"Lifology – Life Insurance Meets Technology" Do 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.

It’s January and with it comes that favorite time of year for an insurance agent – We’re back to ZERO. As good a
year as we had, it never fails, a clean canvas to work on. If you’re like me, you have already put together your
prospect list and have your elevator speech ready to go. Who are we going to see and what are we going to sell?
That’s the burning question.

You can plot out your year by thinking of the clients that you already have. Take inventory of your in-force term
business, assess annual statements and look at changes in your existing clients lives. Have new
children/grandchildren been born? Who is retiring this year? Who has had career changes?, etc. All of these can
help you plan your activity for the year. But, what about new sources of income, new lead generation sources
and what about one of the most underserved market places out there, the Supplemental Retirement Income
Market.

With Income Tax and Capital Gains rates increasing, there is a tremendous amount of potential business waiting
to be sold. Believe it or not, when I speak to many advisors, they often have to be reminded of one of the best
vehicles available to set aside funds to supplement one’s retirement, Permanent Life Insurance Products . It has
been, remains to be and for the foreseeable future, continues to be that vehicle.

Where else can you set aside a “virtual” uncapped contribution, receive tax deferral on the growth and potentially
take your money out on a tax-free basis? Oh yeah, let’s not forget that along the way, if you die prior to reaching
your cash accumulation goal, a large tax-free death benefit is paid to your beneficiaries. Further, with today’s
product offerings, you can still add Waiver of Premium benefits that will possibly contribute the premiums for you
if you become disabled along the way. In addition, other living benefits such as Chronic Illness or Long-Term Care
Riders can possibly be added.

Here is a sample of what can be accomplished:

Graph_MarksBlog_01-08-2015

The above illustration shows how powerful permanent life insurance products can be. This example uses Whole
Life, but other permanent products, such as Current Assumption or Indexed Universal Life, could be used as well.
No matter how you position it, this type of program should be discussed with many of your current and
prospective clients. The tax-free rates of return are extremely competitive, yielding ultimate returns between 4
& 5%. There is even the potential of higher returns depending on product choice and actual performance.
Combine those rates with the tax-free withdrawal possibilities and these products are even more appealing.

Although there are no tax deductions for contributions, these products are of great interest to many business
owners since it allows them to procure a product that allows for discriminatory contributions on their behalf. In
addition, these products give them great flexibility in providing key-employees with extra benefits that are also
discriminatory in nature and act as an exceptional employee retention tool.

As mentioned, permanent insurance products are a great product that is often overlooked or forgotten by many
advisors. That doesn’t quite make sense based upon the huge potential of this largely untapped market. This is
not a product that can or will be purchased on-line. It needs a true professional to carefully explain how it works,
what the benefits are and how to properly use it as part of a well-balanced retirement program.

Permanent life insurance products can be incorporated into a plan and used as an alternative asset class and at
the same time provide a wide range of benefits. These products are widely accepted by Attorneys, CPAs,
Investment Advisors, etc. They offer a wide range of benefits and protect against many types of threats that
traditional planning cannot do.

We all started out with that ZERO on New Year’s Day. One way to make for a successful 2015, is to offer these
products to our existing and prospective clients. The ZERO’s you will see will be preceded by a lot of other numbers, making this an ideal way to increase your sales this year.

As evidenced by the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge, we have learned that awareness can be built very quickly.   Most people didn’t even know what ALS was a short time ago.   To it’s credit, the ALS challenge has done an incredible job of not only building that awareness but raising a great deal of money along the way for a great cause.

For us,  September is Life Insurance Awareness Month (LIAM), and we have an opportunity to do what we do best and let people understand the importance of what we do in our profession.  For the last 11 years, Life Happens, formerly the LIFE Foundation,  a nonprofit organization dedicated to helping consumers make smart insurance decisions to safeguard their families has done a terrific job to that end.  They have had a number of celebrities including actors and sports figures sharing their stories of the importance of life insurance.  Among those names are Boomer Esiason , Chris Noth, Buddy “Cake Boss” Valastro, Lamar Odom, Donnie Wahlberg, Molly Shannon and Scott Hamilton.

What we do is so important and plays such a vital role in our society.   By a simple stroke of a pen, we have the power to forever change the lives of our clients and their families.

