It is foolish not to purchase life insurance: Moses Ochonu

This is a difficult post but one that I need to make. I recently purchased a supplemental life insurance policy to add to the one I already have through my job.

Over the last decade or so, I've had several insurance agents try to sell me life insurance, not to mention the many commercials on TV about it. I was impervious for several reasons but mostly because I thought I was too young to think about death and because both our culture and religion (especially Pentecostal Christianity) socialize us to consider any talk of dying and making post-death arrangements taboo--almost like a death wish.

So what changed? Come with me.

Well, I evolved on the matter, and it's not merely because I got older. I have thought about it over the years. Like most people with a family, my concern when it comes to our inevitable mortality is the family I will leave behind.

I have no issues with any human being. My conscience is clear. As long as I'm right with God, I do not fear death. But I do occasionally worry about dying before my children become independent. And I do worry about my spouse's (and children's) economic wellbeing if death comes prematurely. That's my only anxiety when it comes to death.

Please, I do not want prayers and "Blood of Jesus!." I only want your sober attention. Also, to be sure, I do not plan to die anytime soon. I've got a lot of unfinished projects and I do not believe that God's mission for me on this earth is completed. Nonetheless, we must do what makes sense and gives us peace.

The first time the issue of life insurance entered my consciousness in a serious way was more than ten years ago, when Senator Sola Adeyeyecame to Nashville to attend the birthday celebration of his cousin, my friend and brother, Professor Adebayo Oyebade.

During the party, Professor Adeyeye was asked to give some remarks. He devoted his entire remark to encouraging the audience, mostly Nigerians, to hurry and purchase life insurance. His admonition took everyone by surprise and the room fell awkwardly silent as strange expressions registered on many people's faces. Why was he talking about life insurance, death, and dying at a joyous birthday party, everyone, including yours truly, wondered.

Even his effort to convey the subject lightheartedly with jokes generated more awkwardness but he was undeterred. Pointing at his wife, he joked that if he died that day, his wife would become an instant millionaire, but followed it up that he did not plan to die soon. He said it was foolish for a Nigerian to live in America and not purchase life insurance, given the relative affordability of the premium, the huge payout, the grim reality of sudden, premature death, and the tragic possibility of leaving loved ones in financial distress after such death. Her was persuasive.

That speech, depressing as it was, struck a nerve in me. Every time someone I knew died young I would think about that speech and see the wisdom of protecting my wife and kids financially.

But I never got around to doing it. I just couldn't bring myself to purchase the supplemental life insurance that I knew I needed because of my cultural and religious socialization. That was a critical, costly error on my part, for if I had purchased this insurance in my thirties, my premium would be less than half of what it is today. I was younger and healthier then and so I was a less risky bet for the insurance companies.

Nonetheless, I'm glad that I've been able to do it. It gives me a great amount of peace. Indeed, peace of mind is really what you're purchasing when you get life insurance. It's the assurance that if something were to happen your family would be taken care of and would not miss you financially.

Anyway, back to the "why now" question. As I said, Senator Adeyeye's speech was passionate and stuck with me but it did not push me to purchase life insurance. What did it for me was the sudden death of my friend, Professor Pius Adesanmi. Pius was only a year older than me. We worked in the same profession, had the same anxieties, traveled together, shared our hopes for the future. Even our kids where about the same age

Then boom, it happened. He was gone. Just like that. His death moved me in a way that few deaths have moved me. That's when it hit me; it could happen to anyone, and if you cannot anticipate it then at least protect your loved ones financially. Before Pius's passing, other colleagues and friends in their primes had also passed away, the late Professor Abubakar Momoh being one of them. One moment, he was bantering with me and Farooq Kperogi; the next moment we heard that he was gone.

A brother in our church who is younger than me slumped at work and died recently, leaving behind his wife and two young children. I was not at the funeral as I was away in Nigeria but my wife told me that his best friend narrated how a few days before his death they were discussing life insurance only for him to pass away before they could act on their conversation. It can happen to anyone, and while we pray that it does not happen, let's do the rational thing and protect our families.

The moral of this post is quite simple. Go and purchase life insurance if you have not already done so. Buy small, buy big--whatever you can afford. Even if you have one through your work, get more on the open insurance market to supplement it.

Chances are that you will live to old age and your family will never need the insurance payout. But you'll have the peace of mind that if something happens, your family will be financially okay and will only have to deal with the emotional aspect of the loss.

This post may not apply to folks in Nigeria as I do not know if the life insurance market there is as reliable, but perhaps you can make other arrangements such as opening children education savings accounts in banks and opening money market accounts and other investment instruments and making your wife and kids the beneficiaries.

But if you're a Nigerian in diaspora, I would echo Senator Adeyeye's words and say to you: it is foolish not to purchase life insurance. As morbidly strange as this may sound, life insurance is also another way to build generational wealth in America. It is foolish not to take advantage of it.

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