by: Mark D. Milbrod, CLU, CLTC
October 2020



They say a picture is worth a 1000 words. But In this case, I think it speaks more than that.  I recently came across a graphic that I wanted to share with everyone.  This is probably the best image I have ever seen that so easily sums up what it is we do for a living…



What is Life Insurance after all? With the loss of a primary breadwinner, the large majority of families will be financially destroyed by that loss, essentially losing that “fourth leg of the stool” that supports everything.

I mentioned earlier that a picture is worth a 1000 words. With that in mind, I am going to keep my words brief and let the image sink in and speak for itself.

Just keep in mind that this image can be adapted and make the same argument for Long Term Care or Disability Income Insurance.

I hope that you find this as powerful as I have.


Happy Selling!




by: Mark D. Milbrod, CLU
Principal, Agent Support Group-September Blog


September is Life Insurance Month and in the spirit of that, I felt it was important to repost the following…

Many years ago, while attending an industry meeting, I was listening to a talk being given by one of the platform speakers.  During the speech, the speaker was talking about the industry as a whole and the importance of what we do for a living. He then proceeded to read the following 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, piece 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 a 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.

Although it is a bit dated and arguably a bit corny, it is powerful nonetheless. This piece was written back in 1929 by Jack J. Leterman, who established the first John Hancock Agency in the state of Virginia. As a 30 year plus veteran in the industry, I was extremely taken back by these words and have had them framed in my office ever since. I take any opportunity to share these words with as many life insurance professionals as possible.

What we do is so unique and powerful. These words are the core of what we do and I believe today, more than ever, it is so important to spread the importance of these words to our clients. This is what life Insurance was intended to do but as we all know, it has become so much more than that.

Not only does it accomplish the most simplistic form of protection to surviving spouses and children such as, Income Replacement, Mortgage Protection, or College Funding. It provides solutions to a host of other, more complex problems facing our clients today. Whether we use Life Insurance to provide liquidity for heirs of larger estates, provide Supplemental Retirement Income, funding Buy/Sell Agreements, Key-Man Protection, etc., we are positioned to use this powerful product to find solutions to these, and other planning challenges.

With uncertainties surrounding us, it is a great feeling to know that we can provide so much in the form of “piece of mind” with a simple stroke of the pen.  Although the words above are over 80 years old, the core principles behind them truly capture What Life Insurance Really is.

It is Life Insurance Awareness Month so keep that in mind when you are speaking to your clients.  Perhaps this can further put things into perspective for them.


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I Hate Annuities !!

By: Mark D. Milbrod, CLU, CLTC


Annuities are the worst planning tool!  They can do unspeakable things like…

  • Guarantee competitive high rates of interest
  • Act as a safe market hedge
  • Can guarantee to double for income purposes
  • Can guarantee income for as long as you (and/or) surviving spouse live

Yeah!  Annuities are a horrible thing to have as part of a well balanced portfolio.  All of those benefits listed above are just a sampling of the useless advantages that you can get from them. So why would you ever consider purchasing one?   Here’s why…

Unfortunately, when the word “ANNUITIES” are thrown into the mix, there is usually negativity that surrounds it.  Annuities are probably one of the most misunderstood financial instruments.   Like any financial tool, annuities, if used properly, can play an integral part of a well structured retirement plan.

There are many different types of annuities that are available in the marketplace.  They come in many different forms; deferred, variable, fixed, etc.   You have to be very careful with some contract designs that have huge fee and expense charges, so knowing the nuances between products is very important.  However, a plain vanilla Multi Year Guarantee Annuity can provide contract holders with a competitive, safe & dependable guaranteed interest rate that talks to a risk averse client base.   But annuities are much more than that.  Annuities can be used creatively to help your clients with a number of unique planning solutions.

Single Premium Immediate Annuities (or SPIAs) are one of the most underused planning tools. They are extremely versatile and be used effectively in so many sales scenarios.

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.


