Thursday, March 26, 2009

Economic Responsibility...Really Means Human Responsibility

Readers of this blog may have the impression that being economically responsible means amassing dollars as an end to itself, for it's own sake and nothing else. But really, where the rubber hits the road, being economically responsible means being responsible to those who need you, depend on you, who love you, or those whom you love.

Let me explain through a case one of my agents is working on.

The husband of the couple is in his late 40's, and is an attorney in a department of the federal government. His wife is a foreign national in her early 30's. She used to work part time. However, they just had a baby and now she will be home full time taking care of the house and child. The wife spoke to the agent about getting a life policy on herself and on her husband, since they have additional responsibilities with a new baby.

When the agent met with the couple, the husband balked at additional insurance on himself. He explained that he had a group policy for half his annual salary that he got for free through his work, and he didn't see any need in purchasing additional insurance, stating "that amount will just have to be enough." Furthermore, he didn't want to fork out any premium for a policy on his wife, stating "if something happens to her, I'll just give the baby to my parent to raise."

Now, you and I can throw around stereotypes about attorneys, or older American men marrying younger women from developing countries. But the reality is, no matter who the husband and wife are or where they came from, this husband wasn't willing to be fully responsible to his wife and child. The only help he was willing to give his young wife and new mother was a policy he got for free.

I don't know how much an attorney in a department of the Federal government makes. I know he's been in his position for more than 15 years. And knowing the GS levels, I'm figuring $120,000 to $140,000. So we know that cash flow is not an issue. In fact, I learned from the agent that the husband has a gym membership at one of the most expensive facilities in the area, drives an expensive foreign car, and regularly enjoys dining out a very nice restaurants.

It's sad that the wife left the meeting feeling very badly that her husband wasn't willing to shoulder what is a discretionary amount of money to be economically responsible to the two people who love and depend on him the most. In fact, the wife told the agent, "If something happens to him, I will just have to move back to my country. I can stretch the policy he has at work if I do that." Of course, living in a "third world" country with it's lack of economic opportunity, education, and health care wouldn't be a good thing for the child or mother, but that was the only viable option this young mother felt like she had. And more importantly, the only viable option the husband was allowing.

This is only an extreme example in the fact that the wife would move back to a third world country if the husband were to die. Sadly, the dynamic is not uncommon at all. We have cases, on a weekly basis, where one spouse won't give up pleasure based expenses, such as a motorcycle, ATV, boat, playing poker with friends, etc. to be economically responsible for his family.

The fact that the consequences of not enough insurance are so extreme illustrates a point in stark contrast: economic responsibility is really about taking care of your own life and the lives of those who depend on you.

So, how are you being responsible to those who depend on you? Or not?

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