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Don Levin, JD, MPA, CLF, CSA, LTCP, CLTC

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Don Levin, JD, MPA, CLF, CSA, LTCP, CLTC, is now the Strategic Relations Director for the Krause Agency following their acquisition of USA-LTC. Levin is the past three-term chairman of the board of the National Long Term Care Network and the past president and CEO of USA-LTC. Levin has been in the long term care industry since 1999, during which time he has been an award-winning agent, district manager, regional sales manager, marketing director, associate general agent, general agent, and divisional vice president. Levin is also a former practicing Attorney-at-Law, court-appointed arbitrator and is a retired U.S. Army officer. In addition to his various law and life and health insurance licenses, and the above designations, Levin has also earned Green Belt certification through GE’s Six Sigma program and is a graduate of GAMA International’s Essentials of Leadership and Management. He has also taught Managing Goal Achievement®, Integrity Selling® and The Way to Wealth® to hundreds of leaders and salespeople over the past fifteen years. He previously possessed FINRA Series 7, 24, and 66 licenses. Levin earned his Juris Doctor from The John Marshall Law School, his MPA from the University of Oklahoma, and his BA from the University of Illinois-Chicago. He is also a graduate of the U.S. Army Command and General Staff College and the Defense Strategy Course, U.S. Army War College. He is a published author of fourteen books in a wide range of genres. Levin may be reached via telephone at (800) 255-1932. Email: donlevin@krause.com.

Sometimes You Simply Cannot Fix Stupid

I recently observed my twenty-third anniversary in the long term care insurance industry. I am not certain that the adage, “Time flies when you are having fun,” would be applicable, but it has prompted me to pause for a moment and to reflect on what has been a wonderful career in which I have genuinely helped countless people protect themselves and their families against the ravages of long term care. In some ways I was truly fortunate that my first claim occurred within the first six months that I was in the industry, thus making the “intangible promise” associated with the contract a very real thing to me as I helped the family negotiate the claims process.

One of my professional associates (not in the LTCI industry) asked me whether I still have the same “fire in the belly” that I had all those years ago, and to that query I could enthusiastically respond with a resounding “Yes!” He also wanted to know whether my attitude regarding the requisite activities at the point of sale had changed after all my years in management. And to this query I responded in the negative. Because I have “kept my hand in it” over the years, and still consider myself a Long Term Care Advocate (producer) at heart, I can honestly say that the belief system I embraced while a student in the Basic Training Seminar has remained largely intact and only the techniques and available tools have been subject to a few minor tweaks over the years.

Some of you reading this article may find this next statement shocking or even border on braggadocio, but I have always believed that the sale of traditional long term care insurance is a one-appointment sale. After about three or four months in the business of having to return to the clients’ house for a second go around where I largely had to repeat the interview and further answer questions, I discovered the importance of simply asking, “What do you need to think about?” or “Would six to eight weeks be enough to consider what you actually want this policy to provide you?” After asking one or both of those questions, I soon found myself closing about 90 percent of my appointments on the first go around. It simply made sense to do this, and so I really focused on identifying and personalizing need, creating the requisite sense of urgency that prompted the client(s) to answer the call to action in that first interview, and demonstrating the value associated with owning a policy. I have encountered producers who have made it a two-, three-, or even four-appointment process. Even after all these years, I do not know how one can make it more than a two- appointment close unless one is shifting to a different form of protection or lacks the confidence to ask for the application.

I can also remember how genuinely angry I would get at myself and how I would replay the interview in my head as I drove to my next appointment or worse, home with my tail between my legs, on those occasions when I had not closed the appointment during the initial interview. I learned that sometimes all that had prevented the sale from occurring was not asking that one additional question. That mini epiphany was enough to transform me into a long term care advocate.

Ignorance is defined as the lack of knowledge. I determined that after I had educated my clients, and they were no longer ignorant, that the decision to purchase a policy should be a no brainer. Yet I still encountered those who believed that “It won’t happen to me,” and that they “Would be in the ten percent unimpacted by long term care,” or, despite the irrefutable evidence to the contrary, they would remain in denial and unaffected by long term care. It was only after I realized that if I were conducting the interview in the same tried-and-true method, that the failure to close was not a shortcoming or worse, a failure, on my part, but the harsh reality, in the absence of ignorance, I could not fix stupid.

That may sound harsh, or even a tad egotistical, but because of the passion with which I approach each interview, I have simply come to expect to close every appointment when the client has the requisite health, wealth, and has been afforded the opportunity to become informed and aware of the risks and consequences of not purchasing a plan.

On the brighter side, more consumers surveyed say they are more likely to purchase a long term care insurance plan because of personal or family-related experiences during the COVID-19 pandemic. This has been most helpful in younger clients who have “lived the nightmare” of long term care with elderly parents.

While I long ago came to terms with the fact that we are offering a product that people do not want to consider for myriad reasons, including their own mortality and morbidity, I also realized that, like a lot of myths, it is our job to educate and make them aware of the pertinent risks and consequences and help them get out of their own way. The excuses we most commonly hear range from “It is too expensive,” “I am too young and can bank the premiums and save some cash,” “I am young and healthy,” to “Nobody in my family has ever needed it,” and “How do I know that your company will even be around if I ever need to file a claim?” Talk about an uphill putt!

Much like the specter of life insurance, which forces a potential buyer to contemplate his or her own mortality, most prefer to simply avoid the topic entirely until we peel back the onion, layer by layer, again using education and awareness to help them protect the ones they love. Overcoming this denial or reluctance is key to their accepting and planning for their mortality and building a strong financial plan for retirement and beyond.

With life insurance, when you deliver the death benefit your client is dead. The policy is for the people he or she leaves behind. With long term care insurance your client is very much alive, and thus the policy is for the living!

I also had to accept the fact that unlike a shiny new car or an exciting flat-screen television with all the bells and whistles, I was largely offering my clients a promise. A pledge, a piece of paper, based on an intangible promise that the assets and resources offered by the contract with the carrier would be there in their time of need. It is not about having a flashy animated PowerPoint presentation or glossy brochure but bringing sincerity, professionalism, and passion to every interview we conduct. The mindset that this is an interview should also dictate that the client will do more of the talking, or in a two-to-one ratio to what we are saying. Long term care insurance is all about helping them make an emotional decision to buy based on need and urgency, followed up by the logical reinforcement of this emotional decision.

So, again, it all comes back to education and awareness, and ensuring that your client is no longer ignorant or lacking in the requisite knowledge to make an informed decision.

As a “young” agent, I was taught that, after ten years in the industry I would be considered “older than dirt” and would have truly earned my spurs. Having eclipsed that milestone twice over, I can now say that the emotions that I experience when the sale does not occur have subsided from anger and frustration to those of acceptance and sadness for the client. A sale is not going to change my life, but the absence of a sale will likely impact theirs with the odds of a long term care incident very high. Tempering these emotions is the realization that while I can eliminate ignorance, it is not within my power to eliminate denial or to fix stupid. All I can do is to bring my “A” game to each interview, to be as professional and transparent (in a good way) as I can be, and to provide them with the relevant information necessary to make an informed decision.

A friend of mine who is ten years older than I and has been in the industry longer than I have, recently experienced a severe health scare (he was dead on the kitchen floor until he was revived) that I thought would prompt him to retire. When I asked him about it, he quietly said, “Only about ten percent have coverage, and we know that seventy percent need it, so I guess I will keep working until I cannot work any longer.”

He laughed when we recalled the ignorance and stupid dichotomy, and simply added that he hoped to find more of the former and less of the latter.

