A Life’s Worth
Last night I watched the movie Worth starring Michael Keaton. He plays the Special Master of the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund and is faced with the impossible task of developing a formula for each payout based on the victim’s income. To add to the pressure, he is told that if he cannot convince at least 80% of the 7,000 estimated victims to sign on then they will be eligible to file a lawsuit which they may lose — which could result in the airlines being sued, leading to financial disaster.
So how much is a life worth? It’s an interesting question. Actuaries who work for insurance companies think they’ve figured it out. They plug in a victim’s age, statistical lifespan, and salary into a spreadsheet and out pops a number associated with their loss of lifetime earnings. Using this methodology, the life of a CEO is worth more than a janitor — and it’s a safe bet the CEO has more debt as well.
But how do you measure the emotional impact a death has on family members? You certainly can’t calculate that in a spreadsheet. If they were the sole breadwinner of the family, the impact is even more devastating.
Your current salary and future earning potential is only one measure of your life’s worth. The other is the impact your life has on others — and that is the best legacy you can ever leave.