The Eye Of The Storm

    Like the ocean waves, our business, long term care insurance, is about repetition. It is about calling, seeing, and helping people. Whether it is knee-to-knee or virtually via the web and telephone, as Don Corleone once uttered, This is the business we have chosen for ourselves. It is about marketing, networking, follow-up, learning new products, as well mastering sales techniques through constant practice, practice, practice. This is not merely a philosophy; it is what makes this our business. This job can prove to be difficult sometimes as obstacles such as language barriers arise when talking to clients overseas. Luckily for us, there are companies such as the UK Language Project that are available to us, so that we can learn to converse with the many different countries.

    Despite LIMRA reports of declining sales associated with the traditional long term care industry, the need for these products continues to grow as 79 million Baby Boomers continue to turn 65 at the rate of 10,000 per day and are now old enough to be thinking in terms of Required Minimum Distributions (RMDs). The 84 million Gen-Xers right on their heels present an even larger challenge to Society as their anticipated greater longevity coupled with constant advances in medical treatment will prolong life and retirement. With fewer children, now scattered across the country as professional opportunities take them away from the nuclear family, and more women in the workforce, we simply are not the Waltons any longer and family is not the go-to default solution for private long term care.

    Over the years I have had the dubious distinction of living through a couple of tornados, some minor earthquakes, and even a hurricane. These experiences have led me to become a little more vigilant, I even closely monitor weather patterns in various parts of the world using precise weather monitoring equipment such as you’re able to find if you click here, for example. These acts of Nature that bring gale-force winds and excessive amounts of rain are absolutely terrifying and completely beyond our control. I used to think that being bed-ridden like any one of my four grandparents (for whom I was a caregiver) was the ultimate definition of helplessness. I would expand the definition to include sitting on the floor next to a toilet, or in a bathtub, with towels covering the mirrors, hoping that the wind was not going to uproot our house and drop it into the middle of Oz.

    I can speak from first-hand experience that, when a tornado is literally ripping through buildings on either side of you, it does sound like a freight train and fills your heart with fear that you are going to be dragged along like a ragdoll into the next county. Equally, when the hurricane rips the trees in the vacant lots surrounding your home out by their roots, the tearing and snapping sounds are equally terrifying and beyond any remedial actions on our partwith the only relief available being the heavy thump that announces that the tree has landed safely on the ground and not through the roof, wall, or window. Although, some people do experience trees falling onto their roof in more extreme tornadoes, causing a lot of damage. The whole experience can be very frightening, but it’s important that you contact your home insurance and a roof repair austin company, or a roofing contractor located closer to your home, as quickly as you can after the event. They can help you replace or repair your roof as soon as possible to prevent any further damage to your home from water leaks for example.

    There is typically an eye within the storm cell that is a region of calmer weather usually found at the center of strong tropical cyclones. It can provide those suffering from Natures onslaught with a respite but also a false and often dangerous sense of security that conditions are improving.

    Like several other countries, the United States is in the eye of the storm.

    In Japan the population continues to age, and in 1997 the number of elderly people surpassed the number of children. Seven years later the sales of adult diapers surpassed diapers for babies. In China, the infamous one-child pogrom has caused a backlash of a dramatically shrinking population with a rapidly shrinking workforce, fewer caregivers available for an aging population, and greater dependence on the government for this long term care.

    Japan is purported to have the highest proportion of elderly citizens. In 2014, estimates placed one-third of the Japanese population over the age of 60; those aged 65 and older make up a quarter of its total population with half of that number already exceeding age 75!

    The number of Japanese people with ages 65 years or older nearly quadrupled in the last forty years, to 33 million in 2014, accounting for 26 percent of Japans population. In the same period, the number of children (aged 14 and younger) decreased from 24.3 percent of the population in 1975 to 12.8 percent in 2014. This change in the demographic makeup of Japanese society has taken place in a shorter span of time than in any other country.

    Elderly Japanese have traditionally commended themselves to the care of their adult children, and government policies still encourage the creation of three-generation households where a married couple cares for both children and parents. In 2015, nearly 200,000 people between the ages of 15 and 29 were caring directly for an older family member. However, the migration of young people into Japans major cities, the entrance of women into the workforce, and the increasing cost of care for both young and old dependents have required new solutionsincluding nursing homes, adult daycare centers, and home health programs. Every year Japan closes 400 primary and secondary schools, converting some of them to care centers for the elderly, making it easier for family members to use a “my senior care finder” application to help find the perfect facility for their loved one.

    As in this country, many nursing homes in Japan are understaffed and the demand for more caregivers is high. In Japan family caregivers are preferred as the main caregiver, and the consensus is that if an elderly person can perform ADLs with little assistance, they will in turn live longer if his/her caregiver is a family caregiver. Unfortunately many elderly people live alone and isolated, and every year thousands of deaths go unnoticed for days or even weeks in a modern phenomenon known as solitary death.

