Tom Vartabedian /29/vartabedian-insurance-rhetoric/
Mon, Mar 29 2010

It finally arrived-the books I had expected for a whole year but
didn't order. It was nothing you'd find at a Borders or inside your
friendly library. Matter of fact, it only cost me $50,000.

That's my investment into a life insurance policy, and as a way of
keeping subscribers updated the company each year sends out its annual
reports. Three of them.

They arrived inside a large white envelope barely able to fit in
my mailbox. I could have used it for a weight-training exercise or
certainly as a stepstool for those hard-to-reach places.

The first volume contained 70 pages of assets and liabilities so
intricate, a certified public accountant would be mesmerized over it,
never mind a layperson.

The second volume included a mishmash of variable annuities that did
nothing to capture my attention. I know nothing about the trustees
and officers and when they send me a proxy notice, also included is
a suggested nominating list of officers.

"The Board recommends the following candidates," and all you do is
fill in the box. I have no interest in attending the annual convention
in Texas, especially when I have no idea how this portfolio works.

To make matters worse, even the policy is ambiguous. It's made up of
words too big to understand and type too small to read. All I know
is this. Should I kick off, my spouse will be well sustained.

The third volume is a management discussion, compounded by financial
analysis, a statement of operations, comparison charts, and ad

The only line that made any sense to me was the very last: "Printed
on recycled paper." And that's exactly where it went, into the recycle
bin-all 1,000 pages of it.

I'll catch some grief over this. Because I'm insensitive to all this
rhetoric, there are others around me who feel I should put this on
my required reading list.

"There's no harm in educating yourself," they tell me. "They send it
to you for a reason."

Not on my time, please. Someone must sit inside an office and write
this stuff up. They probably get a decent salary, too. I cannot
imagine an ordinary person doing this. For 40 years, I've written
stories for a living and words tend to come easy for me.

As a technical writer entrusted to put out these annual volumes, I'm
afraid I'd be stuck right from the outset. For me, it's like hearing
two surgeons discussing a new medical formula or two scientists
expounding upon the virtues of nuclear physics.

I recall once asking my engineer son to show me a sample of his work.

He smiled at the thought. "It would make no sense to you, Dad,"
he warned me.

He pulled a report from his briefcase and gave it to me. It was like
reading a Greek menu with sunglasses on. Had I turned the page upside
down, I may have had better luck.

I have no tolerance for mail I cannot understand, let alone reports
from my insurance company that inform me the "total return is
the change in value of an investment over a given period, assuming
reinvestment of any dividends and capital gain distributions expressed
as a percentage of the initial investment."

What? Come again.

That's enough to make you cower with ignorance and move on to a more
defining read from someone like Sparks, Patterson, or Albom. I saw
no authors listed for the annual reports. Somebody deserves to get
the credit-or discredit.

I'm wondering how many legislators bothered to acquaint themselves
over the new healthcare reform bill before they cast a vote. I was
of the understanding this report contained 2,000 pages. Anything that
long is either ludicrous or superfluous in my opinion.

Especially if it's 2,000 pages of verbiage designed to send the senses
swirling. Too bad there isn't an abridged version.

Hardly a week goes by when I'm not receiving statements from my
investment company. They keep me posted as to what I've gained and
lost over the previous month. The only line worth digesting is "the
bottom line."

It does me no good to see what company lost money or posted a gain when
my investment is in a broker's hands and he's the one manipulating
my account. I do have a rather systematic filing system but perhaps
I should have a better grip on my holdings.

I suppose I should feel fortunate in this age of economic strife that
at least I have some security to keep me buoyant and that I didn't
hand my entire life's worth over to Bernie Madoff or some other quack.

I wonder if he ever read any of those manuals.