My wife, Kristy, and I get the same reactions almost every time we share the story of how she had a stroke at the age of 22.
“Are you serious?”
“Really?! What happened?”
We then either provide a short, elevator-pitch recap, a more in-depth version, or the hour-long story of our experience, depending on the audience.
It was a Friday in September, at the end of the day. I received a call from Kristy, and she was saying something was wrong with her, but she was hard to understand. I told her the phone was breaking up and to call me from her office phone. The next call I received was from her new boss, who said I should get there right away or he was going to call an ambulance.
I got to her office as quickly as I could. At that point, she was unable to speak any words, make any audible sounds, write, text, type or communicate in any way short of giving a thumbs up that she could understand everything I was saying to her.
We went straight to the ER where an MRI revealed she had just suffered a massive stroke, and more testing would be required to determine the cause. In complete shock, we didn’t hear much of what was said after that. Later, a CT scan revealed her left carotid artery had completely dissected – cause unknown – and a piece of the clot that had formed traveled up to her brain, resulting in the stroke.
That night, the neurologist braced us for what to expect moving forward. She said that due to the severity of the stroke, it was likely that my wife’s communication impairments would last months, years or even permanently.
She was 22 years old, and we had been married for three months. We had just bought our first home, started new jobs and adopted a puppy – all within those first three months. There was absolutely no indication of this looming catastrophe. She didn’t smoke, drink or have a family history of stroke. She is a relatively healthy woman with absolutely no probability of a stroke ever, let alone in her early 20s. Even her cardiologist said in the 30-plus years he’s been practicing, she was only his second case of a major artery spontaneous dissection. He did say strokes in younger people are more common than you think, but for other reasons.
Overwhelmed could not even begin to describe how we were feeling. There was a conflicting sense of grief surrounding us. Realizing the gravity of the situation, we rejoiced in her survival but at the same time mourned for what we stood to lose. Kristy says she had a sudden moment of clarity and thought, “No! This will not be my life!” She became intensely determined to recover.
Did you know it really is possible to break a mental sweat? I can tell you from witnessing it firsthand – my wife physically struggled, without even moving, to restore the connections between her brain, mouth and hand. First there were small sounds, then barely legible handwriting and short, stuttered sentences. Longer conversations, with a little less struggle to form her words, and elementary handwriting came after that.
By God’s miraculous healing, she was released more than a week later. And had you not known what happened, you never would have been able to tell the difference. She was practically back to normal.
How does this tie into life insurance and/or critical illness coverage? Well, I was fortunate enough to start my career at a small GA office in Fort Wayne. We specialized in health and life coverage. My boss suggested we get insured since we were married and had a house. We were looking at 10-year term with accelerated underwriting. We completed applications, and I brought them home to have them signed …
They sat on our table at home for two weeks, and that’s when the stroke happened.
I thought, “Are you kidding me?! Why didn’t we sign them? Why didn’t we make this a priority? Why wouldn’t a young couple think life insurance is important?”
Now we know. Kristy might not have been so lucky. She could have died without having any coverage. We immediately applied after that, and I received Preferred Plus rates within three days of underwriting (well within the two weeks our applications just sat at home and could have been processed). Kristy was postponed for one year, and then she received a Standard Nonsmoker rate with a flat extra of $7.50 per thousand for the next three years. At least we were able to get coverage, but I had to reduce her coverage to one-fifth of the original amount to keep the premiums within our budget.
While we were aware of the need for life insurance, we were not aware that something traumatic could happen to us at our age. We were not aware of critical illness coverage at the time, and probably would have overlooked it even if we did. Having stayed in the insurance industry and being fortunate to work at firms with voluntary benefits, we have since added critical illness coverage on myself, while my wife has to reach her 10-year anniversary of her stroke before they will consider. If these benefits were ever to go away, you can be sure we will be buying an individual critical illness policy for both of us.
There are so many lessons we have learned from this experience. First and foremost, never take life and loved ones for granted – everything can disappear in an instant. Second, laughter is an incredibly powerful, potent remedy (ask me about her nickname “stroke brain”). Third, no one is invincible, no matter how healthy you think you are. Fourth, always sign the life insurance paperwork as soon as you get it. Lastly, consider all the insurance products that are available (life, critical illness, disability, long-term care) and think of the consequences of NOT having coverage. You really cannot be over-insured in a world of uncertainty.
Another response we get when telling this story is, “Wow, I know someone else who was only 20-something years old and had a stroke, too!” You will probably find that everyone knows someone with a similar story.
