I’m going to say this straight out: I AM PROUD TO BE A LIFE INSURANCE AGENT.

I know some have had unfair or unpleasant experiences with an insurance company. Almost everyone knows someone who knows someone who knows someone who had trouble getting a claim paid. Yup, they happen, sometimes it really is the agent’s fault, or the company’s fault; sometimes it is because in a highly regulated business when the client doesn’t properly complete a claim form, or the doctor doesn’t send in the proper information the claim has to be put in suspense. (Did you know some docs charge their patient to give them an itemized bill, but the insurance company is REQUIRED to have the itemization for certain types of claims?)
I’m not going to excuse a difficult company, or a less than professional agent. They need to be out of the business. Period.
But, I am proud that I’ve seen children of my clients go to college because of a policy their parent bought before they died. I’ve seen families stay in a home because they could continue to pay the mortgage, and I’ve helped business owners create a succession plan so their family doesn’t have to sell the business at a fire sale price if the owner dies.

I won’t apologize for being an insurance agent any more than a car dealer needs to apologize for being a car dealer because a different dealer doesn’t treat customers right.

If an insurance company buys advertising time to build a positive image of itself or the insurance business in general, that is just like you or me taking a shower and putting on good clothes when we’re going to meet someone. Yes, businesses and people alike hope to make a good impression and give you a reason to like them. Perhaps to like them more than you like another someone or business. But it’s kinda like putting a sign in front of our building – it puts a public face of who we are. If we don’t introduce ourselves, no one will even know about us or our business. No company or person who wants a positive image puts out a sign or advertisement that says, “Do business with me, like me, because I’m dirty and unclean and selfish and profit motivated.” An ad is just an introduction. The person or company may or may not live up to the image in the ad, but if they don’t make the ad, you won’t even know they’re there, whether they’re the best or the worst at what they do.

No one seems to complain about a Budweiser commercial showing people applauding veterans at an airport or the Bud horse and the puppy. Incidentally, though I don’t drink Bud, I *LOVE* those ads, and even got a little misty eyed over the one with the returning veterans. No one complains that a GM car commercial may show a highly successful business person or attractive man or woman arriving to spotlights and glamour upon leaving the car with a valet. Yet neither of those commercials say anything about the quality of the product they advertise. They project a positive image of the COMPANY, but that may or may not mean the product is good. Or, it may be good for someone, but not good for another.

I won’t apologize for selling life insurance. It can help, not only survivors, but the insured person as well while alive. JC Penny borrowed on cash value of his insurance policy early on so that his fledgling business could continue. Regardless of Penny’s current situation, think of the many families who have benefited from having a member who had a job with JC Penney, a job that would not have been there except for him being able to borrow on his policy to stay in business.
Even wealthy people use life insurance to offset estate taxes so that their heirs don’t have to sell assets to pay the IRS. Life insurance proceeds are not normally subject to income tax when paid in a lump sum. Life insurance and annuity cash values are generally protected from liens and judgements. Life insurance beneficiaries can remain private, and the benefits are almost universally protected from any attempts to contest who gets what – unlike a will, which can be contested to the point of exhaustion. Parents of a child needing long term care can help ensure that it continues after they are gone through a life insurance trust. If both parents die, a life insurance trust can ensure that a well-meaning relative who cares for their children is not overwhelmed with the sudden burden of caring not only for the child but for the sudden large amount of money. LIT’s need to be drawn up by an attorney, but they are funded by life insurance.

I won’t apologize for selling insurance. I’ve seen some of my own clients’ children go to college on the proceeds of life insurance policies I helped their parents find. Like any industry, some companies and some agents are not so good. Many are. We get involved in our communty and spend our money hoping to improve the lives of others. I have volunteered with animal welfare groups, given away free spay/neuters for people needing them, supported and volunteered wth United Way, volunteered in community organizations, and used my income from insurance to help my communtiy, which many people in my business do. We are able to do it because we make a living helping others prepare for the unexpected.
My first life insurance claim was to deliver a $20,000 check to the single mother of a young man who was killed on his 16th birthday. He had bought the policy only a few months before because he knew how his mom had struggled. One very healthy 32-year-old man bought (reluctantly, because he was in great health) a $50,000 policy in October of one year, and died the following February. He had paid only 5 months of premium, but his widow and her two young children received the full $50,000. In 42 years, I’ve seen these scenarios many times.

Life insurance allows us to prepare for the unexpected. It’s called “Life Insurance” because it is for those who have to keep living. If my client above had paid only ONE premium (less than $10 / month), the company would have still written that $50,000 check. He didn’t expect to die, but that’s the point. None of us know when. Our life is like a string with random knots in it. We don’t know where the knots are, maybe at the very beginning, maybe a long way down the string. One knot means we can still get life insurance, but our health means it will cost a little more. That could come before we’re even born, or it may be many years later. Another knot means it will cost a LOT more (major health issues, recent cancer, severe hypertension, recent heart attack, etc), and another knot means we can’t get life insurance at any price whatsoever. We are not guaranteed tomorrow, and Life insurance allows us to continue saying “I LOVE YOU” to our spouse, parents, or children even after we’re gone.

I won’t apologize for asking tough questions to a client like, “If die tonight, how long will your family be able to pay the bills with your existing insurance plan?” You know, I’ve advised people NOT to buy as well as convince them to buy. Sometimes a persons just is already well prepared. Sometimes they need more but it is out of their ability to pay. I’d rather them not get it if they can’t keep it.
When everyone else -the hospital, funeral home, probate attorney, etc – is asking for money, LIFE INSURANCE provides money.

I WON’T APOLOGIZE FOR SELLING LIFE INSURANCE. But, knowing all the good things it can do when it’s needed, if I can help someone with life insurance but don’t, then that would be something to apologize for to their surviving loved ones.
-BR Walker CLU, RHU, FLMI

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August 13, 2011
Pic of BRW

Bob R. Walker, CLU

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