Years ago, the agency to which I was attached was housed in a local bank building. Attached to the bank building was a parking garage where most of the people in the agency parked. The garage was managed on a daily basis by the son of the owner of the building and as such he had daily contact with the customers. Over a period covering the first two years of our occupancy of this facility, just about every agent in our office provided this manager with an opportunity to buy life and long-term disability insurancebut to no avail.
Not only did he not purchase any insurance, but he derided all forms of insurance as well as the people who sold it. His rudeness and anti-insurance attitude became a well-known issue in our agency. Needless to say, to us, he was not a popular person and it was a bit galling to have to patronize his garage.
As fate would have it, though, months later his car hit a train in a city in the northern part of our state. The accident was his fault and left him totally and permanently disabled. In order to relieve the financial distress that resulted from the disability, the bank (our landlord) circulated a request for donations among the tenants of the building. Not surprisingly, the request was not met with great sympathy in our office, given his repeated refusals to accept personal responsibility for his actions.
This is a phenomenon that has been steadily increasing over the years. There is hardly a week that passes that our local media does not publicize one or more car washes or other fund-raising efforts to help a family in need as a consequence of the death or disability of a family member. As I have traveled around the country, I have noticed that the same is true of other communities.
As noble as this may be, it would be far nobler if the media spent more time reminding people of the importance of accepting personal responsibility for such contingencies. A fund-raiser may help pay for an inexpensive funeral or a week or two of income loss, but it cannot provide the long-term needs of a family or disabled person, by far the more urgent need.
Further evidence of this trend is lifted up in a recent publication of the Life and Health Insurance Foundation for Education (LIFE). LIFE reports that only 40% of Americans now own life insurance and that the numbers are falling. Moreover, even among those who do own life insurance, the level of coverage is woefully inadequate.