In This Issue

Sense & Sensibility

Credit Crunch Isn’t About Skimping, but Choosing Wisely

March 30, 2009
By Kathleen Felong

Kathy Felong Kathy Felong

The credit crisis in America is forcing me to admit something no woman wants to concede—it’s a good thing my husband takes after his mother.

My mother-in-law was the most frugal person I ever met. She had a ringer washer (the kind you crank so that two or three rolling pins squeeze the water out of the clothes) and she would hang dry the wet clothes in the basement (no soft towels here). She reused bread bags and carried her own sacks to the grocery store. She kept the microwave unplugged, favoring a sturdy fry pan for reheating.

She was green before green got a name—but her ways were less about saving the planet than living within her means. And now, it seems, she was ahead of her time.

In the midst of the financial crisis, that prudent approach seems to be making a comeback. Anyone who has spent any time watching the evening news—or QVC for that matter—knows Americans haven’t felt the urge to live within our means for the better part of a decade. During that time, we’ve become addicted to instant gratification.

One blogger described our national miasma this way: “Consumerism has replaced soulfulness.” The idea of saving for something, investing in something, of having patience, period, has become almost counter-cultural. And for many—my retail-therapy-prone self included—living that way will take a conscious effort.

What does this have to do with insurance? Living within your means isn’t about skimping, but choosing. It’s about planning for the things you need and the things you want (and hoping for the wisdom to know the difference).

It means juggling finances so you can continue to invest in things that matter: a home, a car, and financial protection for your future—and your children’s future.

For our family, it has meant bolstering the liability coverage on our insurance. As homeowners with two kids in college, we recognized our need for mitigating financial risk is probably as high as it will ever be. So my husband recently talked with our Agent about adding umbrella coverage. It’s extra liability coverage above and beyond home or auto insurance limits.

An umbrella (the official term is “personal catastrophe liability” coverage) offers additional financial protection if something tragic, like a fatal car crash, would happen. (I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to be kicked while the economy’s down.)

When my mother-in-law passed away a few years ago, we found she had saved more money than anyone would have dreamed possible living a simple life. She made smart choices and had everything she needed and wanted. That lesson is an inheritance all its own.

Kathleen Felong is an award-winning columnist and an editor at Erie Insurance.

More ▶