General Question

wundayatta's avatar

At what point do you become worth more dead than alive?

Asked by wundayatta (58604points) June 29th, 2009

This is a difficult question, because, if you don’t have one, you have to imagine that you have a family who you really care about, and would like to see situated well, should you die. I’m just wondering if anyone does have a point at which they would actually consider dying (making it look like an accident in a way that couldn’t be considered suicide so that your family could collect the insurance) so that their family could be very well provided for.

I’m sure a lot of people would say there is no amount of money that would be enough to make them willing to die. Let’s think of it another way, then. Under what circumstances would you be willing to die for someone else? Would you take a bullet for someone else? How important would they have to be? Would you die to protect your community or nation? Do you have to believe in the cause, or just believe in your superior officers?

Finally, if none of this works to make you consider this question, then imagine you are depressed, or feeling pretty worthless. Perhaps you are considering suicide anyway. How much money would make you willing to seal the deal?

Insurance companies have calculated the price of various limbs and parts and even life, when figuring out how to compensate families for the loss of a bread-winner who was working at the time of death. In California, it can be as much as $320,000. In Kansas it’s around $300,000. In Florida, the cap is $150,000.

Presumably these amounts are set so that no worker would have an incentive to deliberately have an accident in order to be worth more to their families dead than alive. Where do you think that line should be drawn?

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19 Answers

Grisaille's avatar

It’d have to be substantial to the point of ridiculousness. Every loved one I have/had/will have would have to be able to not work for the rest of their lives, be able to live full, comfortable lives.

I’m talking in the millions – if not billions.

As it stands, that ain’t going to happen (I don’t even have health/life insurance) so there is no need for me to kill myself off. I’d be more than happy to if I knew it would.

As for your question of whether or not I’d die for my community or nation, I’m joining the USMC in a year or so (dependent on a few factors… let’s hope it’s soon, I ain’t gettin’ any younger here). So yes.

As for if I had to believe in the cause or believe in my commanding officers, negative to both. I’m under the belief that there are two main people in this world (VERY crude and half-baked analogy, stick with me): the first is those who create art, shape society and make informed decisions; the other is those who “protect” them. I’m not nearly intelligent or eloquent enough to change the world with my ideology, theories and what have you (just look at this immature analogy I’m offering, for fuck’s sake) and I have no problem allowing others to do so. If that makes any sense.

Then there’s that whole existential part of me…

frigate1985's avatar

I think if it’s for your family or friends I would willingly die. Oh and about the Florida insurance cap. No wonder Florida has less incidents…
You could die of heat in Florida tho :p

Jeruba's avatar

I suppose it’s when you reach a point that your death benefits add up to more than you can reasonably expect to earn in the remainder of your working life, especially with the cost of your own maintenance figured in.

My mother told me that at a low point in his career, when he’d been out of work for some time, my grandfather set about deliberately trying to catch pneumonia so he could provide for his family with the insurance money. He said what you’re saying: “I’m worth more to you dead than alive.” It made my grandmother wring her hands and weep. This was back in the 1930’s. My mother said she remembered seeing him standing alone out in the rain, soaked and wretched, trying to commit passive suicide. It didn’t work, he didn’t get sick, and he did eventually end up with a respectable if not lucrative teaching position that took care of him until he retired many years later.

It’s a horrible question, though, because a person’s worth is never expressible in money. Your family would rather have you with them, no matter what, than see you trade your life with them for the right to file an insurance claim.

As for causes worth dying for, I see that as an entirely separate question. It is, isn’t it?

frigate1985's avatar

In the viewpoint of the person dying, a certain criteria for deciding the value of their death could be set up. however, the beneficiaries would never ever allow that.

The_Compassionate_Heretic's avatar

This is a grim question.

We get into trouble when we equate human life with monetary value. That simulataneously devalues human life while it over values the worth of money.

I don’t think there is a point where any sum of money trumps the value of a human life.

Grisaille's avatar

@The_Compassionate_Heretic That’s the thing, it IS about money as much as it is the value of human life… just not your own.

Money enables your loved ones to live happy lives – see what I’m getting at?