How To Avoid Being A Boy Named Sued

Over the years, I have had many people ask me whether I miss the practice of law and why I have loved the long term care industry as much as I have since joining it in 1999. I usually respond that watching The Good Wife had the effect of triggering my PTSD from the days that I did have to frequent Daley Center in downtown Chicago and be at the mercy of the person wearing a robe sitting behind the bench as if on some exalted throne. Conversely, I have loved being in LTCI sales because we help people safeguard their futures by offering them tomorrow’s peace of mind solutions today. I have also been heard to say that the long term care industry was a great “do over” for me in terms of rejuvenating myself professionally and providing a firm foundation for retirement financially.

Having just attended yet another industry conference—for good, bad, or indifferent reasons, I have lost count of how many ILTCI, GAMA/LAMP, NLTCN, and individual carrier and agency conferences that I have attended over the years—I once again find myself reflecting on the state of the industry and just how I feel about the potential of the marketplace. As a now “old dog” in the industry, I find that my belief in our products is deeper than ever, and my commitment to helping people help themselves find protection against the financial, physical, and emotional ravages of long term care even greater than it was twenty-three years ago.

I firmly believe that with the proper level of commitment and persistence, the opportunity afforded a long term care planning specialist has never been as great as it is today. With the return of carriers to the marketplace, additional carriers taking the plunge into the marketplace, as well as a range of new products being launched, the true long term care planning specialist has never had as many arrows in his or her quiver in terms of meeting the needs of the client. However with this opportunity comes associated risk. It is critical that we meet these needs by asking pertinent questions, and listening to their respective answers, while being in the position of offering sound recommendations as to product and carrier. We must always remain client-centric in our recommendations, and not be swayed by a more attractive compensation structure or ease of electronic submission.

The balance between risk and reward is such that it is imperative that the long term care planning specialist has a keen and broad exposure to all available products, and now develops a set way to conduct interviews and plan design by following a standardized and replicable fact-finding process that will potentially hold up under judicial scrutiny. Some may ask why.

As a former practicing attorney well familiar with the litigious nature of the Society we live in today, I will make the casual observation that anyone can sue anyone for any reason with or without an underlying basis—legitimate Cause of Action be damned. Justice and Equity do not recognize that frivolous lawsuits are any less expensive, time consuming, or stressful to defend. Since failing to defend such a suit can lead to a default judgment, ignoring it is never an option. Why would anyone sue you as an insurance producer or practicing financial advisor or estate planning attorney? Easy answer: Your malpractice or errors and omissions insurance policy makes for an attractive target! Long has the adage been, “When all else fails, sue the professional. If his pockets are not deep, we’ll put our hand in the insurance company’s pocket.” That may sound very cynical, and contrary to what a reader can normally expect from one of my articles, but that is the harsh reality of what has become a very dog eat dog battle between defendant and plaintiff’s bars.

Having worked closely with Compliance leaders over the years, and filling that role many times myself, I continue to exhort producers and leaders at all levels to embrace Compliance and to recognize that they exist to help us avoid problems and should not be viewed as the enemy or the “Don’t Patrol.” I have witnessed how adversely impactful a frivolous lawsuit or even a complaint with the Department of Insurance, FINRA, or the state Attorney Disciplinary Commission can be, and can categorically state that the way to avoid them is to always put your clients’ interests first.

We do not want to be in the position of defending a lawsuit twenty or thirty years down the road brought by the children or heirs of a policyholder who are looking to recoup the costs associated with their loved one’s long term care when the modest policy they purchased was long exhausted and the burden of these expenses fell back on the family coffers. A disclaimer of some kind that acknowledges the why behind the ultimate plan design chosen by the client and eventual policyholder could prove to be an integral part of a successful defense or even preclude such an action from going beyond the pre-trial stage. For this reason, a producer must have a routine way they engage clients from initial contact to policy delivery and ongoing servicing post-issue.

Won’t happen you say? It’s happening now! Courts have become extremely plaintiff friendly especially against the insurance industry and the insurance producer/financial professional. Fueling this winning streak by the plaintiffs is something known as the Doctrine of Reliance.

The Doctrine of Reliance is usually a winner because it is so easy to manipulate in favor of a sympathetic plaintiff especially before a jury of his peers. Arguments such as “My parents relied on you for your advice,” or “As a widow, my Mom relied on your recommendation as to what plan to buy…” are going to be very persuasive. Can you see where this is going, and why you don’t want to be on that train?

Through my own personal trial and error, I have determined that the best way to stay out of trouble and to “remember” pertinent aspects of the interview is to be a proficient note taker. When in doubt, write it down! This is especially important when capturing for posterity the essence of why the client is investigating long term care insurance, and the very reasons, e.g., not wanting to be a burden or dependent on their family, asset protection, independence, etc. (I have also found that when I am discussing a potential in-force rate action with a client years after the purchase, that it is great to be able to recite their own words back to them as to why they originally purchased the plan.) To this end, a good fact finder, started while on the phone prior to scheduling the actual interview, carried through the face to face or remote appointment, and concluded with policy delivery can in fact become the best insurance policy that you will ever own and it won’t cost you a dime’s worth of premium.

As we move forward with the new products that offer smaller, fixed pools of benefits, in an effort to reach more of the Middle America market, as well as new policies that offer unlimited lifetime benefits, or the flexibility afforded the “Live-Die-Quit” mantra of several carriers, we must exercise caution and apply the prudent man standard as to what is both suitable and appropriate for the client.

With the Department of Labor Ruling on fiduciary standards and individual states adopting similar legislation, there is an ever-increasing burden on the producer/advisor. Unfortunately, when coupled with the Doctrine of Reliance, we can be sued for the advice we give as well as the advice we do not tender. Not mentioning a higher cost of living allowance factor or an unlimited policy because of the higher premium attached to it, when family history may dictate the appropriateness of this plan design could be as dangerous to the producer as would be “under selling” a plan based on associated price.

Johnny Cash sang a song about a father who decided that he was going to toughen up his son by giving him the girl’s name of Sue. As expected, Sue spent a good bit of his time “kicking and a-gouging in the mud and the blood and the beer.” That is not how I want to spend the golden years of my retirement, nor do I want to see my agents bearing the burden of these frivolous lawsuits that I know are just over the horizon. Just as we know that beyond the horizon is not the end of the ocean, we know that our responsibility to these clients does not end with the sale but remains while we are the servicing agent up to, and including, the time that they or their family file a claim.

While a carefully completed factfinder like the one we utilize in our agency, that is subsequently reviewed by the client and can even be signed by the client, may not be an ironclad defense in an errors and omissions action, I am confident that it will carry enough sway as to mitigate if not eliminate culpability.

Making plan design a collaborative effort between you and the client and placing him or her in the position of expressing the why they are purchasing a policy and what they want the policy to do and then literally signing off on it, will not only be a very powerful way to protect yourself legally, but also to really solidify the sale! Satisfied clients should also become centers of influence for you in terms of referrals and introductions to their friends and family as well as their attorney and financial advisor.

Going the extra mile requires commitment on your part. It is the essence of excellence and will always differentiate you from other producers and advisors. It will be the reason that clients want to refer you to their friends and family more than just to validate their own decision to purchase. At first it may be challenging to go the extra mile, but once you make it a habit, the benefits will far outweigh the cost of investment and you will find yourself in a class by yourself! Make fact finding a part of your business today!

The Gnarly Truth About Long Term Care

For many years as I have conducted a workshop on the subject of long term care aptly entitled What’s Your Plan, I have shared an anecdote from my own life which illustrates why my wife and I own a robust long term care insurance policy.