Several years ago, I attended a meeting and the speaker, the then President of John Hancock, delivered a message and read the following passage to the group…

“A life insurance policy is just a time-yellowed piece of paper, with columns of figures and legal phrases, until it is baptized with a widow’s tears. Then it becomes a modern miracle, a sort of Aladdin’s Lamp.  It is food, clothing, shelter, education, peace of mind.  It is the sincerest love letter ever written.  It quiets the crying of a hungry baby at night. It eases the heart of a bereaved widow.  It is the comforting whisper in the dark silent hours of the night. It is new hope, fresh courage and strength for the widow to pick up the broken threads of life and carry on. It is an education for the sons and daughters (a chance for a career, instead of the need for a job).  It is a father’s parental blessing to his children on their wedding day.  It is the function of a father’s hopes and dreams for his family’s future. Through life insurance he lives on. There is no death.  Life Insurance exalts life and defeats death.  It is the premium we pay for the privilege of living after death.”

These words were the contents of a note that was written in 1929 by Jack J. Leterman — a long-time life insurance agent in Norfolk, Va.  He had enclosed this note when he delivered a life insurance policy to a client. The words impacted me greatly and although it was written so long ago, the words hold up and speak in volumes, some 85 years later. Sure the words are a bit corny and possibly a bit sexist for today’s standards, but when you think about it, there are no truer words to express what we do every day.

In our era of selling life insurance products, we can add so many more benefits that were not even feasible back then.   Today, large face amounts are purchased to protect against a number of complex needs such as Estate Planning, Business Succession, Buy-Sell Planning, Retirement Maximization, etc. But when you break it down to the lowest common denominator, even those advanced concepts come back to the same core values of what it is we do, which is provide security to the heirs of our insureds.

Whether it’s as simple as replacing lost income to a surviving spouse, providing college funds for our children or as complex as providing liquidity for an estate with huge tax liabilities, we know that what we provide with that stroke of the pen is far more powerful than what other professions can strive for.

In the spirit of Life Insurance Awareness Month, take a few minutes to look back at the words written by Mr. Leterman, think about them and be proud of what it is we do and know that with the stroke of that pen, we are part of one of the most noble professions that one can be a part of.

In a recent family trip to the Outer Banks, we visited the Wright Brothers museum at Kitty Hawk.  At this historic sight, you stand where the first flight occurred.  As a lover of history, you can’t help but feel in awe of the sight where one of the most important and impactful scientific advances of all time took place.

On the grounds, there is also a museum where you get to learn so much about these true pioneers.  What an amazing story of ingenuity, vision and perseverance.  While walking around and soaking it all in, I came across an exhibit that had illustrated a quote from Wilbur Wright. The quote read as follows…

“…it is not really necessary to look far into the future; we see enough already to be certain it will  be magnificent.  Only let us hurry and open the roads.”

As I’m reading this, the lightbulb goes off!  If there were ever words that describe our business today, this is it.  As I near thirty years in the industry, there has never been a more exciting time to be in the game.

There are more people than ever in need of a true life insurance professional.  The Boomer generation will give us over 70 Million prospects to choose from over the next 15 years and their needs are unprecedented.  Whether it’s the fear of outliving their retirement nest eggs, protecting against the threat of a major “cash draining” health event or simply wanting to leave a lasting legacy so they’re heirs can maintain a comfortable lifestyle, we have a wide range of products to assist them through these and other concerns.

With the changing U.S. demographic, The Foreign National space is another marketplace that is virtually untapped.  There are a countless number of Resident Aliens with a unique set of planning needs. Considering that all of their worldwide assets are subject to U.S. Estate taxes, this is a huge opportunity.  For non-resident Aliens, they only have a $60,000 exemption on assets held in the U.S.  On any given day, look through the Wall Street Journal and you’ll come across articles that talk about how foreigners are buying up prime U.S. Real estate at an astounding rate, which supports the claim of the size of this market.

From a product standpoint, we have probably never been at a better point.  We have at our disposal, the largest array of products, complete with features and benefits that I have never seen during my tenure in the life insurance business.

In addition to traditional death benefit sales, we now have a number of Living Benefits to choose from. The addition of Long Term Care, Chronic Illness and Longevity riders on Life Insurance products has changed the way we can sell.

These riders allow us to bring life insurance full circle.  An insured can actually realize benefits from a life insurance policy during THEIR lifetimes.  They can be used to address a number of planning needs such as providing Long Term Care needs at a guaranteed cost, protect retirement assets from an unexpected health event and possibly providing liquidity for business owners to facilitate a buyout of a sick partner.  With the products we have at our disposal, these are just a few of the many planning possibilities we have to help our clients in today’s world.

