Sara&mac OpenerEmily Henderson_Sara Tramp House_Haven Life Insurance1

People tell you that buying a home is hard. They also tell you that renovating a home is both emotionally and financially draining. They even tell you that you won’t believe it until you’re doing it yourself. But I think humans are programmed to ignore that kind of information until they’re actually going through it themselves, otherwise we’d never do anything, right? BUT WOW RENOVATING A HOUSE REALLY IS EMOTIONALLY AND FINANCIALLY DRAINING. I’m just yelling for the people in the back. The whole process also brings up a lot of weird emotions and thoughts. I’m really lucky to be doing this alongside a great human (I’m talking about Macauley, not my work wife Velinda, though she’s pretty great, too). This post might get a little mushy, so try and stay with me and you’ll be rewarded with a sneak peek of our FINAL design boards for the living room and dining room at the end. I’m literally squirming with excitement for you all to see it. But first…

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This guy right here, he’s pretty amazing. 2020 will mark 8 years for us. It’s hard to imagine liking someone THIS much for THIS long, but then I think about him and I’m like “yeah, yeah I get it.” Listen, I don’t need grief about how 8 years is nothing from those of you who have been together like 35 years (I’m looking at you mom and dad). For us, eight years feels like an accomplishment. But it also feels like in a lot of ways we’re just getting our life together started. Of those 8 years, we’ve only been living together for 3 of them. I mean, I know people who have gotten married or had kids in less than three years. And we’re starting to get into the real nitty-gritty of co-lifeing, like figuring out how to share bills and signing legal documents together. Our first apartment together was a dream…

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photo by tessa neustadt for ehd | from: sara’s living room reveal

But buying and renovating a house together is one of the most adult things I can think of. And once you start tearing down walls and ripping out floors, you’d be surprised at what other real-life adult things can pop to the front of your brain. For me, this thing was life insurance. 

We really value honesty here at EHD, and we like being upfront with you all whenever we are sharing sponsored content. So yes, this is a sponsored post about life insurance. Sponsored posts are a big part of how we support the content we create (like this series about my house!), and we love working with companies that not only align with our values but who also believe in the work we do! But the second, more important part of this equation is the fact that life insurance is a subject I was actually already researching. When Caitlin said Haven Life (an online life insurance agency that we’ve worked with in the past) had reached out about the possibility of collaborating again, I was like “ME! PICK ME! I can write about this.”

When I brought it up with my parents to get their advice, they were a little surprised I was already thinking about something like life insurance (they both have life insurance policies). Mac and I don’t have kids, we’re not married yet, and our debts (not including our house) are pretty minimal at best with some student debt and car loans. But that house, man…it suddenly meant our individual low-debt lives have become a single, intertwined LARGE debt. We really do look at this house as an investment in our future together. Possibly as our forever home, but more likely as a stepping stone to something bigger and better. We were also careful not to get into a mortgage that we couldn’t reasonably pay. But that’s hoping for the best-case scenarios (neither of us getting hurt, losing our jobs, or something else unpredictable), because our mortgage is something that relies on both of our incomes to afford. And all of this got me thinking seriously about what would happen if something were to happen to either of us.

My interest in life insurance is a two-part equation. First, we had a slight but very real brush with that “worst case” scenario with our apartment fire in December 2017.

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When I was woken up at 4 am to the sounds of people yelling and the smell of smoke, I have to admit that my first instinct wasn’t “we’ll pull through this stronger than before, and it will eventually lead to us owning our first home.” My first thought was “OUR CHRISTMAS TREE IS ON FIRE” followed closely by “what if we don’t get out?” Both were very scary thoughts, but the second one is the one that still haunts me. I can’t even drink mezcal anymore because the smokey flavor triggers this pit of anxiety in my stomach. If there’s one thing that fire taught me, it was that it’s very easy to think “the worst” will never happen to you… until it does. I’m not trying to be dramatic, and that fire did not end in a worst-case scenario. Both Mac and I are fine, our cats are fine, and we’ve landed very much on our feet. However, having the living room of your beautiful apartment charred like a hot dog left on the grill too long definitely wasn’t an ideal way to kick off 2018. We made the best of it though:


The second part of the equation is seeing life insurance in action. Sadly, I’ve experienced first hand the sudden and unexpected death of a loved one. I won’t go into too much detail because it’s an extremely personal story and one that is not solely mine to share. What I will say is this—an unexpected death is unimaginable grief wrapped up with scrambling to figure things out, plus huge piles of paperwork, legal documents, and bills. And none of those things wait for your grief to subdue (it can take years to find any semblance of a “new normal”). BUT I’ve also seen how beneficial having even a small life insurance policy can be for grieving loved ones. In fact, in the specific situation I’m referring to, the proceeds from the life insurance policy are still proving wildly important to the family’s financial stability, and I don’t know what they would have done without it.

If the worst were to happen to me, the last thing I would want for Mac to be thinking about is how he’s going to pay the mortgage on our house or being forced to quickly sell the house and move amidst the emotional turmoil. (In this scenario, I’m going to assume for my own self-esteem that he would be in emotional turmoil after losing me). I would want Mac to be able to choose, in his own time, what he’d like to do with the house. And because we own a house together, but we’re not married, I want to set up systems that protect him. Life insurance is one of those because I can choose to list him as a primary beneficiary. But it extends beyond Mac. I would want my parents and grandmother to be paid back their share of the down payment if Mac decided to keep the home, which is why they would also be set as primary beneficiaries with a specific amount allocated to them. That way, they can help my brother buy his first home in the future. It turns out that there are many other good reasons for life insurance, beyond being a parent with children.

