For 40 years, Helen Moosmann has saved $2,000 at US Federal Credit Union to help pay for her casket and other funeral expenses. Her late husband, Ralph, told her to “never, ever” touch that money because of a special life insurance policy that would pay double that amount when she died.
“He wanted to make sure I was taken care of,” said Moosmann, who’s 92, healthy and living at home in north Minneapolis.
Last week Moosmann received a phone call informing her that the Burnsville-based credit union and CUNA Mutual Group, which administers the policy, were no longer going to honor it after Dec. 31.
The terms of CUNA’s policy allows it to cancel at any time. But that hasn’t sat well with Moosmann, one of nearly 1,500 affected members at US Federal Credit Union and untold others at the 1,250 other credit unions nationwide.
Since 1938, CUNA has offered the “life savings insurance” to credit unions and its members nationwide. Moosmann opened her account in 1973, when she was 51. The benefits from the policy have changed over time, but Moosmann qualified for the maximum of 100 percent coverage of her $2,000 deposit upon her death.
The credit unions were the policyholders and paid the premiums for the members who wanted to participate.
Phil Tschudy, a spokesman with Wisconsin-based CUNA, said the program was not “sustainable going forward.” Tschudy said that in recent years, the demand for the life savings product has fallen about 10 percent annually and the number of credit unions offering the policy has dwindled.
“I can certainly sympathize with the 92-year-old woman in this situation,” Tschudy said. “We felt it was in the best interest of the policyholders going forward, that this was a decision we had to make.”
Sandy Bellm, Moosmann’s daughter, said CUNA ignored those most affected by this decision: seniors.
“How can they just change the whole thing?” Bellm said. “It’s the same thing as a pension. I understand if they are not going to offer it anymore, but they can’t take that away and say it’s not feasible.”
Moosmann said her family has never lived a lavish life. When their two daughters were growing up, they didn’t go out much, except for the occasional drive-in movie. After they moved out, Moosmann and her husband went out to eat once a week.
“We never splurged,” Moosmann said.
Her husband, a retired Air Force pilot and postal worker, handled all their expenses and opened the account in his wife’s name.
Bellm said the couple could have used the $2,000 to help pay for a new furnace or other needs around the home. But whenever they wanted to withdraw from the account, the credit union warned them that their benefit would suffer. So they left the money alone. Ralph Moosmann died in 2000.
The “Life Savings Certificate of Insurance” CUNA provided to Moosmann through US Federal Credit Union says the group policy can be stopped at any time “by either CUNA Mutual Group or the Credit Union.” It also says members have the right to convert the insurance to a different policy.
Tschudy said CUNA is offering a different insurance product that has the same coverage, but Moosmann would have to pay a $550 premium each year to get the $2,000 payout.
“The decision to exit any product is not made lightly, but to best serve our policyholders, it is imperative we focus our attention and resources on products that credit unions have told us are core to their business,” Tschudy said.
Greg Berry, vice president/risk management officer for US Federal Credit Union, said nearly 1,500 of its 70,000 members will be affected by the change. He called the life savings insurance a “goodwill offering.”
Bellm said US Federal Credit Union offered Moosmann a certificate of deposit with an added 1 percent interest rate.
“How long would that have to sit there for her to get to $2,000?” Bellm said.