Widowed at 26: How Life Insurance Became My Lifeboat

Cheryl Lock

In our “Money Mic” series, we hand over the podium to someone with an opinion on a financial topic. These are their opinions, not ours, but we welcome a constructive, thoughtful discussion.

Today, one woman shares how her life took an unexpected turn, what that meant for her young family and how she coped–emotionally and financially, with the help of life insurance.

According to a nationwide survey conducted by LearnVest and Guardian, even though most respondents seem to link buying life insurance to having a family and the people who depend on them for income, no one likes going through the process of finding life insurance–in fact, 1 in 4 people would rather clean out their fridge!

When I married James* in 1978, I was 21 years old. I never could have imagined then that I’d be a widow by 26, or that I’d have a 9-month-old baby to take care of on my own.

Yet that’s what happened, and the nest egg that our life insurance policy provided was instrumental in helping my daughter and me to move forward. Despite our tragedy, I was secure in the knowledge that I was okay financially.

My story is a reminder that once you have a family—no matter your age—life insurance is absolutely essential.

I didn’t want to think about that at the time, but lucky for me, my husband did.

Life as a Newlywed

I met James for the second time in 1976 during my last year of nursing school, when he came by my parents’ house to help build some bookshelves. I had known him for a few years, since he was good friends with my sister’s husband. Until then, neither of us had thought much about each other because he was five years my senior, and I was still in my mid-teens.

James was the kind of person everyone loved. He was smart and funny, and everyone in my family already knew and adored him. So when he asked me to attend a party, I thought, Why not?

A little less than two years later, we were married.

James was always a few steps ahead of me. I guess that’s what happens when there are five years between you. After we married, we lived in an apartment for a short while before James suggested we buy a house. As a construction worker, he loved the idea of purchasing a fixer-upper, and promised that we would save a ton of money because he’d make all the upgrades himself.

RELATED: Should Newlyweds Rent or Buy?

So by the time I was 23, I was a married homeowner. This certainly wasn’t how I had planned for my life to go. Before James, I dreamed of living in my own apartment for a while, and maybe even joining the Army as a nurse. Love, for me, was unexpected. It was wonderful, yes, but I hadn’t planned on it happening so soon. But as James went on suggesting these changes—getting married, purchasing a house, renovations—I soon began sharing his enthusiasm.

  • Linda Shephard

    I work for State Farm so I see day to day what no life insurance does to families. When my daughter told me she was pregnant I immediatley got life insurance in her name for her fiance. No they didn’t make it to the alter first. I feel better knowing that she and the baby will be taken care of should tragedy fall.

  • Kevin Cornwall

    When my grandfather died he left a widow with 5 school-age kids. They were always poor, relying on the church, government assistance, and the help of relatives to get by. 

    When I had kids what happened to my grandmother stayed with me. I have $500,000 of term life on me and $300,000 – for 20 years, until the kids are grown. 

    Bottom-line: if you are a family breadwinner and have minimal savings you need life insurance to cover things you were providing. It can cover lost income, provide financial security, pay off the mortgage, pay for college, and at the very least, the final/burial expenses. 

    I know a lot of people put off buying it because they think it costs too much. Which is ironic because, these days, term life insurance is cheap. (There’s a free quote engine at the QualityTermLife website where you can compare rates from well-known insurance companies. And they don’t ask for contact info before showing you the quotes.)

  • guest

    What a heartbreaking story, but it is real life. Something similar happened to a friend of mine, only her husband never did get to meet their twins. I never asked, but I assume that her ability to continue along the path they had planned together meant he took the same steps.