How Much Retirement Savings Does A 28 Year Old Have A Father’s Life Story

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A Father’s Life Story

A manila folder in my office contains a vinyl case containing three life insurance policies, neatly stored many years ago. I stumbled upon them this week and read, amid legalese, a father’s life story.

My stepfather met his future wife in the displaced persons camps in Germany after World War II. They married in 1946 and soon sailed for Brooklyn. His wife’s sister came with them.

The newlyweds arrived with virtually nothing. They found a basement apartment on Bergen Street, slept on the sand at Coney Island to cool off on hot summer nights, became American citizens, and learned about baseball and the Dodgers. His wife, shy and slow to learn English, kept house and studied to operate a mechanical calculator called a comptometer. It will be years before she feels ready to apply for a job.

My stepfather did whatever it took to support them. He was a grocery clerk, a “loader” of ball bearings in machines that made rollers, a machinist and eventually a taxi driver. Nobody cared much in those days about job satisfaction or work-life balance. If you were a man, your duty was to put food on your family’s table and a roof over their heads. You worked if you could. You made other arrangements if you couldn’t.

So on April 8, 1950, my father-in-law took out a $5,000 policy with Metropolitan Life. His wife was the primary beneficiary; his sister was the eventual beneficiary if his wife did not survive him. He was 31 years old and in good health. He duly reported that his father had died in 1944, aged 65, in a concentration camp. Curiously, his application notes that his “mother” also died in the concentration camp, aged 28, the same year. This woman was his father’s second wife; she would have been about 3 years old the year my stepfather was born. Metropolitan Life doesn’t seem to care.

The policy cost $123 for one year of coverage, payable upfront. That must have seemed like a lot of money, but my stepfather knew his wife would need that $5,000 if she lost it.

Their only child, my wife, arrived in 1957 when he took out a second $5,000 policy, this one with Connecticut General. In 1959, he updated the original Met Life policy to make his daughter, rather than his wife’s sister, the eventual beneficiary.

He added a third $5,000 whole life insurance policy, from Companion Life Insurance Company of New York, in 1966. “This policy is one of your most prized possessions,” a caption on the cover warns. of the font. “Keep it in a safe place. Don’t let it expire.”

He never did.

My stepfather worked until he was 80 years old. He is 92 now and his vision is weak. So I plan to read this column to him when my wife and I visit him on Sunday for Father’s Day. His wife died last summer. My father passed away in December.

Life insurance sales have fallen sharply in recent decades. LIMRA, a trade group, reported last year (1) that only 44% of US households have individual life insurance policies – a 50-year low – and 30% have no coverage at all. That means about a quarter of U.S. households have insurance coverage only through group plans, usually employer-sponsored, which can lead to loss of coverage if the employee loses their job.

Not all households need life insurance. Debt-free young singles typically need disability coverage much more than life insurance. Retirees without a mortgage, with generous pensions and sufficient savings can often do without. Having two earners with strong earning power can reduce the need for coverage, although I often ask new parents what would happen to the survivor’s career if one of them died. Often they conclude that the survivor would want to reduce her work hours or pressure and would accept less income to spend more time at home with the children. We take this into account when calculating insurance needs.

Even taking into account exceptions and extenuating circumstances, it is clear that many people today take financial risks that my father-in-law’s generation would have considered unacceptable. Education and health care, in particular, have become so expensive that I suspect many people think they just have to roll the dice on the low risk of premature death in order to meet the more immediate demands of these difficult costs. to avoid.

But this is a false compromise. My wife’s parents lived in a basement and slept on a beach. Although college was cheaper in her day, her father still drove his taxi 12 hours a day, six or seven days a week, to make sure she could attend. Restaurant meals were rare and vacations rarer. There were many things his parents wanted. They just wanted more financial protection for their family.

The women of my Baby Boom generation had opportunities their mothers never had, and most men my age are thrilled about it. We expect our daughters to have the same career options and earning potential as our sons. We recognize that with the cost of housing, education, health care and retirement these days, it is neither fair nor realistic to expect a husband to provide his family with a comfortable and safe life. Very few of us would recreate the society of the early postwar years, even if we could.

Yet, many baby boomer boys like me have developed our concept of what it’s like to be a husband and father by watching men like my stepdad. We admire their willingness to do whatever needed to be done, without complaining and without lamenting what they sacrificed. When our daughters bring their future husbands home to meet us, we want someone who will put their family first.

Happy Father’s Day.

Sources: 1) National Underwriter, “Life Insurance Ownership Falls: LIMRA”

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