    China today boasts roughly five workers for every retiree. By 2040, this ratio will have collapsed to about 1.6 to one. From the start of this century to its midway point, the median age in China will go from under 30 to about 46, making China one of the older societies in the world. At the same time the number of Chinese older than 65 is expected to rise from roughly 100 million in 2005 to more than 329 million in 2050more than the combined populations of Germany, Japan, France and Britain.

    Traditionally, most Chinese children care for their parents through old age, as demonstrated in the Chinese phrase, Yang er fang lao, meaning, Raise children to provide for old age. Consequently, only a small portion of government resources are directed toward elderly care. According to Chinas Bureau of Statistics, in 2015 there were on average only 27 beds at nursing homes for every 1,000 elderly people in China. Contrast this with 39 beds per 1,000 elderly in the United States and 53 such beds in Germany for their aging citizens. As there are fewer children now to take care of their parents, China will need to reevaluate its policies. As Chinas population continues to age, China will need to provide additional resources to meet the needs of the elderly and perhaps transforming societal norms in the process. This is one reason that China Oceanwide is pursuing the purchase of Genworth Financial so as to export long term care insurance to China.

    While in better shape than Japan and China, and several of our European allies, we too are currently in the eye of the long term care storm in this country. As long term care insurance professionals we are the ones issuing the hurricane warnings. We know the storm is coming and that the Government is not the solution.

    The difference with the warnings that we issue is that those hearing the warnings do not have the option of evacuation to a safer venue. They must face the reality that their only choice is to take all the necessary steps that will allow them to hunker down and ride out the storm that, when it arrives, never leaves and only ends with death. Long term care insurance allows them to board up the windows and gather necessary provisions, rather than to continue to just sit unprotected out on the porch subject to the wind and rain that will devastate their lives.

    In everything that I read, more people are aware of the issue, more people know that they need to do something, and more people are experiencing being a caregiver or care manager. More people are being told by their financial advisor that this is something they should be looking into. More financial advisors are recommending it. The key is to be talking to more people and allowing yourself the opportunity to help these people.

    For years now, the news has been filled with graphic images of what a hurricane can do to devastate a region. Names like Katrina and Harvey elicit visceral emotions to those who lived through the devastation in New Orleans and Houston. Some attempted to prepare for the oncoming storm but it was too little, too late. For others, merely contemplating the overwhelming nature of these storms was too much to handle and resulted in no action, or blind faith that they could ride it out. They were wrong.

    The people we sit with to discuss long term care may initially be ignorant like those who ignore the weather forecasts or evacuation warnings. Ignorance is the lack of knowledge. Once we educate them, they are no longer ignorant. They may be in a state of denial, but they have received the gale warning. They simply need to buy in or buy out. In most cases, needing to think about it is a smoke screen that disguises denial.

    In order to pierce these clouds, we must keep the conversation all about them. We accomplish this by asking them open ended questions that address how they are going to feel emotionally, financially, and physically in the event they are overwhelmed by the long term care storm, and what the resulting devastation in the aftermath of the storm will mean to them and their families.

    We know the hurricane is coming. We know that three of every four of us are going to feel the impact of these winds. It is our job to help the general public prepare for it. Remote selling gives us the ability to be more effective and efficient and to reach more people.

    We all make emotional decisions. We then use logic to validate it. If we want something bad enough, our brain is going to find a way for us to have it because the brain is a goal seeking mechanism. Everybody has a different hot button. Everybody has a different set of fears or motivators. We need to ask questions and, once we have struck gold, we need to mine that vein for all that it is worth.

    So how do we make sure that our warning has been effective and that the person with whom we are sharing the imminent danger truly understands the ancillary risk? We must identify the problem, help them feel it and personalize it, and then build enough rapport and trust that they allow us to help them create a viable solution and the accompanying value associated with having a policy in place. It is all about being consistent in everything we dofor like the ocean, our business is about timeless repetition.

    For all those reading this, I hope that you feel the power that you have in your control to change the course of countless lives. In my final military assignment prior to retirement, I had the privilege to work on a joint services team comprised of Army, Air Force, and Navy personnel. One of my Navy counterparts taught me the phrase Fair winds and following seas as a means by which to wish the best to others who may be retiring or moving on to other assignments. I have since learned that sailors use this term synonymously with the points of sail below a beam reach, since the wind direction is generally the same as the sea direction. Therefore, the phrase Fair winds and following seas implies that a vessel will have good winds, calm seas, and not have to pound into the waves.

    The protection afforded by a long term care policy will go a long way in providing the fair winds and following seas that we all seek in the twilight years of our lives and prevent us from being lost in the storm.

    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.