It happened some years ago when we were gathered at a swimming party with our five [married] children and more grandchildren than I could count as they bobbed in and out of the water. I felt like a re-incarnate of George Bailey from Frank Capra’s It’s a Wonderful Life and that I truly was the richest man in town. I was thrilled to be surrounded by so many of my progeny. Imagine the shock and disappointment I experienced as that feeling was quickly dispelled when I asked for some assistance with the application of some suntan lotion on my back and the sentiment of “that is gnarly Dad, and I am not going anywhere near it,” was repeated several times. When I pointed out that I was neither a leper nor a carrier of any communicable contagion, that it was merely hair on my back, the head shaking and facial contortions did not subside, and it was only when my wife made her appearance that I received some begrudging assistance. In hindsight, I believe it was at that point in time that we made the more-or-less permanent switch to a spray-on applicator for future holiday sojourns.

A lesser man might have been scarred by such abject rejection but being quick on my feet, I pointed out to them that they had merely confirmed for me that in a crisis involving long term care that they would be absolutely useless to me. “If you won’t even apply suntan lotion to my back, what chance do I have that you would ever bathe me or toilet me?” Their response? “Oh Dad, you know that we would take care of you.” While they may believe this, to this day I harbor serious doubts, and remain grateful for my long term care insurance policy, because I know that life is busy for them, and that we are no longer a Walton-like society of homes with two and three generations residing under one roof. Our families are dispersed across the country, with more women in the workplace, fewer children being born, and life is busy! The COVID-19 pandemic that continues to haunt us was another great wakeup call for many families that long term care for an ailing family member can be a great challenge, and that there is a fair amount of truth to the adage that says “one parent can take care of six children, but six children cannot take care of one parent.”

This anecdote and gentle reminders always receive the laugh that I hope for and is a poignant reminder to many of the participants in my workshops that they too are vulnerable to the new normal in our society.

Imagine my surprise when on a recent holiday to a fashionable resort in Cabo San Lucas I witnessed my suntan lotion experience playout right before my own eyes. A family of two parents and their three adult children rode from the airport to the resort with us on the prescribed shuttle and they talked about all that they were going to enjoy over the coming week. We saw them nearly every day at one of the two infinity pools that graced the grounds of the resort, until that fateful day when I witnessed the father asking his children for some assistance with the application of his suntan lotion. I did not hear the word “gnarly” spoken, but from the body language exhibited, and the good-natured request for a pair of rubber gloves, I knew that he too was in the same boat as I. He must have noticed the slow manner in which I was shaking my head because later while we were in the pool together, he struck up a conversation. The conversation soon turned to our children and how different today’s generation has become in terms of their willingness to “serve their elders” is how I believe he expressed it. He went on to share that he and his wife had “nursed” his parents at the end of their lives, and how difficult it had been to juggle careers, family, and the burden of long term caregiving.

I shared with him that I had been a caregiver to all four of my grandparents at one time or another from as young as age 13 when I assisted my grandmother on the weekends in taking care of my grandfather. He was horror-stricken to hear that I had assisted with changing soiled bed linen and personal clothing because my grandfather was bed-ridden with stomach and colon cancer, and later, a colostomy. When I shared that as an adult, I had changed my grandmother’s diaper (while she was living in a very upscale nursing home), I knew that he was reliving his own experiences with his parents.

For those who have read other articles in which I have shared my vacation experiences, the expectation might be that I followed up with a home interview during which this gentleman and his wife purchased a long-term care insurance policy and everyone lived happily ever after. I would love to report that this was the outcome, but like many people who still do not believe the evidence even when it is right in front of them, I came to realize that the denial with which this gentleman had cloaked himself was going to remain impenetrable and would adversely impact his family in the future.

Even though I was on holiday, when he presumed to begin to recite conflicting statistics about the likelihood of requiring this care, as well as how much it costs to purchase and maintain a long term care policy, I took it as an affront, and a challenge to educate he and his wife who had joined the conversation. I quickly agreed with him that long term care is expensive but, by comparison, a long term care insurance policy is quite inexpensive if not downright cheap by comparison.

I then dazzled them with my array of cold hard facts:

  • 90 percent of all couples [of any kind] will be impacted by long term care at some point.
  • 80 percent of all men who require care are married; 80 percent of women who require care are not married, largely due to the fact that they were their partner’s caregiver and were repaid for this effort by them dying on them.
  • 79 percent of all women who reach age 65 will require some form of long term care assistance before they die.
  • 70 percent of all folks over the age of 65 will require long term care.
  • No matter when you purchase the plan, or how long you pay on it, a policyholder will recoup their investment within the first 90 days of a claim.
  • Further, that with the new hybrid plans that offer both life and long term care protection, Live-Die-Quit, is a mantra that serves everyone. Nobody has ever successfully argued with me that they will not die and utilize the death benefit of the policy.

Even though we were staring out into the beautiful blue waters of the Sea of Cortez, I knew that he was still knee-deep in the Sea of Denial. His wife had pretty much accepted what I had said and was nodding her head in agreement and voicing that many of their friends had already purchased plans. Much like Archie Bunker of All in the Family he dismissed her comments, and I knew that I was staring at an object as immovable as El Arco, the arch, where the Pacific Ocean becomes the Sea of Cortez.

With a pleasant smile, and wishes for a good day, I dog paddled off to the other side of the pool, satisfied that I had done my best to eliminate ignorance (the lack of knowledge) and recognizing that, once again, I was unable to fix stupid.

It was shortly after this exchange that I witnessed another guest whom I had observed over the past week slowly moving along the edge of the pool utilizing a walker. He was shuffling along with a bag attached to the walker and, when he found one of his family members, I observed him reach into the bag hanging from the walker and extract a bottle of suntan lotion. While he was too far away for me to hear what he was saying, from his gestures I knew what assistance he was asking for from the younger woman I presumed to be his daughter. I glanced over at my denial-ridden acquaintance and smiled at him. The Fates do have a sense of humor. The look of recognition or just confusion on his face was enough for me to recognize that he was slowly learning the gnarly truth about long term care…

“Brother Can You Spare A Dime…?”

I can remember the sheer terror that accompanied gasoline prices cresting the $1 per gallon mark back in the 70s just in time to accompany my foray into the driving world. I can also remember paying over $4 per gallon while living in Richmond, VA, some fifteen years ago. Today, when I go window shopping, I regularly see new car prices that eclipse the purchase price of our first home while I was attending law school back in the early 1980s.

Surprisingly enough, even with rising health care and custodial costs, and the heretofore referenced regular costs of living inflation, total annual premiums for long term care insurance policies sold continue to decline! Are rates being reduced by the carriers? Not that I have heard. Have underwriting conditions and actuarial projections reduced the costs associated with owning a policy? Hardly. Has the cost of care declined? Nope; a steady increase of about 3.9 percent per year has pretty much been the norm. So, what has driven the amount of premium on the average policy to decline? I suspect that it is fear. Fear? Fear. Fear of not making a sale, fear of scaring away a prospect, fear of facing clients and addressing topics such as in force rate actions.

If that answer comes as a surprise, an alternative answer could also include poverty consciousness and fear, with both elements squarely in the hearts and minds of the insurance producer offering long term care protection to their clients that simply may not be enough coverage.

What do I mean by poverty consciousness? Simply put, it is the inability of the insurance producer to get beyond his or her own myopic vision on what is or is not an affordable premium to pay for this invaluable protection. If I just struck a nerve and you are one of these producers who cannot imagine collecting, much less personally writing, an annual premium check of $6000 to $8,000 for long term care protection that provides coverage for two clients with a monthly benefit level for each of them of approximately the same value, then we have identified the problem.

I have always likened a shared (or joint) plan that covers two parties with a monthly benefit for each party equal to the premium for the plan as a great plan as it then affords me the opportunity to ask the question, “Would you rather write this check once a year or twice a month?” It is a very powerful illustration of the way clients can leverage their money in ways that may never have occurred to them or their financial advisor.

