Do I follow my own advice and insure myself, or do I, like Dad, leave things to fate and fortune?
I wish there was a way to spend all my money just before I go,” said Dad, obviously playing fiend with me, his eldest child and first heir.
He sneaked me a look to check if I had been sufficiently provoked, before continuing, “The trick is, of course, to know how much time there’s left. It would be tragic if my money ran out before I did.”
I decided to play the antipatica. “You could get insurance, especially estate-tax insurance, and spare us the mess.”
Insurance was to him a dirty word, especially the postmortem kind, and this time it hit home even harder paired with the word “mess,” an allusion to his complicated life.
Dad didn’t believe in planning life, let alone planning beyond death, which he was determined to avoid both as a reality and as a subject, and insurance makes death a foregone conclusion. He loved surprises and delighted in the prospect of good fortune, especially if it came unexpected.
In his younger years, he was a cautious, lucky gambler. He played poker and bet on horses and at the jai-alai. The workings of fate and fortune intrigued him. An atypical politician, he won five straight elections as congressman for Manila, each time loving the heady unpredictability of the outcome.
The attitude carried over in the distribution of gifts and gratuities among his children. On his birthday, especially after Mom had passed away, he would gather all his children by her and others for dinner and Bingo.
To increase the chances of a win for everyone, he put up many prizes, each to be won with every game. But all those prizes combined did not compare in value to the jackpot, which went to whoever filled a full card in a variation called “blackout.”
When, on one occasion, a less lucky one asked why Dad didn’t just divide all the money equally and make everybody equally happy, I was tempted to pull him aside and tell him, “This is not about us; this is all about him, always him, and how he gets his jollies.”
Dad, of course, brushed aside the suggestion—chances were all he was predisposed to give. Luck intrigued him, even if it did not involve him. For instance, he loved to open gifts, even other people’s gifts, out of curiosity, surely not covetousness, and I did once catch him peeking through holes he had poked in the gift packages at my daughter’s birthday party.
When he left permanently at age 91, he left us—me at least—a healthy respect for luck. Whether we realize it or not, we all got more or less even chances—education, startup capital—and each had his or her share of good luck.
I wonder if Dad influenced my own sense of fairness at this stage of my life. Do I follow my own advice and insure myself, or do I, like him, leave things to fate and fortune?
Return ticket in a box
Once a believer, in fact, collecting on an outlived life policy, I have been rethinking insurance myself. It’s a bit late for medical insurance; I imagine the yearly premium is ridiculous for my age bracket. Fortunately for traveling seniors, an insurance is required whose one-time premium is affordable, and whose coverage for the worst scenario is most considerate: medical care and, if it fails, a return ticket in a box, with five relatives flown and housed to accompany it home after ensuring proper packaging.
The policy carries the bad news in illegibly small print, but instead of sucking the wind out of my sails, it has become an incentive for me to travel as often as I can. Not only does it make me feel more secure; it also offers my heirs a chance at a jackpot.
A popular option for older people are luxury cruises with medical specialists on board as part of a comprehensive insurance. A cruise beats equal time spent in an old folk’s home—it’s cheaper in the long run (if you’re lucky to have a long run) and promises to be a lot more fun.
Back on terra firma, I look into health insurance, the kind that doesn’t require me to go through a medical evaluation, and choose one with a reputable name, one that gives the impression that it’s a local extension of an American company. But I quickly learn the name is all they share. I am also staggered by the premium for my age bracket—P82,000 a year!—yet the medical coverage is limited only to P1.5 million. It’s own bad news in small print exempts the company from paying for anything caused by a “preexisting condition,” whether you have been aware of it or not.
“What?” remarks my husband, sneering at the sick joke. “At our age, everything is preexisting!”
So, we have decided to take our chances and live the rest of our lives sans insurance. Having lived life quite responsibly up to this point—that is to say, with safety nets and parachutes, in the interest of family—I now feel it’s time to become liberated, to become my father’s daughter, to leave to fate and fortune, indeed to the good god presiding over them, matters best left in his hands.