Death and the Banker

A couple of days ago I celebrated my 49.5 Birthday. I am at that age where people are starting to tell me that I should think about making preparations for that day when I finally shuffle off this mortal coil.

“I’m not dead yet !!!” I scream

“But you will be one day !!!!”  The world screams back at me.

I’ve been to the bank to see …

My personal banker

My Financial advisor

Mr Personal advisor

Or – the person at the bank who issues a gentle admonishment and tells me that I really should pay more attention to my financial affairs, and then, proceeds to try and sell me a whole plethora of products from pensions, car insurance, life assurance … there’s even a new one that I would call « gadget insurance » – for 9 Euros a month, insure all your latest hi-tech acquisitions against damage or theft. « Imagine that your laptop is stolen or gets damaged during transport. We will replace your computer with a new model. » beams my banker reassuringly. Reading the small print of the policy I tell him that my laptop is over 5 years old and therefore is not covered by the policy. « Imagine though that you buy a computer for your daughter … » Well, if I did buy a laptop for the offspring, it would possibly be of the second-hand and reconditioned variety and the 9 Euros would be paying off the loan I’d probably take out to buy it.

I am at the bank for my twice yearly “rendez-vous”. A couple of hours spent in the company of my advisor « friend », going through the various bits and pieces that other advisors have advised me to take or purchase over the years. Now, I don’t mind the bank trying to sell me savings schemes or pension plans with snappy single syllable sound byte names, but every couple of years, it’s always the same story. What you have been sold or told previously, is now old hat and so you have to update.

« You don’t have any death insurance. » Utters my banker in half quizzical consternation.

« I’m covered for funeral expenses up to 5000 Euros with my life assurance. » I reply hesitantly, with no real enthusiasm for broaching this particular subject.

« Ye-e-e-e-es » expires my banker « BUT… »

Here is the bombshell – the 5000 Euro payout designed to cover funeral expenses in case of my demise, only applies until I am 70, therefore I should seriously think about taking out new death insurance. (or dying before I am 70).

My banker takes a glossy leaflet from the top draw of his desk. It is about the banks new death insurance/savings scheme – DEATH-U-LIKE* – the new swift and painless way to see off those you love(d). Despite the funerary subject matter, the leaflet is covered with photos of the recently-bereaved all wearing those tacky “relieved” smiles, like they have just got shot of their diorreaha or the positive cancer test result they just received in the post is not actually theirs’ because there was a mix up at the lab – (meaning there is some poor bugger out there leaping round for joy, and uncorking the champagne believing that he is clear – go tell him the bad news)

*Not the real name, but what would you call it otherwise? 

So , it’s not actually death insurance, but saving up for death. I patiently endure the banker’s hard sell for 15 minutes. Basically though, this is how it works. Put away a minimum 31 Euros a month over ten years into a “death savings scheme” and then, no matter when you die, your nearest and dearest will get a guaranteed 4000 Euro lump sum to bury you. On top of that they get a team to arrange the funeral and give psychological support “at this difficult time” (says the banker.)

31 Euros per month over ten years for a capital of 3720 Euros at the end. Add on the interest and my nearest and dearest get 4000 Euros, even if I die before the 10-year term is over. (as well as a full psychological and logistical support for my loved ones – meaning they probably get a taxi to the funeral and a free session with a shrink, who will tell them that they are fucked up because I have just kicked the bucket)

I’m thinking… I lean back in my uncomfortable plastic chair.

« If I walk out your office now, and get run over by a bus, it’s sure that  my family will receive 5000 Euros. »

Taken aback by my impending hypothetical death, the somewhat flustered banker says yes.

« If I take out your death insurance right now and then get run over in a couple of months, even though I have only paid in 62 Euros, my family will get a guaranteed 4000 Euros. »

The flustered banker nods

« So if I am hit by a bus, in the immediate future, my family will get 4000 Euros, plus the 5000 Euros, guaranteed. »

« Well … erm… yes. » Replies my hesitant advisor.

Now, not saying that my finances are in dire straits, but 9000 Euros isn’t a bad sum.If you’re struggling to meet loan payments, or just general scraping along the bottom,  It’s almost in that « worth more dead than alive » category. Imagine, I get deliberately run over, the family get me a real cheap funeral for under 2000 Euros (or less) and there would still be enough left to buy a second-hand car or have a very decent holiday.

Are you thinking what I’m thinking? – Fake your own death.

As for these death insurance policies. Well to make them worthwhile, I’ll have to die within the next couple of years ( though I’m not planning to) or face the prospect that I’ll get bugger all if I die after the age of seventy, unless I pay 31 Euros a month into a death insurance for my nearest and dearest to get a 4000 Euro lump sum when I die.

At current prices, 31 Euros will get you 4 packets of cigarettes or roughly 7 bottles of half decent table wine or just over 18 bottles of the cheapest red wine on the market, « La Cuvée du Patron » which retails at 1.69 Euros a bottle (now this stuff certainly would kill me, and not even the alcoholics down the local supermarket buy this stuff it is so bad.)

31 Euros would just cover a monthly gym membership, but if I get too fit and live too long, I won’t get any cash when I die.

I could take out a loan and buy some new high tech gadgets, then pay back at 31 Euros per month. Of course, all this is hypothetical, because it is money that I will never see. It is just enough cash to pay for a half-decent send off, so that those I leave behind don’t have to dig deep in their pockets to pay the funeral.

I can hear them now. « HOW MUCH! »

I know, funerals are expensive things. « Let’s just take the old bugger and dump him in a ditch or behind the recycling bins. »

My banker gives a somewhat nervous an unappreciative laugh when I tell him that when I do die, 4000 Euros will probably cover no more than the price of a cardboard coffin.

I reckon to have around 20 to 30 years left in me. The bank sees fit to change my financial advisor every two years and every time I get a new one, he or she undoes what the previous one had done. Two years, just enough time to get comfortable and then… Since we are dwelling on the subject of twilight years; it is like a senile old senior just pissed themselves (or worse) – they are sitting their still warm and almost comfortable in their own excreta and then along comes a nurse to clean you up – « Oh, I was almost happy » Why do I have to change my « personal banker » every two years – and the older I get, the younger they get.

My current banker must be around 35, but he has all the assurance and allure of a young schoolboy, and no matter what he wears it never fits – yesterday his jacket engulfed him, hands disappearing down the sleeves. The time before that his jacket was just too small – like he had bought his suit ten sizes too big ten years before and he had finally grown into and grown out of it. No matter. I like my personal financial banker advisor person. He is very pleasant and I do appreciate his foresight in broaching the subject of my eventual demise. Now that I am reaching my half century, I am in that category that people refer to as « old » or « late middle age ». Magazines, clothes, medical tests … there is a whole new world out there. Mid you, when I flick through those magazines dedicated to seniors, everyone in them looks to be in their 30’s. The editors must commission photos of youngsters and Photoshop them into « oldies. » No matter what happens. Should nature follow it’s logic, I will shuffle off before my current Financial advisor, So, I have decided to invite him to my final sending off – if only so he can see kind of funeral you can buy for 4000 Euros in 20 years or so.