Spokane Journal of Business

Life insurance policy can be ‘the last love letter”

Sufficient coverage can provide security for those left behind

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Jim Lusk remembers going to the wake of one of his clients who had died after being hit by a truck.

The client’s widow pulled him aside and asked if she and her kids were going to be financially OK.

“I told her, ‘We’re going to pay off your mortgage, all of your debt, all of the funeral expenses, your kid’s college education, and you’ll have enough money so you don’t have to work again. That’s how much he loved you,’” says Lusk, a chartered life insurance underwriter and financial consultant. “‘She left the room and I bawled my eyes out.”

It’s the kind of rare story that has driven Lusk to sell life insurance for 38 years.

“Mortality is the last thing anybody wants to talk about,” says Lusk, who is founder and president of Spokane-based Retirement Nationwide Inc. “And not surprisingly, most people are grossly underinsured. Denial is not just a river in Egypt. We’re all going to die. That fact is inescapable.”

With the coronavirus pandemic raging across the globe, people are doing more than stocking up on toilet paper and canned goods. They’re looking at their life insurance policies—asking questions and preparing for the inevitable.

We’re seeing an influx of our clients asking about their life insurance policies. People want to know if they have enough or if they can get more.

The answers to those questions typically are, respectively: No, they don’t have enough; and yes, they can.

Lusk takes a philosophical approach to life insurance and what it means from a legacy perspective. Tailoring life insurance policies to fit the person and their family is an art form. It requires active listening skills, knowledge of the industry, and wisdom gleaned from experience and continuous training.

His model focuses on planning for the income needs of the surviving spouse, considering all debts that need to be paid, kids and grandchildren to have funds for their college educations, and potential gifts for the person’s favorite charities are taken care of.

“Life insurance is about replacing the money machine known as human life value,” says Lusk. “When that person is gone, so is their ability to generate income for their families. Figuring out what you’re really worth can be an eye-opening exercise.”

Considering life insurance can be a challenging experience as well. The insurance industry has a variety of products that can make buying life insurance feel overwhelming. Yes, there are lots of hybrids of life insurance that blend the stock market, savings, and other investments.

But it’s not nearly as complicated as some make it out to be.

“Term life insurance is like renting your home, and permanent — cash value – life insurance is like owning your home,” says Lusk. “Term life insurance has the lowest initial costs, but there is no cash value to it. Permanent insurance provides you cash, which is available for withdrawal at a later date.”

Also, permanent insurance will pay beneficiaries when they die versus only if you die within the term of term life insurance. Dying outside of the term, well, you’re out of luck.

Another thing to consider about buying term life insurance: It is more expensive the older you get. Meanwhile, permanent insurance costs are level over the course of time.

Historically, when it comes to life insurance, most people are quick to offer excuses about why they don’t have life insurance.

“People tend to say it’s too expensive, which I don’t feel is even close to true, and the second reason is that it’s too complicated, too many choices,” says Lusk. “I ask people if they have fire insurance to protect them in case their house is destroyed by fire. All of them do. The odds of having your house burn down is less than 1%. The odds of you dying is 100%. We just don’t know when.”

Cash value life insurance is a key leg in the retirement stool.

Traditionally, we talk about retirement in terms of savings accounts, 401(k)s, and other investments. People who want a vibrant and fulfilling retirement plan for it. They also save for it. Successful retirees have developed a mindset and a lifetime habit of saving.

Waiting to buy life insurance can be more expensive as health issues crop up. The earlier you purchase it, the better potential for cost saving.

If you’re not a saver, you may be considering going for the cheapest possible life insurance you can get, term life insurance. However, as a financial coach, I would advise people to consider the full picture. Do your will. Plan for eventual death. Consider having permanent life insurance that has the potential to take care of your loved ones. Take the stress out of the equation for those you leave behind.

Life insurance isn’t required by law. It’s dependent on individual needs and goals. It’s important for each person to look at their finances and determine how much money their family would need without them.

“It’s an important conversation everyone should be having,” Lusk says. “I have more life insurance than most people. Why? Because it will be my last love letter to my wife, Debbie, of 44 years.”


Financial consultant Donald F. Morgan is an accredited investment fiduciary with Spokane Valley-based Independent Wealth Connections LLC, a registered representative of securities services provider LPL Financial, and a member of the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority/Security Investor Protection Corp. He can be reached at 509.931.1088, or at Donald.morgan@independentwealthconnections.com

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