Feel the Fear and Consider Life Insurance Anyway?
Life insurance can stir up difficult feelings that may even be a barrier to getting cover. Understanding why this decision can be emotionally charged might help you to approach it differently.
Emotions play a big role in how we make financial decisions. So if considering life insurance brings difficult emotions to the surface you might avoid taking out a policy, even if you think you need it.
“Thinking about our own mortality, or those of our loved ones, falls firmly in the realm of uncomfortable emotions, and so we tend to put things off, avoid the topic or convince ourselves we are too busy and can do it later,” says Hayley Tink, founder of Lifesage, a company that helps people to understand their financial beliefs and behaviours at key transition points in their lives.
Here’s how acknowledging your emotions can be a first step towards making this type of important decision – and a few tips on how you might approach it.
What emotions can life insurance evoke?
Life insurance might make you feel some degree of sadness, worry, fear or anxiety just thinking about it. There are a few potential reasons:
We don’t like to think about death and dying
Considering life insurance can mean confronting an uncomfortable reality: that one day we’re going to die and leave the people we love behind. This could cause anything from a barely perceptible feeling of sadness and disquiet to a more intense anxiety or even a phobia (thanatophobia). This might make decisions about life insurance overwhelming or at the very least, unappealing.
But it’s not only thoughts about our own death. Losing a loved one can be a trigger for getting life insurance, but this can also cause sadness, grief and distress by association ‒ especially for someone who is recently bereaved.
Kathryn Knowles, managing director at insurance advisory firm Cura, has seen first-hand how emotions affect how people approach this type of cover.
“Life insurance is often an emotional decision,” Knowles says. “We are talking about ourselves or our loved ones dying. This is a part of reality that many of us want to avoid thinking about. With life insurance, there is no escape. We are talking about death, potentially terminal illnesses too, that brings in a whole additional range of emotions.”
Worries about your health or lifestyle
When you apply for life insurance, providers typically ask health and lifestyle questions. These can include specifics about alcohol intake, your weight and whether you smoke. This might lead to a fear you’ll be judged or defensiveness about your habits. Or you may be worried about the possibility of being asked to have a medical to be accepted, perhaps because this led to you being turned down in the past.
Finding the whole concept overwhelming
There may also be wider issues that leave us feeling confused or lacking in confidence about making financial decisions
This may not be helped by the language of life insurance, which can be alienating and off-putting. Terms such as ‘terminal illness benefit’, ‘pre-existing conditions’, and suicide clauses – along with naming your beneficiaries, considering funeral costs and working out your cover amount – might be enough to make you hit the application exit button.
How can you work through your emotions?
Emotions aren’t a bad thing; they can provide us with useful information when we’re making decisions. But if you think they might be holding you back, these tactics might help:
Focus on the whole point of life insurance
It might help to focus on the people you care about, who you’re looking to protect financially, and the positive milestones that make you consider life insurance in the first place. Events that spark celebrations, such as buying a home and having children, can be reasons to consider cover.
Don’t try to predict when you’re going to die
If you’re working out how long you want a term life insurance policy to last, it’s not about guessing when you’re likely to die. It’s more about how long your kids, partner or other relatives might be financially dependent on you and your income, so you can reflect that in the number of years your policy will cover.
That way, you are directing your attention towards what you can control rather than predicting what you can’t know.
Accept the emotions
Ultimately, coming to terms with the difficult emotions that subjects like life insurance can spark, rather than trying to suppress or ignore them, is key to sound financial decision-making.
“Accept that you are going to feel some uncomfortable emotions as you undertake this planning – when we know that in advance it becomes much easier,” says Tink. “Set up a safe space to consider the scenarios that you are planning for, such as running the details past an empathetic friend or colleague. Once you have crossed that barrier of feeling those uncomfortable emotions and considering those scenarios, the financial decisions will flow much more easily.”
It’s also worth bearing in mind that difficult emotions can be a useful motivator for taking out life insurance in the first place.
“To commit money to something like this, there needs to be a trigger, a worry, that a person is feeling where the insurance is a solution that gives them peace of mind,” says Knowles.
Tackle avoidance and rumination
If you’re looking to push through that procrastination barrier, the simple act of starting the process could be the answer.
The Zeigarnik effect, attributed to psychologist Bluma Zeigarnik, is the theory that people remember and dwell on tasks left unfinished or interrupted more than those they have completed. So, once you’ve started something like a life insurance quote (or just tentative research), you may be more likely to complete it than if you never started it at all.
Know you’re not the only one
It might help to know that life insurance in some form has been around since the 1700s. So be reassured that you’re not alone. Plenty of people will have felt the same while getting this type of protection, and did it anyway.
The content of this article doesn't constitute financial or medical advice, but as guidance and commentary on things you may want to consider.
Image source: Getty Images
Holly champions clear, jargon-free writing. She’s been creating finance content for leading organisations for over 10 years. Read more