As noted before, one of the most daunting aspects of my transition from poorly-paid graduate student to acceptably-paid assistant professor has been that there is no longer anything preventing my wife and I from looking at houses and thinking seriously about when we want to increase the size of our family. In preparation for incurring a debt greater than my life’s income, we have both purchased the recommended amount of term life insurance. The process goes something like this:
Corporation: Hello, sir, how are you today?
Me: It’s Dr. sir, and I am generally okay but not well enough to prevent the fear that I may die in the next thirty years.
Corporation: Die? You look like a healthy fellow. In fact, I am willing to bet that you will not die in the next thirty years.
Me: Interesting… What are you willing to wager?
Corporation: I will wager hundreds of thousands of dollars that you will not die in the next thirty years, and because I’m so sure that you won’t die I will give you forty to one odds!
Me: So let me get this straight: I will wager thousands of dollars over the course of thirty years that I will die – really only hundreds of dollars a year – and you will wager hundreds of thousands of dollars that I won’t?
Corporation: Yes, that is correct.
Me: What happens at the end of the thirty years?
Corporation: Well, since you think you’ll be dead by then, if you want to continue our agreement past thirty years it will cost you more for a single year than in the entire thirty years combined. Otherwise, I’ll keep your money because you will have lost the bet and you will have to live with the fact that you’re a bad gambler.
Me: But you’ll pay me if I die within the thirty years?
Corporation: Well, I’ll pay somebody, but you’ll be dead.
Me: So I’m a loser either way?