After my wife and I got married and moved to a new community, we decided it was time to merge finances rather than continue to split every expense 50-50.
Merging our finances somehow felt scarier than saying our vows: I was a freelance writer and my wife had a nonprofit job, so we weren’t exactly earning a fortune.
Pooling our money meant making lots of choices on how we were spending, and that meant confronting potential financial uncertainty.
The banker who helped us open an account at a local credit union wanted to know if there were other financial products we needed — like life insurance, perhaps?
I’d never considered getting life insurance, if only because it felt like something geared for couples with children. My wife, the practical one, asked for more information. The banker set us up with a broker, and as he explained the benefits of term life insurance, I warmed to the idea.
How freelancing my way through a medical recovery taught me the value of life insurance
The year we married, I had to take two months off of work for health reasons. Before the medical leave, I freelanced half-time and worked at a university library two days a week, so I had no safety net of benefits, like employer-sponsored disability insurance, to cover lost income.
I could continue to freelance, but my library employer refused to let me work from home temporarily, even though I was medically prohibited from driving and could do all my work remotely, so that significantly reduced my income.
The experience soured me on traditional employers. I’d taken the part-time library job hoping to work my way up into full-time work, but after almost two years, I had none of the benefits the tenured librarians or full-time staff enjoyed — and no understanding when I needed medical accommodation.
Without freelance writing, which I could do from anywhere, my leave of absence would have meant 60 days without pay. Freelancing kept me emotionally and financially stable, providing the support my traditional job couldn’t muster. I doubled down on it a few months later and quit my library job.
Yet the experience left me wondering — what if something worse happened? What would be my buffer against economic uncertainty?
My wife and I were barely getting by living our below-average lesbian couple lifestyle — together, we earn around $90,000. Compare that to heterosexual couples who earn an average of $134,930 per year, thanks to the higher earning power of men. With student loan payments, our money was tight.
If one of us died, whoever survived would be likely to lose any sense of financial stability. Life insurance felt more like a life raft for us — something to offset lost income should one of us die.
Choosing a life insurance plan
We settled on $250,000 term life insurance policies, one each. We were fortunate to get good rates based on our age and health: I pay $226.50 a year for this protection. My wife, who’s younger, pays $204.
Practically, the money I’d get if my wife died means I’d be financially secure and supported outside of freelance income, which ebbs and flows with the seasons. Getting a life insurance policy also felt like one more way to demonstrate our commitment to one another, so in a way, it was a romantic gesture, too.
In the four years since we bought our policies, my wife and I have made progress toward financial stability and my unease has declined.
We have an emergency savings account. My student loans are paid off, and my wife is a couple years out from having hers forgiven under the Public Service Loan Forgiveness program (or so we hope, given the program’s high rejection rate). We live well, while also living within our means.
Like any insurance, life insurance is something you get hoping you’ll never need it — but four years later, I feel grateful each time I pay my annual premium knowing that if one of us dies, the other won’t have to lose the life we’ve built together.