And as I’ve been doing my research, Haven Life’s site has been one of my favorites. It’s wildly user-friendly and super easy to navigate. It also doesn’t hurt that they are backed and wholly owned by MassMutual, a nearly 170-year-old insurer with a long history of financial strength. It’s really simple to get an initial estimate for coverage. You can adjust the different areas like your health rating and the amount of coverage you’re looking for until you find a Haven Term policy that you think could work for you:

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With the quote tool, I was able to see that Mac and I could each purchase a policy that would cover the cost of our home (plus some) for about $35 a month for me and $45 a month for him. $80 a month total isn’t bad for our peace of mind. I know that $80 a month may not fit everyone’s budget, but for us, I would really want to make a few budgetary changes to make it work. Next, I went further and filled out the life insurance application (which took about 15 minutes total). Once completed, I got my final rate, and it was exactly the same as my initial quote. The benefit of starting a life insurance plan now (not too young, not too old) is that my health is still in really good shape, and I’m able to get an affordable rate that I can lock in for the next 30 years.

I was instantly approved for coverage and didn’t need to take a medical exam (this is not always the case, though, as most applicants do. Regardless, the process is quick; it’s several weeks with other, less digital options.)

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Here are some nuts and bolts about what a term life insurance policy gets you:

  • Term life insurance provides a simple, affordable way to help financially protect your loved ones. This type of life insurance coverage lasts for a fixed period of time—typically 10, 15, 20 or 30 years. You have coverage in place during the years your loved ones need it most, until the mortgage is paid off (like us) or the kids are adults. 
  • Like other kinds of life insurance, term life guarantees a financial payout to your beneficiaries during the designated time frame in exchange for your regular monthly premium payments. That payout is often tax-free and paid in a lump sum.
  • Most term life policies offer guaranteed level premiums. All this means is that your monthly rate is locked in and will not change (which is GREAT). If your monthly premium for a 30-year term policy is $35 when you sign up, then it will be $35 next month, next year and so on… right up to the end of the term even as you age. That also means that if your needs change as the years go on, say you have children or you buy a bigger home with a larger mortgage, you’ll need to revisit your life insurance needs and potentially purchase an additional policy.
  • Once your term length is up, coverage ends. You don’t get the money back that you paid in premiums because like car insurance, for example, you’re paying for coverage in case something does go wrong. You do have an option to renew your coverage once the term is up, but premium pricing is much more expensive. So it’s more cost-effective to revisit your life insurance needs periodically and buy an additional policy if it’s needed.

Not everyone needs life insurance. It’s a personal choice that usually happens once there’s someone who relies on your financial contribution in some capacity. It’s one of those things you pay into hoping you never have to use it, but life is unpredictable and having seen first hand how important a safety net can be, it’s something I’m seriously considering for myself. Mac and I are on a very strict budget right now, and probably for a while. But for us, life insurance feels like something worth working into our budget. I buy too many $5 turmeric lattes anyways.

We’re really turning this house into our HOME, which makes me even more anxious to protect the future of it. And the design process so far has been making it all worth it. Finally being able to pick out pieces is giving us a light at the end of the tunnel. And I know you’re all excited and anxious to see what final decisions have been made. So, without further ado, here is our FINAL design/furniture board for both our living room and our dining room!

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Arched Mirror from Rejuvenation | Fireplace Hearth Tile from Bedrosians | Ceiling Light from Rejuvenation | Custom Roman Shade from Decorview | Velvet Sofa from CLAD Home | Rug (Vintage) | Coffee Table from Blu Dot | Leather Chairs from Blu Dot | Standing Lamp from Article | Nantucket Front Door from Simpson | Monoprints from A.E.U. | Vintage Bar Cart from Sunbeam Vintage | Hanging Pendant from Target | Portrait Print by Stephanie Kurth | Bar Cabinet from All Modern | Dining Table from Lulu and Georgia | Vintage Dining Chairs from Amsterdam Modern | Bench from Rejuvenation | Vintage Rug from Esmaili Rugs

We have yet to add that final layer (art, accessories, textiles—including bringing some green into the dining room), but there you go! Our brand new living room and dining room in 2D. The pieces aren’t even in my house yet and I’m already in love with all of them. This process is getting me so wildly excited to really move into our home and start enjoying it. But there are a few more steps before we get there (like adding quarter-inch to all of our baseboards, which is a very fun task I’ve relegated to my brother). Stay tuned… and thank you Velinda (our designer and friend) and EHD for inventing this series.

And an extra big thank you to Haven Life for supporting this series. If you’ve ever even been curious about what the benefits of life insurance are or how much it might cost you I highly recommend heading over to their site and starting with the quick quote tool. It took me two minutes but started a very important and needed conversation between Mac and me about the steps we can take to protect each other.


***Thanks to Haven Life who sponsored this post and allows us to continue to bring original content to you every day. Thank you for supporting the brands that support us.

Haven Term is a Term Life Insurance Policy (DTC and ICC17DTC in certain states, including NC) issued by Massachusetts Mutual Life Insurance Company (MassMutual), Springfield, MA 01111-0001 and offered exclusively through Haven Life Insurance Agency, LLC. Policy and rider form numbers and features may vary by state and may not be available in all states. In NY, Haven Term is DTC-NY. In CA, Haven Term is DTC-CA. Our Agency license number in California is OK71922 and in Arkansas, 100139527.

The post Sara’s House: On Making “Adult” Decisions + A Look at the Final Design Plan appeared first on Emily Henderson.

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