Almost 10 years of marriage has taught me that the saying "I told you so" provides as much lasting happiness as hearing it does. So I am not going to say "I told you so."
My last column dealt with the merits of flood and earthquake insurance, and it was entirely by chance that it came right before the United States had its first major earthquake on the eastern seaboard in a long, long time. And that was followed by a rare and unusual hurricane that flooded the east coast, followed by another tropical storm that flooded more parts of New England in a series of events that was almost unbelievable.
The events provide a stark example of how valuable it is for people to discuss whether they should insure their property and, more importantly, themselves.
I am going on record that I am not a prophet nor do I have any ability to foresee the future (and I would strongly caution you about believing anyone who claims to have such ability when it comes to personal finance).
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Many, many people are still dealing with and will continue to endure the aftermath of these forces of nature for a long time. Sadly, many of those people have just recently realized that their homes are not covered for flooding.
In fact, it has been estimated that more than half of the recently flooded homes and businesses were not in officially designated flood plains. I bet that once all of those home and business owners find out that they have no coverage, expletives are going to fly that would make a sailor blush and tears are going to flow enough to cause more flooding.
If I have learned anything about teaching in my years as a college professor, it is that to learn a lesson deeply, students need to more than just hear it. They need to experience it in a way that goes beyond some abstract idea by a middle-aged professor.
Hurricane Irene, tropical storm Lee and the earthquake provided that lesson to all of us on a national scale — and they really should push us to rethink, or just think in the first place, about our property insurance coverage.
I don't think everyone must have flood or earthquake insurance. I do think, though, that everyone should have gone through the process of carefully weighing the costs and benefits of such coverage in their own situations in coming up with an answer.
I am not trying to use the recent events to spread fear and worry, but there are times in life that provide natural pauses to reflect, and I think this is one of them.
In the end, even the catastrophic loss of a home or other property is just that: the loss of property. Things can be replaced and houses rebuilt. That's not the case with people. And my mind has turned to that as I have watched the flooding.
I risk running off any readers who are still with me by talking about insurance for a third straight month, but I am going to push my luck even further. One of the sad outcomes of bad events — and the most tragic — is the loss of human life.
Death happens every day. But it seems most jarring when it happens unexpectedly, particularly when the grim reaper takes a person who has others depending on him or her.
Sadly, this was the case in the recent flooding and in countless other instances across the nation that we will never hear about.
The loss of a loved one is bad, but it's made much worse all too often by the financial problems that come with it. And that just doesn't have to be the case, because the antidote — life insurance — is so readily available.
Any person who has dependents needs life insurance. Period.
And lots more can be written about life insurance (do I hear a future column?), but the basics are pretty easy.
■ You should buy life insurance and not be sold it.
■ You should buy term life insurance and not whole life or any of its relatives, including universal life or variable life, or any gimmick insurance, such as return-of-premium policies.
■ You should buy insurance worth roughly eight to 12 times your yearly income. If you don't work outside the home (such as a stay-at-home dad), a good rule of thumb is to buy half the amount your spouse buys.
■ You should buy insurance that will cover at least the period of time that you have dependents depending on your income.
No one wants to use life insurance — or any type of insurance, for that matter. But bad things happen, even to good people. And I think we each have an obligation to make sure we are as prepared as we can be for any bad things (and good things) that life may bring.