Please feel free to share this story with your family, friends, agents and clients to raise awareness of how important life and critical illness insurance products are – not only to purchase, but to purchase before it’s too late (or too expensive).
Michael Burns is an internal wholesaler who manages three territories across the country, managing and cultivating relationships to increase sales opportunities for advisors and their practices. He’s been in the insurance industry for more than seven years, working with two other local BGAs before joining Ash Brokerage. He recently obtained his life and health license and is working on his Series 6 and 63 designations.
Think about the last time you saw news of a local resident celebrating their 100th birthday. I’m guessing you can recall at least one in the last 12 months. Twenty years ago, these news stories were seen much less frequently and more on a national level than local.
No doubt, the shift from healing sickness to preventing it, coupled with higher patient intelligence and more effective treatment, is resulting in longer lifespans. As published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in March of 2012: “The risk of dying has decreased 60 percent from 1935 to 2010 with heart disease and cancer being the first and second leading cause of death.”
Recognizing our country’s strides in medicine and education, the life insurance industry has made its own strides to recognize the impact of healthy lifestyles. Gone are the days of carriers opening their 500-page reinsurance manual and going through the “A+B=C” exercise. While those same fundamentals still exist, underwriting doesn’t stop there.
The majority of life insurance carriers now utilize some form of a crediting program to offset the risk assessment based on an applicant’s positive lifestyle choices. While these crediting programs vary from one company to the next (and some are more transparent than others in sharing criteria), the most common credit opportunities include:
It’s also well known that life insurance companies are working diligently to increase the ease of doing business by reducing costly underwriting requirements. Many have eliminated stress tests and exams by doctors while reducing routinely ordered client medical records. These are terrific strides to improve the overall application experience.
But in a world of fewer requirements with credit-based underwriting, you and your client play a more critical role. As the saying goes, “Help us help you.” You might be asking, “How do I possibly help?” Fair question.
Two simple words can have a big impact: cover letter. Need help writing one? Here are some guidelines:
If you’re submitting an electronic application, terrific! Simply prepare the letter via email and submit it to your assigned Ash Brokerage case manager. Our underwriter, and the carrier’s, will now have a better understanding of your client’s overall lifestyle.
These extra steps truly position Ash Brokerage to successfully do what we do best: advocate for you and your client! Call us today to start your next case.
Jennifer Glessner knows every opportunity she’s entrusted with is truly a gift, whether it’s the advisor’s first or 100th policy. With 20 years of life insurance experience, she grew up in the business and has a vital understanding of where we were, where we are and where we are going as an industry. Her diverse background includes underwriting, sales, operation and leadership, and she’s also an Associate of the Life Management Institute and an Associate of the Academy of Life Underwriting.
Recently, I listened to an interesting episode of Freakonomics Radio, hosted by Stephen Dubner, author of the popular book, “Freakonomics.” Inspired by a research paper written by a trio of economists looking at the use of suspense and surprise in the entertainment industry, the guests of the show discussed what makes a move thrilling.
Filmmakers engage the audience’s emotions with suspense. They amp up those emotions with surprise plot twists. With the right amount of each – plenty of suspense but not too many surprises – the movie grabs the audience. Behind the action, music throbs with tension, crashes with sudden violence or soars with triumph.
Real life isn’t like a film. Most of us pretty much know what to expect out of each day. Our surprises are mostly of the small variety. An old friend calls out of the blue. The water heater springs a leak. One of the kids wins an award.
When a big surprise does happen, it’s not just a plot twist. It turns our lives upside down.
A routine medical test shows cancer. The pregnancy test says a baby is on the way. A drunk driver comes out of nowhere and suddenly, from one moment to the next, our reality is shattered.
That’s why insurance matters. No one expects tragedy to visit their family, but, every day, some random families are hit with a “plot twist.” What comes next is difficult and painful. And it continues to be difficult and painful, day after day after day … There’s no script telling them what to do next, let alone how things will end.
Will the family’s story ultimately be one of triumph over adversity? Or of family’s breaking under the ongoing struggle to survive?
Having the right insurance could make the difference. It can’t help with the grief and pain, of course. But it can help to have resources to pay the bills. To keep the kids in school. To keep the company open for business or to pay off the farm debt. Insurance can help keep grief and pain from turning into fear and desperation.
The problem is, buying insurance isn’t cinematic. You don’t see movie trailers featuring an ordinary guy sitting at his kitchen table using a ball-point pen to filling out an insurance application. Let’s face it, you can’t edit “exciting” into that picture. No amount of frenetic jump-cuts, no bass-pumped soundtrack, no “In a world …” voice-over, is going to make that a dramatic scene.
