I never thought my stay-at-home husband needed life insurance until my grandmother's death made me think twice

James Britton CFP, CLU, EPC profile photo

James Britton CFP, CLU, EPC

Financial Planner
Britton Wealth Management and Planning Consultants Inc.
Fax : 866-202-2935

I got a call one Friday afternoon back in fall 2021. "They're bringing Grandma home," my mom said. "They don't think she'll make it through the weekend."

My grandmother was elderly, but her sudden downturn wasn't expected. I had seen her only a few weeks before, and she looked great. With no time to prepare, I quickly emailed my editors and put on an out-of-office reply. I drove the two hours to be at my grandmother's bedside.


The author, Kelly Burch./Courtesy of Kelly Burch


  • The death of a loved one is a tragedy that demands time before returning to a full work schedule.
  • The unpaid labor of stay-at-home parents might be worth far more than your household income.
  • A life insurance policy can cover your expenses while you take the time to grieve.

She died Sunday morning. Although my aunts shouldered the brunt of making arrangements, the entire next week was full of family demands and, of course, grieving. Even after the funeral, I found myself distracted and not able to focus on work. As a freelancer without any family or bereavement leave, I stressed about how tending to my emotional needs was going to affect my bottom line.

And even through that fog, I had one nagging thought: My husband needs life insurance, yesterday.

Buying life insurance for my husband had been on the back burner

I became the primary breadwinner around when my second daughter was born. After dragging my feet for years, I had purchased life insurance. I had peace of mind knowing that my husband and daughters could stay in our house and continue with their routines if I died. My husband was a stay-at-home dad at the time, so I wanted to calculate an amount that would let him continue to be home with our children for at least a year.

While it was simple to put a number on my salary that would need to be replaced if I died, it was less straightforward for my husband. He didn't bring in income, but he was definitely working. In fact, recent estimates put the value of a stay-at-home parent at about $184,000 — more than I make in a year.

I knew my husband needed coverage. But somehow, because he wasn't bringing cash into the household, it felt less pressing for him to get life insurance. And because life was busy, it kept getting pushed to the back burner.

I realized my income would suffer if he died

My grandmother's death moved getting life insurance firmly to the top of our to-do list. I realized that if my husband died, we not only would lose all the benefits to having a stay-at-home parent; we would also lose a portion of my income.

I had seen my monthly earnings dip with the passing of my grandmother, who I wasn't particularly close with and whose death was somewhat expected. I couldn't imagine what would happen to my ability to provide for my family if I unexpectedly lost the love of my life.

My husband had a similar reaction to my grandmother's death. It made the need for insurance clearer for him, too. Within a month of her passing, he was getting his physical for insurance.

We talked about what we wanted from insurance

There's some debate about how much life insurance stay-at-home parents need. It's not as simple as choosing 10 times their annual salary or some other recommended benchmark.

My husband and I had frank conversations about the coverage we needed, and how much the premiums would cost. We considered that our youngest was close to starting kindergarten, so our childcare costs would be lower if he wasn't around to watch the kids. We also thought about how much time I would need to stop working to take care of myself.

We ended up with a policy that would allow me to grieve and establish a new normal without worrying about money immediately. Now I know I could put finances temporarily on the back burner and focus on the emotional health of my family if disaster struck. That is well worth the monthly premium we pay each month.


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James Britton CFP, CLU, EPC profile photo

James Britton CFP, CLU, EPC

Financial Planner
Britton Wealth Management and Planning Consultants Inc.
Fax : 866-202-2935