Sunday, January 15, 2012

What is the true value of life?

Recently, I did a financial status review - in layman terms, a review of my insurance portfolio to see if ever something happens to me, just exactly how much money I can squeeze from the insurance giant to make sure they keep their promise in taking care of my family.

While doing the review, my agent and I both agreed that I need to 'upgrade' my policy and this is mainly due to inflation and also what I could afford before when I was a fresh graduate was (still a blessing) peanuts.  If I'm ever doomed to be crippled or something, my payout is only sufficient for the ambulance trip.  That's how small we're talking about.

We've upgraded once while I was half way through my current working life and we're thinking of another one now because it goes for 0, 5 and 10, etc years and like your car, your financial health needs periodic service and maintenance to stay in shape and secured.

But while I agree we need to hedge against inflation, to be honest... I disagreed with my agent at some levels and was to a certain extent offended by her remarks.

Her argument was if my expenditure today is X, therefore I need a plan which ensure a payout that is X value equivalent when I retire (that is if I'm lucky to have survived minor injuries, lost of limbs or senses, natural disasters, crippling accidents and death by murder).  I supposed it's right but I'm quite taken aback that the gist of her selling point was: You're living this quality of life and you're spending X amount and you'd wanna  maintain this standard of living even if something happens to you.  If you don't buy this policy, you won't be able to survive because logically, you can't scale down.


Strange.  I didn't grow up in a rich family.  Not in a poor one either.  We're from a comfortable middle class and I feel really blessed because statistically speaking, my household is considered upper income, which consists of only 20% of total households in Malaysia.  If your household earns more than RM3k, than you are above average.  My discomfort, if I understood her correctly, is the fact that if something happens, I wouldn't be able to scale down my lifestyle.  And the way she had said it, sounds so matter-of-factly that everyone won't be able to scale down and therefore should spend more money now to secure the same kind of lifestyle in the future.  I don't doubt that it will be difficult especially to have to send Beanie away, but seriously there's a Chinese proverb which says: If the horse dies on you, you get down and walk.  Yea, perhaps we're so accustomed to luxury and convenience, it seems unimaginable for us to live without both.  I don't know how well I will cope.  But to hear someone else make that sweeping comment seemed a little strange to me.  If indeed you don't die (for whatever reason) and are able to pay-off all necessary medical bills then count your lucky stars.  There is no use for a 2.0 turbo if you don't have legs to throttle anyway.  Well, at least that's my theory.

The other point she made which I was taken aback was the 'price' of the policy which should go accordingly to your 'position'.  Her reason on why I should buy A over B (example ratio of 10:1) is because "you're at a director level, therefore you should get A because anyone, even clerks can get B".


My take-out of that statement?

So people who earn more need bigger policies with bigger payouts so that they can ensure fuller coverage and more secured affordability when it comes to expensive operations to increase higher chance of survival and more comfortable recuperation and livelihood for 'the-rest-of-their-lives'.  I know I know, this is a stupid argument.  But I find it highly uncomfortable to know that the general sales pitch by insensitive insurance agents, is 'life could be bought'.  Smaller policies, smaller payout, lower coverage, lower affordability of costly operations, lower grade medication, lower survival possibility - all determined by how much one is earning today.  Now you understand why Chinese parents are SO determined to have their kids do well academically even if it's in the expense of their creative propensity?

I know I know, this is a blatant truth that needs no arguing - Africans are dying due to famine and Americans are wasting super-sized burgers (sorry for the generalization but just to illustrate an example) - life is never fair, I supposed I've always viewed it as a 'world problem' due to bad governance and rampant corruption.  But I've never seen it as a grassroot problem.  That we didn't even realize this thinking of 'my life is more valuable because I am so and so and I can afford this and that' has so unnoticeably permeated into our daily thoughts.  It's scary because the subconscious mind is seriously a lot more influential than we give it credit for.  If within an organisation, the value of a director's life is viewed higher than the value of a clerk's, then I think there's really something VERY wrong in our society.  We're placing too much emphasis on economic value because the only reason why I think the former could be more valuable than the latter is because the director can arguably bring more economic value to the company.  So... that's even worse right.  You're useful because you are economically indispensable.  Otherwise, your life is as good as a clerk's.  Appalling truth of how the value of one's life is measured isn't it?  Well, it is for me.  Especially in an organisation, I'm a strong advocate of equality.  How much you earn is directly proportionate to how much profit you're making for the company.  It has nothing to do with positions.  If a director was held hostage with a clerk, we do not determine whose life we should save based on economic value.  And we shouldn't even be the ones determining it.

So there you have it.  The truth about insurance.  Not how it works but how it sells to you by leveraging on your subconscious insecurities, how it plays up your fear and ego based on your 'perceived' economic value.  How it detests me yet I have no choice to play along because I can not care whether I (or my children - yup they should be toughen up) ride on horses or walk, but I cannot not care about my parents because they deserve a comfortable, secured life which they shouldn't be fighting for anymore.

Such is life.

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