Hance Huston: ‘When does it make sense to cancel your term life insurance? Normally I would think that someone like myself (43 years old, married with two teenage daughters) should have life insurance. But we’ve been able to pay off our mortgage, we have no other debts, we’re overfunding our retirement and I think we have enough saved in 529 plans for girl’s college costs. Given my situation, do I need life insurance?’

☞ Good question; simple answer: Picture that you are dead. (A peaceful, painless, restful demise, but dead.) Now: picture the financial consequences (including whatever group life insurance proceeds may be coming from your plan at work). Is your spouse financially OK? Are your daughters? Even after the burial costs and a margin for safety? (What if your daughters wanted to go on to medical school?) If so, drop it. If not – especially since it should be way cheap at your age – why not keep it another few years?


Name Withheld: ‘Something much like the Picketts’ situation, as recounted in Bob Herbert’s column, happened to me, too. I was in college, had had a credit card for about a year, and then my college tuition bill came due. I had already maxed out my financial aid and my family was absolutely strapped for cash. So the only solution I could think of was to write a check to myself out of my credit card account, just about maxing out my limit (which was $2,500). It’s five years later and I’m still paying it off (plus the accumulated fees). But, as my e-mail address indicates, I did graduate. [From Stanford, no less! – A.T.] I’d appreciate you not using my name, but it’s nice to get the story off my chest; I never told my parents what I did.’

Arthur Kimes: ‘From Herbert’s column . . . << Julie Pickett stopped working full time when she had the twins. Jerry Pickett’s business hit a downturn at about the same time. The family’s credit cards, said Mrs. Pickett, suddenly loomed as ‘lifelines’ to the daily necessities – food, gas, auto repairs, clothing for the children.>> I sympathize with the Picketts. They are truly in a tough situation. HOWEVER, in this case, you don’t have to demonize the credit card companies who PUT FOOD IN THE PICKETTS’ MOUTHS when they weren’t able to earn money. I’m not going to say the credit card companies aren’t gouging and stuff. Just that they came through when the Picketts needed them.’


James: ‘You say we have to raise taxes or slash services. I don’t really understand why reining in waste is never considered an option. If a large percentage of available resources is going to fraud, waste, and abuse, could we not achieve better fiscal mileage by better utilizing resources rather than slashing services or raising taxes?’

Everyone is for cutting waste and fraud. Your question suggests you think that a large percentage of available resources is going to waste, fraud and abuse . . . and, by implication, seem to feel there is little waste in business or charities – or in our personal lives. I disagree. I think there’s some in all areas, and wherever we find it we should try to root it out. But to find $20 billion of examples of egregious waste (say) in a $2 trillion budget is no reason to bankrupt the country or massively raid the Social Security trust fund or toss 300,000 kids out of after-school programs or cut back on veterans’ benefits.


John Stone: ‘Perhaps conservatives in general (and the Catholic church in particular) should worry less about gay marriages and more about straight divorces and the effects they are having on our children. If they want to have a Constitutional amendment about marriage, they should be sure to include a provision providing heavy sanctions for everyone who breaks their marriage vows. Having been married to my only wife for 32 years I personally don’t see any problem with stoning as a punishment for divorce. Let’s see, we can start with Ron Reagan, Bob Dole, and Newt Gingrich.’

Mike Dillon: ‘So do we insist on calling gay marriage a marriage, or do we come up with a different, more acceptable word in order to get it – and those precious rights – made legal sooner? I’ll go with either way, how about you?’

☞ Legally, this could work if we passed a constitutional amendment decreeing that wherever the word “marriage” or “married” is currently used in a law or a contract – millions of places – the words “civil union” and “hitched” (or whatever) would be 100% synonymous. But failing that, those laws and contracts would exclude gay couples. That’s the problem.


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