Taking Our Lives for Granted

Physician's Money Digest, April15 2005, Volume 12, Issue 7

Jeff Brown, MD, CPE, is a longtime

contributor to

and the author of our

PRN column. Because of his unique

perspective as a physician and personal

finance educator, we have invited

him to share his thoughts about our

featured topic, insurance planning.

Physician'sMoney Digest

You don't have to practicemedicine for 30 years to realizethat it's human nature totake as much of our lives aspossible for granted. This form of denial isa coping mechanism to allow us to get onwith what we do, a survival tactic. So it isno surprise to find that most people, evendocs who should know better based onwhat we see every day, do not adequatelyplan for future contingencies in their lives.Most of us do not appropriately takeadvantage of the many kinds of insurancethat are an integral part of planning.

I am reminded of the old joke aboutthe man falling off a 90-story buildingwho is heard to say as he passes the 32ndfloor, "Hey, so far, so good."The lightbulb moment for all of us is when we realizethat everyone, no exceptions, is thatguy. The only variables are what we hitand when. So we should be ready to cushionthe fall, at least financially.

Creeping Superstition

In all of us, however, there is a tinysuperstitious worm that says over ourshoulder when we consider financial planning,"If I buy insurance, that will onlyencourage the Evil Eye to cause a problemto happen."That's one reason why one ofthe greatest marketers in history named it"life"insurance, to take some of the onusoff the concept. In addition, insurancesare complicated and expensive, easy towant to postpone making any decisionsabout. You also have to contend with thehigh-pressure, self-serving nature of alltoo many insurance agents who makebuying a used car seem preferable.

Grownup Living

The law in most states requires carinsurance to enable us to drive legally.We're also required to have insurance onour homes if we have a mortgage. In thisday and age of living through credit andthe future promise to pay, it is almostcriminally foolish for any highly paid professionalnot to have life, disability, andhealth insurance. I won't go into malpracticeinsurance—for many of us, this is anunresolved mess and not so easy.

If you haven't tackled any of theseinsurance issues, educate yourself, askaround for a good agent, and just do it. Ifyou have these in place, good for you, butdon't let down your guard. Your needs, thelaws, and the products change; you haveto be sure to keep up and review your policies.It's tough being a grownup.

is a practicing primary care physician. He welcomes

questions and comments at jeffebrownmd@aol.com.

Jeff Brown