So, unless you are independently wealthy, or living on the fruits of a multi-million dollar book of business generating a six-figure stream of renewals, or have a spouse with a large income, or inherited a nice chunk of change, I would encourage you to lose this fear or reticence and do, once and for all, shed your poverty consciousness. The discussion with our clients needs to be one focused on risk and consequences. If they are not receptive to the probabilities associated with this great need, then be prepared to pivot to the concept of consequences. “Okay George, I really believe that you believe that you will be in that lucky 10 percent that does avoid the need for long term care in your own life—but what if you are wrong? What are the consequences to your spouse, your family, your finances, and the legacy that you wish to have survive you?

Fortunately today, in addition to traditional stand-alone long term care insurance policies, we can now offer the alternatives of asset-based products, life with long term care riders, as well as annuities with long term care provisions.

If you are suffering poverty consciousness, the best advice I can share with you can be summed up in three words: Get over it! As my good Italian friend would advise: Fuhgeddaboudit. The disservice you do yourself is only eclipsed by the disservice you do your clients. Remember that in addition to being a word, fear can also be a mnemonic: FEAR—False Evidence Appearing Real. Don’t fall into this trap.

Unleashing The Power Of One

Over the years I have written about the Power of One and the incredible achievements that are made possible by simply doing one more_____. You fill in the blank. It can be as simple as making one additional dial, or making one additional contact, or better yet setting one more appointment in a phone session. It can be running one additional appointment per week or making one additional sale per week or month. The beauty associated with the Power of One is that it does not matter whether you are the newest producer or the most veteran President’s Club Leading Producer. When projected out over an entire year it can really add up. In terms of long term care insurance, an extra (placed) sale per week can be worth $200,000 in additional placed premium, which, at an 80 percent placement rate, can translate to $130,000 cold hard cash in your bank account. This can translate to college tuition, new car, vacation home, or anything else that currently has the spotlight in your life.

We have all heard about how monumental the difference one degree of temperature can make in water. At 211 degrees water is hot and will scald you. However, at 212 degrees, it boils. With boiling water comes steam, and steam can power a locomotive. Harnessing this power changed our country and fueled our historical Manifest Destiny as East and West were united.

What is required to achieve the Power of One or the extra degree of 212? Focus. Attention to detail. Diligence and repetition. Desire and vision. Sometimes it requires sacrifice. When I was in college, I dated a girl with whom I shared a passion for bowling. Many of our Friday and Saturday nights were spent at the lanes. I was what we would euphemistically refer to as a “streaky” shooter. I could rattle off five or six strikes in a row and then narrowly miss just as many spares. One night I was with my family and bowled three games: 109, 234, 109. Like I said, streaky.

One day while still in college I got off of work early and, with time to kill before picking up my girlfriend, I headed to the lanes. Because I was the only one in the place, the very bored counterman elected to keep score for me. I generally loved bowling by myself because if I was in a “groove” I really wanted to throw the balls down the alley just as quick as the pinsetter could reset the pins. I was hot that day, and by the 7th frame I was flirting with perfection. A few people had straggled in and were standing at the counter as they watched the score sheet projected up on the ceiling. While I was clearly in the zone, I was also aware of the soft buzz emanating from the counter. I threw my eighth ball for a strike, and my heart started racing, and the buzz grew a little louder. After the ninth set of pins all went down I could feel the blood coursing through my ears and I actually had to take some deep breaths to batten down some of the adrenalin that was really starting to cascade through my entire body.

The first ball of the tenth frame took all the pins down and I stomped the floor and pumped my arm as the crowd at the counter started hooting and howling. It was at this point that I allowed myself to first think about the personalized bowling ball and bag that had been promised me by my girlfriend if I ever bowled a perfect 300 game. I started to mentally pick out the color of the ball.

The second ball of the tenth frame was what I call a nervous strike. I had just missed the pocket and had to wait with bated breath while the five pin wobbled several times as it decided on whether it was going to go down and preserve the streak or disappoint the crowd. It fell, and I mentally chastised myself for nearly jinxing my success by thinking about the ball and bag.

At this point, the counterman is having to remind the crowd gathered at the counter and spread out behind me to be quiet because “he is one strike away from a 300 game.” Much like you don’t talk about a “no-no” when a major league baseball pitcher is flirting with either a perfect game or no-hitter, I physically winced when I heard his words.

I stood at the line, ball cradled in my hand, and began my approach, and as soon as I let go of the ball I knew that I had failed. The dream was gone. The result: the dreaded 7-10 split. Two pins on opposing sides of the lane. The disappointment expressed by the crowd was audible and when I rolled my final ball it went cleanly down the center of the lane missing both pins.

We didn’t bowl that night or many nights thereafter, and I did not share with my girlfriend how close I came to the elusive new ball and bag until the counterman blabbed about it some months later. That was some 43 years ago, and I still remember the feeling of that errant ball leaving my grip. It is the same feeling that I experience when my beloved Chicago Cubs narrowly miss out on an opportunity to win a single game or the division title over the course of a season.

The moral to that story is that I failed to achieve a desired outcome because I allowed myself to be distracted and to lose my focus. I have often wondered if I had remained alone without a crowd or had not gotten ahead of myself in assuming success, whether I might have enjoyed bragging rights all these years to a 300 game. Don’t miss out on qualifying for that leading producer conference, or MDRT qualification, because you take your eye off the ball. Put forth the extra effort that will get you over the top by employing the Power of One and achieving the power of 212 by attaining the extra power associated with that extra one degree. As we continue to age as a society, living longer and dying slower, the need associated with long term care has reached pandemic proportions. Our clients need to hear our words and to answer the call to action that you present to them. Remember that ninety percent of our business is belief, and the other half is activity.

There have been any number of books written that compare the disciplines of golf and big business. These books emphasize the necessity for consistency, preparation, and diligent practice. This is also what makes both disciplines often a winner-take-all scenario. Just as no one remembers who loses the Super Bowl or the World Series, much can be the same to all the professional golfers who have come in second to the likes of Arnold Palmer, Jack Nicklaus, and Tiger Woods when each of them was dominant in the sport of golf.

For the financial advisor/insurance producer, success can sometimes be measured in terms as simple as either you get the deal, or you don’t; you write the case, or you don’t. But what if just a few small improvements, subtle changes, a tweak here or there, a focus on the Power of One or achieving that extra one degree to reach boiling temperature was enough to change your business and allow you to dominate your piece of the vineyard? Would you embrace these changes and be willing to perpetuate them if it meant sustainable growth and dominant success? Of course you would!

In 2011, Phil “Lefty” Mickelson was the second highest paid athlete with earnings in excess of $62M (with some $53M from endorsement contracts). In 2015, Lefty earned $51 million between PGA tour prize money as well as the numerous endorsement contracts that he has inked courtesy of a very diligent agent. His 18 hole per round stroke average was 70.5 for the 2015 campaign. That was good enough to usually keep him competitively at the top of the leaderboard in each tournament. His consistency contributed significantly to the degree of success he enjoyed despite the psoriatic arthritis with which he is afflicted.

I was curious to see how his earnings compared for the players who made up the lower tier of qualifiers on the PGA Tour. That same year, one such player was a man by the name of Roger Sloan. I had never heard of him and attributed it to the fact that I simply do not follow golf that closely. So, what kind of money did Roger earn during that same time period? About $133,000. Not too shabby for hitting a little ball around the course. He enjoyed no endorsement relationships back then and his per round stroke average was 72.5, or just about two strokes per round more than Mickelson. That is one extra swing on the front nine and one extra on the back nine. That is how competitive the tour remains to this day. Shoot, I would be thrilled to save one or two strokes each hole! For these guys however, one miscalculation or errant swing can mean the difference between victory and defeat. The two swings that Lefty kept in his bag was a differential of only 2.8 percent and yet was all the difference he needed to be a multi-millionaire.

