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Be Wise With Money

Creating a Financial Strategy Pays Off

A strategy created with a financial representative & regularly updated helps a woman deal with a life-changing illness

amela Highsmith, a Thrivent member, with her financial representative


Pamela Highsmith, a Thrivent member in Katy, Texas, always believed it was important to be independent. So when her children were small, she started making plans to set herself up for financial security no matter what the future would bring.

When Highsmith was diagnosed with dementia in 2014, her illness put her desire to be independent to the test.

Last year, she reached the point where she could no longer live on her own, and her family wanted her to be in a safe, welcoming place.

Highsmith's earlier work with Thrivent Financial Representative Melissa Knippa made the transition easier for everyone.

The strategy

Knippa has known Highsmith since they served as co-leaders of their daughters' Girl Scout troop decades ago. It was then that they began working together to create a long-term financial strategy for Highsmith.

Over several years of annual reviews, Highsmith purchased two term life insurance contracts, one to benefit each of her children if she were to die unexpectedly. Later, when her income increased and she could afford higher monthly premiums, Highsmith converted one of these term contracts* to a permanent contract.

Unlike term life insurance, permanent life insurance generally does not expire (depending on the type of permanent insurance chosen) as long as premiums are being paid.

With Knippa's guidance, Highsmith also bought a disability income insurance contract, which would provide income if she became sick or hurt and unable to work. They also reviewed other ways Highsmith could protect her family's future and reach her financial goals.

They checked in on her financial strategy over the years, with Highsmith adding a second disability income contract as her income increased.

The unexpected

In 2008, Knippa began noticing that Highsmith would sometimes get confused. These lapses were very out of character for Highsmith, who was extremely organized. Knippa thought Highsmith was simply tired from long workdays.

In late 2013, though, Highsmith called Knippa to tell her she was going to lose her job because of lapses at work. After a series of doctor's visits, Highsmith was first diagnosed with Parkinson's and short-term memory loss, then instead with dementia.

That led her to take early medical retirement in January 2014, at age 52. The loss of that income could have been devastating to her and her family. But she was able to keep receiving income thanks to the fact that she had purchased disability income insurance and she had a small pension from work.

Other strategies that Highsmith had put in place also helped her when she became ill. Having long-term care insurance will help with ongoing care. An optional waiver of premium benefit on the term life insurance contract became especially important because she was no longer required to pay the contract premium due to her disability.

After the waiver took effect, she also was able to convert the remaining term insurance contract to permanent life insurance. Now, she will be able to leave a legacy gift to each of her children.

"I'm just so thankful that we did this work a long time ago so that she is safe," Knippa says. "She doesn't have to worry."

A happy place

At first, Highsmith was able to keep living at home with home health care assistance. But as her memory worsened, her family felt it was no longer safe for her to live alone.

Thankfully, Highsmith's financial strategy provided her with the means to get the support she needs. Today she lives in a senior-living facility near the home of her sister, Patty King. Highsmith is very happy in her new home, says King, who is able to see her sister every day.

Knippa is grateful that they took the time to develop a sound strategy all those years ago. "Now I know Pamela will be safe and have very good options for the rest of her life because we did the right things when she and I were both young and invincible," she says.

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