Boomer Esiason: NFL Great Turned Life Insurance Advocate

Things are super at the Super Bowl“Today is your day to go out into the world.  You’re going to be great!”  This affirmation is one of a precious few memories that National Football League great, Boomer Esiason, can vividly recall about his mother, who died when he was only seven.

She was the “Belle of the Ball,” according to Esiason’s grandparents and older sisters—a beautiful singer, dancer and piano player who “would light up a room” with her blond hair and blue eyes, inherited by her only son.  But Boomer was not old enough to own these recollections himself.  Those memories endear him to the woman he can barely recall, but his enduring memories are limited to only two.  The first was sitting on his mother’s lap while she tied his shoes on the first day of kindergarten, whispering prophecies that would indeed come true.  The second and last memory was being denied access to her hospital room as she died of ovarian cancer.  Young Boomer was relegated to sitting in a courtyard, the scene emblazoned in his memory, as his mother would occasionally come to an overlooking window to catch a glimpse of her boy.

Living With A Broken Heart

Almost 30 years later, in 1996, Esiason found himself at that same hospital visiting his maternal grandmother shortly before her passing.  But that time, as an adult with children of his own, he recalls looking from his grandmother’s room, fixating on the very courtyard where he once sat contemplating the loss of his mother.  There was so much that he didn’t—couldn’t—understand as a child that he was able to comprehend as a husband and a father.

Boomer’s father, Norman, was a member of the Greatest Generation, a World War II veteran who took advantage of the G.I. Bill.  He worked his way into a solid job, but his wealth was in his family, not his balance sheet.  The loss of his wife—her income, of course, but especially her presence—had a significant negative impact on their household.  But quiet, reserved and proud, he never once considered complaining or outwardly lamenting the financial difficulties he endured after the passing of his wife, even shielding his children from the reality.  Boomer recalls at the age of 16, lingering as his dad finished the weekly examination of household finances so that he could ask for five dollars to take his girlfriend out, a favor he was rarely denied.

“I know that he lived with a broken heart,” the younger Esiason confessed.  “He died in 1999 on Thanksgiving, of all days, at the age of 77.  But from the time that my mother passed away in 1968 to 1999, I never saw my father with another woman in all those years.  He raised me with a broken heart and I think I was his escape.”  Indeed, Boomer gave his dad something to cheer about.  After setting 17 school records at the University of Maryland, he was drafted into the NFL by the Cincinnati Bengals in 1984.  In 1988, he led the Bengals to the Super Bowl and was voted Most Valuable Player of the league.  His dad was also able to see his son retire from football and begin a successful broadcasting career that continues to this day.

Today, however, Boomer’s passion for football seems eclipsed only by his desire to pass on the life and financial lessons that he has learned through experience.  So when Boomer was asked to be the spokesperson for Life Insurance Awareness Month by the LIFE Foundation, it was an easy decision.  “This absolutely fits what has happened to me in my life for a number of reasons,” Esiason told me as he opened the window into his life beyond the gridiron.  “When I became an NFL football player and decided to have kids in the early 90’s, I recognized that I didn’t want to have happen to my kids what happened to us, as [we were] struggling when I grew up.”

Further compounding the importance of life insurance for Boomer and his wife, Cheryl, is the fact that their son, Gunnar, has cystic fibrosis, a genetic disease that primarily attacks the lungs and often compounds the impact of other illnesses.  Day-to-day medical expenses are high, and the cost of finding a cure, higher still.  So in addition to the $100 million raised by the Boomer Esiason Foundation to benefit all CF patients, Esiason sees life insurance as vital to ensuring that his son has the financial resources necessary to continue his push toward a cure.  “If I don’t protect [Gunnar’s] future and I don’t protect my family’s future, then if we ever found ourselves in the situation that I found myself in when I was seven, it would be an unmitigated disaster and my kids and my wife would not be able to sustain the life that we’re fortunate to live now.”

Boomer and his best-friend, Tim O’Brien, made the decision to acquire adequate life insurance for their respective families together in the early 1990’s.  Later that decade, O’Brien helped move the Boomer Esiason Foundation headquarters “closer-to-heaven,” to the 101st floor of the World Trade Center’s North Tower.  While thankfully all of the Foundation’s full-time employees were absent the morning of September 11, 2001, Esiason lost over 200 friends, among them, Timothy O’Brien, husband and father of three children, ages seven, six and four when he died.

There is no financial strategy or product that can return a life when it’s been taken, but the life insurance conceived in Tim O’Brien’s foresight allowed his family to grieve properly and to move forward deliberately, without fear that their livelihood was also at risk.  There is no athletic accolade that will reprogram Boomer Esiason’s brain with memories of tender moments with his mother at his high school or college graduations, his wedding or the birth of his children, but the financial and life lessons learned from her loss and the endurance demonstrated by his father are already being passed on to future generations.

“My business is me.”

“I don’t have stock options and I don’t own companies,” Esiason told me.  “My business is me.”