In 2019, Sloan eclipsed the $1M in earnings, bringing his ten year career total to $1.845M. This year he has made the cut 17 of 27 times, finished in the top 25 7 times, top 10 three times, and has one second place finish. His current round score is now 71.034. That is the difference one stroke can make on the tour.

Getting back to 2015: Mickelson $51M v. Sloan $133K. By my calculations that is a differential of 383 times more money. Two fewer swings per round netted Mickelsen an extra $50M that year. Like the PGA golfer, small mistakes and miscues, a lapse of concentration, a bad decision, or failure to execute according to plan can be worth millions to you and your business.

So, what would a consistent 2.8 percent improvement on your placement rate, closing rate, lead conversion, referrals, submitted premium, placed premium mean to your business? Over the years I have seen producers just “miss the cut” in terms of qualifying for some incredible company-sponsored leading producer trips falling just short of either placed premium or an anemic placement rate. To this end, I remember an instance while I was employed as a Divisional Vice President, that I had been placed on alert by the Chief Sales Officer to be prepared to inform the number one producer in the company that she might not be eligible to attend the leading producers conference because of her 59 percent placement rate. The cut off was 60 percent, set in stone, and not influenced by the $600,000 of placed premium ($200,000 was the qualifying threshold) that she had achieved. Fortunately, a surge in the final two weeks of the year got her to 60.2 percent and I never had to have that ugly conversation. But imagine her reaction—anger, frustration, disappointment—that would have been directed at me when it was her failure to achieve the requisite standards. That was one ugly bullet I was very grateful to dodge.

Whether it is a diminished total of placed premium or a lack-luster placement rate, the absence of that extra one degree or effort to achieve the Power of One can be the difference between failure and success. Make the commitment to yourself, your clients, and your business that you will strive for the green jacket and put forth the extra effort that will make you a winner.

The Art Of Achieving Balance

While we all know there is no such thing as a unicorn, that does not stop us from writing stories, creating cartoons, and other fairy tales about them. Nor is there concrete evidence that the Loch Ness Monster exists, and yet that tale persists. I have a friend who believes that he has seen Sasquatch. I would also add the concept of Time Management to this list of things that do not exist, yet people continue to dwell on it.

I firmly believe that time management is an illusion that a great many people pursue but, like a cloud in the sky, can be seen but never touched. I state this as an affirmation because I know that time simply cannot be managed. We can prioritize and micro-schedule, but we all receive the same 24 hours each day, the same 168 hours each week. Sixty seconds to each minute, sixty minutes to each hour. It is a law, and like all laws of nature and man, needs to be respected. Success follows when we are obedient to laws over which we have no control.

I recently had a conversation with a producer who spent twenty five minutes lamenting at how poor he is at time management. After listening to him ramble (his choice of words) for those twenty five minutes, he ceased and it was my turn. I immediately pointed out to him that he had referenced “time management” some seven times in those twenty five minutes, and that he should not be so self-deprecating because of an inability to manage something as illusory as time. I shared with him that we have as much chance of managing time as we do of touching a cloud. Just last week I sat on the modern miracle of jet planes, looked out the window at approaching cloud banks, and realized that as we were flying into them and through them there is never any tangible contact. Yes, there is condensation on the outer surface of the plane, but for the passengers it is largely an illusion.

At the conclusion of my agent session, I made the suggestion to him that rather than attempting to manage something that is simply unmanageable, he would be better served if he focused his efforts to achieve happiness and success by attaining balance in his life and being proactive rather than unbalanced and reactive.

A series of conversations with this same producer as well as several others led me to share that achieving balance in one’s life is really a series of choices that we must make every day, to wit:

  • It is about organization, not about making excuses.
  • It is about exercising discipline and being diligent.
  • It is about avoiding a state of inertia and rising above it.
  • It is about prioritizing our activities, not managing the time.
  • It is about never uttering “I’m sorry” when it comes to owning your business.

A long term care advocate can be successful by working an honest 40 hours per week. Yes, you heard it right. Not 60 or 80 hours, but only 40. An honest—yes, there is that word again—40 hours will make an advocate successful at the Leading Producer level if he or she employs the above tools.

  • It is about working smarter, not harder.
  • It is about creating and maintaining balance in the various spheres that comprise our lives—family, professional, personal, spiritual, physical, recreational.
  • It is about maximizing—not managing—the 168 hours that we are granted each week.
  • It is about focus.

Some life lessons gleaned over the years
More than a few years ago I learned, “Focus on everything is focus on nothing.” You simply cannot spread yourself so thin and expect to remain focused enough to accomplish anything at a level equating to success. That is a formula for mediocrity.

Second, what is your time worth? Only you can assess this and assign a value. It is important to remember and to discipline yourself so as not to chase meaningless opportunities.

Third, it is about answering the question: “Am I investing my time, or merely spending it?” Time invested in an activity such as reading to your grandchildren or family history and genealogy would surely trump the time spent playing Fortnight or spending hours on Facebook or Pinterest. Sorry, I am neither a gamer nor a social media junkie.

Simple math:

  • 40 hours of work (five eight-hour days or four 10-hour days—it does not matter) broken down as follows:
    • Four hours education (workshops, webinars, conference calls, self-study)
    • Five hours marketing
    • Eight hours scheduling appointments
    • 20 hours of appointments
    • Three hours of administration
  • 49 hours of sleep (achieving the optimal seven hours per night)
  • Six hours of physical exercise (six one-hour sessions Monday-Saturday)
  • Seven hours of personal spiritual time (one hour daily–scriptures, prayers)
  • Three hours of church worship
  • Seven hours of service (extended family, neighbors, friends)
  • 14 hours of recreation (two hours daily)
  • Eight hours date night with significant other (Friday and Saturday)
  • 21 hours of family time (for those who do not have immediate family, this could be phone, Skype, FaceTime, letter writing, etc.)
  • Four hours of maintenance and housekeeping

Leaves a reserve reservoir of nine hours, and we were generous with some of the above allocations.

These categories can be combined; a family activity that involves hiking or skiing would encompass family time, recreation, physical exercise, etc.

You work for yourself, which means that you are primarily accountable to yourself. To this end, the first question that you must ask, and answer, is, “Would you have hired you in the first place?” Follow up questions should then include, “Are you measuring up?” “Would you not fire you based on your current performance if it was coming from someone else?”

Remember that when performance is measured it improves. When it is measured consistently, it improves exponentially. So, stop managing something that is not manageable and focus on the greatest resource you have in your possession: You.

“All good performance starts with clear goals.” —Ken Blanchard.

Shoes And Socks

Many years ago, while I was serving as a senior sales leader, I worked for a very charismatic chief sales officer. Physically resembling George Hamilton, from onstage he could charm and inspire our sales force to achieve unprecedented sales. He was an expert at crafting a lofty vision but was quick to point out that “the devil is in the details,” which is where people like me would enter the picture. I can recall several times standing in his office, with him in front of his white board, with pen cap clenched in his white teeth, his marker charting the route of our future endeavors and having him turn to me and ask, “Can you do a White Paper on this?” My answer was of course “yes,” and I would set about to attempt to bring a semblance of order to the details and assign clarity to the chaos that he had created.

A good friend of mine loves to quote Vince Lombardi and remind me that the winning coach began every training camp much the same way as he attempted to inspire the newest rookie and the most seasoned veteran by uttering, “Gentlemen, this is a football.” They would progress from that utterance and begin building their plan for the season, precept upon precept, play upon play, yoking detail and discipline together in the same harness in an effort to pull the wagon called Success.

