You know what seem like distant memories? Summer, gardening, and landscaping. It is now Fall heading into Winter.
I am married to an expert gardener. We have a home on a lake in East Tennessee. My wife is someone who plans, arranges, selects, and nurtures plants of intrinsic beauty and compatibility. She plants in sets of three, adequately spaced, and balances each bed so that two sides of the garden separated by a driveway, sidewalk or lawn look identical.
Meanwhile, I let what grows naturally take hold. Truth. I have several areas of our property (not visible from the road) over which my powers to superintend are unchallenged. In these spaces I watch to see what indigenous plants grow and flourish. Plants with thorns, bristles, or noxious oils (poison ivy) are ruthlessly removed. Everything else is welcome. I am open to surprises.
By late Summer, my “garden” area is covered in tall plants bearing either white, yellow, or purple flowers. Here is a sampling of what grows:
- Giant Ironweed, Vernonia gigantea, as tall as nine feet with prolific purple blooms that attract a variety of pollinators.
- Showy Goldenrod, Solidago speciosa, a lovely addition adding bright yellow to the autumn landscape.
- Small-headed Sunflower, Helianthus microcephalus, an attractive woodland yellow sunflower with smooth green or burgundy tinged stems.
- White Crownbeard, Verbesina virginica, is a late season nectar plant which has hundreds of white blossoms on each plant in heads terminating from several branches arising at the upper leaf axils. They grow as tall as seven feet.
I like these plants because they are impressive in size, color and they attract butterflies, wasps, skippers, and bees. And besides, they are free!
Surprising Everyone in Winter
The first Winter my wife and I spent here we discovered an amazing phenomenon. Frost Flowers.
Long after I have cut down the tall barren stems, when only several inches of the once-glorious stalks remain, the White Crownbeard plant is not done delighting. This wonderful specimen is also known as “Frostweed.”
Frostweed earns its name from the wonderous ice sculptures on its stems upon the first frost, or even subsequent deep frosts. This natural majesty graced us by splitting its stems and producing amazing, delicate ice sculptures. Frost Flowers are airy, fragile constructions that pour out of the plants’ stems like ice meringues.
(None of my wife’s plants can do this. Just saying…)
Question: What does this have to do with independent life insurance distribution? Keep reading.
Winter of Life
Old age and winter of life are semantically related. People will sometimes replace the phrase “Old age” with the “Winter of life.”
I am privileged to know many independent financial professionals who in any other occupation would be retired by now. I am referring to men and women in their seventies and eighties who are still meeting with clients, even prospecting (casually). As you might expect, their clientele is similarly aged.
This article is written for anyone currently in their later years and still in the business. (It is also for anyone who is currently younger but who is anticipating working as an independent financial professional beyond normal retirement age.)
According to J.D. Power, “The average age of financial advisors is about 55, and approximately one-fifth of advisors are 65 or older.”1
Kiplinger claims that “There are more CFP® professionals over the age of 70 than under the age of 30.”2
Are you among these people who are 65 years old or older? Are you still holding onto your licenses, attending CE training, participating in association meetings, and maintaining regular appointments with clients? Beyond these, how are you using your time?
How Not to Prioritize
I came across an article giving suggestions for people for how to pass the time in Winter.3 Check out these suggestions:
- Try A New Hot Drink Recipe
- Spike Hot Chocolate
- Spike Coffee
- Clean Out Your Wardrobe
- (And my favorite) Clear Your Browser’s Bookmarks
My Suggestion: Surprise Everyone in the Winter of Your Life
These questions are for you.
1) Your wisdom and knowledge are your treasure for having lived this long. Who in your community needs to draw from this wealth?
a. Undoubtedly, a significant immigrant and refugee population lives in your geographic vicinity. Would you be willing to partner with organizations serving these people by offering financial education for free?
b. Young people entering adulthood have little preparation for financial decisions. Would you consider offering yourself as a financial instructor at a local high school or community college?
2) You no longer need to actively prospect. You have amassed a significant client base. They are connected to all kinds of people. Who is it in their families, neighborhoods, religious organizations, or community groups that they can introduce you to?
3) Younger independent financial professionals are relying more and more on technology. They can run circles around you in the use of digital tools. On the other hand, they do not know what you know. Would you be willing to mentor someone in the elements of client-building that they cannot learn on-line? Here are a few areas:
a. You learned to serve the clients rather than push products. You may sell insurance, but you first teach people about the value of insurance, what it does, why it enjoys tax advantages, and how it can protect loved ones. You know how to link the benefits to the individual situation. Show a younger professional how to do this.
b. Teach another person how to show gratitude to the clients they are privileged to work with. Examples:
- Send hand-written notes
- Remember birthdays with a phone call
- Celebrate their financial accomplishments
- Visit them in the hospital
- Attend funerals of lost loved ones
c. You have learned that the best tools in your repertoire are not answers, but questions. Mentor a younger advisor in the art of knowing which questions result in the client making the best decisions–ones they are proud to make. Examples:
- Do you have a belief system that drives how you handle money? If so, what specific ideals or priorities do you have?
- How do values such as frugality, generosity, fairness, corporate responsibility, hard work, innovation, compassion, respect, diversity, faith, integrity, and love influence your financial decisions?
- What makes you most anxious about the financial preparedness of your children, grandchildren, and others?
- How do you know that what you believe to be true really are proven financial principles?
- Who has had the greatest influence on your approach to financial matters?
4) You may have grandchildren or even great-grandchildren. Write them a story about a lonely dollar that finds how to make friends by working hard, being kind, demonstrating discipline, avoiding bad decisions and suddenly discovering the land of Compound Interest!
Wouldn’t you enjoy surprising everyone you know during the Winter of Your Life?
The White Crownbeard plants in my yard are beautiful in full bloom at the peak of their lives. Yet, more prized than their blossoms are the wonder they provide in the time of Winter. There really is nothing more surprising than to discover Frost Flowers formed from sap.
The Psalmist4 long ago wrote to inspire people in their Winter of Life:
“The righteous flourish like the palm tree and grow like a cedar in Lebanon…
They still bear fruit in old age;
they are ever full of sap and green.”
The oldest bristlecone pine is more than 4,800 years old! The wood is very dense and resinous. (Read that as sappy!) The wood’s extreme durability helps the tree resist invasion by insects, fungi, and other potential pests. Turns out, sap is an essential defense and necessary for full life!
Are your energy and will “sapped?” Or, are you still “full of sap?”
Only one way to prove it. Bear fruit!
- Psalm 92:12-14 (English Standard Version).