So, let’s go back to Mr. Wright and what he had to do with Life Insurance.  Sure, it’s possible that The Wright Brothers may have owned a life insurance policy or two.  However, the words on that exhibit are inspirational when it comes to where we are today in our industry. The time now is “magnificent.”  Never has there been a better time for us as insurance advisors to be in our industry.   So let us hurry and open the roads because there truly has never been a better time.

Happy Selling!

 

Guess who’s back? It’s that favorite Uncle of ours and it’s time for our favorite time of the year….TAX SEASON.

We are waist deep in tax season and what better time to remind ourselves of the countless sales opportunities that arise out of this time of year. The best part is that with the focus on taxes, all of our clients are aware of all of the things that effect their financial lives. Whether it’s retirement plan contributions, annual gifts, charitable contributions, etc., it is all fresh in their minds. From just the few items listed, I’m sure a few sales opportunities come to mind.

In fact, a tax return is probably our best sales prospecting tool. As financial professionals, where else can you get a road map that leads you directly to all facets of someone’s finances. In terms of centers of influence, namely CPA’s, all of this information is fresh in their heads as well for all of their clients.

Wouldn’t it be great…

  • If there was a simple turn-key approach that can show you how to talk to your clients about their tax returns and turn that into revenue?
  • to have a platform that you can easily approach CPA’s with and enhance your current relationships?
  • to have a platform to approach new centers of influence?
  • to greatly increase your sales revenue for 2012?

"Happy DEPENDENTS Day"

No, that’s not a typo. That’s what I meant. Independence Day is upon us, but with all the freedoms that we celebrate, it is fitting to talk about the freedoms that we can provide for our families, our heirs, our Dependents.

There is nothing worse than witnessing a catastrophic event that can wipe out all that we have worked for our whole lives. Too many times, we see this happen to our clients, friends and others and it all comes down to poor planning. We live in a time where there is so much discussion about outliving retirement funds, what to do in the event of a long term care event, etc. As advisors, we have the ability to discuss a myriad of products and planning techniques with our clients to assure that they have done the proper planning to protect themselves (or their Dependents), against unforeseen life events.

What can we do to fill in the gaps? The short answer…A LOT.

Life Insurance – of course, the simple answer is Life Insurance. This has always been there to help Dependents get back on their feet. It can provide so many things; continued income, college educations, provides life long income for survivors, estate liquidity and the list goes on.

Long Term Care Insurance – providing a policy that will help offset the costs associated with a health care event requiring nursing home or home health care needs. This can be accomplished on an individual basis or under a Blended-Life design.

Disability Income Insurance – providing the replacement of one’s income with benefits should that person be unable to provide income due to some type of health impairment.

Income Annuities – for some clients, we can provide them/surviving spouse with an income that they can never outlive.

The above list is the more traditional approach for Dependent planning. But in today’s marketplace, we can go many steps further…

Living Benefits have become the popular trend in our industry and if you are not taking advantage of them, it’s going to cost you potential clients. Living Benefits enhance the traditional planning methods outlined above and ease the burdens on their Dependents. Here are some of the Living Benefits that you should be implementing with your clients:

Long Term Care Riders– LTCR’s can be added to Life Insurance policies and will allow your clients to access their death benefits should they have a life event requiring Long Term care needs. Although they come with different access definitions (e.g. indemnity v. reimbursement), the end result is the same, an ability to use a life insurance policy as a means to ease the burden on Dependents. They are even available on a rated basis for those that could normally not qualify for an individual LTC policy. Now, when a client objects to buying life insurance because “they won’t benefit from it,” in this case they can. This is a powerful tool to use and a great innovation to a standard life insurance policy.

Chronic Illness Riders –similar to the Long Term Care Riders, these benefits allow early access to death benefits for permanent types of illnesses. Once again, easing the strain on Dependents.

Guaranteed Income Riders– through the use of new annuity product designs, these riders can guarantee income to annuitants based upon the high watermark values of a contract. This allows individuals to receive a higher guaranteed income, regardless of market conditions that can deplete values prior to retirement.

Disability/Unemployment Plans – for those of you in the term marketplace, there is a policy available to pay premiums and possibly convert a policy to something permanent in the event of a permanent disability. Further, in the event of the insured becoming unemployed, premiums can even be paid for up to one year of unemployment.

