Ours is a nation of dreamers. We grow up believing that just about anything is possible. But dreams change along the journey of life, as we discover new opportunities and face unforeseen challenges. That’s where insurance comes into play.
We visited the Zimnys of Lockport, Ill., to hear their compelling story of how Russell Zimny pursued the American Dream of family, home and business. It’s a real-life illustration of how dynamic dreams are … we start out in full pursuit of a dream, only to find our perspectives shift, our dreams change or we encounter obstacles along the way.
Across our 19 operating states, American Family helped preserve our customers’ dreams with anticipated payments of $3.4 billion for claims occurring in 2012. That amount included $840.6 million for damage caused by storms, tornadoes and wildfires.
We also marked our 85th anniversary with the opening of DreamBank, a place dedicated to the inspiration, celebration and protection of dreams for individuals, families and the community in our hometown of Madison, Wis.
Late in the year, we expanded our family with the acquisition of Permanent General, a group of companies that writes direct non-standard auto insurance. Permanent General is successful and growing, and the addition improves our ability to meet our diverse customer needs and preferences.
Our customers like the changes we’ve implemented in recent years – customer satisfaction and customer loyalty measures are at record highs. We will continue to refine our products and services, and we’ll also start serving customers in new parts of the country.
It’s an exciting time in our family, and we’re so grateful you trust us to protect your dreams.
Editor’s note: You can read the stories – and the financial reports – from our 2012 Annual Report on our website.
As a life-licensed agent assistant, I’ve always believed in the value of life insurance as a way to financially protect families. But in my Hispanic community, life insurance is not in our culture and is often difficult for some to believe in, understand or even talk about.
Because I’ve been in the insurance business for quite a few years, I understand life insurance. Unfortunately my close-knit Hispanic family had to be educated by experience. Eight years ago, my uncle, (my father’s brother) passed away after a massive stroke. He didn’t have medical insurance or a life insurance policy, and all of his children had to get together and pay for his medical bills and funeral expenses. My cousins still have outstanding bills they continue to pay many years after he passed away.
After my uncle died so suddenly, I talked to my father and siblings about the need for my father to purchase life insurance. A retired dentist/small business owner, my father was 62 and working a part-time job without health insurance. After his brother’s family’s experience, my father was open to it and we all agreed it was the right thing to do. We were able to purchase an American Family Life Insurance Company whole life 10-year/$100,000 policy with a term rider although my father had controlled diabetes and was overweight. My brothers, sisters, father and I all contributed to the premiums as a family.
Four years later, in August 2011, while the rest of the family was in Guadalajara, Mexico, celebrating my mom’s 60th birthday, my father fell ill and was hospitalized in the Seattle area. Without experiencing advanced symptoms except a headache, he was diagnosed with Stage 4 terminal cancer.
Our family was shocked.
After discussion, my father opted to use the accelerated death benefit rider on his policy, and received 75 percent of the benefit proceeds in advance. Until he passed away on Nov. 11, 2011, he was able to live the last two and a half months spending quality time with friends and family in Mexico, including a huge life celebration surprise party we organized for him. The policy also paid for his chemotherapy and radiation treatments, and other medical bills and funeral expenses, all without burdening my mother and our family.
I am thankful for the opportunity this life insurance gave our family. Without it, my father’s diagnosis, illness and passing would have been even more devastating. My story is bittersweet, but I believe in life insurance because I have lived it. That’s why I think it’s worth telling you.
Editor’s note: Need more info? Check out our 10 reasons to buy life insurance. Or give our Life Needs Calculator a try for help estimating the right amount of coverage to ensure your dependents are financially stable.
In the fall of my freshman year of high school, I’d just gotten my temporary driver’s license. My father and I were meeting with our insurance agent to complete my life insurance application at our kitchen counter.
As I matured into adulthood, I carried that strong belief in life insurance my father instilled in me. My life’s road has brought me a great husband, two wonderful daughters, and a large extended family.
Longevity runs in my husband's family. His grandfather and great aunts lived to be almost 100. In October 2002, it came as a huge shock when my brother-in-law, Scott, 42, was diagnosed with advanced liver cancer. He passed away in eight weeks.
Thankfully, Scott had life insurance to provide for his wife and two daughters, ages 12 and 15. He had a whole life policy purchased by his parents when he was a youth and a Universal Life (UL) policy he bought as an adult. He also had life insurance through his employer.
There was money for his funeral and burial expenses, enough to pay off the home mortgage, funds to continue health insurance coverage for the family, and money to be set aside for his wife and daughters’ future financial needs. The family could also pay for the unexpected expenses that crept up in the month or two after Scott’s death – the home needed a new furnace, plumbing needed repairs and the car died. Thank goodness he had life insurance that was able to ease the burden on his wife during this time of great loss.
The world doesn’t stop turning when you lose a loved one. A family must continue. In May 2005, we lost my 21-year old nephew in a car accident. Yes, Zach did have a whole life insurance policy his parents had taken out on him when he was a small child. The reasoning was to have money available for final expenses. They used the proceeds for this purpose, and his family used the leftover money for charitable activities in the community, which helped them in the healing process. The last of the money was spent this summer with the donation of playground equipment.
