Why don’t we insure?
I think it is fair to say that we in this country are not hot on insurance.
Taking an insurance policy on life, property, or anything else for that matter does not come easily to us.
Even though I understand funeral insurance policies are becoming quite popular these days.
For years, I was not a fan of the insurance industry.
I saw them as always keen to take your premium and if they can avoid paying a claim, they would.
So, I limited my involvement with the insurance people to what I was required to do by law and that meant I made sure my car was insured, just so I can drive it on the street.
Then I went to live in South Africa and discovered a totally different cultural setup as far as insurance was concerned.
They insure everything as a matter of routine.
I would go shopping over the weekend with friends and someone would buy a wrist watch, or a pair of earrings, and on Monday morning, this friend would be on the phone to her broker to update the list of her personal belongings that she had insured to include the earrings and wrist watch she had bought on Saturday.
I told my friends they were reacting to their more violent and riskier country, and I came from a more peaceful country where you could leave a front door opened throughout the day.
My friends were incredulous to discover that apart from my car, I did not carry any other insurance, not on my life, and certainly not on jewellery or any other personal items.
I was mocked regularly.
We were going for a four-day holiday in a game reserve and the friend who did the bookings included me in the insurance that was taken for the group.
I hesitated about making my usual protestations about making an insurance company rich effortlessly and I let pass what I considered an unnecessary expenditure in paying for holiday insurance.
As it turned out, the holiday went without any drama; the flights were on time, the accommodation was exactly as had been advertised and even the animals behaved as though they had been programmed to put on a show for us.
I resisted making any complaints about having wasted money taking unnecessary insurance.
A week after the holiday, a member of the group bought a brand-new car.
As he drove the car from the showroom to the office, he was involved in an accident and the car was a total write-off.
The insurance company replaced the car.
None of my friends thought there was anything remarkable about that, but I was impressed.
A couple I knew had a lovely home and being the well-organised and meticulous people they were, they had always paid for insurance for the house and contents over the years.
One day, there was an outbreak of fire in their home and the house was damaged extensively.
It turned out their policy had expired the previous week and for the first time in many years, they had forgotten to renew.
After some fancy footwork and negotiations, their policy was miraculously restored and they were able to rebuild the house.
If these incidents boosted my sentiments towards insurance, other incidents reinforced my antipathy towards insurance companies.
I have been insuring cars, and always comprehensively, since 1969.
In these 54 years, I have tried twice to make a claim and on both occasions the experience was not pleasant.
Someone vandalised my car and smashed my windscreen.
I put in a claim to replace the windscreen.
It was done after endless questioning and what was most important to my dismay, I lost my 50 per cent discount on premium payment because of my no-claim status which I had acquired over more than 25 years.
Proof, if any were needed, I thought, that everything was loaded against the policy holder.
My car was stolen in front of my sister’s home.
I tried to make a claim, the insurance company wrote to me that the car had not been stolen at my address.
We were still arguing over their ludicrous letter when the police found the car.
I am not quite sure where the resistance to taking insurance came from in our society.
I would have thought we would be attracted to the idea of a financial safety net that helps you and your loved ones recover after something bad happens, such as a fire, theft, flooding or car accident.
But on reflection, I am thinking that those who understand money better than me would be able to explain my puzzlement.
In many parts of the world, it would be unheard of to own a house and not have an insurance on it.
In this country, very few people take any insurance on their houses.
The difference, I suggest, lies in the difference between our understanding of home ownership.
When you live in the United Kingdom, for example, as I did, and you say you have bought a house or you own a house, as I did, up to 90 per cent or more of the cost of the house was most likely loaned to you by a bank or a mortgage company.
Over here in Ghana, the chances are that if I tell you this is my house, it is most likely fully paid for.
Yes, it would probably have taken me ten years or more to have built it, but once complete, I don’t owe any money on it.
If a bank or mortgage company has a stake in the house, they would insist I insure it, but once I don’t owe anyone, I am so relieved to have finished with the construction, paying for insurance does not rank highly on the things I have to do.
Houses are far more expensive than cars, yet I take a chance on not insuring the house and its contents, but I insure the car, I suspect because the law says I must insure my car.
Am I suggesting the insuring of houses be made compulsory by law? I don’t think so.
Our attitude to insuring our houses would probably change if we have a more sophisticated financial setup with mortgages instead of taking ten or more years to build and own our homes.
I wonder what will force us to accept to plan for the inevitable and unforeseen dangers in life.
Accidents happen all the time, disasters occur all the time, our markets are regularly going up in flames and traders’ stocks are reduced to ashes, we have our own share of miscreants in our society and stealing is part of our lives.
Why then are we so resistant to insuring our valuables against theft and damage.
Since there have been so many fires in our markets, why is the insuring of goods not part of our trading culture?
In other parts of the world, when there is an accident or disaster of any kind, the first call is to your insurance broker.
Here we call the FM Station and the President.