The_Compassionate_Heretic's avatar

@Grisaille I understand the concept. That’s just not a road I’m willing to go down.

nikipedia's avatar

In theory, aren’t I worth infinity dollars alive? As long as I’m alive I could invent something, write something, or even just win the lottery. My death worth is fixed, and once my hypothetical family gets X dollars they’re shit out of luck.

wundayatta's avatar

This is a grim question, but it occurred to me when I realized that insurance might be something that could push me over the edge, if I were depressed enough, as Jeruba’s Grandfather did. When I’m feeling good, there is no price. Life is much too important to me. I believe and know that my family would be devastated, and might never forgive me, no matter how much insurance they got. Although, if there’s any suspicion of suicide, they don’t get the insurance, anyway, so it wouldn’t be worth the trouble.

However, if I were depressed, the equation might change. I can’t really predict what I might think in that situation, but my mind keeps going to ten million dollars. It’s a stupid number, really—pretty arbitrary. I’d like to think that, even depressed, money wouldn’t make a difference.

However, insurers do have to put a monetary value on a life if they are to pay death benefits. These amounts are surprisingly low to me. Humans are much more that their earning power, of course. Can you put a price on the pain and suffering of people who loved the person who died? I suppose some people might be cheered up with money, but they it seems as if those people are pretty self-centered.

I don’t know. I guess perhaps no healthy person could answer this question. Yet, there have been people who have killed themselves for reasons besides depression. There are suicide bombers all over the world. Perhaps depression plays a role in their decision. I’m sure that depression would play a role in the decision of anyone who killed themselves for insurance money. Any figure given under such circumstances probably is as irrelevant as any other figure. It really isn’t about money. Still, money is a motivator to one degree or another.

Darwin's avatar

One problem is that money can allow your loved ones to live, but it can’t ensure that they live happily. What if your death, while financially a boon, were to destroy your family’s peace of mind? Would any amount of money be worth it to them to lose you?

hungryhungryhortence's avatar

When you are a criminal who’s brought nothing but destruction, trouble and pain to others and there is no hope of you ever being any other way.

Darwin's avatar

@hungryhungryhortence – Then it wouldn’t be you who decides you are worth more dead than alive, but someone else, possibly even your own family.

Jack79's avatar

I would certainly not die for $320,000, which I could easily make in 10 or at most 15 years working (I’m still 37). I might take a loan, die and not pay it, or rob a bank and go to jail, but it would certainly have to be several millions in order for me to even consider insurance fraud (and be sure that my daughter would collect it).

I am currently insured at 1mil euros ($1.2m), which is why certain people might want me dead, but I’m working on removing that temptation for them. If my daughter was really starving, and I was already quite old, and thought I had nothing more to offer her than the insurance money, then maybe I’d do it. I just feel that I could always make enough alive and also offer more by simply being there, than numbers in her bank account. At least I assume that’s what she’d like. Could be different in 50 years’ time.

Dog's avatar

Money does not equal happiness.

Two cases in point:

I have a friend whose father passed away unexpectedly when she was young leaving her well off. Her insecurity about losing men brought a string of bad relationships and heartache. She has never been happy that I can tell and now the money is running out and she does not know what to do.

The second story is my own. When my first spouse was killed I received an insurance check. Money is just paper. It cannot fill the empty hole left by the loss of a loved one. I would rather live in my car and panhandle than lose someone I love.

Bluefreedom's avatar

According to my life insurance policy and its beneficiary, I’ll be worth much more when I’m deceased as opposed to when I’m living (which is right now).

juwhite1's avatar

I don’t believe that money makes people happier. I’ve lived with plenty of money, and I’ve lived with very little money. I can’t say I am happier when I’m flush with cash than when I’ve struggled to figure out how to pay the bills. I also don’t have a single loved one who would be happier to have lost me in their lives for the gain of money. Perhaps that’s because I’ve very choosy about who I choose to let into my live, and who I choose to be close with, but I couldn’t possibly be as happy as I am today if I believed that my loved ones would be happier if I were dead and they were rich.

gooch's avatar

If I get like brain cancer because my job as horrible health care. I know I can not afford to get medical attention without going bankrupt and leaving my wife and three kids broke. Though my pension would go to my wife after death. So a rapid death like going SCUBA diving too deep and never surfacing would work out well. Also no funeral expenses.

Bobbilynn's avatar

Money doesn’t make you happy, but it sure helps a whole hell of a lot!! To die for someone or something, has nothing to do with happiness. The sure will to do something like that, I don’t have! I guess I’m selfish, but under no condition would I give up life for money! For anyone.

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