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Note this with your lucky pen: Don't let superstitions affect your insurance decisions

If you've ever thrown salt over your shoulder, fretted over a broken mirror or worried that buying life insurance will trigger the end of your life, you're not alone.

insurance superstitionsLos Angeles-based psychologist Nancy Irwin says it's common to buy into superstitions. "They give us hope, comfort and are even a little fun."

Superstitions can brighten a blue day, make unexpected happy moments a little happier and even make a person feel invincible. Superstitions can be fun and even beneficial if you use them as a motivator to stay healthy or practice safe-driving habits.

"Some people are superstitious about not turning on the car without everyone's seat belt being fastened," she says. "That's a great one because it will keep you safe." In most states, it will also help you avoid a traffic ticket.

But sometimes superstitions get the better of us – and lead us to bad financial decisions.

"When superstitions are given too much credit for something good or bad that happens, they can start to overtake your life," says Irwin.  

Superstitions about insurance

Superstitions aren't just for ladders, open umbrellas in the house or ends of the rainbow.

"Many people have very strong superstitions about aspects of their estate planning," observes Irwin. And that includes insurance.

 Some of the most common insurance-related superstitions are:

·     If I drop collision coverage on my car insurance policy, I'll get into an accident.

·     If I buy life insurance, I'll die.

·     I can't sign an insurance policy without my lucky pen.

·     If I insure my engagement ring (or other expensive, item), I'll lose it.

"Taking out a life insurance policy reminds us of our mortality," says Irwin. And even though purchasing a policy can't shorten your life, the thought that someday a family member will receive money due to your death can freak you out. "And lead to your mind playing tricks on you and have you thinking the policy is tied to your mortality," adds Irwin.

"Superstitions that insuring an engagement ring, antique watch or coin collection will result in loss are really fueled by fear," says C. Daniel Crosby, Ph.D., a corporate psychologist who works closely with financial advisors to help their clients avoid superstitious behavior and become more knowledgeable about the science of risk assessment.

"We worry that losing the item equals a loss of the memories or love of a person associated with the item," he adds. "So you'll go out of your way to avoid that painful loss." Even it if means making a possibly poor decision to not buy insurance for something.

Motivations for superstitions

“Superstitions are driven by one of a handful of reasons," says Crosby. He says these are the most common motivators for buying into superstitions.

We want to have a mental gift. People want to buy into the belief that they can predict the potential for good -- or bad -- things that happen to them. That makes us feel like we have some control in our lives and that nothing is left up to chance. "Research has shown people will pay $8.67 for a Lotto ticket that they have chosen as opposed to $1.96 for a Lotto ticket they have not chosen, even if the odds are the same, because they feel they're skilled in choosing the right numbers," he says.

We are emotional. Fear and hope are two major players in the game of superstition. "We want something like an item, ritual or action to have the power to calm fears or prolong joy," says Crosby.

We are followers. "Sometimes we behave superstitiously because we see others experiencing success or fighting off failure because of a superstition," he explains. For instance, your sister gets into a car accident after a black cat crosses her path or your friend receives a new discount on his home insurance policy while wearing his lucky sweater.

Keeping it in check

To keep superstitions from taking over your insurance choices, Crosby suggests taking a deep breath. "Give your head a chance to catch up with logic. In most cases, you'll realize that taking out the policy or dropping the collision coverage makes sense." 

Irwin advises questioning your own underlying belief in a superstition. "If good things happened when you use your ‘lucky’ pen, try to recall if good things also happened when you didn't use it. Or make a mental list of the people you know or have heard of who've lived long lives but had life insurance."

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