Protection Products

Help for Life’s Plot Twists


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. 




Life and Disability: Complementing Insurance


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. 


di disability

Were they Really “The Good Ol' Days”?


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. 

Fall is the Time to Reflect and Review


Every season is special in its own way, but there’s something about fall that brings the family together. September is not only back to school time, but it’s also Life Insurance Awareness Month. At this time of year, it’s good take a moment and reflect on why we do what we do. 

My grandparents’ story is one that keeps me grounded in my work: My grandma was a flight attendant for TWA, where she met my grandpa. They married, settled down and found out they were expecting … twins! My grandma stayed home with my mom and uncle while my grandpa worked as high school principal. Everything was going to plan.  

Unfortunately, that all changed when my grandpa noticed a strange mole on his back. It turned out to be cancer. He had the mole removed, but it was no use as the cancer had spread. He put up a good fight, but he ended up losing his battle. 

My grandpa was 34 years old when he passed away. He left behind a wife, who had no job, and two 7-year-old children … 

Their story could’ve ended there in tragedy, but my grandpa knew the importance of owning life insurance. Thanks to his foresight, the mortgage was paid off, and there was enough money left over for my grandma to stay home and raise my mom and uncle. 

Unfortunately, many others families have a similar story that doesn’t end the same way. According to LIMRA, 30 percent of households don’t have any life insurance. Maybe they never got around to it. Maybe they had life insurance at one time, but didn’t keep an eye on it, and it lapsed. 

That’s why permanent life insurance needs to be reviewed on an annual or bi-annual basis. According to LIMRA, 50 percent of permanent policies lapse in the first 10 years. And, according to, 64 percent of people don’t even know what type of life insurance they own and can’t remember why they originally bought it.

The Life Insurance Portfolio Analysis (LIPA) team at Ash Brokerage was created to address these statistics. LIPA a free service to help dissect and analyze the performance of existing life insurance policies. We stress test every policy and search the market for any possible improvements. In fact, 65 percent of life insurance policies Ash reviews are underperforming, priced incorrectly or inappropriate for the client’s needs. 

Put it in Practice: If I can help one more family have a story like mine, what I do is worth it. Call us to perform a review on your client’s life insurance today. 

As part of the LIPA team at Ash Brokerage, Scott Behrendsen’s goal is to not only ensure clients have the best possible protection, but to also present the planning strategies and concepts in a concise format that’s easy to understand. He’s been in the insurance industry for 10 years, working in annuities, broker-dealer operations, and health insurance before joining Ash Brokerage. He has an extensive background in life insurance case design and advanced strategies. He’s currently pursuing an MBA in marketing.

The BUZZ about Marijuana


For those of us who’ve been around the insurance block a time or two, we can certainly remember the days when any type of marijuana use was an automatic decline. Today, the answer isn’t so cut and dry.

Marijuana usage is a hot and evolving topic in life insurance underwriting right now. As of today, 23 states and the District of Columbia have legalized marijuana in some form – Colorado, Washington, Delaware and Alaska have legalized recreational use while the others permit medical use only. 

With the sudden interest in the news and other states considering legalization, Ash Brokerage has received numerous questions regarding our carrier partners’ underwriting practices for applicants who currently use, or have a history of using, marijuana. We’ve also received inquiries about business insurance for marijuana dispensaries and farms.

The good news is many of Ash’s carrier partners will entertain offers for life insurance on both an occasional recreational user and an applicant using marijuana for medical impairments. 

Recreational Use

For recreational marijuana, the underwriting class is influenced by the age of the insured and frequency of use, which is categorized as:

  • Experimental – Tried or used once but no longer use
  • Rare/Celebratory – One to two times a year
  • Occasional – Up to two times per month or less
  • Intermittent – Three to eight times monthly
  • Moderate – Nine to 16 times monthly
  • Heavy – 16 or more times per month

Carriers largely show preference to middle-age or older users (40+), with some having auto-decline parameters, such as under the age of 21.  

From one carrier to the next, there is a large disparity when it comes to usage. Select carriers allow weekly use of up to four events at best class non-smoker, while others would impose a low substandard rating on their smoker rates. At this time, the majority treat recreational use as a smoker. As the frequency increases, the rate class increases, with some carriers declining daily usage or applicants using more than four times per week.   

When considering offers and the underwriting class for recreational users, another important factor is co-morbid risk, such as: poly-substance abuse, respiratory issues, mood and psychiatric disorders, criminal history or avocations. In most of these cases, an application for life insurance will not be considered, will incur a higher rate class or be issued with exclusions. 

Medicinal Use 

When considering the risk for applicants using medicinal marijuana, most carriers will base the rate class on the underlying cause predicating the use of marijuana as treatment. The underwriting offers will range from best class non-tobacco to decline, depending on the underlying impairment, as well as the control of the disorder. A handful of carriers will add a substandard class of Table 4, regardless of the control of the illness or condition for which the marijuana is being used.  

Some carriers consider all medicinal users as tobacco users, regardless of the form in which the marijuana is delivered into the system: smoked, vapor, eaten, drunk; others will differentiate between smoked/vapor inhalation or ingested/topical forms.  

The same co-morbid risk factors noted above for recreational use are also considered when underwriting the applicant using medical marijuana. Again, most cases are not considered good risk and the majority will not be offered life insurance.

Our research shows that carriers will want to see a copy of the valid prescription card, or they will order the client’s attending physician records. Of the 25 carriers we surveyed, only six disclosed they routinely screen for marijuana, while the majority will reflex order for cause.  

Business Coverage

As of the time of publication, the federal government doesn’t consider marijuana dispensaries or farms growing marijuana crops legal businesses. The majority of smaller dispensaries typically are cash-only, which raises the risk for illegal actions such as money laundering. As such, most of the major life insurance carriers will not offer business insurance for marijuana dispensaries or farms, and some carriers won’t even offer personal insurance for applicants who are employed by such businesses. Only a few carriers will consider these businesses on a case-by-case basis.

How do we make sure a case doesn’t go up in smoke?

First of all, we need to raise awareness to clear the haze created by the increased social acceptance of marijuana use. Also, full disclosure is imperative! Many carriers will decline to make an offer if the application and exam state “no use,” but then through their underwriting process, they find out the applicant is currently using marijuana for any reason. 

Since there are so many variables influencing the underwriting decision for both recreational and medical marijuana users, it’s impossible for us to recommend a carrier for consideration without having all of the facts. The good news is at Ash Brokerage, you have a dedicated staff of seasoned underwriters available to answer your questions regarding marijuana usage and assist you with carrier recommendations. We’d welcome the opportunity to talk with you about your client’s specific needs.  

Additionally, the Ash Brokerage website has numerous impairment questionnaires, including a marijuana questionnaire, which are useful in developing medical, financial or avocation risk. They’ll help you uncover potential issues – prior to collecting a formal application – and ensure the call with your Ash underwriter is productive.  

marijuana underwriting smoking