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Customer Review

35 of 35 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars This is a Great Great Book and I Would Make it a Point to Read It, July 13, 2008
This review is from: High Wire: The Precarious Financial Lives of American Families (Hardcover)
This is a GREAT book and I would encourage every citizen of America to read it, young or old. It's actually a hair-raising book. Well researched and each chapter has a personal, true life story of a family or individual that has been challenged with the topic being discussed.

Since the other reviews to date go over the book, I want to share what I took from it. First, I got out all my insurance policies after reading the chapters on how the insurance industry has slowly & slyly sandbagged us consumers. I read them with a fine tooth comb and voila! wouldn't you know it - just like the author said they were doing, well that is what they are doing. Sneaky company (and this is one of the Big Three property/casualty companies in California and the rest of the country) well guess what, they did exactly what the author said they were doing - changing the terms of the policy in such a way that the ordinary consumer, you & me, who (unfortunately) trust our agents so well ... are/were clueless that this got by us. Yep they changed me from the Guaranteed Replacement coverage on my home to the Limited Replacement + some percentage of cost overrun. And it got by me and I'm pretty smart (at least I thought I was). Just as it has probably gotten by most of you too. I called my agent last month and he told me it was the best policy money could by, Limited but with a 150% total replacement ratio, and furthermore the company I was considering replacing them with, well they had a reputation of quoting low and then next year WHAM they would sock it to me. I don't think so because that company is the one used exclusively by AARP and I just don't think AARP would stand for that kind of treatment. But back to my agent .. funny, but my policy said ... 125%. My agent disagreed with me and spoke to me in such a way that I would never want to go look further. But I did look further and HE WAS WRONG. I called the Home Office and got clarification and it is 125%. MY AGENT DIDN'T KNOW WHAT HE SOLD ME and my agent has been my agent since 1988 - or my agent wants that commission. He's a nice guy, I really don't know. But I'm not asking him. I got very angry when I realized that I had been sandbagged and g-d forbid if my house did burn to the ground, I would end up paying out of pocket over $200,000 to rebuild it just as it is.

Just as many of the Oakland/San Diego and other parts of California that have faced total losses have had to do.

The case studies in the book are all the same - about how the families of Oakland and San Diego fires really took it on the chin. The losses above the policy limits were/are staggering. Guess what, with rare exception, I'll bet you a zillion bucks that if you are reading this review or the book, chances are you are grossly underinsured.

I changed that. I changed companies and policies in the last 2 weeks. And surprisingly, between my car, home and umbrella policy, I went DOWN $600/year in premium along with going up from $1M to $2M in my umbrella. That was worth the book right there.

Then on to the ERISA chapters. What a shocker. I really was stunned at what I read. Imagine this law, passed to protect US the workers, in reality does not protect anyone except the insurance companies. Coincidentally there was a story in the LA Times last week about a woman whose 30-yr old husband died and was covered with $400,000 in his group life policy through his job. Guess what, the company and the insurance company refused to pay the death benefit even though the deceased employee paid the premiums for over the 3 years he worked there. The widow sued in state court, the insurance company knows its rights and got it into federal court (because this is ERISA) and the grieving widow was ordered by court to get the premiums paid returned to her and no payment for the policy. And it is not appealable. Who in the world ever knew that? Did you? I didn't. Does this mean that all life insurance policies through your job won't get paid? I guess I was lucky when my dad died 21 years ago because his group life policy did pay me. But then again my dad owned the company so suspect they didn't want to futz with that claim. However the gall of the company to deny the claim and then the courts, under ERISA precedent rulings, denying the payment. I almost fell off my chair. This is just as the author described is happening in the book.

So if ERISA is undermining employee's benefits (and this includes health coverage too, not just pensions, IRA's & other employer provided plans, employer offered disability and the rest of the benefits of the job) and if ERISA is stripping all our rights of we workers, what is left?

The chapters and stories on employeer provided disability coverage almost left me in tears. I usually shed tears only when reading fiction. This was just a scandalous nightmare to read. But I believe it. And the reason I believe it is that my former husband went blind in his last job due to a detached retina-like condition and his privately held disability company policy (coincidentally the same one talked about in the book) denied him his benefits for close to 4 years. Good thing my ex is an attorney and could take them on. 4 YEARS. While my ex is an attorney what he wasn't able to do was to pull money for living expenses out of a hat along with a few rabbits. He ended up on the brink of bankruptcy with this stunt the company pulled. How an attorney that goes blind can continue to be a litigator and read his briefs is beyond me - and the disability company plays the 'let's see who can hold out the longest' game.

This really is sick stuff.

I realize this is a long review. But I decided to list real life stories to support exactly what this book is all about. I have to say, anybody reading this review that is thinking about buying the book, STOP NOW and buy this book. I came upon it at Borders by accident, it was shelved under Economics and not my favorite category which is Investments - and I don't really like economics, but this is an easy & engrossing book to read. And the time has now come at this passage of time in our history that the public, ALL OF US, need to get our heads out of the sand and meet these challenges head on, informed, and not stupidly ignorant. Ignorance costs and at this point of our historical times, NOBODY can afford to be ignorant anymore.

Please read the book. And thank you for reading this review.
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Showing 1-1 of 1 posts in this discussion
Initial post: May 29, 2011 12:02:06 PM PDT
It's the nature of capitalism to make profits and reduce costs.
It is always a fight but the lesson to learn is to identify propaganda.
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