Intimate Relationships

It is impossible to imagine a more personal or intrinsic relationship than the historical and demographic reality of the Baby Boomer generation and the sale of insurance. Those born between 1946 and 1964 have dominated our sales thinking and defined our sales success. Stephen Moses vividly described the Boomer phenomena 20 years ago as a social and economic pig passing through a python. We have built our products and our careers on first the frequent cry of “the Boomers are coming!” to an almost complacent acceptance of their presence providing the natural and normal source of almost all sales conversations. Time marches on and we are beginning to experience a serious buying shift in insurance acquisition style and the utilization of available technology.

The question must now become what does that mean to those grappling with long term care/chronic illness risk abrogation? What can still be accomplished for those who wish to help apply the available financial planning finishing touches to those Boomers beginning to exit, stage right? What new and improved planning strategies can be utilized for those Gen Xers (born between 1965 and 1980) beginning to assume a firm position at center stage? How can we prepare for those Millennials (born between 1981 and 1997) beginning to enter the insurance acquisition market from stage left that are almost exclusively immersed in the evaluation and acquisition of insurance via non-personal technology?

The one immutable truth that we all agree upon that lies at the heart of successful sales is personal experience with caregiving. I have no interest in joining the argument of whether altruism or self interest makes more sales. I would be remiss however in not suggesting that buying decisions reviewed after the fact may reflect more classic cognitive dissonance about making wise financial decisions and less open admission about personal contact with the financial and emotional cost of caregiving.

We would all now acknowledge that the shortest distance between a conversation about the need for extended custodial care and completing an application is a direct and personal experience with the problem itself. In one of my first columns I declared that if you find the caregiving story you find the sale. Fifteen years ago I worked with the SOA and LIMRA to conduct a producer survey asking very experienced producers what they thought controlled sales success. Their number one choice was personal experience with caregiving. At that same time the AHIP Buyer—Non Buyer Survey was reporting that those who bought said their number one reason was to protect personal assets. You may have noticed over the course of that extremely valuable ongoing longitudinal study that the truth about caregiving has also begun the bleed through in the data. The point is that a buyer after the fact may say they did so because they, of course, make wise financial decisions, while the more accurate truth may be based on their involvement in the care of the Greatest/Silent generation (born between 1923 and 1945).

As has been frequently suggested in this column, the most universal and prevalent conundrum that faces all Americans is the certainty that most of us will require some level of remedial care assistance and that the great and vast majority are unprepared for that eventuality. What must concern us is where those caregiving responsibilities by generation will fall most heavily. The current situation finds the primary recipients of care among the Silent Generation with informal care being provided by Baby Boomers and formal care being provided by Gen X. The inevitable progression of time is however beginning to reveal a new and perhaps even more challenging future. Frankly, as that proverbial pig begins to exit the snake, we must be able to accommodate and hopefully more successfully address a dramatic shifting of roles. The primary care recipients will become those same Boomers we have tried so hard to protect for the last 20 years. (Me!) No one can argue that those who did acquire some form of insurance, even if flawed, imperfect or inadequate, are far better off than those we were unable to reach. The brave new world that is emerging shifts the Gen X to the role of informal caregiver (my children) and the millennials into the mushrooming formal care provider market (my grandchildren).

No one can deny that we are at a pivotal time in our market. If ever there was a time to reflect on what we have learned it is now—praying we do not repeat our past mistakes while attempting to accommodate and embrace a growing plethora of product choices. The fuel for future sales success is and always has been our understanding of caregiving and it’s direct impact on the progression of evolving caregiving roles and responsibilities. The burden of caregiving does not fall evenly or fairly across the generations. Empathy and compassion for that truth should continue to guide our future.
Other than that I have no opinion on the subject.