A man and a woman reading

Life Insurance 101

Whether you’re just diving in or need a refresher, we have helpful guides to get through the basics and help you understand how life insurance can play a part in your financial planning.

A heart, a moneybox, and a hospital

When My Wife Died, Life Insurance Was a Godsend

Through 53 years of marriage, Carl and Karyl Brandon always worked together to provide stability for others. The couple raised five children of their own, including a daughter with intellectual disabilities. As trained therapeutic foster parents, they also cared for more than 40 foster children who lived with them in their Cedarville, Ohio home while undergoing emotional counseling and behavioral therapy. All the while, the Brandons made choices that insured their own long-term financial security. They put away money for retirement, invested their additional savings, and made sure they had life insurance policies.

When they reached their 50s, the Brandons got serious about their future. Eventually that included each taking out a $150,000, 20-year renewable term life insurance policy that would cover them into later life. In 2018, when the premiums on those policies were set to increase, the couple decided that Carl’s retirement accounts from a career as an associate professor, along with the value of their house in Cedarville, could sustain Karyl if he were to die. But they knew to still renew Karyl’s life insurance.

“We decided we should probably keep one of the policies in effect,” says Carl. “That was a wise choice.”

The decision was also fateful. In early 2018, Karyl, then 72, suddenly developed a persistent cough. At first, her physician thought it might just be bronchitis. But as the cough gradually worsened, Karyl and Carl became concerned. That October, doctors found lymphoma. By January 2020, after months of treatment, Karyl had passed away.

Carl was spread thin. He was exhausted from nearly a year of fighting alongside his wife, especially during those final months of hoping and praying she’d pull through. Then he had to face the funeral, and all the details of her burial. In the weeks and months that followed, Carl was deluged with appointments and chores—filling out death certificates, purchasing a cemetery lot, and more. He also sold the family home so he could move with his oldest daughter from Ohio to Kalamazoo, Michigan. Thanks to Carl’s faith and loving community of family and friends, he stayed emotionally strong through this stressful period. And thanks to the fact that Karyl’s term life policy was still inforce, he was also on sound financial ground.

“That insurance policy helped to pay for her funeral and all related expenses,” says Carl. “And it also provided the funds I needed to move.”

Today, at 78, Carl credits his comfortable life to the life insurance policy they had in effect. “Making a good choice isn’t always easy,” Carl admits, remembering the years of scrimping and squirreling away money for a series of goals—a house, college for the kids, a secure retirement. “It’s hard work, especially when you’re starting out and don’t have a lot of money. But you always try to make good choices for living your whole life. For us, buying life insurance was one of them.”


  • Interview with Carl Brandon.

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