Juan Roldan, 38, lives in Massachusetts and works in a hospital. Like many Americans, and more acutely, many Latinos, all he wants is for his children to live a better life than he has. Often, the only lifeboat in sight for many in his position is a quality education for his kids.
But how can parents with low-income jobs ensure that their children are able to attain this precious education if something were to happen to them?
A program by MassMutual called LifeBridge, celebrating its tenth anniversary this month, seeks to provide a 10-year, $50,000 life insurance policy for qualifying low-income families to spend for “education related expenses.”
With September being Life Insurance Awareness Month, Roldan explained why it was so important to him.
“For me I was trying to get a steady life for my two girls and the way that I was able to do it was through this program,” Roldan says. “It was peace of mind for me, knowing they would be able to go to college if something happened to me.”
Parents can qualify for the program if they are 42-years-old or less, currently employed part-time or full-time and have a $40,000 a year annual income, and are the legal guardian of a child 18 or under.
Parents must be legal or permanent residents and in general good health. In the event the parent or legal guardian passes away, the money would be paid into a trust where the caretaker can use the dollars for education related expenses.
Chris Mendoza, the assistant vice president of multicultural market development for MassMutual, knows what people reading about the free life insurance program are thinking – so what’s the catch?
Yet, Mendoza says MassMutual provides the service because it fits with their philanthropic goals and because they have an interest in serving low-income families and primarily Latinos.
“We’ve done the research – and 64 percent of Hispanic families believe saving for their children’s education will help them manifest their dream and get a better life,” Mendoza says.
If there is any “catch” it would be that as a free policy there are restrictions. A parent receives only a 10-year term of life insurance. After ten years, if their financial situation has improved they might not be eligible for a new policy or they might be too old to qualify.
According to a study by the LIFE Foundation, 37 percent of Hispanics say that they do not have enough life insurance. ”Hispanics overestimate the cost of life insurance by more than 10 times the actual cost and think it’s too expensive,” said Marvin H. Feldman, president and CEO of LIFE.
Since Fall 2002, MassMutual has issued 12,500 policies, which amount to $625 million. It’s goal, Mendoza says, is to reach $1 billion and more.
“What we get out of it is a lot of personal satisfaction,” Mendoza says. “This is not a policy we’re making money on. We pay the fees and the underwriting costs. It gets at the heart of what we can do to protect people against the biggest threat they face – dying too soon.”
Mendoza and MassMutual believe it’s important to get the word out on their program, which is centered on an insurance policy they used to offer and now only use for this initiative. To that end they spread awareness anywhere from chamber of commerce events, city council meetings or even in churches.
The company also holds LifeBridge application events where people can speak with representatives and get their health checked and apply right on the spot. Upcoming application events are scheduled in Tampa on September 19, in the company’s home city of Springfield, Massachusetts on September 25 and in San Francisco on September 29.
For Roldan, who acquired his policy two years ago, he now has a peace of mind despite the uncertainty his future holds.
“For my part it was a struggle for me to find a new job — without a good background of education you’re not too successful,” he says.
“But now I know my girls can be successful.”