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.  (Note: Older life insurance contract cash values can be transferred via a 1035 Exchange into annuity contracts (i.e. SPIA’s), maintaining the integrity of basis and lowering the taxable portion that is being distributed.)


RMD Scenarios

For clients that are taking Required Minimum Distributions (RMDs) from IRA assets when they turn 72, 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, which can be costly.   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. It is worth noting that in response to the continued low interest environment, a number of income riders have been pulled or have had the payout percentages reduced.


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.  (Note: When structuring life income payments, a common objection is that if the annuitant(s) dies, payments cease. 

We never implement a payout option without an Installment Refund.  This assures that if the annuitant(s) die prior to receiving at least a return of the annuity purchase amount, payments will continue to a named beneficiary until that threshold is satisfied).


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.


Something else to consider, SPIA’s can also be used to either fund fully or defray the cost of Long Term Care premiums.  We have been repurposing funds that were earmarked to cover “self-funded” long term care expenses.  By utilizing those dollars into annuity, and funding some type of LTC or Hybrid LTC product, we are able to create a much larger leveraged bucket that provides far more LTC benefits.

Another area where annuities can be extremely helpful is using the “Guaranteed Roll-up” Options.”    With these options, you can guarantee that the annuity deposit will double for income purposes in as early as 10 years regardless of market conditions.   The older an annuitant, the higher the eventual income payout.  This can be a great longevity hedge or used to fund future life insurance and/or LTC policy premium in the future.  Either way, it can be an extremely effective strategy.

As you can see, annuities are a horrible tool. 

In actuality, annuities are misunderstood and not utilized to their full potential.  They offer a wide range of planning opportunities and if used in the right situation can help a number of clients achieve and protect their financial security.

The above is only a sampling of how annuities can be used effectively in a well-constructed financial plan.  During the ongoing COVID crisis and sustained low interest environment, annuities have been increasing in popularity as an alternative safe haven.

For more information on how to incorporate annuities into some possible sales situations, call us today.



by: Mark D. Milbrod, CLU, CLTC
July 3, 2020


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 – 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.

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 with our families, 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…


by: Mark D. Milbrod, CLU, CLTC

At the start of training camp in 1961, Vince Lombardi walked into the locker room of the Green Bay Packers and said to his team what would become one of the most iconic quotes in sports history… “Gentlemen, this is a football.”

Vince Lombardi was a Hall of Fame football coach, an NFL executive and the head coach of the Green Bay Packers during the 1960’s. He led the team to three straight and five total NFL Championships in a seven year span. His namesake, The Vince Lombardi Trophy is awarded to the winner of The Super Bowl each year.

The iconic words spoken by him were all about getting back to fundamentals. Without them, regardless of what profession you are in, we can easily lose site of our core values. Our industry is one that sees many changes but as that change happens, it is often a very slow process. The life insurance industry is analogous to a large ocean liner. In order for that ship to make a turn, it’s a slow, tedious process. Changing course normally takes years to complete. Today, however, we are seeing huge changes happening virtually overnight.

As we continue to live in our pandemic stricken world, we, as insurance professionals, have been given an amazing gift. Carriers have adopted new procedures in underwriting utilizing various technologies. We are able to provide needed insurance products for our clients without a physical exam, blood draw or urine sampling. In addition, we are able to procure very large face amount limits, as high as $5,000,000 in some cases. To not seize this opportunity is doing our clients a tremendous disservice.

But the larger lesson that we should be learning from the current situation is the fundamentals of what it is we do for a living. We provide life insurance. Life insurance can be defined in many ways and when we all first started in the business, we were most likely making the sale sitting across a kitchen table.

We spoke to young couples who had just started out in life. Perhaps they purchased their first house and we talked about the “what if” scenario. Will you have enough money to pay off your mortgage? We would fast forward a few years and that same couple were now starting a family and that “what if” changed. Now we are talking about providing the extra income for their families to continue on and not be uprooted from that house they built into a home.  Or better still, making sure that college funds would be available if that “what if” scenario happened.

