My Father, Napkins and Life Insurance.


My father believes in insurance.  He doesn’t trust his own math skills, and granted,when you have  small children, life insurance is important.  You don’t want your kids destitute if  you die.  So we all believe that is what life insurance is for:  the family you leave behind.  It’s a gamble,  but  responsible.  But I swear my father has Asperger’s syndrome, too.

What kind of  parent buys life insurance on his kids?  His explanation:  if we lived, we’d have money for college. Fair enough.

When I had just left home, without a thought to going to college, my father bought a $5000 life insurance policy on me.  He had been led to believe the policy  paid 4% interest, and after 5 years, the dividends would maintain the policy. If I added to the policy, I would get  4% interest.  I was skeptical, and asked what  State Farm invested in.  My father got angry with me.  He trusted State Farm agent, Bill Apostolakis, and had no idea.  At the time, due to inflation, banks were paying over 6% on savings accounts, and  you could get 17% interest on a CD.  My father was exasperated  by me. How dare I question.

He apparently took out a $100,000 on my brother, and on my brother -in-law,  Bill Meyer, he took out a $150,000 policy. My sister and brother-in-law had 2 little kids. This was, again, the early 1970s.  We lived and lived.    My youngest sister,  upset that she had no policy, became a co-beneficiary of my sister’s policy on her husband.  My father continued to hound me about adding to the policy.   In fact, I had about $5000 which I trusted him to invest with a friend, and…not having any idea what  this guy was investing in, but that he was paying 9%, I let that ride for a good long time.  Again  perplexed by the lack of transparency, I moved the account to a Calvert mutual fund. That was the start of my learning to invest, and  to know what to look for. I am by no means an expert, but I  am confident about the odds.

My father means well, but he  just can’t relate to us kids as adult people.  Part of the problem is my brother has severe Asperger’s, and part if it is my Dad himself.  He is always trying to give us stuff.  He has a small chemical company, and usually he gives us  soap.  Hand soap, detergent that will destroy your clothes (—no joke), or dishwashing liquid.  As he has gotten older…it’s grocery bags full of napkins.   We have no idea where he gets them from, as there is no packaging. I don’t get it, I have a lifetime supply of paper napkins.  We all do, and give them out to friends.

We lived some more….40 or so years more.  I recently went on a trip, and upon my return, my youngest sister  has emailed, “Bill Meyer died.”  It took me a few seconds to process this.   He died in a freak accident:  he fell, hit his head, and went into a coma.   The sister married to Bill, the guy  with the life insurance, is now on her third husband.   In any case, my 2 sisters are splitting that $150,000 policy.

Meanwhile…I have my taxes done, and , for some reason, I have to pay tax on the dividends of $150 or so my  life insurance policy. Nobody can tell me why this is NOT an unrealized gain.  At one point, the policy was worth over $21,000, but due to some murkiness on  State Farm’s end, it dropped to $13,000, & now was ‘worth’ $8300.  Yes, it lost value, and I am paying taxes on it.  My father reminds me that it was paying 4%.  I did  the math. Even if it paid 0%, and my father had put  just $25 a month in a non-interest bearing account, I would have had over $21,000.  I called Bill Apostolakis. He calls you honey, babe, and doll. He does not respect women.  I tell him I want to cash in the policy, as it  is costing money, not making money.   HE starts with the spiel that if I  had only added to it.  I ask him, “did you tell my father that if he had just put $25 a month into a savings account, I would have had more money?”   He hesitates, “Yes…I did.”  “No, you didn’t,” I responded.  The fact of  the matter is:  my father paid State Farm  to, essentially, keep $5000 in a non-interest bearing account.  Like paying a bank to keep your money in a savings account.

I had to wait a few weeks to get the actual policy, as my father was wintering in another state,and the policy was in his  safe deposit box.  He is SURE it pays at least 4%, maybe 9%, he tells me.

My father returns.   He gives me the policy. Wait—there are 2!  One has a face value of $10,000.  I call Equitable Life on that one.  It turns out my father cashed it  in 1994.  It is worth $0.00  After taxes, (yes, there are still more!) the State Farm policy  will be worth about $6,000.   There is no indication  in the wording of the policy that it ever paid any amount of interest.

As my  roommate said, “It looks like the napkins are worth more than your insurance policies.”  No kidding.

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