The title is a quote from Joe Jordan, one of the insurance industry’s giants. Joe’s books and other materials all stress “living a life of significance” for insurance agents, making sure that the work they do for their clients is beyond reproach. But this also applies to each of us – we must all try to live lives of significance, and advocate for those who can’t speak for themselves.
When it comes to insurance in all of its forms, how do you determine value? Is it simply price, for instance? An older couple in their 80’s recently had to make some decisions regarding Medicare Part D prescription coverage. Having no real knowledge about the various plans and what drugs were covered by each plan, they sat down with an agent who specializes in Medicare planning. She took them through the various plans and showed them the drug formularies and what, if any, out-of-pocket costs would be incurred. In the end, however, the couple chose a plan through AARP, instead of the plan offered by the agent’s company. Why? It was a couple of dollars less per month, and they were proud members of AARP, as well.
Obviously, when you’re 80 years old and on a fixed income, any savings is attractive. But is the real value in that savings? No two insurance plans are exactly the same, nor are the prices. Some come with benefits already included, while others carry an additional cost. So on the surface, it’s easy to say that the “value” lies in getting more for less, and in many cases, this can be true. Online life insurance companies claim their products save you money, and that no agent will call on you. But what if, at claim time, there is a problem? Maybe additional information is required. Maybe, in the case of our elderly couple, the drug formulary changes and no longer covers a prescription. To quote the song Ghostbusters, “who you gonna call?” Certainly, no one at AARP will be able to assist. The online brokerage service does not have the capability to service your needs.
This is where the value of having an advocate, of having a local representative, is so important. They know you, they know your situation, and they also know who to call. Why waste time calling an 800 number, searching through the many keypad options, only to be put on hold for what may seem like an eternity? When you do business with an agent, in effect, you are hiring them to do the dirty work, to be there when you need them, to know that you are a priority to them. Often, the difference in price reflects the agent’s method of being compensated. It’s not much different than dining out – do you do a carry-out, or do you choose to dine in, knowing that you’ll be leaving a tip in addition to the cost of the meal? The value is in having someone wait on you, and in not having to clean up afterward.
Before making a decision, ask yourself: do you want someone going to bat for you? Do you want someone who knows how the insurance company works, and has a direct line to the right people? Someone who can get you an answer within hours instead of days, but at a slightly higher cost? Or do you want to “wing” it”, and take on the daunting task of dealing directly with the insurance company, often not being able to talk to the same person twice, all to save a few bucks? In the end, the decision is yours, but don’t discount the value that a professional advocate can bring to your family.