On the brighter side, there are also living benefits such as cash value based products that grow into supplemental retirement plans with the potential of tax-free income. I can vividly recall those kitchen table sales and the many lives that were changed by that stroke of the pen.  It was always a good feeling when I left a house at 10:00 at night knowing that we just insured the husband who had a wife and two kids that relied on him to keep the lights on.

On any given day, we see carriers releasing charts and graphs showing how competitive their particular products are.   We see the IRR calculations, the interest fluctuations, etc.  We see complex sales ideas showing financing techniques, white papers and tons of interpretations to justify these techniques.  Don’t get me wrong, there are many situations where the esoteric stuff is appropriate and works just fine. But the basic “core” life insurance sale seems to be taking a back seat.

The life insurance marketplace is still one of the most underserved consumer bases out there.  If left on their own, consumers can turn to the internet and purchase commoditized versions of life insurance.  There are plenty of websites out there attracting these consumers.  But the reality is that that they will simply not buy or not buy enough life insurance.  They do need someone to guide them through the purchase.  After all, life insurance is a product that is “sold” and not bought.

The power of what we do is truly amazing.  Today however, I believe that many agents have lost sight of the simplicity of the life Insurance sale. We get smothered by abstract ideas and sales concepts that take away the true meaning of who we are.  We are Life Insurance Agents. Be proud of it.

As I am writing this today, there has never been a more important time for us as insurance agents to rise to the occasion and take a step back and soak in the basic fundamentals of selling life insurance. The COVID-19 Pandemic has everyone thinking of their mortality. Protecting their families is paramount and that is evidenced by a recent LIMRA report indicating that term life sales for Q1 were up 8% with many carriers reporting double digit increases. When I started in the business, some of the old time veteran agents in the office would talk to “the new guys” and tell us that we would never understand this business until we delivered our first death claim.  You really can’t understand that until you have done it.  Those words, as I learned years later, were so true

In my career that spans over 30 years, I can honestly say that there has never been a time that life insurance has been as important as it is now. Combine that with the ease of obtaining it through the various non-medical platforms that we are seeing and we truly have an opportunity to go back to those fundamentals that Mr. Lombardi framed so well.

“Gentlemen (and Ladies), this is a football…”

Let’s not squander this unique opportunity and do what we do best.


By: Mark D. Milbrod, CLU, CLTC
May 7, 2020

In all of my years in this industry, I have seen many changes. Those changes always showed the true chameleon like nature of our industry and how adaptable it has always been to shifts in the market. Those changes though, have always been influenced by reactive buying habits of consumers.   Something as simple as pricing products with longer guarantees or coming up with additional benefits , such as the addition of long term care riders that created versality and options to the buyers of our products.

What we have experienced however over the last couple of months is truly incredible. Our lives as advisors have been changed forever. The changes that we are seeing have shifted away from historical “product like” changes to a focus on pure availability and access to a population that has its mortality thrown in its face every day. People are concerned with protecting their families. If that doesn’t empower us and make us an important part of society today, I don’t know what will.

I have always contended that our role as insurance advisors is one of the most noble professions that one can choose. We are “essential” and have a vital role to play through this existing pandemic.

The carriers that we represent have given us the strongest set of tools that we can place in our toolbox every day. As we have communicated over the last 6-8 weeks, you can offer your clients large amounts of life insurance without the need for a physical exam, a blood draw or urine specimen. The non-medical limits also extend to Disability Income policies and a wide range of Long Term Care & Chronic Illness Riders.

At first glance, some will say that this sounds too good to be true. It’s important to note that the carriers are not giving this away. They have just found a way to get the job done. By utilizing technology, they are able to access RX & MIB Databases, Lexus/Nexus searches and various other technologies to help them assess the risk. Something else that is becoming a viable underwriting tool is the use of a new technology called Human API. This latest tool allows the insurance carriers to have access to a proposed insured (patient) medical history via online portals that are widely used by medical facilities today. This is accomplished with a one time client authorization.

