It’s The Mother-In-Law

    In a recent debriefing of a voluntary enrollment I was reminded of what may be the absolute best tipping point in the long term care insurance sales conversation. You must be patient, you must continue to ask probing questions, and then you must wait for it. It will come, someone will raise their hand and tell the infamous mother-in-law story.

    There are always two pending firestorms in the event of a need for custodial intervention: one is financial and the other is emotional—both are potentially overwhelming. However, discussing the possibility (or reality) of having to deal one-on-one with a mother-in-law in need of assistance will absolutely galvanize the intentions of all in the room. In truth there may be no more powerful force in the known universe of family dynamics than the sheer force of the mother-in-law hegemony.

    With the mere mention of a “mother-in-law in distress” concept, a hush falls upon all assembled. Grown men weep. Women avert eye contact so as not to confirm the presence of the elephant that has just entered the room. It is at this point that you must press for the sale. There is no better opportunity!

    The mother-in-law caregiving dynamic may be the one family concept that transcends all barriers of denial, procrastination and feeble non-buying rationalizations. As we all know, you must first establish risk and then proceed immediately to call for action.

    All consumer surveys have illustrated that the most direct path to the sale is finding a caregiving connection. Emotional stress compounded by financial entanglements seems to be the cultural definition of troubling in-law interpersonal relationships.

    A couple of statistics illustrate why this is fertile ground for making long term care insurance sales.
     • Seventy three percent of today’s long term care is provided at home, mostly by family members (About Long Term Care at Home, Thomas Day,
     • Thirty four million Americans care for a loved one age 50 years or older, and half spend more than 10 percent of their own income, averaging up to $12,348 annually (Study of Caregivers, Evercare in collaboration with the National Alliance for Caregiving, November 2007,

    Further Findings from the Study of Caregivers

    The direct financial impact of caregiving was examined and the study found that even though the commitment to family was made willingly, the cost was staggering.
     • Thirty seven percent of respondents had to quit their jobs or cut back on hours.
     • Caregivers saved less for their own children’s future; used their own savings; cut back on basics—clothing, utilities, transportation and groceries; and/or cut back on personal medical and dental expenses.

    Even if it is only the stuff of social and cultural legend, most of us would probably view these issues differently based on family relationships with a genetic foundation versus those through marriage. This is not a mother-in-law joke. In truth, by focusing attention on the nature of the problem, our beloved mother-in-laws may do more to help protect American families from the devastation caused by a long term care event than any other factor in the risk equation. Find a mother-in-law story and you will find the sale.

    Ronald R. Hagelman, CLTC, CSA, LTCP, has been a teacher, cattle rancher, agent, brokerage general agent, corporate consultant and home office executive. As a consultant he has created numerous individual and group insurance products.

    A nationally recognized motivational speaker, Hagelman has served on the LIMRA, Society of Actuaries, and ILTCI committees. He is past president of the American Association for Long Term Care Insurance and continues to work with LTCI company advisory boards. He remains a contributing “friend” of the SOA LTCI Section Council and the SOA Future of LTCI committee. Hagelman and his partner Barry J. Fisher are principles of Ice Floe Consulting, providing consulting services for Chronic Illness/LTC product development and brokerage distribution strategies.

    Hagelman can be reached at Ice Floe Consulting, 156 N. Solms Rd., New Braunfels, TX 78132 Telephone: 830-620-4066. Email: