Building The LTC Bridge

bridgingthegap

By: Mark D. Milbrod, CLU-Nov. 2016
Principal, Agent Support Group

By now we have all heard the argument for Long Term Care Insurance.  We know how important it is and why our clients should have it.  The irony is that 95% of the people that should have it don’t, and if a Long Term Care event happens, 95% or all of what someone has built over their lifetime can be gone before you know it.

So, why aren’t we selling more of it?  The truth is that it is a very emotional sale and most people will back off for many reasons, but primarily because it is too expensive and people would much rather spend that money on other things.   There are a host of other objections/excuses that are thrown out to us, such as:

  • “I’m in good health. I’m going to live a long time and won’t need it”
  • “No one in my family as ever needed it”
  • “I’ll drop dead suddenly and not need any on-going care”
  • “I can give away our assets and have the government pay”
  • “I can invest the money and make out better “
  • “My medical insurance will pay”
  • “My kids will take care of me”
  • “I’ll deal with it when the time comes”
  • “I’ll put some extra money away”

Do any of these sound familiar?  I’m sure they do.  What many people don’t realize is that when something does happen, and statistically 6 out of 10 people will require some degree of long term care in their lifetime, it is often financially devastating to the family.  Aside from the emotional toll, savings, retirement plans and homes can be lost.

There are a number of ways to help protect against the financial threat of Long Term Care.  Obviously Traditional LTC Policies are available or the Blended Life Alternatives, such as MoneyGuard and Nationwide Care Matters ( in most states but not NY).  The rates are guaranteed to never change, premiums are paid on a limited basis( single pay or up to a ten pay) and death benefits are possible in most states even if the benefits are exhausted for LTC.   But the product that has been growing in popularity is The Life Insurance Policies with Long Term Care Riders (LTCR’s).  These are available on a GUL or IUL chassis.  What makes these so popular is the fact that unlike a traditional LTC policy, the premiums are guaranteed to never change and if you never go on claim, there is a death benefit ultimately paid to a beneficiary.

These are great policies to sell to clients in their late 30’s and 40’s.  The rates are so inexpensive now that it pays to take care of this planning scenario today.  But the bigger picture is that these clients have parents who are in their 50’s, 60’s and even 70’s.  Does that generation have adequate assets to protect them (or their families) from the threat of a Long Term Care event?

Simply stated, we are living longer today.  With advances in modern medicine, conditions that had previously caused  “sudden deaths” are now resulting in prolonged life that impairs health to the extent that there is a potential need for long term care.  The “older age” segment of our population, which is considered to be 85 and older, is the fastest growing age group in the country.   In fact, over 50% of that age group is receiving some form of long term care.  By 2035, it is predicted that the over 65 population will double to approximately 77 million.  Furthermore, when it comes to provided care, over 75% of the daily care hours are provided in home by family members.

So, when we look back at some of those excuses people have for not buying some type of long term care protection, who will be affected most by those inactions?  The answer is, those clients today that have parents in their 50’s, 60’s and 70’s.  Would it not make perfect sense to bring the topic up to them since statistically something is going to happen to their parents in the foreseeable future?   By planning now, you can help Generation 2:

  • protect against potential loss of future inheritances
  • protect against fire sales
  • protect against lost wages while caring for a parent
  • assure the dignity of loved ones
  • and most of all, mitigate or eliminate the financial burdens associated with the emotional strain of caring for a loved one during a prolonged illness.

Most advisors think they are not in the LTC Market with clients that are in their 30’s and 40’s, but they really are.  It’s all in how you perceive it.  Not only can you help them plan now for their own future while the costs are low but you can Build a Bridge to assist them with an event that can potentially impact them more profoundly, their parent’s long term care event.

 

Find more of Mark’s Bark’s Blogs on our website: http://www.asglife.com/insurance-view/marks-barks-blog/

marks-barks-blog-logo i_forgot

By: Mark D. Milbrod, CLU
Partner, Agent Support Group-October Blog

 

One of the most underused planning tools is The Single Premium Immediate Annuity (or SPIA).    They are extremely versatile and be used effectively in so many sales scenarios.  We find ourselves explaining the benefits to so many advisors who have not yet used the SPIA to its maximum potential.

