Spencer and Shelene Whipple weren’t rich, but each month they dutifully deposited $100 into a savings account. Though only in their early 20s, they managed their money with an eye toward the distant future. Saving for retirement and a college education for their 1-year-old daughter were both top priorities, and the Whipples understood that achieving long-range objectives would probably require a lifetime of prudent and disciplined financial planning.
The couple felt good about the plans they had made, but were always open to other people’s advice. So when they got a call from a local insurance agency interested in reviewing their auto insurance coverage, they agreed to meet with Austin Christensen, CSA, an agent with Farm Bureau Financial Services and a board member with NAIFA-Central in Provo, Utah.
Austin quickly determined that the couple had overlooked another insurance need: life insurance. Spencer worked for his father’s electrical contracting business. Shelene had been an office manager at a local college, but was now a full-time, stay-at-home mom.
Austin knew that life would be very difficult if anything happened to either of them. He recommended term insurance since he knew that they, unlike most of his clients, were doing a good job of saving and investing for the future. However, the couple preferred a solution that included permanent insurance. They saw great value in having policies that they could hold onto for a lifetime and that would also accumulate cash values to supplement their retirement income.
The couple purchased small whole life policies with term riders to make sure they got the face amount they needed. Over time, they hoped to convert as much of the term coverage as the family budget would permit. When the policies were being underwritten, Spencer had reported to the insurance company that he had a form of anemia. Since the condition was under control, the company gave him one of its highest ratings. By contrast, Shelene got a low rating because of some abnormal scores on a urine test.
Ironically, it was Spencer’s health that soon took a turn for the worse. Less than a year after they purchased the policies, Spencer was not producing the red and white blood cells that his body needed. Eventually, a bone marrow transplant was necessary to replace his marrow with healthy tissue to be donated by his brother. One month after the surgery, Spencer’s cell counts hadn’t changed, so a second transplant had to be arranged. This time, his sister would be the donor. Spencer’s hematologist remained hopeful. But one week after the second surgery, Spencer succumbed to his illness.
A strong foundation
Shelene, eight-and-a-half months pregnant at the time, confronted the reality of having to raise and support two young children by herself. It’s been a little over a year since Spencer died, and Shelene, now 24, is not sure how she would have managed the painful transition without the life insurance proceeds, a lump sum totaling roughly 10 times Spencer’s annual income.
Today, Shelene and the kids, Alexis, 3, and Spencer, 1, are doing well. Shelene remains a full-time mom, and is taking prenursing classes. “I don’t have to rush to finish my studies and take a minimum-wage job just to feed my kids,” says Shelene. “I can take it slow and be home for my kids. It’s huge peace of mind.”
After she gets her nursing degree, Shelene plans to use the insurance money to build a house on land she recently purchased that’s just a block and a half from the cemetery where Spencer is buried. As for her own life insurance, Austin helped her quadruple her coverage four months after Spencer died. And a good college education for the kids and a comfortable retirement for Shelene are still possible because of the Whipples’ wise decision to add life insurance to their financial plans.
Jon Dressner is vice president of LIFE. For more information on LIFE’s realLIFEstories program or to obtain a realLIFEstories application, visit www.LIFE-line.org or call 202-464-5000.