This year has posed, as does every year, its own set of challenges. At one point I was in an ambulance for my third trip to the Emergency Room in three weeks. All turned out well, by the grace of God, but it brought into sharp relief an issue that my wife and I had already been concerned with: preparation.
One of a father’s primary duties is to provide for the welfare of his family. Yes, this is also a primary duty of the mother, but I’m writing and thinking from a father’s perspective. Thanks to the salary I earn, our mortgage gets paid, we have plenty of money for food, our kids have clean clothes and good shoes, and we live our lives sheltered from any serious existential worries. It is easy, however, to become complacent, to go to sleep in the unexamined belief that since everything is safe and good and prosperous today, that it will be safe and good and prosperous tomorrow.
Yes, Christ told us to worry about today, and to let tomorrow take care of tomorrow’s worries. But one does not have to suffer anxiety about the future in order to prepare for that future. Preparing for that future, in a loving, Christ-centered, and avarice-avoiding sort of way is simply an extension of the work we do to make sure our children are fed, clothed, and sheltered.
There are four key areas where men often fail to prepare, and they risk putting their families into a tenuous situation.
1. Life Insurance. This is a biggee that I almost put off too long. I always thought I would get it later, because I knew I was young and healthy, and I knew I had life insurance through my work. I figured that if I ever became self-employed that I would then get my own life insurance.
That was a mistake.
I developed a chronic illness, Crohn’s disease. It is something that I can live with, but it almost prevented me from getting the life insurance I eventually realized I needed. Most men will, eventually, get some sort of chronic illness. It could be high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes, or something else. And what we don’t always realize is that such an illness can make a man ineligible to buy ANY life insurance (while at the same time making him that much more likely to need it). In my case, there was only one company willing to cover me with my Crohn’s, the Knights of Columbus, and even then it was only because I had been in remission for some time.
2. Long-Term Care Insurance. This is another insurance that you can suddenly find yourself ineligible for. I can’t get this insurance now, even through Knights. However, I ran the numbers and found that I can do better self-funding the care. That basically means I need to put the money aside myself. But even if that is your final decision, it still must be thought out and planned for.
3. Will. It seems pretty simple. If I die, then by law my wife will get everything, right? Including custody of the kids. The problem is that life isn’t simple, not really. Depending on the state, this obvious inheritance, from husband to wife, or from parent to child, still can get caught up in the legal system, forcing the mourners to spend legal money they probably don’t have. And child custody, well there are horror stories about contested child custody. It’s better to have a simple will and eliminate the possibility of something going wrong.
4. Living Will or other health care directives. As a Catholic, I consider human life, including my own, to be precious. It is a sin to simply let a patient die when other options are available. It is a sin to kill a patient by removing their feeding tube, their breathing tube. And so I know that I need to make my wishes clear in this regard, to protect both myself and also my loved ones who will be in no condition to make life or death choices when they need to be made.
There are other things a man needs to make sure are taken care of in the event of the unthinkable happening. One other thing we realized when I was in the hospital was that there were many things in and around our family that I knew how to take care of that my wife knew nothing about. For instance, I was the keeper of all passwords for all websites. My wife did not know them and therefore would have had a great deal of difficulty paying our bills and otherwise taking care of our business.
The easy answer to figuring out those changes that you really need to make is to sit down with your beloved and just talk. What would you do if I died tomorrow? What would you have the most difficulty doing? What would you not know that you need to know? This has to be answered by both spouses if you want to be truly prepared for what eventually must come.