Call for Action: What you need to know about life insurance

CAMBRIDGE, Wis. — A Call for Action from a local mother might have you thinking about what your own family needs to make sure your loved ones are taken care of in case of an unexpected death.

Audrey DiMaggio-Fiore lost her son Nicholas to an untimely death at age 26 in the spring. She describes him as a light in her life — a lover of football, high school prom king, a poet. These days, she relies on his past work and signs from above to get her through new challenges since he’s been gone. One of those challenges, most recently, involves collecting his life insurance.

When going through things at his apartment, DiMaggio-Fiore found a packet of information that appeared to confirm Nick should have had a policy through his place of work for more than a year prior to his death, OSI Manufacturing in Fort Atkinson. When she touched base with the company, however, she heard something different.

“If he’s in the union, he doesn’t have insurance,” she says she was told. “If he’s not in the union, he does have insurance.”

We talked to representatives for the United Food and Commercial Workers Local 1473 Union.

They told us every employee at OSI — except for managers — is in the union, meaning every employee is required to pay for their life insurance benefit. The cost is roughly four cents a paycheck; it’s just a matter of knowing you need to sign up. Audrey says her son probably didn’t.

The union is providing Nick’s family with a $4,000 accidental death benefit, and it agreed to make sure union benefits are communicated to OSI employees effectively.

“I think there are many young people that go into the work world, and they don’t know what questions to ask,” DiMaggio-Fiore said.

That’s why she’s talking to us with the hope of highlighting the importance of checking with your workplace about potential benefits and making sure you’re signed up for the right ones.

“It’s about the principle,” DiMaggio-Fiore said. “If I can change this for other people down the road, that would be great.”

We talked to a local insurance company, Better Life, to get a better understanding of what you need to do.

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“Most people don’t want to think about their own mortality. I don’t think about (what) should I do in case I die,” said CEO Dan Shinnick. “If you just ask yourself the question, ‘if somebody would be put at a financial disadvantage if I die,’ if you have children, if you have a mortgage to pay off, if the answer to those questions is yes, then you probably need life insurance.”

Shinnick says your company probably offers some help, but you just need to ask about it — and you also likely need more.

Most businesses offer one or two times your salary, but most experts will tell you you need 10 times more. What’s more — if you lose or leave your job, you don’t take the benefit with you.

“Make sure you have some permanent coverage because when you leave your employer, that life insurance will end,” Shinnick said.

Can you afford it? Chances are yes — especially the younger you are. Shinnik says if you’re a 35-year-old man, you could get $500,000 in coverage for roughly $20 a month.

But where to begin? Shinnick suggests lifehappens.org, a nonprofit website that provides background information on life insurance policies.

Do you have a Call for Action? Contact our volunteers on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. at 608-270-2833 or call for action anytime at channel3000.com/callforaction.