They are particularly helpful in our current economic cycle.   The payouts are based on life expectancy so the older you are, the higher the income is.  The income is guaranteed so the market risk factor is taken out of the equation.  There are a number of scenarios where you can use them effectively…

Market Downturns

In the case where you have clients that have lost money in the market and have not fully recovered, SPIAs are a great way of making up the difference without risk.    The downturns probably impacted their ultimate desired amount of retirement income and a SPIA can be utilized to fill in those gaps and possibly put them back to where they planned on being.

Tax Planning

One of the major benefits of SPIAs  is the taxation element.  When you start receiving income, you are taxed on only the amounts coming out on an annual basis.  In addition, with non-qualified assets, a large majority of the income is considered a return of basis and therefore not taxable.  Only a small portion of the income is considered taxable.  Also, once you annuitize, the corpus is out of your taxable estate.  This can be particularly helpful for estate tax inclusion.

SPIA/Life Combo

If clients have non-qualified funds that are not needed, you can take income (annuitize), pay the tax and with the net income, make gifts and  purchase trust owned life insurance outside of the taxable estate.  This technique is extremely helpful with respect to transferring assets to the next generation.

RMD Scenarios

For clients that are taking Required Minimum Distributions (RMDs) from IRA assets when they turn 70½, SPIAs can be a helpful tool.  The qualified funds can be annuitized and the income generated will be fully taxable on an annual basis but the corpus of money will be out of the taxable estate.  In this scenario, the net proceeds (out of the IRA), can be used to purchase life insurance.  The net result is a significant amount of income tax savings and the heirs can ultimately receive a greater amount of assets tax free.

Competing with Guaranteed Income Benefit Riders

There is a lot of talk about the Guaranteed Income Benefit Riders on Variable Annuities.   Often times if you compare the Guaranteed Income payouts to that of a SPIA, the SPIA incomes are guaranteed on a higher level.  It is worth comparing if you have any situations like this.

Longevity Planning

One of the major concerns of people today is outliving their retirement assets.    A huge benefit of a SPIA is that you cannot outlive the income stream.  Whether you live 5 years or 50 years, the income will continue for your lifetime. This can easily be set up for a husband and wife so that the income will continue until the second spouse passes.

Multi-Generational Gifts

SPIAs can also be used to pay income on the life of multiple annuitants.  Perhaps a grandparent wants to provide income to a grandchild.  Funds can be deposited into an annuity with both listed as annuitants.  Even after the grandparent passes, income can continue for the life of the grandchild.   This can be a great way of being remembered for years to come.

As you can see, the SPIA can be used in a number of ways.  The income can be based on one life or multiple lives.  They key is to know the versatility that this product offers and how you can help your clients with a number of planning scenarios.  The tax favored treatment of most distributions is what really makes the SPIA so attractive.

So, don’t forget about this Forgotten Planning Tool.  It will definitely open many opportunities.

Find more of Mark’s Bark’s Blogs on our website: http://www.asglife.com/insurance-view/marks-barks-blog/

The Static Around Us

LifeInsuranceMarksBlog09-08-2016by: Mark D. Milbrod, CLU
Partner, Agent Support Group

Here we are again, the summer is over, our kids are back in school and we find ourselves once again in the big push to meet our goals for the year.  On a daily basis, we are inundated with so much static; NFL players refusing to stand for our national anthem, Pokemon hunting, a backlash against law enforcement and how can we forget the craziest election season we have ever encountered.  It is also a tumultuous time in our industry. Its seems that every week we hear about carriers raising COI’s, product re-pricings or some other negative news story such as one that aired on a popular weekly news program stating that the very carriers we represent deliberately are not paying their claims.  All of this is troublesome, but can all distract us from what really matters.  After all, it is Life Insurance Awareness Month and what we do is so vital to the countless numbers of families that require our services. The trick is to not get caught up in the static and focus on what really matters.

With that in mind and in the spirit of Life Insurance Awareness Month, I thought it was a great time to repeat the content from an earlier blog post, The Top Ten Life Insurance Mistakes That People Make

  1. Naming Estate as Beneficiary or Improper Policy Ownership

One of the most common mistakes is naming an insureds estate as the beneficiary.  This causes inclusion of the death benefit proceeds in the insureds taxable estate.  Also, the assets become part of probate and you can lose the umbrella of creditor protection.  Sometimes this happens as a result of an originally named beneficiary(ies)  pre-deceasing an insured. A change is never made to replace a primary or contingent beneficiary designation resulting in a “default” naming the insureds estate.  In addition, a large number of policies are owned by an insured instead of a trust, spouse or children.  This too can cause issues as they relate to adverse  taxation.

  1. Believing Group Life Insurance is Portable

A common objection people have when it comes to purchasing individual life insurance is the reliance on group term insurance.  People often overlook the fact that group insurance is usually limited to small amounts and is not portable if they leave their current  employer. It is also mostly made up of term insurance and unlikely to extend beyond a finite number of years.

  1. Failure to have annual review of Life Insurance

Simply put, needs change.  Life insurance needs periodically change along with status changes such as marriages, birth of children, etc.  Auto and Homeowner policies are reviewed annually, so why not life insurance.  An annual review of life insurance can assure that as needs change, you are keeping up with the pace of those changes.  Also, there have been product enhancements such as Long Term Care Riders and Extended Guarantees that may not be addressed with current coverages.

  1. Sticker Shock effects your decision

Some folks get sticker shock when seeing what the proper amount of life insurance costs.  Most people often reduce the amount of coverage needed to fit into a budget.  That’s a huge mistake!  I am a large proponent of selling to need rather than cost.  There are many ways to ladder the costs so that need is not sacrificed.   Always ask if they would be worse off without it?  The Pros of a well constructed Needs Analysis far out way the Cons.

  1. Waiting to buy Life insurance

Waiting to purchase life insurance is never a good idea.  The needs are ‘NOW.”  So waiting to purchase it is not wise.  Besides, health can change and insurability can become a factor.  Even if there was not a change in health, premiums will increase as you get older and   “The Cost of Waiting” is never on your side.

  1. Cancelling/Lapsing old coverage before new is purchased

Another common mistake is letting a current policy lapse prior to putting new insurance inforce.   A lot can happen in the period of time that it takes to buy new insurance.  Always make sure that there is never a gap in coverage while applying for a new policy.  Your old policy may have had better rates than what you can currently qualify for or there can be a health event or death occur in the interim.

  1. Buying the cheapest policy

Just because a particular policy is “cheaper” than another, don’t let clients be swayed by the less expensive option.  Today, more than ever, it is important to know the carrier behind the policy.  It can be something as simple as financials but other things like convertability options and policy service history can be a huge part of the decision process.

  1. Under valuing a “non-working” spouse

Often times, a “non-working” spouse is ignored during the life insurance conversation.  The importance of a non-working spouse to the financial stability of a family is often overlooked.  As an example, what would it cost to hire someone to take care of dependent children if the non-working spouse/caregiver predeceases the working spouse?  A properly designed life insurance benefit could allow funds for those expenses and/or provide options to the surviving spouse to take time off from work to be there for his/her family.  Keep in mind that there are some carriers that will allow for a “non-working” spouse to obtain the same face amount regardless of income.

  1. Under estimating your family’s life insurance need

In the information age, most everything is purchased via the internet, even life insurance.  Even if someone purchases life insurance on-line, it is doubtful that they have enough coverage.   A properly trained Financial Advisor/Insurance Agent understands what “the right amount” of coverage should be.  In most cases, people buy small amounts of life insurance (i.e. $250,000, $500,000).  We all know that those amounts will be gone before you know it.  Then what happens?  Perhaps a mortgage is paid off with a lump sum, but then there are normal living expenses to contend with and future obligations to meet.  This is when the real conversation starts and it is important to talk about all the things that a life insurance plan can do if designed properly.

AND THE NUMBER ONE LIFE INSURANCE MISTAKE…

  1. Not obtaining ANY at all !

Obviously, this is the worst mistake of all, but so many families have no life insurance whatsoever.   What is really scary is how many of those families live one paycheck away from a financial disaster.  Some of the previous mentioned mistakes are just that, but it’s better than having nothing at all.

These Top Ten Life Insurance Mistakes outlined above are the most common that we all come across on a daily basis.  Each however, opens up doors for opportunity.   Utilizing Life Insurance Awareness Month as a backdrop, this could be a great conversation starter for prospective clients to see if they have made any of these “mistakes.”  Also, talk to your centers of influence and ask them if their clients have made any of these “mistakes” as well.

