Leave a comment

Best Interest Rule Rises from the DOL Rule’s Ashes

The DOL Fiduciary Rule, while officially dead, has been somewhat resurrected by New York State.

While the Obama-era regulation known as the Department of Labor (DOL) Fiduciary Rule officially died a silent death in June 2018, New York State took matters into their own hands on Wednesday, July 18, 2018, by issuing a final regulation that would raise the standard of care for life and annuity sales.

What does this mean for you if you do business in New York?

The New York State measure, which takes effect August 1, 2019 for annuities and February 1, 2020 for life insurance would require insurers to establish the proper policies and procedures that would ensure a ‘best interest’ definition as follows: “only the interests of the consumer shall be considered in making the recommendation. The producer’s receipt of compensation or other incentives permitted by the Insurance Law and the Insurance Regulations is permitted by this requirement provided that the amount of the compensation or the receipt of an incentive does not influence the recommendation.”

New language for Producer Duties include: “in making a recommendation, a producer, or an insurer where no producer is involved, may weigh multiple factors that are relevant to the best interests of the consumer including, but not limited to, the benefits provided by the policy, the price of the policy, the financial strength of the insurer, and other factors that differentiate products or insurers.”

Also, the new New York State best interest regulation contains a warning about using certain titles: “A producer shall not use a title or designation of financial planner, financial advisor or similar title unless the producer is properly licensed or certified and actually provides securities or other non-insurance financial services. Although a producer may state or imply that a sales recommendation is a component of a financial plan, a producer shall not state or imply to the consumer that a recommendation to enter into a sales transaction is comprehensive financial planning, comprehensive financial advice, investment management or related services unless the producer has a specific certification or professional designation in that area.”

The National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC), which promulgates suggested legislation for states to approve on a more uniform basis, has an annuity working group that is looking at changing its annuity suitability rule to a best interest standard.

There is no current movement by the NAIC to work on a best interest standard for life insurance.

So, as a producer in New York, get ready to supply more suitability information to the carriers to satisfy the new best interest rule. While not onerous, it will be one more form to complete.

More importantly, be careful how you market yourself in New York.  Do not use a financial planner title if you’re not actually doing financial plans or are not licensed to sell securities or not providing other non-insurance financial services.

With the NAIC working on revised annuity suitability standards, expect, at the very least, that over time, new best interest annuity standards will be endorsed by other states. As for life insurance best interest standards outside of New York, we’re still in a wait-and-see mode.

For most of you, the upcoming changes in New York will be a non-event as you already follow a best interest rule. Now it will just need to be documented.

As always, if you have any further questions about the New York or proposed NAIC changes, feel free to reach out to Zenith Marketing Group at (800) 733-0054 at any time.

Leave a comment

Inaccurate Marketing

Young business man asking to stop right there

In one of the airports I frequent, I see ads for an advisory firm touting its low investment fees and showing comparisons of projected investment returns utilizing low and higher investment fees with the conclusion being that lower fees are better.

When I overnight in that city, I also see this firm’s television ads, again touting their view that lower investment fees are always better than higher fees.

I’m reminded of that modern Latin phrase, ceteris paribus, meaning “all else being equal”. So, lower investment fees are better than higher ones, ceteris paribus.

What’s the difference? Let’s use an example outside of our industry. My good friend Neal is an excellent real estate attorney. He’s helped me purchase a couple of homes, refinance those homes, etc. and I recommend him in a heartbeat, as I have to my own children, and to anyone needing a real estate attorney. Plus, his hourly fees are extremely reasonable. But what if I need a top-notch securities attorney to represent me? On an hourly basis, Neal would be much less expensive than any securities attorney. So, would Neal’s lower hourly fees be better for me? Probably not, because ceteris paribus, Neal does not have the requisite knowledge base required to help me with securities issues. It’s not Neal’s fault, it’s just not his area of expertise.

In the past, when I’ve seen this firm’s ads at the airport or on television, I’ve just chuckled to myself until I received an unsolicited booklet from them in the mail recently.

Again, the discussion about lower versus higher investment fees was presented. Also, a clear focus on utilizing indexed funds is preferred by this advisory firm which is a contributing factor for their lower fees. I know there is a heated debate between passive and active investment management and that’s a discussion for another day, though there is some correlation to fee structure inherent to each. I’m sure that even within passive investment devotees, there’s probably opinions relating to indexed funds compared to exchange traded funds (ETFs).

I’m convinced that there is no one right answer for all clients. But here is what I take issue with in this firm’s booklet:

“A large corpus of academic work shows that investors in low-fee index funds, practicing what is called ‘passive’ investing, long-term outperform almost all active mutual funds, stock pickers, annuity products, and whole-life insurance concepts.”

Can you compare low-fee index funds to “annuity products and whole-life insurance concepts”?

What low-fee index fund can provide guaranteed growth and income for life? Only annuities and certain life insurance contracts.

What low-fee index fund can provide guaranteed chronic illness/long-term care protection? Only certain annuities and life insurance contracts.

What low-fee index fund can provide guaranteed death benefit coverage? Only certain annuities and life insurance contracts can.