Although I’ve never been asked to provide color commentary for the Super Bowl, and most of the people I know have never been voted the MVP of the most valuable sports league in the world, the same can be said for most of us: My business is me.  Your business is you.  Have you really done adequate financial and life insurance planning to ensure that those you love would be cared for even beyond the demise of your business—you?

Most people avoid conversations about life insurance because we generally don’t like to brood over the topic of our own demise, and many attach a hard-sale stigma to the life insurance business, using that as a rallying cry for inaction.  Death’s inevitability considered, a fear of it is certainly understandable, but meaningful discussions on the topic can be surprisingly life-giving.  And while the entire financial industry has more work to do in its evolution from sales to advice, the stereotype of pushy life insurance salesmen coercing you to sign your life away is grossly overstated.  Besides, neither of these concerns reduces the importance—the responsibility—of planning for the unexpected.

Boomer Esiason doesn’t sell life insurance.  He’s an ex-pro football player, an NFL commentator and the chairman of a foundation in support of the cystic fibrosis cause.  I don’t sell life insurance.  I’m a fee-only financial advisor, an educator and a writer.  Both of us, however, wholeheartedly support the LIFE Foundation’s initiative to bring awareness to the vital role of life insurance within financial planning in the month of September.  Consider utilizing their life insurance calculator and description of the different types of life insurance as a first step in that journey.  Feel free to ask me questions about your specific situation in the comments section or via email at tim at timmaurer dot com.  But please don’t let “Look into life insurance” be another important to-do left undone.

If you enjoyed this post, please let me know on Twitter @TimMaurer, and if you’d like to receive my weekly Forbes installment via email, click HERE.

Term Vs. Perm (Life Insurance) In 90 Seconds

The battle over term versus permanent life insurance need not be a battle—there are appropriate uses for both of them.  BUT, permanent life insurance is likely over-sold because of the handsome commissions received by selling agents.  Watch this new video to help determine whether you should be considering permanent life insurance or handling your insurance needs with term life.

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The reason permanent life insurance products seem expensive is because they are.  A few years ago, I purchased a new $1 million 20-year term life insurance policy with a premium of under $500 per year.  I knew permanent life insurance was more expensive, but I was curious how much more expensive, so I quoted comparable whole life, universal life and variable life policies.  The variable and universal policies were ten times the amount of premium and the whole life was twenty times the term premium!  (Please note the difference in premiums will vary for each person, depending on age and health.)

But what is the difference between term and permanent life insurance?  Regarding term life insurance, you pay an insurance company to transfer the risk that you will die during the stated term of the policy.  If you have a 20-year term policy, your premiums are guaranteed to stay the same for twenty years, and if you die during the 20 year period, the insurance company pays the death benefit to your named beneficiaries.  Typically, by the end of the term your need for life insurance is gone.

Permanent life insurance is substantially more expensive for two reasons: First, while term policies are primarily created to last only for a finite period of time that will likely end before you die, permanent polices are often designed to exist until you actually leave this earth.  This dramatic increase in the likelihood that the insurance company will be responsible to pay a death benefit means they need to charge more in premiums.  Second, permanent policies often have a tax-privileged savings component attached to the policy, so a portion of your premium is set aside to accrue for your future use.

But the “investment” feature in a permanent life policy is rarely as effective or efficient as several others, like your 401k, IRA or Roth IRA, so fill those buckets first.  You should also not consider permanent life insurance until you have substantial emergency reserves, all revolving debt paid off, education fully funded and money in the bank for large future purchases.  Permanent life insurance can be a valuable tool for a relative few, but unless you have income of over $250,000 annually or over $1 million in assets, your life insurance needs are likely best met with term life insurance.

How Insurance Works, In 90 Seconds

Every time we experience a calamity, like Hurricane Sandy if you're on the east coast, it reminds us that there are risk factors in life beyond our control.  Through insurance, we transfer these catastrophic risks we cannot bear to insurance companies, but knowing HOW INSURANCE WORKS is vital to understanding why, how and what we need to insure.  Take the next 90 seconds to more thoroughly understand HOW INSURANCE WORKS:

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Long-Term Disability Income and Long-Term Care Insurance Apps

This is the eighth exercise in a series designed to walk you through an entire financial plan.  The exercise is embedded in an Excel spreadsheet you can download and save for personal use.  You can find the backdrop for the disability income exercise HERE and the long-term care exercise HERE, or just jump right in with the instructions given below:

This exercise is a three-step process.  Step One is to determine what you need.  This is accomplished by writing out a Disability Plan if you are in your 30s, 40s or 50s.  If in your 50s, 60s, or beyond, you need to articulate your Long-Term Care Plan.  Start the process by writing out a paragraph beginning with the following sentence: “If I became disabled [suffered a long-term health care incident], here’s how I would handle that financially…”  We’ve provided space to do so in our online exercises for this chapter.

