By lex, on July 6, 2008
Got my last US Navy paycheck deposited on the 30th, gratefully accompanied by my first significant civilian recompense. For a moment there I reflected upon my transitory fortune and considered the advantages of going off like any good sailor on a liberty spree, but no: For everything a time, and to each a purpose. And it isn’t like that mortgage paying itself, is it precious?
No, precious. It most certainly is not.
Got my baby blue retiree ID card on Wednesday. Hit up the personnel support detachment at North Island for to pick up my discharge certificate, and thought to economize on time. It was nigh on 1500 and the ID card clerk seem happily determined to run out the clock on my watch. Two weeks ago I might have sprinkled a little high dudgeon around.
I sit and quietly seethe.
We’ve excellent benefits in the service, although I often took them for granted being blessed with arrogant good health when I wasn’t madly flinging motorcycles into the gravel at high speed. They’re not bad after retirement, either. Medical is all but paid for on a system known as Tricare Prime. Covers yourself and your kin with military facilities or a participating physician of your choosing for a really quite nominal fee. Which my new company, good eggs that they are, make good.
Perhaps one of the better deals of the service life is the fiscal protection given through the Serviceman’s Group Life Insurance, or SGLI. Your average serviceman can smoke cigarettes ’til the cows come home, drink beer on Thursdays, drive NASCAR on weekends and eat cheeseburgers too, but nevertheless lock himself into $400k of term insurance for $28 to the month. You’d spend that in tips on an average night in Hong Kong, but it would pay a few bills, worse comes to worse and the ocean reaches up to grab you.
But it all dries up utterly once you cross the brow and go ashore. There’s a veteran’s group policy out there, but the prices for a policy we paid a pittance for last Tuesday start at $88 per month for a man of our superannuation and quickly rise to the truly ridiculous very shortly thereafter.
So your correspondent checked in with the provider of his car and property insurance to fill the gap, like. And was asked some pretty pointed questions: Did he use tobacco products? (He did not.) What was his height and weight? (A goodly bit, and more besides.) How long did he require guaranteed coverage?
Aye, that’s a good question.
Insurance companies make a profit by knowing the date of your dying to a fraction. Not you personally of course, but all of you in aggregation. When you sign on with any real money in play, you’re playing ducks and drakes with them that you’ll give over before they think you will. (It’s different for “whole life” coverage of course, but the payoff to premium ratio is so low that it amounts to what the company might find behind the cushions at the end of the month.)
For reasons just such as these I’ve always avoided paying the extended warranty costs when purchasing a vehicle. I figure that if a profit-oriented company is pushing the insurance on everyone – and they do – then it’s probably not a bargain for the guy in the middle of the risk curve. There’s no way of knowing whether you’re in the middle of that bell curve of course. But statistically speaking there’s a 68% chance that you are, your odds are equally good to find yourself be on the low risk tail as the lemon side, and after all, it’s only a car. You could walk away.
But we’re none of us young forever and if you decide to insure yourself after retirement on a sum that makes choices possible for those you’d leave behind, you’ve got some introspection to engage in. I could lock in a half a million choices for twenty-five years, paying nearly $40k along the way and gambling against the company that I won’t make it to 72. By that time, the Kat – my youngest – would be a lady of some 39 summers, and hopefully well embarked upon a life of her own, the house paid for and Hobbit guaranteed the better part of my pension, come what may. On account of another good deal military benefit.
So: How long do you think you’ll make it?
I left the throttles in full blower as a youngster, caring little for what might come along the path, determined to leave it all out there upon the field, to leave nothing in the bag:
I did not wish to live what was not life, living is so dear; nor did I wish to practice resignation, unless it was quite necessary. I wanted to live deep and suck out all the marrow of life, to live so sturdily and Spartan-like as to put to rout all that was not life, to cut a broad swath and shave close, to drive life into a corner, and reduce it to its lowest terms… (Thoreau, Walden)
But that’s a young man’s game, the weight of which is an older man’s burden. And now I am left suddenly to ponder what time remains, how much it’s worth and what might reasonably be hacked out of it. What time has passed, and what works of good or evil was done with it.
All of which calculations can make a man ret pondersome.