‘Becoming’, insurance rip-offs and when you’re supposed to die

24 February 2019

Being a carer, housekeeper, cook*, washerperson, cleaner, dogwalker, chauffeur, general administrator (etc) as well as an all-round layabout who likes to fall asleep on the sofa after lunch, I don’t get much time to read but I have just finished ‘Becoming’, Michelle Obama’s autobiography.

It’s a fascinating story of somebody from Chicago’s South Side who overcame all prejudices and preconceptions to study at Princeton and Harvard Law School, became a lawyer with a top firm (where she first met Barack) and then transferred into a career in community work before rather reluctantly supporting Barack’s run for president and ending up in the White House.  She talks openly about the strains this put on them and how difficult it was to ensure that, whenever possible, their children came first.

The book is exceptionally well-written and it gives a fascinating picture of her early life and the contrast between her own daily walks to school as a child and being driven everywhere in the FLOTUS motorcade.  And imagine having to sneak out through your own garage and then hide in some bushes so you can see the rainbow floodlighting of the White House that celebrated the legalisation of gay marriage.

Reader, I loved it.

One wishes that Trump weren’t too stupid to read anything longer than a tweet, or any book more complex than ‘The Famous Five Make Covfefe with Big Bird’, because there’s so much he could learn from Obama’s book about what being a real presidential family involves.  Perhaps if it were edited down into bite-sized chunks and read to him, very slowly, 140 characters at a time, he might understand it.  Then again, perhaps he mightn’t, since a report on his daily schedules leaked a couple of weeks ago showed that he spends around 60% of his days on “executive time”.

Cynics thinks this involves lazing around watching TV and playing golf because, if he were actually doing his job as President, it would appear on his schedules.  Still, it’s clear from his recent declaration of a national emergency that he himself described as “not necessary” that he has problems, and not just with the definition of ‘emergency’.

Our own emergency came this week when the insurance for our wheelchair vehicle came up for renewal with a premium that had increased from £352 to £427.  I checked other companies and found the same cover elsewhere for £326 so I went back to our insurers to cancel the renewal and they suddenly said they could do it for £308.  When I told the other company this, they offered £296 but I said no thanks.  So, for 90 minutes on the phone, I saved us £120.  Surely we shouldn’t have to do this every year?  Why can’t insurance companies just charge a fair price in the first place and limit increases to RPI or something similar instead of discounting it in the first year knowing that a lot of people will just accept the huge increase in the second year by default.

I’ve often wondered what stake a bookmaker would want to accept a bet from me that I would suffer from all the events covered by our policy within the next year?

Whole life insurance, of course, works on the same basic principles but they fix the annual premium when you take out the policy, based on how old you are (adjusted for your current state of health), and they don’t keep increasing your premium each year as you close in on death**.  Readers who want to plan their pensions can visit the Office of National Statistics website (a Government website)


Enter your age and gender and see the average age at which people of the same age and gender will be handed their harp and a “get out of hell free” card, as well as their chances of getting a telegram from the king.  Curiously, the site refers to a telegram from the queen who is, according to their own website, likely to die in 4 years – what do they know that we don’t?


*          A Certain Person thinks that warming up ready-made meals in the oven and preparing vegetables doesn’t qualify as ‘cooking’ but it behoves her not to say so because that’s as good as it gets here.

**        This is a hugely over-simplified generalisation about life insurance but the principles are valid.

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