John Wooden, the man named coach of the century by ESPN, led the UCLA men’s basketball program to ten NCAA championships in twelve years, with a streak of seven in a row, clearly establishing himself as the pre-eminent coach. Incredibly, his teams could also boast of 88 consecutive victories, 38 straight NCAA tournament victories, and eight undefeated Pacific Conference (Pac-8) crowns. What made Wooden and his teams so dominant and so successful? It was majoring in the details and discipline.

What did majoring in the details mean to John Wooden and his players? It meant that at the first squad meeting each season, usually several weeks before the first practice of the season, Wooden would personally demonstrate how he wanted players to put on their socks each and every time. He would instruct them to roll the socks down over the toes, ball of the foot, arch, and around the heel, then pull the sock up snug so there would be no wrinkles of any kind.

Wait, there is more. Then he would instruct them to carefully check with their fingers for any folds or creases in the sock, starting at the toes and sliding their hands along the side of and under the foot, smoothing the sock even more so if possible. Extra attention was paid to the heel because that is where wrinkles were most likely to occur. He would watch his players do this in a further effort to promote a “conscientious” mindset on the part of the player.

Why so much attention on socks? Because wrinkles, folds, and creases in socks can cause blisters. Blisters can interfere with performance during practices and games. Since blisters were preventable by this rigid attention to detail, it was deemed a responsibility of each player to ensure maximum performance so as not to detract from the team effort.

But how valuable are well fitted and donned socks if the shoes are not equally correct? True to form, when a new player walked on to the UCLA campus, Wooden did not ask him what size shoe he wore, but rather, would measure his foot. Wooden had learned over the years that parents often bought shoes a size larger in anticipation of continued foot growth on the part of their athlete, which meant that the athlete might not really know his true shoe size. Wooden would measure his foot to ensure a proper fit because shoes that are even just a little too big let the foot slide around, which in turn can cause blisters, especially if there is a fold or wrinkle in the sock. Next would come instruction on how to properly lace and [double] tie the shoes to preclude any wardrobe malfunctions on the court.

What do shoes and socks have to do with what we do as financial advisors and insurance professionals? Everything. From our first contact with prospects to discussions with clients we must remain vigilant of potential wrinkles in our socks that can lead to blisters that blow up the sale.

A final lesson from Coach Wooden that was a real “Aha!” moment for me: The Four Laws of Learning. The four laws of learning are explanation, demonstration, imitation, and repetition. The goal is to create a correct habit that can be produced instinctively under great pressure. To make sure that this goal was achieved, Wooden ultimately expanded the four laws to eight laws: explanation, demonstration, imitation, repetition, repetition, repetition, repetition, and repetition.

For many years I was a contract trainer at General Electric Financial Assurance and instructed new agents in a week-long training session on the finer points of how to create the requisite need and urgency on the part of the client and demonstrate the future peace of mind value of owning a long term care insurance policy. To accomplish this, I would carefully explain the thought process behind the concept being presented, demonstrate it at the white board or by role playing it, force them to parrot it back to me in front of one another, and then, in a series of ten weekly follow on sessions, attempt to instill this sales process in them by regular repetition. Just yesterday, on one of our weekly Growth and Development training calls, we talked about the importance attached to beginning the interview with a proper focus on warm up.

So, what is the big deal about warm up? What is it? Why is it important? Athletes in all sports engage in warm up exercises so as to prevent injury to their bodies and to maximize performance. For us, warm up is about building rapport and trust with the client. It is about lowering shields of suspicion and doubt. It is about them viewing us as their advocate and advisor and not simply as a salesperson interested in closing the deal or submitting another application. It is about being professionally competent and being able to present a range of solutions to our clients that allow them to meet their needs, wants, and desires within a prescribed budget.

No matter who is defining the standard of Success, the Alpha and Omega of success can always be found in attention to detail. It is solid pre-qualification of applicants, good field underwriting during the interview, asking the extra question, and providing the underwriters with a letter in which we provide them the reasons to say yes to coverage. Success in our business is definitely linked to placement rate and constitutes the only number on the scoreboard that counts. Let us smooth those socks, double tie those shoes, and serve our clients.

“Discipline yourself and others won’t need to.”—Coach John Wooden 

Do Not Hide Your Light…Let People Know How You Can Assist Them.

For many years now I have felt that participation in the long term care planning industry as a producer, agency leader, senior sales leader, and now brokerage leader, has been tantamount to my being on a crusade. By definition a crusade is a “vigorous campaign for political, social, or religious change.” While my passion has remained largely the same, my paradigms and methodology have definitely changed over the years.

Today, I am willing to talk to anyone about the subject, far more willing to educate and raise awareness rather than merely being focused on a sale. I have been known to articulate that “I do not care whether they ever buy long term care insurance, but that they will not have taken a pass on it because they didn’t hear about it from me.” This is especially true among family, friends, neighbors, and those that I purportedly care about. I cannot think of a more tragic scenario than one in which I visit an individual who is now bedridden because of a stroke, illness, accident, or other physical malady, and have him or her look up at me and ask, “We have known each other for all of these years, and yet you never took the time to talk to me about the protections afforded by a long term care insurance policy.”

The first question I have for all those reading this missive is: Do the people closest to you even know what you do for a living? If asked, could your family, friends, neighbors accurately convey the expertise and services that you have at your disposal?

Secondly: How do you view yourself? Do you place the same value on your professional acumen as does a doctor, attorney, CPA, financial advisor? Having made the transition from practicing attorney-at-law to long term care producer, I can honestly say that I did not view myself one iota differently. I dressed the same way, placed the same value on my time, and believed that I possessed expertise that my clients desperately needed.

While there are significantly fewer carriers in the traditional, stand-alone long term care insurance space, there are infinitely more choices in terms of policy construction and platforms available with the advent of living benefits, asset-based products, as well as annuities and life insurance with long term care riders. If anything, all of these additional options make the choices presented to the consumer all the more confusing and potentially overwhelming, often leading to paralysis through analysis.

In a recent webinar that I conducted for members of our brokerage, I confirmed that perhaps the greatest challenge for them in terms of talking to prospects is how to begin the conversation.

In the course of this webinar, one brave and honest soul freely admitted in his answer to the first question, that “I haven’t done a good job at letting them know what I do and how I can help them!”

The conversation then pivoted on how to begin these conversations.

Example One:
“Who do you know that has needed some form of assistance in their life? What was that like for them? Their family? How would a policy that provided financial and physical assistance have made a difference to them and their family?”

Example Two:
“Who are the two oldest people in your family? How old are they? Can you envision them needing some form of assistance with their own activities of daily living or because of their inability to be left alone from a safety standpoint? If these individuals could need assistance, can you envision a time that you or your spouse could require this care as well?

Example Three:
When interacting with professionals, tradesmen, and other individuals, I often begin the conversation with, “You have helped me immensely. I would love to reciprocate by helping you in a like manner. Have you considered how you can safeguard your retirement and family by performing some long term care planning while you are still safely in a non-crisis mode?”

Just this past week I was talking to my electrician who was doing some additional work in my home, and I casually asked him, “Is your retirement plan still on track, or did COVID-19 throw it off at all?” He then went on to share with me, with very few additional prompts from me, that his home was paid for, as were two rental properties, and that his accountant had recommended reorganizing his business as an S-corporation and various other tax modifications, and that things were very much on track in anticipation of a “semi-retirement” taking place at the end of the year.

After quietly but enthusiastically praising him for executing on the plans that we had talked about on and off over the years while he did work for me in my home, I pointed out that he was very much an aberration because quite a few people our age that I now encounter are refinancing their homes with new 30-year mortgages and, in the absence of pensions, were largely dependent upon Social Security for their retirement income.

