Don’t Overthink It!

Don’t Overthink It!
By: Mark D. Milbrod, CLU, CLTC

When I first started in the business, I worked at a Prudential district agency.  A lot of things were different then.  For starters, there wasn’t one grey hair on my head but most importantly, there were not as many distractions around the sale of life Insurance.  It was pretty simple, we sold to true need. We sold Life Insurance!

I can vividly recall many of those kitchen table sales and the many lives that were changed by that stroke of the pen.  It was always a good feeling when we 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.

Some of the old time 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.

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.

On any given day, we see carriers releasing charts and graphs showing how competitive their particular product is for a 65 year old Preferred buying $1,000,000 of life insurance.  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 words of those old Prudential agents about delivering that first death claim hold up quite strongly today.  In fact, we can probably add a few words and take it one step further and add…“you won’t understand this business until you deliver your first death claim or facilitate your first Long Term care claim.”

There are plenty of opportunities out there to sell life insurance.  Whether it is a plain vanilla sale or one that includes LTC benefits, don’t lose sight of the importance of what it is we do.

There is a virtual never ending market waiting to be sold and most times it is the simple sale that we overlook.  With the pandemic still a huge part of our lives, we , as insurance professionals,  can cater to a client base that is looking for something so simple, protection for their families.

Don’t Overthink It!



By Mark Milbrod, CLU, CLTC

Over the next few weeks, our clients will start receiving their annual tax documents in preparation for the filing of their 2020 Tax Returns.  Although many people have had a difficult year, it is still important that planning gets done.  Taxes still need to be paid and as American as apple pie, our favorite Uncle has his hand out for his piece of it.

Tax season is upon us and with it comes our best prospecting tool, THE TAX RETURN.

There are countless sales opportunities that arise out of this time of year.   The clients themselves will be focused on the financial aspect of their lives. Whether its retirement plan contributions, annual gifts, charitable contributions, etc., it will be fresh on their minds.

As stated above, a tax return is probably our best sales prospecting tool.   As financial professionals, where else can you get a blueprint that leads you directly to all facets of someone’s finances?

Here are some examples of line items on a standard 1040 Tax Form that can lead you to where potential sales opportunities exist:

  • Dependents– knowing how many dependents raises the question to whether there is enough life insurance in force to protect those family members who are reliant on someone. For younger dependents, the college planning conversation usually starts.
  • Taxable Interest– See where this income is coming from.  There can be a more tax efficient way to invest funds.
  • Business Income– knowing where business income comes from can start the conversation for business succession planning, key employee coverage’s, etc.
  • Qualified Plan Contributions– this opens up the retirement planning conversation.  Are they maxed out in qualified contributions? What about retirement goals? Perhaps some supplemental non-qualified vehicles could be appropriate.
  • Partnership/S-Corp Income– knowing if there are partnerships and K-1 Income, perhaps buy-sell planning can be in order.
  • Social Security Benefits– are they receiving SS benefits?  Do they need it?  For a couple, one income would be lost upon a first death. Perhaps a more efficient use of those funds can be the answer. Maybe they need life insurance to make up for the drop in income?
  • Capital Gains– where are their assets? Is there a better use of those assets? Perhaps annuities would be suitable?
  • Medical Expenses– knowing what their medical expenses are can open up the Long Term care conversation.  Do they have any or what assets would they tap into if they had an LTC event? Perhaps repurposing assets for the sake of LTC benefits would be appropriate?
  • Interest Paid– mortgage interest paid can tell you more about their home.  For clients older than age 62, a Reverse Mortgage can be an option
  • Gifts to Charity– if someone is charitably inclined, you can discuss the leverage of life insurance for legacy gifts.

As you can see, there are a number of sales opportunities that exist by utilizing the 1040 Tax Form.  The examples above are just the tip of the iceberg.  By using this approach, you can start conversations with your prospective and current clients.

In addition, before the CPA’s get too deep into their season, this is also a great opportunity to reach out to those relationships and discuss with them some key items to watch out for when they are preparing returns for their clients.

Once they know what to look out for, they can become a great source of referrals for you.  Perhaps creating a “cheat sheet” as a leave behind for the CPA would be a great tool that they can keep handy.  This “cheat sheet” will identify those line items and how they may lead to creative solutions for their clients.  I have been using this approach for many years to huge success.

At ASG, we have tools designed to help you with this approach to marketing. Contact us today so we can guide you through the process and navigate you through this blueprint provided by our favorite uncle. 


By: Mark D. Milbrod, CLU, CLTC

I recently had a conversation with a friend that was in need of some life insurance to protect his family.  With the exception of some small amount of group coverage, he basically had no life insurance.  This was concerning since he is 38 years old and has three children ages 12, 9 & 7.   He is the sole wage earner in his household, has a fairly large mortgage and his savings are modest.  It is a logical conclusion to say that if something were to happen to him, his family would surely suffer financially.

He asked me about life insurance and he, like most people, was reluctant to talk seriously about the topic.  Before you read on, relax, this is not one of those stories that ends with me telling you that he tragically died and his family was left in financial ruin.  He wound up buying some term insurance but it took some convincing on my part.  It does prove the point however, that life insurance has to be “sold” and not bought.  He really didn’t understand how much he needed and what type was best for him so he could adequately protect his family.

The main objection that kept resurfacing was the cost of the insurance.  The “cost“ of life insurance is one of the most convenient excuses to not buy it.  The reality is that the cost is very low when you think about it, especially when you understand what it represents.  The paying off of a mortgage, income replacement, food on the table, etc.  The list can go on and on.

What’s funny is how much money is thrown away on the things that really do not matter.  As it turns out, my friend likes his Starbucks coffee every day.  His Grande costs him $2.10 every morning before he gets to his office.  That’s over $46 per month without even thinking twice about it.  His cell phone bill is $173 per month and his cable bill $256 per month.  These three things “HE CAN’T” do without and they amount to over $475 per month.

The irony is that if something happened to him, these are just a few items of a very long list that his family would have to do without.   For just about the cost of his cup of coffee ($46/mo.), a $1,000,000 term life policy could offer a great deal of financial security.

Ultimately, he ended up procuring $2,500,000 of laddered term policies, some 15 Year and some 30 Year for a total $120 per month.  That worked out well for him but it never fails to amaze me how people will so easily shell out money for things like their Cell Phone Plans, Cable TV and even a cup of coffee and not realize the bigger picture.

This example has to do with an old fashioned sale of life insurance but the concept of the big picture is scalable.   It applies to almost any sales scenario involving the sale of the products that we provide.  It can just as easily be for a large estate planning situation, the funding for a buy-sell agreement or the purchase of Long Term Care protection.

The bigger picture is what matters most.  It may be a bigger cup, but it all comes down to the price for that cup of coffee.


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.


Find more of Mark’s Bark’s Blogs on our website:

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

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!