On a closing note, this month will mark the 15th Anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks.  This, as we all know, has forever changed our lives and the world as a whole.  I would be remiss to not acknowledge it or make mention of the countless lives lost on that day.    Our thoughts and prayers are still with the families who lost loved ones and our continued support and gratitude goes out to our first responders and our military who continue their unselfish bravery to protect and serve us every day.

 

Find more of Mark’s Bark’s Blogs on our website: http://www.asglife.com/insurance-view/marks-barks-blog/

TheLatestCraze

One of the latest crazes to take hold has hit this last month… Pokemon Go.

Everyone has heard of it by now but for those who haven’t seen it, it is game played on a mobile app that integrates with your GPS system. You have to find various Pokemon characters and capture/battle with them to earn points and compete with other players. Basically, it is a huge scavenger hunt that has you searching everywhere for Pokemon. Essentially they are everywhere in this virtual world. It brings you to Parks, Landmarks, Restaurants, etc. where all of these Pokemon “exist.”

So, if the point of this game is to seek out Pokemon, I was thinking that this can be interesting if we change the cast of characters a bit and make our version, Insurancemon Go.

After all, we are not looking for Pokemon, We are looking for prospects to sell insurance products to, and you know what?, they are everywhere too. As I walked down the streets of Manhattan with my son, the app is telling us that there are basically Pokemon all around us. In fact, we stumbled upon a restaurant where we ultimately had dinner because of it. So this Pokemon Go turns out to be a great marketing tool. Now let’s go back to our version, the Insurancemon Go. If we had an app that would tell us where the prospects are, that would obviously be a great tool. But if you think about it, we do.

Everywhere we turn, we see restaurants, office buildings, small businesses, organizations, rotary clubs, churches, synagogues, etc. Our “Pokemon” are all there just waiting to be approached by professionals like us. They need our expertise and guidance to help them make the right decisions to plan for their families and their futures.

We do lots of things for our clients…

  • We implement income replacement programs for young families
  • We assist business owners with succession plans, key-man and buy-sell planning
  • We protect families from Long Term Care events
  • We provide liquidity for estates
  • We help secure retirements
  • We help leave legacies

These are just a sampling of the things we do. Everywhere we turn, we have prospects among us, our “Pokemon.” The beauty of it is that we don’t have to look very far. I am sure the Pokemon Go craze will follow the path of most fads and fade away over the next few months.   The Insurancemon Go craze however, will never go away.

Find more of Mark’s Bark’s Blogs on our website: http://www.asglife.com/insurance-view/marks-barks-blog/

Josh MilbrodMy 11 year old son just earned his Black Belt. This was a 4 year journey that started with a 7 year old kid looking like a fish out of water when he first entered the school and stepped onto the mats. It was hard to imagine then that he would be able to accomplish this amazing goal.

The Master at his Martial Arts School would always talk to the kids about character and teach them through inspirational words and stories. If you would listen, you would hear the true significance of the words that always had a deeper meaning. One such phrase he always used was “Repetition is the Mother of Skill.” Think about that for a moment. The test was broken up into two days.

The first day, the physical fitness portion, consisted of 500 Sit-ups, 200 Push-ups, a 10 Minute Run, a 2 Minute Plank, 400 Kicks and 30 Minutes of Free Sparring.

The second part, the Technical portion consisted of the Forms, Weapons, more technical Sparring and additional physical fitness segments. I’m still in awe of all the kids and their abilities.

So let’s go back to “Repetition is the Mother of Skill.” Without repetition, how can we get better and better at what we do? Without the repetition, these kids could never have pulled it off. There were 35 candidates but only 20 were able to test. You are just not able to do 500 Sit-ups or your Forms without practicing. You have to repeat it each and every day and build up to it.

What is it that you do every day? Do you hone your skills? Are you doing the things that we need to do so we can earn that “Black Belt?” Each and every day, are you doing the things that will get you to your goals? For instance, if your goal is to see 5 new prospects per week and see 3 existing clients, what are you doing to get there? Are you consistently making your calls, going through your existing client list, asking for referrals, etc.? By repeating these things over and over again, you will find yourself achieving your goals.

Nothing comes easy and the lesson I learned from watching my son’s journey towards his Black Belt, is that Repition is truly the Mother of Skill. Early on, the Master also told the kids…

“A Black Belt is a White Belt that never quit.”

Will you quit? Or will you do the things you need to do every day to achieve your goals?

Happy Selling!

Find more of Mark’s Bark’s Blogs on our website: http://asglife.com/marks-barks-blog/

Top Ten Prize Showing Winners Of Contest

During the course of our daily activities, we see a number of mistakes that are made by insureds and owners of life insurance policies. These mistakes are made at the time of sale and uncovered upon reviewing inforce policies. We have compiled a “Top Ten” list of these common mistakes…
10. Naming Estate as Beneficiary or Improper Policy Ownership
One of the most common mistakes is naming an insureds estate as the beneficiary. This causes inclusion of the death benefit proceeds in the insureds taxable estate. Also, the assets become part of probate and you can lose the umbrella of creditor protection. Sometimes this happens as a result of an originally named beneficiary(ies) pre-deceasing an insured. A change is never made to replace a primary or contingent beneficiary designation resulting in a “default” naming the insureds estate. In addition, a large number of policies are owned by an insured instead of a trust, spouse or children. This too can cause issues as they relate to adverse taxation.

9. Believing Group Life Insurance is Portable
A common objection people have when it comes to purchasing individual life insurance is the reliance on group term insurance. People often overlook the fact that group insurance is usually limited to small amounts and is not portable if they leave their current employer. It is also mostly made up of term insurance and unlikely to extend beyond a finite number of years.

8. Failure to have annual review of Life Insurance
Simply put, needs change. Life insurance needs periodically change along with status changes such as marriages, birth of children, etc. Auto and Homeowner policies are reviewed annually, so why not life insurance. An annual review of life insurance can assure that as needs change, you are keeping up with the pace of those changes. Also, there have been product enhancements such as Long Term Care Riders and Extended Guarantees that may not be addressed with current coverages.

7. Sticker Shock effects your decision
Some folks get sticker shock when seeing what the proper amount of life insurance costs. Most people often reduce the amount of coverage needed to fit into a budget. That’s a huge mistake! I am a large proponent of selling to need rather than cost. There are many ways to ladder the costs so that need is not sacrificed. Always ask if they would be worse off without it? The Pros of a well constructed Needs Analysis far out way the Cons.

6. Waiting to buy Life insurance
Waiting to purchase life insurance is never a good idea. The needs are ‘NOW.” So waiting to purchase it is not wise. Besides, health can change and insurability can become a factor. Even if there was not a change in health, premiums will increase as you get older and “The Cost of Waiting” is never on your side.

5. Cancelling/Lapsing old coverage before new is purchased
Another common mistake is letting a current policy lapse prior to putting new insurance inforce. A lot can happen in the period of time that it takes to buy new insurance. Always make sure that there is never a gap in coverage while applying for a new policy. Your old policy may have had better rates than what you can currently qualify for or there can be a health event or death occur in the interim.

4. Buying the cheapest policy
Just because a particular policy is “cheaper” than another, don’t let clients be swayed by the less expensive option. Today, more than ever, it is important to know the carrier behind the policy. It can be something as simple as financials but other things like convertability options and policy service history can be a huge part of the decision process.

3. Under valuing a “non-working” spouse
Often times, a “non-working” spouse is ignored during the life insurance conversation. The importance of a non-working spouse to the financial stability of a family is often overlooked. As an example, what would it cost to hire someone to take care of dependent children if the non-working spouse/caregiver predeceases the working spouse? A properly designed life insurance benefit could allow funds for those expenses and/or provide options to the surviving spouse to take time off from work to be there for his/her family. Keep in mind that there are some carriers that will allow for a “non-working” spouse to obtain the same face amount regardless of income.

2. Under estimating your family’s life insurance need
In the information age, most everything is purchased via the internet, even life insurance. Even if someone purchases life insurance on-line, it is doubtful that they have enough coverage. A properly trained Financial Advisor/Insurance Agent understands what “the right amount” of coverage should be. In most cases, people buy small amounts of life insurance (i.e. $250,000, $500,000). We all know that those amounts will be gone before you know it. Then what happens? Perhaps a mortgage is paid off with a lump sum, but then there are normal living expenses to contend with and future obligations to meet. This is when the real conversation starts and it is important to talk about all the things that a life insurance plan can do if designed properly.

