Please welcome our Flame Fest 2014 partner, Jennifer Taylor, from e3wealth. From the first moment I spoke on the phone with Jennifer I knew she understood the heart of a fire wife and has some much needed information for all of us. It’s not a fun topic to think about but it’s a topic we must be prepared for.
I was exhausted but sleep eluded me. I do not know if it was the discomfort of being 7 ½ months pregnant or the fact that it was June and HOT, perhaps it was because my 2 boys (ages 2 ½ and 1 ½) who never nap were not only napping but were both asleep at the same time! Whatever the reason, I found myself reading through the New York Times and stumbled across an article titled “Military Fails Some Widows over Benefits”. With my husband heading to Iraq on his 4th deployment, I found myself bawling my eyes out as I first read, then cut out the article so that I would be better prepared if something happened to him. Not in my wildest dreams did I ever truly think there was a chance my husband would not return but I also knew that none of the women were expecting a knock on their door informing them that their husband had been killed in combat.
I kept that article not because I wanted to THINK the worst but because I wanted to PLAN for the worst.
If anything happened to my husband, my life would still go on and I would have 3 children depending on me and I needed to be sure I would be as prepared as one could be in that situation.
As a 1st Responder Wife, you know that your husband regularly puts his life on the line yet you do not believe for one second that he will not return home. They are invincible! Trust me, I GET IT! But that does not mean you cannot ask certain questions and take certain steps or precautions to make sure that if the unthinkable happens, you are at least prepared financially. Be proactive and EDUCATE yourself so if something does happen, your focus can b on your spouse or your kids and not jumping through legal hoops and paperwork. Remember, I am not making recommendations but I am encouraging you to have a conversation with your husband and get familiar with the topics below.
- Does your husband have disability insurance and is it enough? Disability is the most overlooked issue in “managing risk”. There is an assumption out there that if something happens while your husband is at work, his company will cover it but that is not always the case and very rarely, if an injury is covered, is it actually covered for 100% of his lost wages (60 % is more the average). And what if your husband works multiple jobs? How will lost TIME from a second job affect income? The International Association of Fire Fighters’ annual Death and Injury Survey reveals that sprains and strains routinely account for approximately 50% of all line-of-duty injuries and back injuries account for approximately 50% of all line-of-duty injury retirements each year. These injuries may result in significant lost time and medical expense. What if light duty detail is not an option or available? Yes, there is a cost to purchasing disability insurance on your own ($100-$200 a month) but are you financially prepared for the consequences of not having it? That is a question that only you and your spouse can answer.
- Does your husband have life insurance outside of work and how much? In the military, there is life insurance called SGLI that pays $400,000 if the spouse is killed in combat (or while on orders in combat zone) but would that be enough? I have 3 children now 10 and under and I can tell you that $400,000 would not replace my husband’s income beyond 4 years. Then what? In my situation, my husband and I sat down and determined what we would need to replace his income, provide for our kids (braces, activities, college, etc.) as well as replace some of my income because, most likely, if something happened to him that would drastically change the amount I worked. In our case, we decided to buy additional life insurance. Not everyone needs to do so but know the details! Life insurance coverage through work can be very limited so make sure you know exactly what it entails.
- Are all of your beneficiary forms up to date? Perhaps your husband was a first responder before you were married and he listed his parents or a sibling as the beneficiary on all his paperwork. I met with a firefighter in McKinney, Texas and he had been married 8 years with 2 kids yet his pension paperwork still listed his mother as his beneficiary. This is very common! If something happens to them, that beneficiary is honored by law. What is he was married before and now his pension or life insurance goes to his ex? Paperwork is an absolute pain, I know but I cannot encourage you enough to be proactive in this area. These little details can result in delayed benefits and possible court costs if you are trying to contest a beneficiary.
- Do you have power of attorney? Prior to any of my husband’s deployments, it is a requirement to make sure all of their affairs are in order and that includes your will and power of attorney. The reason that a power of attorney is so important is that so many times, in a time of death or disability, there are delays in the paperwork process or legal proceedings and without a power of attorney, by law companies are not required to even speak to you about things if your name is not on an account. In order for you to be an advocate for yourself, your husband and your family, you must get a power of attorney. While these forms can be found online, I highly recommend looking into what your state requires and having it done professionally so that way it can read exactly as you would want it to. There are definitely areas in life where we can cut corners but I do not recommend that when it comes to protecting your family.
- Do you have an emergency fund? Having cash in an emergency situation is crucial. If your husband is disabled and it will be a month or 2 before benefits kick in, can you pay for your expenses in the meantime? Or if disability is less than his income, can you make up the difference? The amount that you put into an emergency fund is one that should be determined by you and your husband because everyone’s situation is different. Some people want between 3-6 months of expenses, some people sleep better at night having more.
I hope that these questions will prompt some great communication between you and your spouse. Nobody wants to have these conversations but I can promise that you would rather discuss this with your husband and have a plan then try and figure out what to do when things are falling apart.
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