by Kate Kinkade, CLU, ChFC
In the process of considering and researching topics for this month’s editorial I found myself getting pretty depressed. It seems any relevant issue is bad news.
Unemployment continues to be high – higher in California than anywhere in the country. The Supreme Court may throw out a major component of health care reform, which could put the entire issue back on square one. Bond rates continue to be
low and insurance carriers have no choice but to pull products or significantly change pricing or benefits. Employee health insurance and health care costs are up. Consumers who need life insurance say they can’t afford it. And so on.
So, just as I was diving in on this month’s gloomy perspective I asked myself that question again. What is a relevant about the challenges our country and our industry is facing to insurance professionals? And I came up with the answer I have concluded so often on these pages – this is our chance to do our best work.
Insurance agents are financial advisors specialized in a field in which consumers need specialized advice. And there aren’t enough of us. We are needed now. Sure, we may be making money differently; We may be doing our jobs differently – but we certainly are needed.
Whatever happens with health care reform, consumers will need help understanding choices and making decisions. Plan sponsors will need help communicating and supporting enrollees. People need life insurance more today than ever before and they need to understand their choices in a rapidly changing market.
We sell financial products and people need the most help making financial decisions when the economic environment is changeable or unclear. Some financial advisors lay low when times are unstable. But this is just the time when people need help and value expertise the most.
Clients don’t need to hear that everything is great in order to make good decisions. If we tell them everything is great they won’t believe us and therefore won’t make any decisions. Consumers want help because they know things are tough – and confusing – and they want someone who has the expertise to help them make decisions in light of that fact.
Our advice doesn’t have to require a crystal ball. We don’t have to pretend to know what is going to happen and exactly what they should do. All we need to do is provide them choices based on their particular situation and information about how those choices will be effected based on what happens – what happens in health care, what happens with taxes, what happens with interest rates, etc. We can be clear that the choice might not be the best one if the future brings something unforeseen, but we can commit to help them make a different decision when or if that happens.
This is what advisors do. They advise. They don’t tell; they don’t promise; and they don’t make up stories. They understand their clients’ needs and give them advise based on their expertise.
There are no financial advisors that know how to do this as well as insurance agents. The nature of our business is understanding intangibles and caring about people. Put those skills together with the types of challenges consumers are facing today and we become important advisors to those we serve. We can do our best work. q