AND THE NUMBER ONE LIFE INSURANCE MISTAKE…

1. Not obtaining ANY at all !
Obviously, this is the worst mistake of all, but so many families have no life insurance whatsoever. What is really scary is how many of those families live one paycheck away from a financial disaster. Some of the previous mentioned mistakes are just that, but it’s better than having nothing at all.

The Top Ten Life Insurance Mistakes outlined above are the most common that we all come across on a daily basis. Each however, opens up doors for opportunity. This could be a great conversation starter for prospective clients to see if they have made any of these “mistakes.” Also, talk to your centers of influence and ask them if their clients have made any of these “mistakes” as well.

Find more of Mark’s Bark’s Blogs on our website: http://asglife.com/marks-barks-blog/

The Go Fund Me Era

JFK_5-16-2016“I can think of no more effective agent in advancing our freedom to live as we choose than the insurance salesman. This man knows the economic pulse of the country as few men may, for he walks all streets of American life and he sits down and talks to youth and to the mature and to the aged. He knows their wants. He helps them to help themselves in times of need. He builds, for he helps others to build. He insures the future. He is respected. And he is a friend.”

The above quote was from John F. Kennedy. Clearly someone who understood the importance and role of the life insurance agent. Today, we are constantly reminded of the underserved public as it relates to the insurance world. So many of us receive email notifications and links to GO FUND ME sites to help those in need for different tragedies affecting people in our communities. I see a lot of links to pages asking to assist a family who has lost a breadwinner prematurely. People are generally good natured and will generously contribute to help a family in time of need. That’s a very good thing and refreshing to see people chipping in to help others in time of need. These actions can quell the cynics among us who claim that society has lost its civility and doesn’t care about their fellow man.

But each time I see a post like that, it makes me think of families and the lack of planning they do. Let’s face it, we all know that people do not like to look into their own mortality, especially younger people. Think for a moment of how a small life insurance policy could change those awful stories. Think about the impact that would have on the widows left with a child or two that are often the ones we are helping with a GO FUND ME page.   It’s not limited to life insurance either. There are stories of people taken ill or injured that could have also been fixed with a Long Term Care or Disability Income policy.

Everything we do is like a “SELF-FUNDED GO FUND ME“ page. I started off with a favorable quote from John F. Kennedy, but to be fair, Woody Allen once said

”There are worse things in life than death. Have you ever spent an evening with an insurance salesman?  

I find that funny (and maybe even true, after all, I know lots of them). But let’s think for a moment of the importance of what we do. Think about the strength of JFK’s statement and the comedy of Woody Allen’s.   If you actually endured an evening with an insurance salesman, maybe, just maybe, you would realize that he was a friend after all.


Find more of Mark’s Bark’s Blogs on our website:
http://www.asglife.com/insurance-view/marks-barks-blog/

youve-reached-the-peak

Recently, I attended an industry meeting. At this meeting, they had a Key Note Speaker that reached the peak of Mt. Everest, not once, but twice. The interesting thing is that he had previously attempted the climb two other times but was unsuccessful reaching the peak. The talk itself was inspirational and a true testament to the human spirit and the drive to succeed. The theme of his talk was about perseverance, reaching goals and ultimately finding life’s purpose within one’s self.

Although I enjoyed listening, I was after all at an Insurance Symposium. So, I find myself asking what the relevance was? What possible connection can climbing Mt. Everest have on what it is we all do for a living? Then it hits me! Months and years go into the planning of an expedition to the top of Everest. Everything has to be calculated, all of the equipment, all of your supplies, food, oxygen, etc. In fact, one of the funny things mentioned by the speaker was running out of toilet paper. Seems funny but the metaphor it provided is not very different than our life goals? We work throughout our lives to save enough so that we can retire comfortably. Let’s call that our Personal Everest Peak. Through “our supplies” that we bring along the way, did we bring enough “toilet paper.”

The problem with climbing to the summit of Everest is that once you get there, you have to get yourself back down again. And so with it comes the second part of the planning process. As I learned, so many things can go wrong with an expedition to the summit; not just on the way up, but on the way down, which is just as dangerous. And that brings me to my point.

Our Personal Peak is achieved by a number of things along the way. We can save our money, buy homes, enjoy vacations, put our kids through college. That’s our plan, but as we all know things just don’t go smoothly as we ascend to our Personal Everest Peak. All of the plans we make always have bumps and obstacles along the way. What we do along the way gets us through those times. We stay on course and eventually reach the peak, but now what? We have to get down safely!

After listening to the speaker, I am analogizing reaching the peak to having enough retirement assets to cover me on the way down. I want to do a lot of things. Enjoy my retirement, help my children, pay for weddings, enjoy grandchildren possibly, travel and overall reap the rewards of planning well for my trip to the summit. But there are possible obstacles that await. They can come in the form of Health/Long Term Care events, a financial crisis or simply living too long. Regardless of what it is, it is inevitable that something will occur that will deviate us from our “plan.” More importantly, affecting our safe return down.

What can we do as Insurance Advisors? How can we help our clients (and ourselves)? As advisors, there are so many tools that we have at our disposal to help prepare for both legs of the journey. By adequately insuring families today, we can make sure they have the right supplies (and yes, enough toilet paper), to make it through for those uncertainties.

For families protecting wealth, we can provide the needed life insurance to ensure liquidity to pay Estate Taxes. We can also create wealth to protect assets from financial catastrophes by providing Long Term Care benefits to families of modest means. We can employ tax strategies though the products we sell and maximize incomes by guaranteeing funds so that our clients don’t outlive their money.

There is so much we can do to help people on the way up to their Personal Peak and especially for the journey down, which as we know can be even more treacherous. After hearing the speaker talk, I really don’t believe his intention had anything to do with “the insurance industry.” Seeing a speaker who talked about climbing Everest ultimately had so much to do with what we do every day. Our clients work their entire lives to get to their Personal Peak. Now, let’s help them get back down safely, weather the storms and do what we do best to get them there.

March is here, and with it, the annual College Basketball  phenomenon, March Madness  begins. Every year the sports world goes crazy as this gets under way. But we in the Insurance and Financial Services Industry have our own March Madness (and every other month for that matter).
If you follow college hoops or you simply get caught up in the hype, it can get pretty exciting.  We are all familiar with the visual of “the brackets”  that start at the beginning of the tournament.  64 teams start off and we follow the brackets as they wind down to the infamous Final Four.
When it all starts, I find the brackets to be overwhelming and a sensory overload.  There is so much happening on one sheet of paper and in the actual tournament, similar to our industry. So here’s a look at Our March Madness and how it looks in my head…

"ASG March Madness"
Wow! That’s a bit much, but it is the MADNESS that we face every day, every month and throughout the year. This has been especially relevant over the last several months for all of us. We have experienced unprecedented product, legislative and psychological changes that will permanently alter the way we conduct our practices.
What carrier do we choose? Why one over another? From our perspective, each of the carriers have their own niches, whether it is product related, an underwriting strength or a particular feature or benefit that sets them apart.
What product design do you choose? There are so many to choose from;  Guaranteed Universal Life (GUL), Indexed Universal Life (IUL), Whole Life, Term, Blended Life Contracts or Return of Premium Term (ROP), to name a few. Each has its own bells and whistles which make them so unique and adaptable to a number of planning and individual client needs.
From a legislative standpoint, we have seen changes in our Healthcare system, Income Tax Bracket adjustments and a ratification of the $5,000,000 Individual Unified Credit Exemption.
That all leads us to knowing where the Sales Opportunities are.  In the center of our brackets, there are four areas where all of these opportunities converge,  Policy Valuation Modeling, Legacy Planning, Business Valuation Modeling and Asset Repositioning.
It is easy to be overwhelmed by the “brackets” we call “Our March Madness.” We scratch our heads as we try to sort it all out. It is truly overwhelming and it fosters that sensory overload I mentioned earlier. Where are the Sales Opportunities? They are all there, staring us right in the face.
Having a partner that can guide you through all of this is key.  At Agent Support Group, we have the expertise to walk you through it and help you Make Sense Out Of All The Madness.

Technology-678-247Do you remember…..when we actually got the true news of the day between 7:00 and 7:30 PM? When TV on a phone was a fairy tale? When cell phones came in a battery pack case with a phone larger than our heads? When a PC had all of its storage space residing solely on external floppy discs?

Do you remember George Jetson and his flying car? OK, we haven’t gotten there yet but I’m sure you get the point. Besides, driving around in New Jersey, I’m scared of that one. Drivers are bad enough on the ground, couldn’t imagine flying cars out there.

It’s all about Technology. Technology has certainly changed our lives and will continue to do so for years to come. We are bombarded with information daily. We used to get our news once a day, now it comes in as it happens on our Smartphones. Every aspect of our lives has changed. In fact, every business, including our own has undergone a tech change.

When I first started in the business, we sat with clients and quoted life insurance premiums, guaranteed cash values, projected cash values, term rates, etc. with a special tool called a RATEBOOK. Yes, a RATEBOOK. NO sales illustrations. If you had a yellow pad, you were on your way. We also had to make sure we kept an ample supply of applications in the trunks of our cars so we could take an app at any time. We would then go back to our offices, make photocopies, submit the app and store everything in file cabinets that took up an entire storage room.

Through technology, that entire process has changed. Even the actual sale is different today. Here’s a real life sale that took place several months ago. An advisor that I deal with was on the golf course and starts a conversation (as only an insurance agent can do), and proceeds to tell what he does for a living. The client he is talking to tells him that he was just looking into buying $5,000,000 of term life insurance. The advisor asked him some questions (age, health, etc.), takes out his iPhone, utilizes the quote engine on our ASG Mobile App, comes up with the premium within seconds and winds up selling a policy on the golf course. After finishing their round, they had lunch at the clubhouse. The advisor downloads the application for the carrier they selected, our HIPPAA form, has it printed out at the golf club and has a signed app, an exam order and a new client all by utilizing the technology to his advantage.

That’s a lot different than how it used to be done. It’s possible that the conversation could have led to a future meeting between the two and resulted in an “old- fashioned” sale but the client was HOT to buy and got it done that day, on the spot! That’s a great story but a testament to how things have changed through technology. As we point out, our mobile app is truly “A Virtual Office in the Palm of Your Hand.” This just proves it.

There are so many other ways to improve your practice using technology. Social Media such as Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn are great ways to reach and stay connected to your current clients. By utilizing this media, you can increase your touches by informing your clients of important information that affects them. You may not have been able to do that by individual one-on-one contact since there is only so much time in a day. In the world we live in, the culture has changed to an “I need it now” mentality. Social Media affords you the ability to get information to your client “NOW.”

There are great apps/programs that will even allow you to send documents such as applications, service forms and delivery requirements that they can sign on their Tablets and iPads and instantly send back to you. That’s efficiency at its finest. Not to mention the countless savings on overnight packages associated with obtaining signatures the old-fashioned way. There is also an intuitive underwriting tool that allows you to accurately quote impairments within minutes. This can surely differentiate you from your competition by allowing you to pinpoint ratings and more efficiently manage your client’s expectations.

The average person will check their Smartphone 150 TIMES A DAY (That’s one look every 9.6 Minutes or 6 times an hour). Whether it’s Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Alert Messages, e-Mails, Blog Posts, Articles, etc., these are the things that people are looking at during those 150 looks. Why would you want to miss out on using this technology?
Through technology, we have gone paperless. All of client data is stored electronically either on local drives or somewhere in the cloud, where we can access the information virtually anywhere. Information is available for any of our clients as fast as we can type their names on a keyboard. This is so much more cost effective and lowers our overhead, which increases profitability.

1. Why change anything? I have always been successful doing what I have been doing?
2. My sales & marketing methods work just fine.
3. This stuff is too complicated to learn.

As you’re reading this, one of the three “excuses” may have popped into your head. The fact is that there is proof in numbers. You don’t have to accept it , but you will feel the negative effects of it if you ignore it.

Technology has changed everything around us. The Life Insurance business included. In a recent meeting I attended, there was a speaker talking about technology. He used a phrase called “Humology,” which he explained as the joining of humans with technology. If you don’t embrace it, you will not survive long in the business world. The Life Insurance Industry is no exception. It has definitely improved the way we conduct business and can be responsible for more sales down the road. The trick is to fully embrace it. If the average person looks at their Smartphone 150/day, wouldn’t we want that look to be meaningful and get OUR message across. We have their attention, let’s make it pay off.