Taking Care Of Business In The New Normal

Taking Care Of Business In The New Normal

How To Position Long Term Care Insurance During The Pandemic

I am sitting here in my home office, in the very office chair that has been a part of my business life for nearly thirty years, looking out the window as I often do when contemplating the right words that will convey the desired message.

Things look the same even in terms of the two flags that grace the flagpole in the front yard, the trees that are beginning to produce their spring buds, and our perennial flowers which are poking their heads out of the dirt under my window. Fewer cars are driving by, oh, there was a FedEx truck and a UPS truck right on his bumper, and a couple of kids outside on their bicycles. Hmmm.

When I do venture out, there are fewer cars on the road, and aside from the parking lots abutting the grocery stores and pharmacies, parking lots are now vast open desolate plains. The new normal has the preponderance of schools, churches, bars, restaurants, movie theaters, shopping malls, sports arenas and other public meeting places all shuttered in this season of the Coronavirus. No major league sports, dwindling new television shows and television broadcasters now sitting six feet apart from one another or even hosting their broadcasts from their homes as they practice safety and model the CDC desired behavior of self-quarantine.

I’ve been using the word surreal a lot—because I think it is the one word that really captures what life has become over the past week. I use it because The New Normal clearly surpasses all the odd things that I have experienced over the years, like being out in a rainstorm while the sun is shining, surviving hurricanes, tornadoes and even an earthquake or two. Some are likening it to some of the apocalyptic books and movies that we have been entertained with over the years. But no doubt about it, the Coronavirus is front and center and changing life as we know it for all here in the United States…but for only the immediate future. Things will get back to some version of the Old Normal soon.

In the meantime, we have a new vocabulary. In addition to “The New Normal” there is of course “Sheltering in Place” and “Social Distancing.” Apparently, I am ‘dating’ myself when I refer to what we are doing as “Hunkering Down” but I maintain that it is still a relevant description of what we are doing. Having lived across the country, I have seen panic buying, and witnessed first-hand the hoarding that is taking place. My only regret is that I don’t own any Kimberly-Clark stock any longer.

For our parents, Pearl Harbor was a Day that lived in Infamy; for us Boomers, first it was JFK’s assassination, the Moon landing, the Challenger explosion, and then 9/11.

September 11, 2001, was a beautiful end-of-summer day. I remember exactly where I was when my wife called me to tell me that something had crashed into one of the towers of the World Trade Center and, within a few minutes, there was a hole in the world and over three thousand lives had been snuffed out and tens of thousands of others were left to mourn. The day was filled with a wide range of emotions, the resiliency of a city and a country was tested, and many people resolved to be better prepared for the unexpected.

October 2001 turned out to be the very best month ever in the history of GE Financial Long Term Care. As a regional sales manager I was delighted to see the production of my fledgling team. For five weeks that month the business literally poured in, as we shattered every projection, every commitment, every stretch goal. All told, some $37 million of traditional, stand-alone LTCI was sold. This would be the equivalent of about $100 million today. The explanation that we have since embraced is that those who purchased coverage in the name of peace of mind also did so because they were led to believe that life could change in the blink of an eye. I always marveled at that explanation because 9/11 killed 3,000 people at Ground Zero. It did not create caregiving situations like the Coronavirus is doing. For this reason, I submit that both now and in the coming months, people will be clamoring for the protection that we can provide them with the vast array of carriers and products that we have to offer because of these very caregiving situations.

Ironically, the high school seniors that are supposed to graduate in the next couple of months will do so under the cloud of the Coronavirus after having been born in the shadow of 9/11. They will vote in their first presidential election and begin to drive consumer spending as they head off to college in the fall. Because of smartphones they are more in touch and sometimes very aware of what is going on in the world around them and even know about long term care from their own family situations.

So, what does any of this have to do with positioning long term care insurance in The New Normal? Well, I have found that The New Normal more and more mirrors my Old Normal!

I have been working from home again for the past four years which has made this latest societal practice a non-issue for me and, with ever increasing frequency, my producers have been selling LTCI and related products virtually/remotely for the past five years. Personally, I have sold nothing but virtually for the better part of five years now! So, what is new here? The short answer: Not much. Don’t allow yourself to get sucked into the vortex of fear and anxiety. The New Normal will not last, and the opportunities associated with it will quickly pass.

The 60 percent of America’s workforce that is dependent upon hourly wages, and is the hardest hit by the current pandemic, remains outside of our market sweet spot! The very people that we want to talk to are largely working from home; contemplating retirement with homes and assets that have been safeguarded after the turbulence of Black Monday (1987), the dot.com burst (2000) and the financial meltdown of 2008, or are already retired and living the dream.

We have long been using words like Pandemic and Tsunami to describe the future of our Society as the Baby Boomers and the Gen-Xers all begin their own sojourns into long term care. The difference between the Coronavirus pandemic and the long term care tsunami is that there will decidedly not be a (contemplated) $1 trillion bailout by the Federal Government or Treasury checks in our individual mailboxes. Carriers are going to raise rates, lower the maximum age of policy issuance, and adjust accordingly to The New Normal as well as the impact of the Federal Reserve lowering the rates an additional 1.5 percent.

What does this mean to you? It means that for clients with whom you have met and not yet closed, you have a “Fire Sale” opportunity. Call them, let them know that now is the time to act and to lock in to the lower (guaranteed) rates. Now is the time to act, saving age, preserving health qualification, and guarding against being a burden to their family.

For those who are watching their portfolios contract by 20-40 percent due to the market downturn, let them know that now is the time to act to shelter the portfolio with some form of long term care insurance protection.

Not to appear insensitive, myopic or like an Amway cheerleader, this is the time for us to be reaching out to:

  • clients,
  • potential clients,
  • centers of influence,
  • potential centers of influence and strategic partners,
  • to attend carrier and BGA sponsored webinars,
  • as well as to complete necessary Continuing Education credits.

If you are not currently using e-app or doing sales virtually (over the phone and/or sharing your screen online) now would be a great time to learn how to do it or do it better. If you already sell virtually, it’s a great time to sharpen your skills. No one I know (me included) ever stops practicing out of a desire to be better.

Let’s make lemonade out of lemons and not compound problems for ourselves and our clients by not working and serving our clientele who need our expertise more than ever before. Be part of their solution and make a difference!

Don Levin, JD, MPA, CLF, CSA, LTCP, CLTC, is chairman of the board of the National Long Term Care Network and the managing general agent of PNW Insurance Services, a national brokerage which offers long term care insurance, short term recovery care, life insurance and annuities to the general public across the country. The long term care planning specialists and staff of PNWIS are proud to offer comprehensive individualized planning solutions to their clients while also working through a strategic alliance of financial planners, estate planning and elder law attorneys, CPAs, and other businesses and organizations.

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 nine books in a wide range of genre.

Levin may be reached via telephone at (509) 348-0206. Email: dlevin@pnwis.com.