In our world of social distancing and quarantines, you have been empowered to make these products easily accessible at a time when it is needed most.

Here is a summary of what is available to you:

  • Non-Medical face amounts up to $5,000,000
  • Typically available up to age 60
  • Some face amounts may be available up to age 69
  • Term or Permanent plans
  • Non-Medical Disability Income benefits up to $10,000/mo.

It’s important to note that in addition to these non-medical limits for newly issued policies, we shouldn’t forget that the promises that we made to our existing clients will be honored. There are no pandemic exclusions in the life insurance products we sold.

Doing what we do has never been so important. This is an amazing opportunity that we shouldn’t squander. We should all feel empowered to pick up that phone, do your Zoom meetings and spread the word.   As your General Agency, we have the expertise to guide you through this new frontier. And just like that, together, we can reinvent ourselves.

By: Mark D. Milbrod, CLU,CLTC
April 20, 2020


In light of recent events, I felt that this time around, we could have a little fun. I put together the very first Mark’s Barks Crossword Puzzle. Below is the link to the digital version or simply download the PDF below. If you get stuck on any of the answers, reach out. We have the answer key.

Please Click Here if you like to solve it on the website.

And Click Here if you like to download the PDF and print it at home.


Have fun with it and Stay Safe!




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By: Mark D. Milbrod, CLU,CLTC


I hope this post finds everyone safe and you are coping well and adjusting to this new (temporary) normal.

As we are all making adjustments trying to balance our personal and business lives, it is important to stay busy.   I find it therapeutic keeping to a routine and staying in touch with friends and clients alike.

In terms of our industry, there has been a great response on the carrier level. The carriers are assuring us that they are there for their policyholders and able to service their respective customer bases.

From a new business standpoint, a number of carriers have expanded their non-medical platforms so that you can provide your clients with needed protection for life, disability and long term care insurance.

The platforms are digitally based and can facilitate large lines of protection without you ever having to physically be in front of your clients. Even annuity products can be processed in a similar manner.

All of that is great but let’s not lose site of the gravity of what is going on. Although we still need to make a living, be a human being first. Don’t come off like a snake oil salesman.

Check in on your clients. Assure them that through this crisis, the carriers that you sold to them are there to back up the promises you made to them. If appropriate, let them know what actions the carriers have taken with their non medical platforms and that they could take advantage of updating their insurance if they are interested.

I have seen multiple e-mails from Law & CPA firms advising their clients that they are still available for their planning needs. I have contacted attorneys and CPAs to let them know how our industry has responded with the digital platforms outlined above.   It’s good for them to know so that they can make their clients aware that they have options if the questions come up.

On a personal note, we at Agent Support Group are here to support you. Although we are working remotely, we have full capabilities to keep the continuity of your business flowing. If you would like to know more about any of the additional resources available to you, let us know.

Stay Safe!

Leveraging the SECURE ACT

by: Mark D. Milbrod, CLU, CLTC
Sales Vice President


With change comes opportunity. And so is the case with The Secure Act. Setting Every Community Up for Retirement Enhancement Act of 2019 was approved by the Senate on December 19, 2019.

Here are the key highlights…

  • The SECURE Act will make it easier for small business owners to set up “safe harbor” retirement plans that are less expensive and easier to administer.
  • Many part-time workers will be eligible to participate in an employer retirement plan.
  • The Act pushes back the age at which retirement plan participants need to take required minimum distributions (RMDs), from 70½ to 72, and allows traditional IRA owners to keep making contributions indefinitely.
  • The Act mandates that most non-spouses inheriting IRAs take distributions that end up emptying the account in 10 years.
  • The Act allows 401(k) plans to offer annuities.