Put it in Practice: Buying insurance is boring. But here’s the thing. Buying insurance NEEDS to happen when life is boring. Because the day the plot twist happens to your family, when life has suddenly become anything but boring, insurance can help your family come through. Because (real) life matters.
As a senior advanced markets consultant, Steven Gates supports advisors who serve high-net-worth clients and business owners by providing life insurance-driven strategies for wealth transfer planning, business protection and charitable leverage. His background is a unique blend of technological expertise, industry knowledge and entrepreneurial drive. After earning his computer science degree from Penn State University, he worked for a nationally recognized property and casualty managing general agency before transitioning to the life insurance industry.
We all understand we’ll pass away someday. It’s a question of when it will happen, not if.
That’s why the need for life insurance is fairly easy to comprehend. Your clients usually purchase a policy to provide financial stability to the people they care about most if they were to pass away.
If your clients care enough to purchase life insurance for their loved ones, shouldn’t they look at disability insurance in a similar light?
Disability insurance can be a more complex idea to sell. Your clients hear the word “disability” and automatically think, “It will never happen to me.” Injuries or illnesses aren’t as certain as death, but they can be nearly as devastating.
Remember, disabilities do happen. Nearly one in four workers entering the workforce today will become disabled before retiring.1 Injuries and illnesses come in all forms and lengths. They’re not all catastrophic, and not all of them will last for the rest of your life.
But what about disabilities that keep you from working in your occupation for as little as six months, a year or even three years? Would your clients be able to keep up their family’s standard of living without an income during those timeframes? Research says 50 percent of Americans would be in financial trouble in less than a month if they became too sick or hurt to work.2
Essentially, disability insurance should be looked at as “paycheck protection.” Does your client’s family rely on their paycheck? Could your client retire tomorrow? Then isn’t their paycheck worth protecting?
Put in Practice: Not sure where to start? First, look at your existing book of business and make a list of clients who currently own Life Insurance. Next, reach out to those who wouldn’t be able to retire if they became disabled tomorrow. Finally, talk to them about protecting their family with disability insurance in the same way they’ve protected them with life insurance.
1Social Security Administration Fact Sheet, February 2013.
2Life and Health Foundation for Education (LIFE) Survey by Kelton, April 2012.
Josh Farrell’s goal is to provide income solutions before your clients become too sick or hurt to work, replacing any financial burden or uncertainty with relief and confidence. He’s worked exclusively with Ash’s Disability Marketing team for more than five years, so he brings experience and knowledge of individual and business-related disability products and case design.
So, Life Insurance Awareness Month is upon us. Naturally, the first thought that comes to mind is dying. Pretty exciting stuff, I know! But we have to face the facts: We’re all going to die at some point. (Well, if you take out the whole cryogenics fad, it’s true.)
No matter what, as real and unavoidable death is, we all hope it’s going to come later down the road. Which means we want to live, and hopefully live life to the fullest.
This all takes me back to a recent conversation I had with my grandfather. The conversation started around the update of technology. Grandpa has always been on the front end of the learning curve. He took computer classes back when floppy disks were actually floppy. On the flip side of that, I’m not sure grandma could even turn on the computer if she really needed to.
That got us on the “good ol' days,” when everything was simple (or seemed simple) and people would actually watch the road when they were driving … But that’s a rant for another day.
All of this got me thinking. In our world – long-term care specifically – what was so great about the good ole days? In my opinion the answer is not a whole lot – people died a lot younger and more often. Sorry, but it’s true.
Medical technology has come so far, and we’re living longer, more fruitful lives. So that leaves us with trying to manage the risks of living a long life. That could be running out of money, having to work longer, or even having our health compromised and needing some sort of care. Any way you look at it, we need to have conversations about our plans to deal with these risks.
The good ol' days are in the past. So as we move forward, please think about what you’re doing to make sure you have the life you want to have, and be sure you’re taking steps to protect your future as well as your family’s.
Put it in Practice: Life insurance is important in the event of our untimely death, but living can have an impact, too. Let’s have more conversations about the risks of both.
Chad Eyrich is proud to help keep families together with long-term care planning. He helps advisors and their clients avoid the potential financial devastation of an LTC event by providing strategies around traditional, asset-based and linked-benefit insurance. In addition to earning his Long-Term Care Professional and Certified in Long-Term Care designations, Chad has a life and health insurance license, and a property and casualty insurance license.
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