Insurance is one of those financial tools that everyone seems to love to hate. If you are lucky, you hate it: paying all those premiums for a benefit that never happens. If you are unlucky, you find insurance to be a godsend: having the carrier make good on all those premium payments to help fix something that is broken like a car, a leg, or one click of a phishing link on your work email. Insurance isn’t for the good times, it’s for the bad times. And in the worst of times, it just may be the strongest tool in your toolbox.
I started my career as a life insurance agent. Bright eyed and bushy tailed, I was asking my parents to lend me their address book so I could call everyone they knew asking to do an analysis of their life insurance and pension situation. Sometimes, if you were lucky, a policy holder called into the office with a question and didn’t have an agent assigned to them…so a newbie agent could take the call and thus one less hour of “smiling and dialing” could happen that day.
Once such day, I was in rotation when the call came in that set the path of my entire career. The call was to report that a policy holder had died, and someone needed to deliver the death claim check to the beneficiary. I was 23. She was 45. Her kids were 5 and 7. Her husband was lost as he invited me into their home, to sit at the kitchen table and give him a check for $250,000. The unspeakable had happened. He was the unlucky one that day, his life was broken.
I had my briefcase, a fancy pen from my college graduation, and the standard questionnaire…. and knew what my job was to do: help him figure out what to do with all that money! I asked why the insurance policy was purchased, and he told me it was to pay for the kids’ college should something happen to her. I knew the assignment, I knew what to pitch: He was torn, also thinking about paying off the mortgage, unsure of what to do. As he was vacillating, the family cat jumped onto the table and came to me purring and rubbing into me wanting attention. I pet her (of course) but also was trying to stay professional (of course) but was also not sure what to do (of course) because I had just given a quarter of a million dollars to a man whose wife had just died, and their boys were on the floor watching cartoons in the other room. So, I just sat there and pet the cat.
He looked up at me and had a look of shock! I froze immediately, thinking maybe the cat wasn’t supposed to be on the kitchen table. I started to lift her down and he said it was okay….it was the first time the cat had gone to anyone for attention since his wife had died. You see, it was her cat and he never loved on him or the boys. I was the first one. He looked at me. I looked at him. He said that if his wife’s cat liked me, it was a sign that his wife approved, so he signed the application and handed it back to me. I had just landed my very first large account because a cat liked me.
Of course, I was on cloud nine all the way back to the office. I had done what was supposed to be done! The kids could have a solid college accounts now, with the potential for growth. I was on the leaderboard for the very first time, Yet I was scolded by my manager for not pitching a life insurance policy. I still can feel the twinge of confusion to this day. I had filled their loss. I had made good on the promise on behalf of the insurance company I worked for. Mom died. Kids have money for college. Phoenix from ashes kind of thing. But why was I then taken aside and “taught” how I should have sold him more insurance? I was confused. Then I was mad.
And that was the day I became a financial planner.
Throughout my career, I have wondered about the husband and his two sons. I left the agency soon after and I didn’t have enough seniority to take my clients with me. The kids would be well into their 30’s now. Did they have enough money to graduate from college without student loan debt? Did another agent call and try to sell her husband more insurance? How did the cat know I was there with pure intentions, to carry out the duty entrusted to me to serve that family in their best interest….not the insurance companies. Not my manager’s. Not mine. I often reflect on that day, and how I found the strongest tool in my financial product toolbox delivering a death claim at a kitchen table: my moral compass.
Kimberly Enders CFP® CWS® CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™
Enders Wealth Management
37800 Van Dyke Ave, Suite 125
Sterling Heights MI 48312
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