As a life insurance producer, the biggest takeaway for me is the clawback on the stretch IRA rules for non-spousal beneficiaries and the minimum age for RMDs being pushed back to age 72. Prior to the enactment of The Secure Act, non-spousal beneficiaries were able to stretch out the taxation of inherited IRA’s during their lifetimes. Now, those same beneficiaries will be limited to only 10 years.

This opens up a tremendous opportunity for some additional life insurance and annuity sales. Here are some considerations. If holders of qualified buckets of money…

  • do not require those assets to maintain their lifestyle and
  • are planning to pass on those assets to non-spousal beneficiaries,

then consider leveraging those assets with the purchase of tax-free life insurance. It’s no different than the old Pension Maximization strategy. But with The Secure Act being in the news as much as it is, we have a tremendous opportunity to create new sales. Whether you use an Individual or a Survivorship Life option, the leverage is measurable. See the chart below to give you an idea of the kind of leverage you can expect to see. The example assumes a $500,000 qualified account balance purchasing an immediate income annuity with a 10 Year Certain Only payout option…



The notion of leveraging taxable dollars into tax-free alternatives is always a great story to tell. You can further enhance this opportunity by adding a Long Term Care or Chronic Illness Rider to compound the benefits of the transaction.

The SECURE ACT has definitely provided us with a huge opportunity with both Life Insurance and Annuity sales. Make CPA’s aware of this opportunity so as they prepare returns during the current tax season, they can identify clients that can take advantage of this planning technique.

We are ready to answer any questions on how you can start the conversation and get off to a great start in 2020.


by: Mark D. Milbrod, CLU, CLTC

When I look back at this industry, I am amazed at how far it has come.   The changes and innovations that have taken place have transformed how we conduct our business. Most industries have experienced a great deal of disruption and the insurance industry is no different.

With advances in technology, there has been a change in underwriting philosophy. The application process has changed dramatically. It used to be that for a run of the mill life insurance application, the proposed insured would have to have a paramed exam completed to include a blood & urine sample, a possible EKG as well as medical record retrieval. In addition, the actual application was very long and often times was not filled out correctly, which significantly slowed down the entire process.

Today however, if you are between the ages of 18 – 60, you can often secure up to $1,000,000 of life insurance benefit for either term or permanent insurance plans without a medical exam.   In fact, in some cases, you may be able to secure as much as $5,000,000 non-medically.

This is where the technology kicks in…

When applications are submitted, extensive searches are being completed behind the scenes. The insurance carriers are able to conduct searches by accessing a number of databases that provide valuable information. This information can include, but Is not limited to, state motor vehicle records, prescription drug histories and property/personal data. With all of this information at their disposal, the carriers save countless dollars on acquisition costs associated with the application and underwriting process.

All of this provides a more efficient, shorter underwriting process resulting in very quick approvals compared to older methods. This gets your client their policy faster and gets you paid faster as well.

The title of this post was “But Wait…There’s More!

So here’s the MORE…

This Non-Medical business applies to a large segment of the products we sell. Here is an example of a recent case that utilized all of the benefits of “non-medical underwriting for not only Life Insurance, but Disability Income & Long Term Care Insurance:

Under the above scenario, we were able to work with these clients and take advantage of all of their needs on a Non-Medical basis – NO BLOOD, URINE OR PARAMED. All of this was achieved with short form, simple applications and a brief phone interview.

When you tally up all of the numbers, a total of $1,666,000 of life insurance benefit, $5,000/mo. of disability income benefits and an uncapped long term care benefit for each of the insureds starting at $5,000/mo. was provided.

I started out this post by stating how amazed I am with our industry. The new approaches in underwriting afford us tremendous opportunities in providing our clients with unique solutions to their planning needs.   Cutting out the exam and other physical requirements greatly reduces the time it takes to process a piece of business. It also can motivate clients to move a little faster.

If you haven’t taken advantage of the full scope of this new way of doing business, you should give it a try.   But Wait, There is More…

More opportunity and more cases to close.


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