Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 19.djvu/761

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741
PRACTICAL BUSINESS OF LIFE INSURANCE.

least, the whole amount of premiums paid ought to be returned, since no loss has occurred. However absurd such notions, they have caused much dissatisfaction, and, as they spring from a total misconception of the aims and functions of the institution, they ought to be dispelled. The companies themselves are not free from blame, however, for permitting many false impressions to gain ground. Nothing can be more mischievous than the assertion that life insurance is a profitable investment for money in the ordinary acceptation of that phrase. It is a provision against a contingency to which every human being is subject. A proper appreciation of its great benefits would prompt most men to seek its protection as far as their means permitted. To the majority of insurers, however, it is an actual expense, though allotted among them upon the most equitable basis. On the other hand, the amount of premiums paid can never be totally lost, since every life policy must eventually become a death-claim. But only those should insure who really require it and can continue payments to the end. Had this always been understood, many policy-holders would have been spared disappointment and suffering when sober reaction followed a period of wild inflation.

One of the evils resulting from dissatisfaction with insurance companies has been the formation, all over the country, of so-called cooperative (latterly mutual benefit) life associations. They are based on what has already been shown as utterly impracticable—the collection of contributions on the death of members, with no fixed premiums or adequate accumulation of reserves. When the lives are newly selected, and not much above middle age, there is, at first, an appearance of saving over regular premiums. But, as they get older and the rate of mortality rises rapidly, the contributions become onerous, and, there being nothing to forfeit, the healthy lives withdraw, leaving a constantly increasing preponderance of impaired lives. The association breaks up, and those most in need of insurance can no longer obtain it from regular companies. The fallacy consists in assuming a continuous increase of new young lives that are willing to bear the burdens of the old members; an infatuation that never lasts long. It seems almost incredible that, in the face of well-established scientific principles and a century's experience, such crude experiments should again be introduced, as though they were a new invention. They deserve no better name than frauds, originated either by designing men to plunder the credulous or by those so grossly ignorant as to be no less culpable. Well have they merited the name current in insurance parlance, "the co-duperatives."

We have now touched upon most of the distinctive features of life insurance that interest the general reader, and but little remains to be said of the general management. It has been shown that next in importance to the collection of premiums is the accumulation of a reserve, which must earn at least the minimum rate of interest assumed as the