Step Two is to establish what you already have.  The online exercise includes a template with spaces to fill in for the primary features mentioned in this two-part blog series.  Once you have completed the template, you’ll better understand the coverage you have.  Step Three is to determine what you actually need and want in a policy and create a template to retrieve quotes and find the best coverage.  You’ll be better prepared for the engagement with the insurance agents because your template will ensure you’re comparing apples-to-apples, a very difficult thing to do with long-term disability income insurance and long-term care insurance.

Click HERE to access the long-term disability income app and HERE to access the long-term care app!

Home and Auto Insurance App

This is the seventh exercise in a series designed to walk you through an entire financial plan.  The exercise is embedded in an Excel spreadsheet you can download and save for personal use.  You can find the backdrop for the exercise HERE or just jump right in with the instructions given below:

In order to know if your home and auto insurance policies are providing you with the appropriate levels of coverage, you’ll want to collect the declaration pages for all of your home, auto, condo, and renter policies.  The Application Exercise online will provide a chart to fill in your various coverage limits next to our recommended minimum limits.

After you’ve tailored your desired limits with the help of an independent planner who does not accept commissions or referral fees for the sale of insurance, you can use the Application Exercise to shop your coverage with several carriers.

Click HERE to access the app!

Life Insurance Needs Analysis App

This is the sixth exercise in a series designed to walk you through an entire financial plan.  The exercise is embedded in an Excel spreadsheet you can download and save for personal use.  You can find the backdrop for the exercise HERE or just jump right in with the instructions given below:

This app is designed to help you determine what your life insurance needs are for final expenses, debts and mortgages, education, and income replacement.  If you conclude that you have policies you don’t need or want, and you’ve confirmed your research with an independent planner who does not accept commissions on the sale of life insurance, then you should have several options for terminating your policies.  These will differ from policy-to-policy, so check with your insurer.  But don’t make those decisions hastily.  Even if you shouldn’t have purchased the whole life insurance policy you bought 15 years ago and don’t need or want it now, in some instances it will make sense to keep it.

Requesting an “In-force Life Insurance Illustration” and a “Policy Cost Basis Report” from your agent (or the insurance company’s home office) will help you and your independent planner determine whether the policy should be kept or surrendered based on the investment value, future prospects for growth, stability of the insurer and tax consequences of liquidating.

Additionally, if you are considering replacing a current policy with a new policy that is more appropriate or economical, it is very important that you do NOT cancel any existing policies until you have received and paid for the new policy.  This is to ensure that no issues arise throughout the course of your underwriting that would disqualify you from receiving the new insurance policy.

Especially in these economic times, it is important to ensure that every dollar of yours is working hard for you, and that includes the dollars channeled toward life insurance.

Click HERE to access the app!

Risk Management Matrix App

This is the fifth exercise in a series designed to walk you through an entire financial plan.  The exercise is embedded in an Excel spreadsheet you can download and save for personal use.  You can find the backdrop for the exercise HERE or just jump right in with the instructions given below:

The best way to see activities through a risk management lens is to go through some ideas of your own, like the example of my car accident, and discuss or jot down the ways in which that risk could have been managed with each of the four methods.  It doesn’t have to be something as dramatic or painful.  It could easily be a risk management success story that you can now better understand.

Examine both the personal and the financial risk using all four of the risk management techniques.  After doing that exercise, discipline yourself to analyze a few other examples throughout the course of your days.  If you’re bold enough, teach the technique to a friend or family member (there’s no better way to learn something than to teach it).  Eventually, it won’t be work, and you’ll see your options more clearly.  Then, when you examine your existing insurance products or new offerings, look for ways you can reasonably avoid, reduce, or assume the risk before paying someone else to do it for you.

Click HERE to access the app!

The Economic Bias of Home and Auto Insurance Agents

Most of the time, we expect those in the financial sales realm to sell us MORE of something than we may need, because the more they sell, the more money they make, right?  But in one very interesting example—home and auto insurance agents—they may actually have an Economic Bias to sell us LESS than we need.  Please take 90 seconds to learn why:

The Economic Bias of Life Insurance Agents

In our second 90 Second Finance installment on the topic of Economic Bias—a conflict of interest where money is involved—we tackle the bias in the financial realm most often stereotyped: the life insurance agent. There are many great, trustworthy agents out there, but there’s no denying their Economic Bias is a big one. Of course, it might not be what you think it is…

(Click HERE if you missed the introductory 90 Second Finance video on Economic Bias.)

Defense Wins Championships

The fall is, without a doubt, my favorite time of year. And a not-so-insignificant element of that is the joy that fills my heart when huddled around my parents’ television on a Sunday afternoon with my family, a belly full of “linner” (a lunch big enough to be dinner) and the smell of apple pie wafting over a group of adults and children yelling in unison at the images of modern day gladiators chasing around an odd-shaped leather ball.  Football is philosophy… and some of that philosophy translates especially well in our personal finances.