Sunday, August 2, 2015

The Only Certainty in Life

I've been thinking about death a lot lately. Probably because two of my peers who I knew not personally but peripherally, passed away within a relatively recent time period. They were similar in age and around the same stage in their life as I am now. Young married adults with families who depend on them. Ever since then, I have asked myself the following question: 

Death is the only certainty in life. It is the only event that we all know for a fact that has a 100% chance of occurring in the life of every single person ever to be born. Yet why are so many people unprepared for it? 

Let's get one thing clear. By "unprepared" I mean in a practical sense. There is no way in hell yourself or your loved ones can be emotionally prepared for you to die a sudden unexpected death in your 30's. But you can definitely be prepared beforehand practically in case anything ever happened. 

Another clarity. By asking this question about being prepared I am in no way saying the people who passed away recently were not practically prepared. To be perfectly honest, I have no idea. I did not know them well enough to know about their situation. Hearing the news of their passing simply sparked thoughts into my mind to lead me to ask this question about people in general. 

So what do I mean by being "practically prepared"? I don't like to give advice on my blog. Especially about topics that I have no expertise or experience in. But as someone who likes to think extensively and often times obsessively to the point of causing insomnia about random topics, I feel like I have some insightful thoughts to share about those topics. Sometimes that topic is the Lakers, and sometimes it's Taco Bell. This time that topic just happens to be 'death.'

This first thing you can do to be prepared for something is to actually think about it. It's pretty simple. If you want to be prepared for an earthquake, first you have to entertain the possibility in your mind that an earthquake can and might happen. Only then can you take practical steps to prepare for it. For so many people death is such as taboo they don't even like to think about it. Obviously you don't have to obsess over it for hours on end to make yourself depressed, or bring it up during your child's birthday party. But there is a time and place for it. For most people, either their ego or fear keeps them from thinking about the possibility of their own death. Either they believe it won't happen to them or they are scared it will somehow actually happen if they give some thought to it. That ego and fear must be overcome. I think everyone who is married should discuss the possibility of their deaths with their spouse. That includes making a will and letting your family know about it. If you have life insurance make sure your beneficiaries know what to do if something happens. Talk about it. Break the taboo. Communication. That's the most important factor in being prepared. 

The next thing everyone should consider is life insurance. If you lost your job right now and never got another one, can you live comfortably for the rest of your life and maintain the same quality of life you are living now? If yes, congratulations. You are filthy rich.  You don't need life insurance. But  every single person I know, and chances are every single person you know, would answer 'no' to this question. I don't care how much money you and/or your spouse makes. Even if your spouse earns a six-figure salary, do you really want them to be working that job AND be a single parent? Things like cost of living, mortgages, college funds, taxes, investments, and bills are hard enough to manage with two people. Why would you want your spouse to have to manage them on their own while at the same time trying to earn money and raise a kid? Unless your last name is Gates, Buffet, or Trump, pretty much everyone who is married with kids should have some form of life insurance or another. 

I don't want to go too much into it but some people think life insurance is a scam. And many policies out there are so bad they pretty much are scam-like. But there are different kinds of insurance. Term life insurance is the purest form of insurance. It's called term because it's temporary. It's only effective for usually 20 or 25 years. If you are still alive after that time, the policy is cancelled. The theory is that by that time your kids should be old enough to be earning their own income and you should have enough wealth saved up to leave some for your spouse. Because it's temporary, it's a lot cheaper than permanent life insurance. As a matter of fact probably around ten times cheaper. Permanent life insurance policies are a lot more expensive because they last your entire life. Makes sense. There are all kinds of policies out there. They are usually attached to different investment vehicles based on indexes and interest rates and earn cash value based on the markets and other factors. Many of them are bullshit. The costs associated with maintaining those investments often times negates any earnings you may have had, to the point where you could have been better off buying the much cheaper term policy and then investing the difference on your own. But there are some good products out there as well that guarantee you a minimum interest rate and offer you a lot of flexibility. All I can say is you should approach buying life insurance cautiously but with an open mind. But I would advise everyone with kids should have a term life insurance policy at the very least. 

This next point may seem a bit obvious. Certain things like hard work, responsibilities, discipline, and sacrifice don't necessarily feel good. But if you died without imbibing at least some of those values in your life, you may be leaving your loved ones in a very tough spot. For example, if you are stuck in a job that you hate but makes good money, it's not always the right thing for you to quit. Your family may need the financial security. Staying in that job may be the sacrifice you need to make. Not everyone has to enjoy doing their jobs. That's what the off-time is for. That brings me to my last point. 

I can't stress this next point enough. Don't be a hard ass. Enjoy life. In my opinion, that's the biggest thing you can do to overcome your fear of death. If you lived a life full of enjoyment and jovial memories, then your death will be easier to accept by everyone, including yourself. If you always choose to work overtime on your days off, just once maybe take the day off and go to the beach. Maybe pay your employee some overtime once and take your kid to the museum and show them some art. Maybe go out to eat dinner once in a while on a random Tuesday. Maybe stay up till 4 AM one time when you have family over for the holidays. Maybe let your mother-in-law put your baby to sleep one night so you guys can go watch the new movie that's coming out. Whatever it is that makes you feel good, do it once in a while. 

So here's the bottom line. How do you practically prepare for death? Discuss it with your loved ones. Get life insurance. Work hard. But also play hard. And don't have a stick up your ass. 

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