Let’s say you’re thinking of having a child. There are lots of ways to pull this off nowadays, but for simplicity and imagery, we’ll assume you’re part of a man / woman couple and will attempt conception in the “traditional” way.
After perhaps years of practice, most of it hopefully quite fun, you’re about to engage in that special activity for its true biological purpose for the first time.
You’ve had a romantic meal, dimmed the lights, turned on some Barry White, and bought the right amount of life insurance. You’re ready to go.
Yes, organizing life insurance should indeed be part of your pre-mating ritual. Most people understand life insurance is an important purchase after you’ve had a kid, but for a number of reasons, you should get it before you even conceive.
The how, why, how much, and what type of life insurance questions can wait for later. Today we’ll focus on the when.
Timing for Him
Once your wife / partner is pregnant, your work has just begun. There are books to be read, a “nest” to be built, weird food to be procured, and lots of blame for random things to be accepted. You will get no credit for things you do right, and you’ll get blamed for a lot of things that go wrong. But all things equal, you have it ridiculously easy during pregnancy (and you have a guaranteed designated driver!), so put a smile on your face and help wherever you can.
Mission Accomplished! See You in 9 Months
But at the highest level, you’ve already done your part in bringing the new life into this world. (In fact, as your woman keeps assigning you tasks in preparation, just tell her, “Hey, I’ve done my part – now it’s your turn.” Hilarity will ensue.) While getting ready for a kid is a lengthy mental adjustment and significant operational challenge, it’s worth remembering that if you get hit by a bus the day after your kid is on the way, the kid’s still going to arrive without you.
That means you should have insurance in place before conception. I guess, if you’re feeling lucky, you could get it right after: high-five your woman after she confirms her pregnancy, kiss her belly, and immediately call your insurance agent.
You may think there’s no major rush, and you can wait a few weeks, or months, or get it just after the kid arrives. But the whole reason you’re getting life insurance is because you’re worried your family will suffer financially if you die, and that risk starts as soon as the kid is conceived. While birth is the milestone that makes all of this pregnancy stuff real, remember that many a dad has died before his kid was born. If you are going to be one of that unlucky number, at least make sure you’re not adding a financial disaster to the human one.
There is a chance that if you get insurance before you pull the goalie that you’ll be a bit over-insured if conception takes a while, or doesn’t occur at all. Don’t worry about that. You can cancel a policy if needed. You can’t get a policy if you’re dead.
And one more note – you may think that things are busy and there is a lot to do to prepare for your kid, so adding life insurance to the list is too much right now. You’ll get to it “once things settle down”.
Things will never settle down. You are enjoying the last glorious dose of free time you will have for a very long time. Even if you ignored the risk of dying, you should get life insurance immediately simply because it’s something you can do right now. Your future sleep-deprived zombie self will thank you kindly for doing so.
I chose the slightly riskier path of waiting until conception, but then I hurried to get a nice, fat policy in place on myself. I felt super responsible and smart, until we turned to my wife’s policy.
Timing for Her
Since it made sense for us (hint – it should make sense for almost everyone) to also get life insurance on my wife, we put that next on our to-do list.
When I called my insurance agent to start that process, I had a rather unpleasant Oh S*** moment. Turns out, getting life insurance on a pregnant woman is not a great idea.
Term life insurance typically charges a set annual premium for the entire term, and 20 years is a common term. If you’re getting a reasonably high level of insurance, there’ll be a health screening, and that means 20 years of expense will be based on a single snapshot of your health at the time the policy starts.
It therefore behooves you to be as fit as possible when you buy life insurance. I made sure I was, and was pleasantly surprised to get a really good rate.
I’m Not Fat, I’m Pregnant
A pregnant woman is not an ideal candidate to take that health snapshot. Insurance companies don’t have a separate schedule for pregnant women – they get classified right along their non-pregnant sisterhood. And that means that as a woman packs on the pounds for the kid and his/her carry-on baggage, the insurance company thinks she’s getting fat.
For the record, it’s the insurance company that called you fat, ladies (you’d think they’d be better at assessing mortality risks…). I admire your healthy glow and wouldn’t have even suspected you were pregnant unless you told me. But the insurance company thinks you are fat and will stay that way; they plan on charging you fatness-based premiums for the next 20 years.
My broker also added that, in addition to the weight gain, “her body is going nuts right now”. That sounded like good science, but I thought I’d follow up with someone who actually went to medical school. I asked the ob/gyn at our next appointment, and he looked thoughtful and said, “Yes, I can see why it’s a bad idea – cholesterol often skyrockets during pregnancy and hormones are in overdrive; although it’s all a natural and healthy part of being pregnant, her stats would look quite bad compared to her pre-pregnant self.”
So no life insurance for the woman during pregnancy. Got it. So much for being financially responsible from the get-go. We’ll wait until just after birth, right?
That may be an even worse time. Giving birth itself is no picnic (I’m told) and does some major trauma to the woman’s body. Hormones continue to rage. Cholesterol may take a while to drop down. And while some of the weight is gone, some of it remains. The ob/gyn said it might be as much as six months before a woman was back close to her pre-pregnancy condition.
Oh S*** indeed.
So if you wait until you’re pregnant to get life insurance, you’ll either likely pay too high a premium or need to delay a good bit (and run the risk you die without it). You could, of course, get a policy in place, then cancel and replace it once you’re back to your fighting weight. I wouldn’t bet on that, though.
Because organizing insurance – of any type – is supremely annoying. If car and home insurance wasn’t forced on us, I imagine many people wouldn’t even have that. I know many parents with older kids who still have “get life insurance” on their to-do lists. It’s just one of those things we all know we should, and never, do – a one-off purchase that is easily forgotten and easily delayed. You’ll do well to get life insurance organized once; getting it twice (once for pregnant you, once for postpartum you) is all the more challenging.
And remember, once the baby comes, your free time is over for a long time. Maybe forever. You should do anything and everything that you can in advance.
So don’t focus on the kid’s arrival – that’s like insuring your car after you’ve driven it home, or your house after you’ve moved in. When you’re (literally) bubbling over with excitement to start making babies, think about dad dying just after conception, or mom dying during or just after childbirth. That will hopefully dampen the mood and slow your rush to the boudoir, long enough for you to get your life insurance policies buttoned up. When your reward for getting life insurance is satisfying your most primal of instincts, you’ve given yourself quite the incentive.
Make getting life insurance part of your pre-mating ritual. Then pull the goalie and go have some fun.