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Prepare for the Unexpected: My Cautionary Tale

They say life is what happens when you’re busy making plans.  It’s easy to look back and wish we had slowed down for a moment and taken more time to plan. But hindsight is 20/20. Here are a few lessons I’d like to share from my own experience.

In 1989 I met my husband and we were married in 1995.  One month before we were married my husband had a complete physical and was deemed in tip-top shape.  He was a smoker but was fit as a fiddle.  At this time I had already been a Financial Advisor and agent for over five years.  So I should have known better.  However, we were busy, I was running a practice, he was busy with his career and the kids and life was just moving too fast. We added him on my life insurance policy under an Other Insured Rider for a very small amount that did not require a physical – because he was too busy to get a physical.

Then tragedy struck. 10 months after we were married he had a massive stroke resulting in an experimental surgery which saved his life. With lots of therapy he ended up in a great place physically.  However, he was now no longer insurable for at least 10 years and even then he would probably be rated.

And then it struck again. In 2002, I was driving an SUV and towing a trailer going on vacation.  Due to some unforeseen circumstances I rolled both vehicles multiple times, injuring my husband in the process.  We both walked away apparently fine. However, a few weeks later I woke up to him screaming that he could not move.  His spine had crumbled and he was paralyzed from the neck down.  Fortunately, after major surgery (installing many rows of titanium) and lots of therapy he was able to walk again and do his everyday activities.

And so it continued.  From here he had a series of medical issues from two heart attacks, lung surgery and an aortic aneurysm bursting.  Although he managed very well and had only a few limitations, he would never be able to work again, and  he would never be insurable again for any amount at any cost.

As you can imagine these events had taken their toll on us both physically and financially.  His insurance policy had a rider that would allow us access to his benefits for illness, however,  it only paid a benefit if he was terminally ill, it did not pay out under any of the other medical circumstances. I wished we would have had coverage for chronic illness – it would have helped with some of the financial burden we were under.

Fast forward to 2010.  We were in the middle of relocating for my new job and I was out of town when my husband called and said he was in a lot of pain and not feeling well and thought I should come home.   We had both assumed that it was related to all of his previous medical issues and that he probably just needed some adjustments made to his medicines. Unfortunately, later that week, on Sunday, the 4th of July, he was diagnosed with stage 4 lung cancer that had already spread to his bones and his brain.  They gave him 6-12 months.

I quickly changed focus from my new job to taking care of my husband and making him comfortable, and as it turned out, we were fortunate to have that terminal illness rider on our life insurance policy.   Although the amount was small – because we didn’t take the time to get the adequate insurance coverage on my husband – at this point even a small amount would help keep him home with his friends and family and help make him comfortable both with his care and his surroundings.

I called the insurance company and started the process to take the terminal benefit, unfortunately due to my husband passing so quickly, it didn’t arrive in time to help with his needs, however, it did help provide me with financial comfort.

A few lessons everyone can learn:

  • Don’t procrastinate – it may be too late no matter how good your health appears to be. Get the insurance to preserve your insurability.
  • Purchase the right amount for your needs – not what is easy.
  • Make sure you have a life insurance policy that is flexible with your changing needs and provides living benefits in the event of many different circumstances, not just death.

Life Changes – protect what matters most.


Laura Plourde is a Registered Representative and Registered Principal of Equity Services, Inc., Member FINRA/SIPC.  Equity Services, Inc. is a Registered Broker/Dealer affiliate of National Life Insurance Company, Montpelier, Vermont.