With my father’s passing in February 2010, his Universal Life policy covered his funeral expenses and provided for my mother to move from the old farmhouse to a more accessible home in town.
For whatever reason, my professional road led me to American Family in September 1997 as agent assistant for Herm Leitz (Ripon, Wis.). I have been life-licensed since 1998. What a privilege it is to work for a company that cares for and protects our families in their time of need. Life insurance isn’t just about money – it’s about security, peace of mind and healing to move forward.
Remember, the world does keep turning even though you feel it has stopped. Don’t wait for your world to stop to realize your family isn’t adequately provided for by life insurance.
Editor's note: Learn about the importance of life insurance on our website. You can also watch a video series about different kinds of life insurance products on the American Family Insurance YouTube channel.
The last thing I want to do is lecture anyone on wellness, especially a week before Christmas. When I was at my heaviest, the thing I hated the most was having some skinny person tell me that it would be a good idea to lose weight.
Really? I had no idea. So none of that from me.
But I do like to share my observations as I wage this daily battle with diet and exercise. And I’ll start by violating my promise to not state the obvious: This time of year is a real killer if you’re trying to maintain even a somewhat healthy lifestyle.
Treat days, family gatherings, cookie exchanges, parties and everything else conspire against the stoutest of our will powers. It can be maddening. It almost makes you want to go live in a cave at the top of a mountain until it’s all over.
But you don’t have to be Mr. Grinch. Here are some tips that I’ve found helpful to get through the holiday food season:
- Plan ahead. Constant denial is no way to live, so allow yourself the indulgence of a nice holiday meal. Just plan for it. Decide what you’re going to have, and account for it in your food planning and exercise schedule for that week. Cut back a little the days before a party or big meal and make time for extra exercise.
- Control portions. OK. You planned ahead and hit the gym a few extra times. Excellent! But this does not absolve you from helping yourself to a mound of mashed potatoes and gravy the size of a basketball. Remember, you’re enjoying Christmas dinner, not laying-in provisions for a trek across Siberia.
- Avoid delusion. No matter what Aunt Martha says, pie DOES have calories on a holiday. In fact, your average slice of pumpkin pie has about 325 calories. Oh, and a ping-pong-ball-sized dollop of whipped cream adds another 100. Go easy. (But be nice to Aunt Martha, even if her nutritional expertise is extremely suspect.)
- Resist grazing. If your department is having a treat day, decide in advance what you’ll allow yourself and stick to it. And make just one trip to the treat table. Twenty M&Ms are still 20 M&Ms, even if you take them out of the bowl one at a time. And don’t get me started on the evils of cheese puffs!
- Finally, don’t worry. Yes, these are great tips for a healthy December. But I know I’ll violate some, if not all of these rules during the next couple of weeks. You will, too. We’re human. But a few mistakes over the holidays shouldn’t take your eyes off the prize. Don’t worry about it, and just get back up and do your best the next day. My hope in sharing this with you is to at least give you something to think about. As a disclaimer, I’m by no means a nutrition expert, so feel free to take my observations with a grain of salt. (Wait. Should that be a grain of low-sodium salt substitute?)
The daily battle never really gets any easier, at least not for me.
Alarm goes off at 7 a.m. Then after a couple of snoozes it’s time to get up, get my son dressed, make his breakfast, get his teeth brushed and toys picked out to take to school. Then out the door by 8 a.m.
After taking him to school, I do some laundry, get dinner prepared for my two guys and myself for the evening, tidy up and clean house, get ready for work, then head to the office by 1:30 p.m. I’m greeted by about 40 e-mails and three voice mails from the day before.
Work ends at 12:05 a.m. I drive home, finish laundry, try to wind down to go to bed, just to get up and start all over again!
Sure, you might call that a stressful day. But, I’m not alone. It got me to thinking, what if more of us shared the ways we all manage stress? Maybe we can help one another.
Here are some simple, yet effective things I try to do to better balance stress in my life.
- Manage time efficiently. Reorganize simple household tasks to save time, such as running errands in batches, or doing a load of laundry every day instead of leaving it all for our day(s) off. Create a weekly family calendar and write out the weeks activities ahead of time. So, if on Wednesday we see that John has a basketball game out of town and it’s a late night that we could plan on something simple for dinner or possibly make it leftovers night.
- Create support teams. Find trusted friends and family who can help with child care or household chores when we work late or travel for work.
- A healthier outlook. Eat foods high in antioxidants like blueberries or whole grain cereals to help regulate our moods. Exercise: Walk on breaks, take the stairs, park further away from building entrances. Schedule time to do something you enjoy like reading, writing, etc.
- Personalize your work space. Decorate it with family pictures and personal belongings so you feel more at home. This has been shown to increase productivity.
- Sign up for workplace programs. Participating in these events with co-workers can promote workplace unity, making the office a little less stressful.
- Take mental health days. Use personal time or vacation and take a day for yourself.
- Search for the positives. Learn to appreciate what you have instead of what you don’t.
Eliminating stress makes our lives less complicated and also improves our moods, making us easier people to be around. This will benefit our friends, family, and co-workers.
Editor’s note: How do you manage stress – especially during the holidays? Share your ideas with our community by leaving a comment.