Living Benefits have taken the traditional approach to selling our products and taken them to a new level. These benefits are designed with an underlying theme for you to bring to your clients…easing the burden on their Dependents.

So, as we celebrate our country’s independence, eating our hot dogs, hamburgers and watching fireworks, let’s think for a moment about how we assist our clients in protecting what is most important to them and…

HAVE A HAPPYDEPENDENTSDAY!

As we celebrate the birth of our great nation, we quickly associate the day with a colorful assortment of fireworks. Fireworks are one of those things that we look forward to with anticipation. They provide a level of excitement because as you look up, you really don’t know what’s coming next, but somehow we always seem to enjoy the outcome.

With the July 4th holiday, we, as Sales Professionals, look back on the half way mark of our years. How much premium was written? How many polices were sold? How many lives did we touch? We think about how many “fireworks” we set off in that time. Was that level of excitement there as well?

We have put together a unique Fireworks Display designed to increase your revenue streams in Four Core Practice Areas; Policy Valuation Modeling, Business Valuation Modeling, Asset Repositioning & Legacy Planning.

These Four Core Practice Elements can provide you with the “FIREWORKS” needed to get to that level of excitement with your clients and help you open up a number of New Sales Opportunities. Whether you are currently looking for business in these areas or not, you will see how easy it can be. This is achieved in a very simple way and can lead to sales relating to: Buy-Sell Planning, Deferred Compensation, Grandparent Legacies, IRA Maximization, Deferred Survivorship Planning, Inforce Management and many others to long to list.

Basically, these techniques will show you how to transition your current clients into other revenue streams that in the past were unsuccessful. In addition, it can show you how to open countless opportunities for new prospective clients.

So, it comes down to one question….. Are you happy with your fireworks display?

We want to assist you with achieving that level of excitement with an arsenal of Sales Opportunities that are guaranteed to position you well to finish out your best year ever.

Contact us to find out how we can help.

Happy Selling!

I have said it before, and I’ll say it again…there has never been a better time to be in our industry. While other industries are more susceptible to economic trends, ours seems to find its way through time after time. Regardless of the environment, there is always a need for the products and services that we provide.
Let’s face it, people always need life insurance. In fact, one can argue that today it is needed more than ever. After all, who can take better care of our families then ourselves? Regardless of what your political affiliation is, the fact of the matter is that the election is over, Obama has been re-elected and with everything there is always opportunity.
For those who subscribe to the “Glass is Half Empty” school of thought, it is easy to see the negativity. After all, the $5M gift tax exemption is going away; Estate taxes are going up; Income Tax Rates are increasing; we’re going over a “Fiscal Cliff;” they MAY tax the inside build-up of life insurance.
If you can see through that wall of negativity, you can just as easily see the opportunities that present themselves within that thinking. Ask yourself a question: Is Opportunity Nowhere or is Opportunity NOW Here? It’s all in how you look at it.
Yes, the gift tax exclusion will likely go away but let’s face it, how many clients were you dealing with that needed to make that $5M gift? And let’s not forget that the Estate Tax rates are likely going to climb. With that comes more a need to plan. Smaller thresholds will prevent more wealth from transferring to heirs. Wouldn’t logic have it that Life Insurance could be used to offset the additional taxes so that more of that wealth can get to the heirs?
Income tax rates are increasing. The tax increases are for those that are in a “higher income level” anyway. Those people still need access to products that will serve them well. Correct? And what about the market that is not considered upper income. This Middle Market is by far the most unsolicited segment, and studies and surveys have shown that they are the most needy when it comes to being serviced by Financial Advisors. Here’s an interesting fact… individuals who have $500,000 – $1,000,000 of assets make up 13.8 Million households in the U.S. with an average age of 58. That is a market that deserves a little attention and have needs that can keep us busy for a little while. Within that group are business owners, pre-retirees, concerned parents, grandparents, etc., that are all asking for help.
There’s all this talk about a Fiscal Cliff and all of the issues mentioned above are in some ways part of it. Every aspect of what we do going forward will be effected by the actions of the coming months. No one knows for sure what will be and what changes will be made, but the fact is that whatever the outcome, our industry will be effected in some way. What we as professionals have to decide is how will we look at it and how will we set the tone for our clients. They will, as they always have, be looking to us for advice and guidance. If we believe that the opportunities are NOW HERE as opposed to Nowhere, we will be better off.