Dear Santa, All I Want For Christmas Is…

Further evidence shows that the holidays are coming earlier and earlier and are no longer dependent on the calendar. It is not even Halloween, and yet the aisles in the retail stores are already packed with Christmas trees, decorations, and other yuletide offerings. Both my regular [snail] mailbox and email account are jam packed with holiday catalogs offering stupendous savings. The Sirius XM airwaves are replete with many channels that are offering only holiday tunes. I see more Amazon and FedEx delivery trucks in my [small] neighborhood than I do regular cars. Did I miss Thanksgiving somehow? It used to be that Halloween ended, Thanksgiving took over, and Black Friday was the beginning of the Christmas season. The decorations in my home that made my house seem as if I were living in a Hallmark store have long followed this schedule as well.

Like the retailers who are actively pursuing their fair share of the holiday dollars that will be spent by you and me, it is never too early for us to sit with our clients and advise them on the one critical issue that most have ignored in terms of their future financial security: What is their plan for long term care?

Under the guise of asking “What’s Your Plan?” we can address the eventuality of their needing long term care, not outliving their money, maintaining their independence, avoiding government assistance and welfare, ensuring that they have access to the quality of care they will surely desire, and ensuring that they do achieve their vision for their own golden years. This is the time that we can be the Ghost of Christmas Present.

The odds of needing this long term care increases each year as our society continues to age in place. The most recent statistics still reveal about a 70 percent probability for anyone over the age of 65 requiring an average of three years of care before they leave this life. For couples, this statistic rises to a very sobering 90 percent that one or both can expect to require this care. With annual costs continuing to soar into the low six-figures, it is a concern that needs to be factored into annual reviews with clients regardless of whether you are a practicing attorney, financial advisor/planner, or insurance professional. As we have written about on other occasions, the cost of not addressing this issue while the client has the requisite health and wealth with which to purchase this invaluable coverage can be devastating to both the client and their family, but also poses a tremendous liability risk to the professional who elects to avoid the topic.
The Ghost of Christmas Past may remind them of other family members who required long term care. I can remember many a holiday season distinctly colored by the need to provide care for a grandparent or other family member. Even under the best of conditions, talk about a buzz kill. As we continue to age as a society, it is becoming more and more common to interact with clients who have themselves encountered a long term care need in their own family. We may have to help them identify these instances and explore why Grandpa had to come and live with the family after Grandma’s death because he could not be left alone, or the level of care that Mom required as her health or cognitive state declined. Whether it was informal care by an unpaid (family) caregiver in the home, adult day care in a local facility, or the expensive care of an assisted living facility (ALF) or skilled nursing facility (SNF), it is often up to us to “connect the dots” and to illustrate that all these examples are the long term care of which we are speaking.

Keep in mind that insurance companies routinely record a large spike in claims in November and December because families do get together and can better assess situations with family members who may be experiencing some form of decline in their health. As a result it naturally follows that we will also have a rise in sales, which has been the case for many years now.

Encourage families to talk to one another at Thanksgiving and to actively explore what the plan is for Mom and Dad and their care—maintaining their own residence, living with the kids, relocating to a facility, etc. Many years ago, I had a client say to me, “There’s no more significant gift that we can give to our family than to make an informed decision on how we are going to address this issue.” Many of the carriers have wonderful materials on how to start a conversation with older members of the family who may be either in a state of denial or lack the information necessary to make an informed decision.

Tis the season for end of year tax planning. The holidays remain a very good time with which to meet with clients you may have missed out on meeting throughout the year. With complete candor and humility, any appointment set in the month of December is a “virtual write” waiting to happen. For many holiday seasons we tracked as an agency the number of appointments that did not result in a sale because they were so few and far between.

The clients you see are going to be buyers because:

You have educated them—by definition, ignorance is the lack of knowledge. Once you have educated your clients and provided them with the necessary information with which to make an informed decision, it is easy.

They are in the buying mode—for years we have said that the only thing that could make it easier for us as agents is if the company accepted plastic as a method of payment or if Santa was footing the bill! Some carriers will accept plastic, but almost all of them will accept an Electronic Funds Transfer (EFT) and the advent of electronic applications has made the business so much easier. Ho Ho Ho!

They have the time to think—they are not “scheduled out.” They have time to sit and meet with you, either in person or via the Internet, and to make the right choice.

They are more relaxed—the homes are warm and decorated, and it is a more relaxed environment. It is fun to be a part of their holiday season! I love it.

It’s the End of the Tax Year—their financial advisors may have recommended that they buy now to take an end of year tax deduction.

It can be a Gift!—it can be a “gift” from one spouse to the other, or to their kids. Or maybe the kids will buy themselves a present by footing the bill for parents who cannot afford it. For this reason, it may be prudent to meet with the family who is in town visiting! Meet those third-party decision makers or influencers head on and maybe sell them too!

When my own children were younger, the words that brought angst to me were often printed on the outside of the package: “Some assembly required.” With the gift of long term care insurance there is no assembly required, but we do have to battle denial and procrastination. Be prepared on how best to handle the very common objections that you will
encounter repeatedly.

Like the Ghost of Christmas Future, you can ask them about what their vision is for their golden years? For the end of their lives? How will they deal with that unexpected illness or injury that debilitates them? Who will take care of them? Where will the money come from? Is this what they wanted or envisioned?

Sometimes we get a warning when a change in health is approaching, but most times not. The time to prepare for any eventuality is before it happens. Do they have a will? Do they have life insurance? Do they have a plan for long term care? If not, the time to put one in place is now.

I have had many friends say to me that they wish they could win the lottery and walk away a millionaire. In fact, I have one friend who has been saying that to me for about thirty years now. Ironically, he has never purchased a ticket! I have pointed out to him that he could vastly increase his chances of achieving this dream by plunking down a dollar and buying a ticket! Likewise, Santa can’t bring you what you want until you write him the letter. Our largest challenge is often exposing the client to the salient facts and risks associated with long term care but, once we do, most will take the necessary steps to work with you to develop a plan that meets these eventualities.

People do not plan to fail, but they do nonetheless fail to plan. Our responsibility is to help them help themselves by using the information that only a skilled long term care insurance advocate can provide them to make an informed decision.

The bottom line to success during the holidays is the same as it is during the other 46 weeks of the year—activity. It all starts with the phone, and the ABC’s: Activity, Belief, and Congruence. If you are committed to activity, and are in congruence, and avoid the negative paradigms and beliefs about phoning and appointment setting, you can overcome holiday phoning and make Thanksgiving to New Years a veritable bonanza for yourselves and your families. So, ask yourself, “Do I believe?”

Happy Holidays!

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: