Should I get life insurance?

December 28th, 2016 Posted by Ask the Rabbi 13 comments

Question:

I am contemplating obtaining life insurance for our family. It is very confusing all together. Is it worth it or are we wasting our money? Overall what is your view? 

Thank you

Maria L.

Answer: 

Dear Maria, 

There are really two questions we think we hear you asking.  (1) Is it okay to make yourself, well, sort of redundant?  One might say, now that I am so necessary to my family, God will take care of me. But if I buy life insurance, I am making myself less necessary so perhaps God says, well, I can take you because your  family will be fine.  (2)  Is it financially a good decision?

On the first question first, God wants us all to be interdependent and mutually supportive of one another.  When society comprised few individuals and life was simpler, the small farming village knew that if Tom had an accident, Joe, Harry, and Ted would take care of his family.  It was an unofficial insurance company.  But with life as complex as it is now,  we can no longer leave it to informal arrangements so life insurance becomes the institutionalized form of helping one another.  And there is nothing wrong if Harry who organizes all the cooperation to help Tom’s family makes a living out of doing so. In other words, a life insurance company operating profitably while providing this service is a good thing.  We don’t think that having insurance is making yourself redundant or that it raises any moral or religious questions.  Obviously everyone’s circumstances are different but a conversation with a trusted financial advisor or experienced insurance person is definitely the way to go. Then analyze the available plans in terms of what might make sense to you.

On the second question,  obviously you’d have to carefully consider your situation.  A couple that owns a very large successful business with substantial assets may not need the same kind of life insurance that others do.  We also think it worth exploring ways in which life insurance can play an active role in your financial growth strategy.  Some people are more enthusiastic than others about this ‘be your own banker’ program, but we encouraged members of our family to purchase life insurance as part of this strategy.  They are working with one of the companies we mention at the end of this answer.  

But what really interests us is the question of how we balance a hopeful view of the future while acknowledging that tragedy can strike. Too much focus on what can go wrong can paralyze us.  Fear can render us incapable of accomplishment, possibly even too fearful to marry,have children or start a business.  However, on the other hand, ignoring the possibility of things going tragically wrong can leave us unprepared and desperate in a crisis.

Ancient Jewish wisdom recommends dividing one’s financial assets into three categories. One-third should be kept in real estate, one-third in assets and one-third in cash. Conceptually, this translates into making investments that have long term value, such as real estate, but that also run a risk of being lost altogether at the whim of a government (Jewish history is replete with expulsions); second, having ‘working capital’ to cover expenses, personal needs and business development; and, finally, having one-third of one’s assets completely liquid and transportable to deal with unexpected events.

Psychologically, we could translate this into living our lives assuming that our financial future is bright and making certain long term investments while also putting our time and efforts into tipping the odds in our favor whether through taking care of our health, getting an education or devoting enough time to our business. Life insurance would fall into the final third—recognizing that things can go seriously wrong and we should not be skating so close to the edge that we will fall over a cliff should that happen. 

We don’t think you are asking us for specific advice on how to pick an insurance agent or company, though choosing wisely will make things less confusing and more worthwhile. You can ask neighbors, co-workers and friends for that bit of local advice.  Perhaps someone in your church or faith family has a long relationship with an insurance expert they trust. 

If you are interested in finding out more about making your life insurance part of an investment strategy, we are happy to recommend  two life insurance specialists with whom we are personally familiar and whom we trust. We believe they would both advise you honestly though, of course, you must do your own due diligence.   Living Wealth, in Lawrence, Kansas, 785-842-8333  ask for Kim,  and Life Benefits, in Henderson, Nevada; 866-502-2777  speak to Ben.

In summary, yes, we think a family should have many kinds of insurance including  life insurance these days until at least they have the assets to provide their own security in worst case scenario.  Make the exploration an exciting journey of discovery and in addition, we hope you will meet some new and wonderful friends as you gain knowledge in this field.

 Best wishes, 

Rabbi Daniel and Susan Lapin

 

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13 comments

JC says:

One of the aspects I admire about Ancient Jewish Wisdom is the rational and level-headed approach to finances. Some sects of Christianity do not approach this important aspect wisely or clearly enough.

Thank you for this informative take —

Claudia Roomes says:

Great Insight! Thanks for posting question and answer about life insurance.
Blessings Rabbi and Susan Lapin

rdlapin says:

Thanks for writing Claudia
One of our goals in our Ask the Rabbi feature is to tackle real-life questions that impact our readers’ lives in a direct and forthright manner to the best of our ability. We are, of course, only human, and can make mistakes so we expect our advice to be taken into consideration but never to be slavishly followed.
Wishing you a year of health and prosperity
Cordially
RDL

Peter Mojassamian says:

Thank you so much for the referrals.

rdlapin says:

Dear Peter–
Remember that nobody cares as much about your money as you do. This means that all information should be taken into consideration but that the decision is always your thoughtful prerogative.
Wishing you a healthy and prosperous new year
Cordially
RDL

[…] Should I get life insurance? | Rabbi Daniel Lapin […]

Glenn Gilbert says:

I would love to hear more teaching on the Ancient Jewish Wisdom concerning the three categories you mentioned. Where is it found in the Bible. What resources do you recommend? Thank you so much for all you do. Respectfully, Glenn Gilbert

rdlapin says:

Dear Glenn–
I think our best resource for financial know-how is our Income Abundance Set
http://rabbidaniellapin.com/product/income-abundance-set/
and I recommend it.
The full explication of how Ancient Jewish wisdom finds the asset allocation strategy in Scripture is longer than I can write here but for instance Deut 14:25 is one of the references to having ‘cash on hand’.
Hope you have a new year of health and prosperity
Cordially
RDL

rdlapin says:

Dear JC–
I don’t know about the Christian ‘sects’ to which you refer but both money and sex are addressed extensively in the Tanach, (the Old Testament) in accordance with their power to impact human lives for better and of course also for worse. Not surprisingly AJW, focusing as it does, on improving our lives, does not shy not away from money and sexual matters, addressing them forthrightly and honestly. Anything less would have little value to me or to you, right? Wishing you a new year of health and prosperity,
Cordially
RDL

Will says:

Rabbi Lapin, I thought I heard you say once on your TCT show that you do not recommend investing in the stock market. Do I remember that correctly? If so, not even index funds?

rdlapin says:

No, Will,
I did not speak against investing in the stock market. On the contrary, stocks play an important role in a well rounded and diversified investment strategy.
Cordially
RDL

ROBIN D RUSH says:

I just started watching your show on TCT. I have learned so much in the past few weeks. I am fascinated with your comments on retirement and finances. I am a sixty year old single woman with some health impairments and limited income and resources. I wish I had heard these teachings 40 years ago.

rdlapin says:

Dear Robin–
Good to hear from you. It’s not too late to start doing some new things now or some old things differently now. Really! If there is one phrase people write to us more than any other it is, “I wish I knew this many years ago!” Well, yes, don’t we all!
Cordially
RDL

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