He then added that he had done it without any health insurance in place for either himself or his employees. After a noncommittal grunt from me, he went on and shared that, but for the recent cash expenditure of $17,000 for some minor surgery (the hospital settled for 25 percent less if he was willing to write a check), they had largely “dodged the bullet” associated with major health issues.

While I was slightly stunned to hear this, I nonetheless kept marching forward and quietly shared that we were both approaching the age where the odds of needing a further “procedure” far more costly than his carpal tunnel surgery were about one in 15 and cited my own wife’s hip replacement surgery some six years ago. Despite only spending 26 hours in the hospital, the price tag for that surgery was in excess of $95,000! That certainly captured his attention as did my question, “What impact would it have on your plans for retirement if you or your wife needed to write a check for $6,000, $7,000, $8,000, or $10,000 each month for long term care? Would your plans go off the rails at that point?”

As you might expect, we are now looking at the calendar for a time when I can meet with both he and his wife after they have had a chance to discuss this potential fly in the ointment. Again, while I hope that they will allow me to assist them with this very necessary planning, if they do not elect to purchase a policy for themselves at least my conscience will be clear when I visit them at either their home or in a facility.

Other Strategies
For years now I have encouraged producers to attend Business to Business (B2B) conferences, Chambers of Commerce fairs, and any other event in which you can meet other business leaders and simply ask them what they do for a living and how they do it. This will in turn allow you to share the why we do what we do for our clients.

Another Thought
Marry your passions with what you do professionally. Years ago I had a former member of the Professional Golfers’ Association of America come work for me after he was forced to leave the tour to care for his ailing mother. He successfully merged his passion for golf and his new vocation as a LTCI producer by golfing regularly with different foursomes and, while out on the course, using these three hours to find what his fellow golfers did for a living and to share with them how he could help them secure their futures. This in turn led us to other marketing opportunities with the state golfing association.

One Last Thought
Do not hide your light. You are not doing the world or yourself any favors.
Referrals are not a favor that they are doing for you, but rather an opportunity for them to in turn help those that they care about the most.

“Nor do they light a lamp and then put it under a bushel basket; it is set on a lampstand, where it gives light to all in the house. Just so, your light must shine before others, that they may see your good deeds.”—Matthew 5:15-16

It Is About The Problem, Not The Product!

For many of us, the purchase of our homes and the financing of our children’s college education will constitute the largest expenditures of our lives. In both of these cases, we typically use financial leverage, i.e., debt, to attain these objectives. Why? Because it is largely financially impossible to save enough to purchase our homes outright, we will leverage our assets, earning power, and equity by obtaining a mortgage and use outside assets to achieve immediate needs. Similarly, many parents and students will use financial leverage to achieve the requisite college education in the form of student loans—an investment in their future earnings.

Another available form of leverage is insurance. Whether it is to protect against the untimely death of the principal breadwinner or to guard against the loss of a home or a business, we will resort to paying an insurance premium to guard against an undesired outcome.

For our parents and grandparents, the old 40-40-40-40 Rule was very applicable. It was quite common for members of their generations to work 40 hours a week, at the same company for 40 years, to receive a $40 gold watch upon retirement, and to then live in retirement on 40 percent of what they had previously earned. Those days are long gone, as today’s worker will often have employment at eight different companies, and the best that one can hope for today is some form of defined contribution plan with a level of matching funds from the employer as the employee largely funds their own retirement.

Today we are being bombarded with bad news about most American’s retirement savings situation. Some focus on how ill-prepared we all are, while others focus on the level of anxiety many experience in the face of rising costs and diminished retirement assets. Others will put forth discouraging reports about how retirement for many in the future is either a fantasy or distortion of reality. For most of us, retirement security comes down to two major needs: Having enough money to cover our living expenses and post-retirement healthcare costs inclusive of long term care expenses.

Fortunately, the federal government assists with some of the medical costs through Medicare, VA and ancillary programs for eligible recipients. Unfortunately, there is limited to no assistance with long term care (LTC) expenses and this situation will only worsen as the red ink of Medicaid strains every state’s budget.

Trying to save enough to cover living expenses and post-retirement healthcare expenses is an extremely challenging and daunting goal for most of us. For this reason, insurance leverage on the future health and long term care expenses is something most should explore while healthy enough to qualify for coverage and young enough to garner overall lower and discounted premiums.

That being said, please do not misconstrue the message of this piece; this is not a call to action directing people that they must purchase LTCI. Rather, it is intended as encouragement to start the conversation about how to cover these potentially overwhelming costs before they happen.

Many employers educated their workforce about LTCI in the past, but, since it has become more expensive and guaranteed issue is gone, it seems the conversation has stopped right when the baby-boomers, Gen-Xers and millennials need more than ever to understand the situation!

Most employers freely admit that financial wellness and retirement security is an issue and/or even a priority for them as they experience declining employee attendance and productivity due to the burdens associated with employees being forced into the role of caregiver for spouses, parents, or other family members. For this reason alone, now is not the time to ignore the conversation on how to handle what some say is the largest “unfunded” risk facing the baby-boomers—namely long term care expenses.

Today’s COVID-19 environment with its ancillary employment and insurance issues makes it the perfect time to conduct the broader retirement financial wellness discussion. The topic is not, and should not be, about, “We are offering a new product and you should buy it to solve this issue.” This is not a single product discussion like LTCI was in the past. Rather, the financial advisor/benefits broker and human resource executive should be conversant with the broad spectrum of products that are available to meet the wants, needs, and desires of their client or employee. There are multiple new products that can assist the professional in identifying the proper solution for the client and in meeting their different needs.

Employers should help facilitate this discussion because their workforce will not start it on their own. In most cases, the employer can today have an array of products that could be put forth to help address this massive unfunded liability. This would be similar to how high deductible plans helped many employers see much more value in critical illness and accident plans to supplement those high deductible costs that are being shifted onto the workforce. Today’s long term care financing crisis can help make a variety of old and new funding options more valuable and necessary.

In 1935, when President Roosevelt introduced Social Security benefits to retiring workers at age 65 as a supplement to their employer funded pensions, the average life expectancy was only 63! Social Security was never intended as the be-all-end-all retirement vehicle for citizens of this country.

Fifty years ago we only needed one good pension plan for our retirement, as people retired largely debt free, with mortgage-free homes. That is clearly no longer the case. Twenty years ago we only needed one good health plan for our healthcare. With the advances of pharmaceuticals, general medical treatment, and changes in lifestyle, life expectancy has continued to rise. Currently those who have reached the age of 65 can expect to live to age 86. As a result of this extended longevity, it is more likely that we will utilize multiple programs to solve for our retirement and for our healthcare. To cover high deductible costs we layer in CI, accident, cancer and HSA plans along with our own savings. For our retirement, we layer in 401k/403b, pensions, SSI, annuities, and savings. These multiple tools combine to create solutions for today’s reality and our own unique individual needs. Why would long term care be any different?

Twenty years ago we could largely get by with only one good long term care plan to solve for future expenses. Because of the same list of overarching changes, today solving for our future long term care expenses will often require multiple tools and certainly different alternatives within a broad population.

Today, expecting individuals or couples to purchase $8,000/month, five percent compound inflation with 10 years of benefit may or may not be any more realistic for most of us as is expecting a health plan with a $100 deductible and $300 out of pocket maximum or expecting an 80 percent defined benefit plan with four percent cost of living adjustments. Making sure we can be cared for in the setting and manner of our choosing, while not outliving our money or impoverishing our spouse, will likely require multiple solutions that come into play at different points on our journey.

