Buying Life Insurance

When I started my first real job last year, Jenny and I knew that it was time to be serious about making grown-up decisions that we had previously avoided, like making a will, getting life insurance, and buying a house. We still don’t have a will, but every month we’re closer to our house goal. As for life insurance, we’re finally close to having the coverage in place. It’s taken more time and effort than I had hoped, but I’m happy with how things have turned out.

As with many things, Jenny provided the driving force that started the process. Despite growing evidence to the contrary, I still have some youthful sense of invincibility and don’t feel the same sense of urgency that she does. She entered our contact information on an online form that promised to pass it along to three or four local agents. The agents that contacted her seemed nice enough, so she scheduled some meetings.

This was where we hit a bump in the road. I’ve spent considerable time educating myself about financial topics (mostly by reading blogs and other online forums), so I knew that we wanted a term life policy, not whole or universal or anything like that. I also knew that term life has low commissions, so many agents try hard to sell those other products. Even though I knew what was going to happen and was ready to say no, it was hard for me to keep my cool when the agents started in on their sales pitch.

Their favorite opening argument: term life is like renting, whole life is more like owning. It’s a ridiculous non sequitur, and even if it wasn’t I would prefer never to ‘own’ insurance–I fully intend to grow out of the need by having enough savings to effectively self-insure. In other words, I prefer to separate my insurance and investment needs. Furthermore, we currently rent our home because it makes financial sense for us, and will continue to do so until purchasing a home makes sense from a consumption (not investment) point of view, so their analogy is particularly inept for us. The worst thing was when they tried to make a ‘personal connection’ with me by appealing to ‘the math’ or ‘the numbers’ because I’m a ‘numbers guy.’ It was pretty easy for us not to call them back after the initial appointments.

I felt sorry for Jenny, who had to watch her efforts stall and probably felt at times that I was angry at her–I wasn’t, I just had to blow off some steam after those meetings. I wanted to lift the burden off her, so I checked out a website I had heard good things about–it’s run by a company that specializes in term life–and used them to find an agent. I initiated contact with him, and from the very first asked him not to attempt to sell us anything other than term. He responded that he understood my sentiments, and was happy to fulfill that request. Jenny also wanted to try one more agent from her search. We met with her and decided she would have been fine, but we just had a better feeling about the guy that had come up in my search.

Working with our agent has been great. He always has well-thought-out answers to my questions, and helped us to figure out the coverage and term we needed in a very respectful, non-pushy way. He’s made working through the process quite easy–when I’m slow to take some required action, he sends an email or makes a reminder call, but it’s never too much. We’ve traded all the paperwork over email, which for us is far more convenient than fax. I feel comfortable with him as our agent for the long term–I trust him to put our best interests first if we ever want to change our coverage. I’m glad that we shouldn’t have to rethink that decision, because finding the right agent really was the hardest part of the process.


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