Periodic musings of a former corporate executive who is between gigs.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Insuring your future

You've wrapped up your last day at work. You've got the big severance check. You've figured out how much you'll need every month to cover your bills. Now what should you do?

Snatch up that new pair of Jimmy Choos you've been admiring? Test drive that new sports car you've always wanted? Or how about buying a modest pair of tickets to the Dodgers game? (Notwithstanding the fact that no one wants to watch the Dodgers this year and you could probably get killed in the parking lot).

Nope. None of the above. Here's what you should be doing ---- revisiting what you're spending on life and disability insurance.

Now, I know what you're thinking. Is there anything more boring than this? It sounds absolutely morbid. What a downer on your first weeks of freedom!

But now that you are unemployed, you will not want to be up all night worrying about what will happen to your family if you do happen to meet with some misfortune in the Dodgers' parking lot. You should tackle this now. And it's the perfect time to do so since it won't matter if you fall asleep in the middle of the day reading all those policy documents.

Let's talk about the easy one first--- life insurance. It's easy because there's rarely ambiguity about a claim. Putting aside folks like Jimmy Hoffa, you're either dead or you're not.

These days, most executives have group life insurance provided through their employer as a minimum amount of coverage. You may also have one or more policies you've purchased on your own.

The coverage you were previously receiving from your employer typically stops at the end of your employment. However, many US insurers allow departing employees to convert their coverage to an individual policy. You'll know if you have this option when you receive your exit paperwork. If you choose to convert this coverage, you'll be asked to pay premiums monthly or quarterly to continue the coverage.

But should you? When I looked into this, I discovered that the price I'd pay to convert my corporate policy was significantly higher than the price my employer was charging me. So you may be able to get comparable coverage elsewhere at a better price. Of course, this will depend on your personal circumstances and you will want to consult your financial adviser before making any final decisions. But, at a minimum, you should do some comparison shopping before you just convert the policy from your former employer.

If you don't want to face a bunch of insurance agents, at least check out your options online. Assuming you buy from a reputable company, life insurance is really a commodity and your decision shouldn't be impacted by whether the company has a pretty logo or a talking duck. For US policies, two such comparison sites recommended by Kiplinger are and

You may also find out that you're overinsured. If you're single, you should seriously consider how much life insurance you really need. Yes, it would be nice to leave a pretty sum to your nephew in Seattle if you happen to die. But if you're unemployed and cutting down on your monthly expenses, this may be a place to cut without impacting your lifestyle. After all, you won't be around to enjoy it.

Once you've conquered death, you need to deal with the more complicated topic of long term disability (LTD) coverage. But let's deal with that in a future post. After all this talk of death, I need to do something fun. Even the Dodgers game seems appealing!

Monday, May 16, 2011

Coffee, Tea and Meet

"Let's do lunch". It's the mantra of executives worldwide.

When you're unemployed, your friends will think you've got it made on the lunch front. You can have long, leisurely lunches. With a glass (or two) of wine if you want. Every day of the week! You don't have to get back to the office. And you don't have to make up a story to explain the wine to the guy in Accounting who reviews your expense report.

But I've found that these wonderfully long lunches are messing up my life.

Why, you say? How on earth could there be any harm in such a relaxing endeavor?

Here's why--- when you're unemployed, you're surprisingly busier than ever before. You're doing lots of networking to find that next job. And trying to stay in touch with your former colleagues (many of whom are reaching out to say "hey, will you tell me about any jobs you don't want that might be a good fit for me?"). There's only 5 lunches in a workweek. So if you're a halfway decent networker your lunch schedule is probably booked for weeks.

You're likely also trying to catch up on things like doctor's appointments, visiting the dentist, car maintenance, wrestling with your retirement savings, etc. And you might very well have a "honey do" list from your spouse of all the things that need to be done around the house (see my prior post re: all household chores falling to the unemployed spouse).

Unless you are a superhero, it's impossible to do all these things and still have a consistent diet of long lunches.

Instead, I've learned to embrace Coffee Meetings. A Coffee Meeting is just what it sounds like-- meeting someone at a local coffee shop to talk over a cup of java.

Coffee Meetings are efficient. A cup of coffee lasts 30 minutes at most. You can stretch it to an hour if you have two cups. There's no way it's lasting more than 90 minutes because someone will have to go to the restroom after drinking all that coffee.

Using this premise, you can do at least three Coffee Meetings a day and sometimes four if you make everyone come to a place of your choosing. Five is pushing it, though. You don't want to be so over-caffeinated that you can't sleep at night!

Here's your incentive--- "If I spend all day Wednesday meeting people at Starbucks, then I can take Friday off and go for that long bike ride." It's really that simple. It's no different than when you were working. You could easily cram Friday's work into Thursday and Monday if it meant you could take Friday off. Now you're doing the same thing but with networking meetings, visits with former colleagues, etc.

I've learned to do 3-4 Coffee Meetings a day once or twice a week. This way, I can have meaningful visits with 6-8 people per week. Then, I spend one day a week on all my other To Do items. I take one day off to play ("I've earned it!"). And I'm trying to spend that last day of the week doing some deep thinking and planning re: what I want from my future life.

That last one is tough and I can't say I don't throw it aside on occasion to go shoe shopping. But, overall, I'm trying to stick to this basic routine so I can see everyone, do all my chores and still enjoy the gift of having this time off.

Now if only Starbucks had a frequent buyer's club. I'd be able to fund my next vacation with all my points!