There are many solutions that we might acquire over our life’s journey to help us achieve a lifetime of financial security and peace of mind. When we were younger and starting a family, we would will likely have purchased life insurance for the protections it afforded our families, but today it would make sense for it to contain a long term care rider. One might purchase $200,000 of life insurance that would provide $100,000 for long term care expenses. Clearly $100,000 will not be enough for expenses 30 years from now, but it begins to fill the bucket. Later, layering on a manageable LTCI policy for $200,000 to $300,000 of coverage can make sense. Then later, as we retire, we earmark part of an annuity payment or a fraction of our retirement savings to help with long term care. This type of layering can create an aggregate bucket that solves the majority of the challenge while simultaneously helping to solve for other needs along the way. Additionally, one product rarely works as the sole solution for the diverse populations in our workforces.

The general populace has undergone another paradigm shift in terms of where they now seek out their benefits, to include long term care planning, and that clearly has become the workplace.

Consultants and employers need to help us start the conversation in the workplace because starting to solve for this problem during our working years is when it can be solved far more practically and economically. One reason for this is that working age people are younger, more insurable, and the solutions are more affordable.

Even today, at the start of 2021, unfortunately, there remain nationally recognized radio talk show personalities recommending people do not explore long term care plans until age 60. They are wrong! You should not start to deal with the long term care problem at 60 if you can deal with it at 50. Obviously, they have never seen a Milliman report on LTCI medical declination rates at 60 or 65 vs. 45 or 50. They also have never tried to talk to a 65 year old that wants to solve this problem but now, because they followed their advice, cannot afford the solution. The cost of waiting to solve this problem is just like starting to solve for retirement at 60—most of us will not be able to pull it off. However, 45 and 50-year-old individuals can solve this long term care issue and, at those younger ages, it is not just the executives and “monied” few. Working age people are younger, more insurable and the solutions are more affordable. While life expectancy has continued to rise, and we are decidedly living longer, we are also dying slower! Retirement can stretch to 30-40 years rather than an historically much shorter period. Lifestyle choices, diabetes, obesity, as well as chronic and genetic pre-dispositions often render these products as unavailable and the single largest [often disastrous] cost in waiting becomes lack of insurability.

Many employers are newly offering extensive voluntary benefits portfolios but few of those products will be in place 20-30 years from now to help with retirement healthcare needs. Most of us are self-funding our future long term care expenses and we will be using the dollars we saved for retirement living expenses which are the exact dollars all the pundits are telling us we do not have enough of and from where all the ancillary anxiety is stemming. “Save more, save more” is the mantra across the country on this topic and very few would disagree with this. However, skipping the topic of long term care in what should be a holistic discussion for the different stages of what life should be is unconscionable. Let us start the conversation about Long Term Living in our workplaces now, because it is going to take some time to develop traction on this very tough topic and help today’s workers plan for a safe and secure retirement.

Just as we have been encouraged to save for retirement from our very first paychecks, so too must we be prepared to plan for our future long term care needs in retirement.

The Art Of Achieving Balance

While we all know there is no such thing as a unicorn, that does not stop us from writing stories, creating cartoons, and other fairy tales about them. Nor is there concrete evidence that the Loch Ness Monster exists, and yet that tale persists. I have a friend who believes that he has seen Sasquatch. I would also add the concept of Time Management to this list of things that do not exist, yet people continue to dwell on it.

I firmly believe that time management is an illusion that a great many people pursue, but like a cloud in the sky, can be seen but never touched. I state this as an affirmation because I know that time simply cannot be managed. We can prioritize and micro-schedule, but we all receive the same 24 hours each day, the same 168 hours each week. Sixty seconds to each minute, sixty minutes to each hour. It is a law, and like all laws of nature and man, needs to be respected. Success follows when we are obedient to laws over which we have no control.

I recently had a conversation with a producer who spent 25 minutes lamenting at how poor he is at time management. After listening to him ramble (his choice of words) for those 25 minutes, he ceased and it was my turn. I immediately pointed out to him that he had referenced “time management” some seven times in those 25 minutes, and that he should not be so self-deprecating because of an inability to manage something as illusory as time. I shared with him that we have as much chance of managing time as we do of touching a cloud. “Once upon a time” I sat on the modern miracle of a jet plane, looked out the window at approaching cloud banks, and realized that, as we were flying into them and through them, there is never any tangible contact. Yes there is condensation on the outer surface of the plane, but for the passengers it is largely an illusion.

At the conclusion of my agent session I made that suggestion to him that, rather than attempting to manage something that is simply unmanageable, he would be better served if he focused his efforts to achieve happiness and success by attaining balance in his life and being proactive rather than unbalanced and reactive.

A series of conversations with this same producer, as well as several others, led me to share that achieving balance in one’s life is really a series of choices that we must make every day, to wit:

  • It is about organization, not about making excuses.
  • It is about exercising discipline and being diligent.
  • It is about avoiding a state of inertia and rising above it.
  • It is about prioritizing our activities, not managing the time.
  • It is about never uttering “I’m sorry” when it comes to owning your business.

A long term care advocate can be successful by working an honest 40 hours per week. Yes, you heard it right. Not 60 or 80 hours, but only 40. An honest, yes, there is that word again, 40 hours will make an advocate successful at the Leading Producer level if he or she employs the above tools.

  • It is about working smarter not harder.
  • It is about creating and maintaining balance in the various spheres that comprise our lives—family, professional, personal, spiritual, physical, recreational.
  • It is about maximizing—not managing—the 168 hours that we are granted each week.
  • It is about focus.

Some life lessons gleaned over the years
More than a few years ago I learned, “Focus on everything is focus on nothing.” You simply cannot spread yourself so thin and expect to remain focused enough to accomplish anything at a level equating to success. That is a formula for mediocrity.

Second, what is your time worth? Only you can assess this and assign a value. It is important to remember and to discipline yourself so as not to chase meaningless opportunities.

Third, it is about answering the question: “Am I investing my time, or merely spending it?” Time invested in an activity such as reading to your grandchildren or family history and genealogy would surely trump the time spent playing Fortnight or spending hours on Facebook or Pinterest. Sorry, I am neither a gamer nor a social media junkie.

Simple math:

  • 40 hours of work (five eight-hour days or four 10-hour days—it does not matter) broken down as follows:
    • Four hours education (workshops, webinars, conference calls, self-study).
    • Five hours marketing.
    • Eight hours scheduling appoints.
    • 20 hours of appointments.
    • Three hours of administration.
  • 49 hours of sleep (achieving the optimal seven hours per night).
  • Six hours of physical exercise (six one-hour sessions Monday-Saturday).
  • Seven hours of personal spiritual time (one hour daily—scriptures, prayers).
  • Three hours of church worship.
  • Seven hours of service (extended family, neighbors, friends).
  • 14 hours of recreation (two hours daily).
  • Eight hours date night with significant other (Friday and Saturday).
  • 21 hours of family time (for those who do not have immediate family, this could be phone, Skype, FaceTime, letter writing, etc.).
  • Four hours of maintenance and housekeeping.

Leaves a reserve reservoir of nine hours, and we were generous with some of the above allocations.

These categories can be combined: A family activity that involves hiking or skiing would encompass family time, recreation, physical exercise, etc.

You work for yourself, which means that you are primarily accountable to yourself. To this end, the first question that you must ask, and answer, is: “Would you have hired you in the first place?” Follow up questions should then include, “Are you measuring up?” “Would you not fire you based on your current performance if it was coming from someone else?”

Remember that when performance is measured it improves. When it is measured consistently, it improves exponentially. So, stop managing something that is not manageable and focus on the greatest resource you have in your possession: You.

“All good performance starts with clear goals.” —Ken Blanchard.