So you are going to sit down with an advisor/agent for the first time? Whether it is DaveLife or another firm, here is some guidance on the process…
What to Expect From the Agent
- The Agent should seek first to understand you, your situation and your objectives, both short term and long term.
- Expect them to ask you a lot of personal questions. They’ll ask you about your family, about your money, your health and your lifestyle. This will help them identify what you will qualify for. Be honest with them. It does you no good to apply for products that you will be declined for. (see underwriting below)
- The Agent will talk about death. Often that is why they are there. What happens if you die? Your spouse dies? What about the kids? The house? For some people this is uncomfortable. Know that the agent is just doing her job. It is better to have the conversation now than not have it at all.
Items You’ll Want to Gather For The Meeting
- All of the relevant people. If we are writing a policy on Grandma she needs to be there.
- Name, address & phone number of your doctor.
- If you’ve seen a specialist about a serious condition (e.g. your heart doctor) have her information available as well.
- All of the prescription medications you are taking. Name, dosage & condition being treated. The easiest thing is often just to put all the pill bottles together & lay on the table.
- Banking information for the account you want the policy attached to.
- Government issued ID. State Driver’s License preferred.
- If not a United States citizen your permanent resident card (Green Card)
- Any existing policies you have. Go ahead & dig them out of that box of important stuff buried in the closet.
Treat the Agent’s Time With Respect
- Try to keep your original appointment. If that is not possible call the Agent and let them know immediately.
- If your spouse will be unavailable let the Agent know. In most cases (In our Agency for sure) they will reschedule.
- If you meet with an agent and are not interested tell the agent that. It does neither you or the agent any good for you to say, “That sounds great!” when it doesn’t.
Apply with Confidence/”Free Look” Period
- The formal process for obtaining a policy begins with an application. They will vary in length depending on the product & the carrier.
- Usually your agent will interview you in person, record your answers & have you sign the completed application in a couple places. Read it before signing it.
- You will not get a copy of the entire application at the time of signing it. Usually that is not practical. When you get your accepted policy delivered to you the application is incorporated (usually in the back).
- You are not committing yourself to anything; you are applying. Every state has a “Free Look” period. That means that by law you have a period of time from when the accepted policy is actually delivered (however it comes: mail, courier, personal delivery) to walk away without any penalty & any money paid by you promptly returned. Georgia’s legal free look period is 10 days although some carriers offer a longer period by practice.
- When you have completed the application look for your agent to summarize what you have applied for & what will happen between now & policy issue including any actions you need to take. If he doesn’t ask him to.
- While you are thinking about the policy the insurance company is thinking about you. After all they are committing to pay a large sum of money in the event of your death.
- Your agent is not the one that decides if you get the policy or not. Believe me, she’s rooting for you! There is a separate department called Underwriting. They evaluate and validate your application. They may also check your medical records, driving records, and other records. This is all done with your legal permission thru authorizations (including HIPAA) you sign at the time of application. They may also require a brief medical exam (done at your convenience & their expense) and/or phone interview with you.
- Your agent can give you some idea how long the process will take. You can do your part to move things along by promptly responding to any requests you get: exams, interviews, additional forms.
- As a result of this records check, very little will get past the underwriters. They will find out. It does you no good to hide items about your history. In fact, if they find out you failed to disclose certain items on an application it could invalidate the policy.
Policy Is Approved!
- Before we get to the good news, let’s deal with bad news that happens with some small percentage of applications: your policy is declined. Find out why. Talk to your Agent about a “Plan B (or C).” While you might not qualify for a particular plan I’m pretty sure there’s another option to explore.
- Okay! So the answer was yes! Congratulations! Now read it! Make sure you understand what is in the policy. Years from now what’s in that legal contract is what’s going to govern the agreement between you and the Insurance Carrier; not what you thought you heard your Agent tell you.
- If there are misunderstandings, much better to identify them now. You can’t believe the number of existing policies (that were written by other Agents) I review and the policyholder doesn’t understand key elements of it. Conservatively it happens a third of the time. The most common areas of confusion are: policy expiration, increasing premiums & accidental-only coverage.
- Every year millions of dollars go unclaimed (actually the money gets turned over to the State general fund) because death claims are not made or beneficiaries cannot be located. Make sure you let some responsible, trusted people know what your policies are and how to reach your carrier and agent so that the claim can be made promptly.
A Few Words about Compensation
- Compensation is often a taboo subject but I’ll address it because I believe there are a couple of important points to be made.
- Licensed Agents are professionals that provide a valuable service. We get paid fairly. Compensation plans vary but almost always it is commission-based. We get paid when you buy a policy. The bigger the policy the more we typically get paid. To use an overused phrase, it is what it is.
- The sales compensation is (typically) based on the premium dollars a client pays not the face amount or death benefit of the policy.
- However, in the case of Indexed Universal Life (IUL) or similar flexible premium policies, the agent is only paid a regular commission on the target portion of premium. She is recommending you overfund the policy because that is usually a good strategy for the client to maximize the value in the policy not because it is a way to increase her commission. If she was trying to maximize her commission she’d recommend you buy more insurance vs. using an overfunding strategy. The overfunding strategy (often) makes good client sense. That’s why we encourage it.
- There are some differences between Licensed Life Insurance Agents & compensation practices that occur in several well-known commission-based professions:
- We don’t set the prices. We put your information (age, health, smoking status, gender, amount) into a quoting tool. It tells us what the price is. We have no control over it. It does you no good to be coy with us or play it close to the vest. We are not a car salesman where it is our objective to give you as little car as possible for as much money as possible (with you trying to out- negotiate us and you do the opposite to the dealership).
- We can’t reduce/cut/discount/kickback our commissions or in anyway give you some kind of financial consideration for buying a policy. It is illegal. Contrast that with real estate where often agents will take a lower fee (legally/ethically) to make a deal work. Don’t ask. It’s illegal for us to do.