Widowed at 26: How Life Insurance Became My Lifeboat

Cheryl Lock

How Emotions Played Into My Money Decisions

When you’re the widowed mother of a 9-month-old baby, life becomes hazy. Since James died on the job, I was able to receive workman’s comp until I remarried (Leslie was entitled to the payments until she was 18), as well as Social Security payments for both myself and Leslie.

The life insurance policy was a modest amount, but in the ‘80s, it was worth a bit more than it would be today. It wasn’t a fortune, by any means.

For me, though, the combination of workman’s comp, Social Securityand life insurance gave me options, like being able to work part-time instead of full-time at the type of jobs best suited for a single parent. As a nurse, I’d worked days and nights–sometimes 12 hours at a time. The money that we received allowed me to work part-time instead of full-time, and I could take my time finding jobs that were more flexible and better suited for a now-single parent.

Just a few weeks after James’ death, a meeting was set up for me with a financial expert, my father, father-in-law, brother-in-law and our accountant to help me decide what to do with the insurance money. Back then, interest rates were high, and the goal from their perspective was to make the money grow.

I was an empty presence in that meeting. My heart just wasn’t into the idea of making money off money that, to me, represented James.

After the meeting, my father, who knew that I lacked concentration, wrote me a letter—one that I have to this day—explaining the different ways that the funds could be invested and the benefits and risks of each.

I couldn’t invest the money then, and I never did later. Instead, I put it in a money market account, where it earned a healthy interest rate for years. When I remarried, my new husband and I merged our assets. Eventually, some of it was used to help fund Leslie’s college tuition.

Although I never invested the money to its fullest potential, there’s no doubt that it represented security to me, which I wouldn’t have had otherwise. In short, the insurance money was my safety net—a quiet presence, but a much-needed one.

Despite everything, I will always remember thinking: If James hadn’t pushed to set this up …

In the end, it turned out that I was incredibly lucky that my husband understood the importance of providing that safety net, even though he never thought we’d need to use it. Once again, James was a step ahead of me … providing that lifeboat in a sea of uncertainty.

Leslie and I couldn’t be more thankful.

*All names have been changed

  • 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.