their power ends. Not so with prophets: when they die, their influence begins! And it persists through time.(1)

Parents are “kings” for a small amount of time. While our children are minors, they fall under our jurisdiction. They are our responsibility. But they grow up quickly, and in no time at all become adults, ready to start their own little “kingdoms”. At that point parents become prophets, of a sort. It is really a role we have always had, but it becomes more apparent when our children achieve independence. Our primary job is always to assert our influence, so that our values and vision can light the way for others. They, in turn, inspire still others with their own light, so that the sum total of light is increased.

Under the proper influence, the inheritance keeps the family legacy alive, like a candle feeds a flame, and keeps it alive for others to see the way.

(1) Sacks, Rabbi Lord. “COVENANT & CONVERSATION: Korach – Power vs. Influence.” Office of the Chief Rabbi. N.p., n.d. Web. 15 June 2013. .


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