Protecting a Growing Family

A self-described planner works with Thrivent to make sure his young daughters have the coverage they need.

Christina and Seth DeBartolo with their daughters, Norah and Olivia This article (PDF) | Current issue (PDF) | Archive

By Amy Merrick, photo by Brian Tietz

The issue

A few hours after his second daughter, Olivia, was born in March 2017, Seth DeBartolo called Thrivent to buy her a life insurance contract.

DeBartolo, who lives with his family in Naples, Florida, had purchased life insurance for his older daughter, Norah, shortly after she was born in 2015. He wanted to do the same for Olivia.

"I'm a planner," DeBartolo says. "When I think of life-changing events, I think of covering my family with the care they deserve."

DeBartolo reached Ben Mielke, a Thrivent Financial Guidance Team representative. Mielke helped DeBartolo apply for a $50,000 whole life contract for Olivia, the same type and amount of coverage he had purchased for Norah. The whole life insurance can last for the girls' entire lives, as long as premiums are paid. And it can build up a cash value.

Once they finished Olivia's application, Mielke recommended that DeBartolo take another look at his own contract. Seth, who is 30, and his wife, Christina, who is 31, each had a $100,000, 30-year term contract from Thrivent. (They are lifelong Thrivent members.) Term insurance expires at a set date and typically has lower premiums than whole life insurance.

The couple, who met when Seth was a seminary student in Fort Wayne, Indiana, and Christina was singing in the community choir, plan to buy a house within the year. And with two young kids, the family would be financially stressed if Seth, the primary earner, were to suddenly die. Mielke suggests young families with children hold enough life insurance to cover 10 times their annual income.

"It's most important to have enough insurance when you have a mortgage and kids at home," Mielke says. "While $100,000 might sound like a lot of money, it often will only cover a year or two of someone's income, and then it's gone."

"Life insurance is set up to give you freedom not to worry, to allow you to sleep easier at night."
– Thrivent member Seth DeBartolo

The solution

After they talked, Seth decided that he wanted to buy more life insurance for himself.

The good news was that because he is young and healthy, he has a preferred rating for his insurance contract. The rating is based on factors such as his height and weight, blood pressure and cholesterol. This means he gets charged less for premiums than someone in poorer health, and it's easier for him to increase his insurance coverage.

Seth decided to increase his term life insurance contract from $100,000 to $250,000. While that change didn't bring the family all the way up to covering 10 times their annual income, it got them closer while keeping premiums affordable. Because Christina is not the primary earner, she kept her own contract at $100,000.

The final step, after Mielke submitted the paperwork, was for Seth to schedule a nurse to come to his home for a 15-minute physical exam. About a month later, the additional coverage was approved.

"Life insurance is set up to give you freedom not to worry, to allow you to sleep easier at night," Seth says.

Amy Merrick teaches journalism at DePaul University in Chicago. Her work has appeared in The Wall Street Journal, The New Yorker online and the Chicago Sun-Times.