If your business model is predicated on low-fee investing, so be it. I’m not in the least bit against that. But, ceteris paribus, the marketing materials used should be fair and unbiased and, in this case, either delete references to annuities and whole-life insurance or better yet, acknowledge that these products could be so different than what is available through normal investment channels that they need to be considered and incorporated within the investment plans of many clients.

Michael S. Pinkans, CFA, is Executive Vice President & Chief Marketing Officer for Zenith Marketing Group with headquarters in Freehold, N.J.

Investment adviser representative and registered representative of, and securities and investment advisory services offered through Voya Financial Advisors, Inc. (member SIPC). Zenith Marketing Group, LLC is not a subsidiary of nor controlled by Voya Financial Advisors, Inc.

 

 

Leave a comment

Top 4 Things You Should Know About Health Care Costs In Retirement

Doctor Examining Female Patient With Elbow Pain

Countless Americans are unaware that retirement and health care are linked. 1 in 3 Americans have $0 saved for retirement and many are falling short in estimating and preparing for out of pocket health-related expenses.

Below are 4 things to keep in mind when preparing for health expenses in retirement:

Retiring couples should set aside $280,000

Couples retiring this year may need about $280,000 to cover health care and medical expenses over the course of their retirement, according to a new report from Fidelity. The estimate represents a 2% increase from last year. Fidelity’s estimate applies to those with traditional Medicare insurance coverage and considers premiums, copayments, deductibles, and out of pocket drug costs. It excludes the cost of a nursing home or any long-term care you may need.

There are certain tax strategies that can help

Check with your tax advisor about the concept of bunching large deductible expenses.

Health is a concern for retirees

Health care expenses represent the number one threat to retirement savings and are a vital part of a retirement income plan. Unexpected health care needs and costs are a major issue, especially for the chronically ill. Older people usually have greater health care needs and may need frequent treatment due to a number of different health-related issues. Research shows that health care expenses are increasing each year. Retirees may need to rely on a combination of personal savings, pensions, housing equity, and work to cover the expenses. The most effective way to deal with health risks is with insurance.

Medicare is facing a bleak financial outlook

Medicare is facing a bleak financial outlook due to the aging population and other factors. Although reforms are not in the immediate future, Medicare’s trustees want Congress to adopt solutions sooner rather than later. According to the latest report of the trustees of the Social Security and Medicare programs, Medicare’s main hospital trust fund is expected to be depleted by 2029, at which time general revenue, payroll taxes, and other funds will be available to meet only around 88% of expected spending. This could mean even more onus will be put on the individual to cover expenses.

The best advice is to save as much as you can and to strive to have money saved to pay for health-related expenses in retirement. Understanding the risks that can come between you and the retirement you want is a crucial step towards meeting your retirement goals.

The key is planning.  There are types of life insurance and fixed annuities available that may help to mitigate costs in retirement. And don’t forget the possible effects a long-term care event could have on planning as well. A long-term care event could wreak havoc on an otherwise well-planned retirement, so make sure your clients know their options.

Leave a comment

Dodd-Frank’s Banking Rules Rolled Back

deltai2

It was another one of President Trump’s early promises: an overhaul of the Dodd-Frank law that significantly tightened rules on banks and other financial institutions after the Great Recession of 2008.

On Tuesday, May 22, 2018, it happened. In a rare bipartisan vote, Congress passed changes to the Dodd-Frank law which is expected to be signed by President Trump.

How will this change affect consumers and business owners?

  • The rollback would allow many regional banks (under $250 billion in assets) to avoid mandatory annual stress tests and other financial hurdles.
  • Lower capital requirements would apply to banks known as ‘custody’ banks. These are banks such as State Street Corp. which predominately hold clients’ assets for safekeeping rather than actively involving themselves in lending of that money.
  • Many banks would be able to buy state and local government bonds easier than today.
  • The bill makes it easier for banks to provide commercial real-estate lending.
  • Banks with under $10 billion in assets could make speculative investment bets by being exempt from the Volcker rule.
  • Smaller banks would file shorter financial reports and be examined less frequently.
  • Banks would be provided access to a Social Security database to match social security numbers to a name and date of birth to help minimize fraud.
  • Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac would be required to use alternative methods outside of a person’s FICO score to determine credit worthiness.

So, the new bill provides less regulatory hurdles for many banks, allows more aggressive investment management and some looser requirements for mortgage lending. This should benefit consumers and business owners as increasing bank profits could lead to more competition for the consumer wallet.

In the short term, this could help the U.S. economy and the insurance business as more disposable income for individuals and businesses can only help loosen the purse strings on buying decisions.

But long term, could you imagine smaller banks making speculative investment risks without oversight? Could you imagine mortgage loans to riskier customers that ultimately default?  Sounds all too familiar. Already consumer credit card debt is at its highest levels. We’ll have to wait and see.

Leave a comment

This Is My Story: How My Father Influenced My Future

family holding hands

Growing up, I always believed I had the white-picket-fence-middle-class lifestyle. I had two older sisters and two loving parents who only wanted the best for our family. When I graduated high school, my father asked what I wanted to focus my studies on through college. I expressed to him “anything other than what you do”, for he had spent over 30 years in the insurance industry reaching as high a position as the comptroller for a company.  He tried to express to me how helping others is a very gratifying feeling.

Within 3 months of starting my freshman year at college, everything changed for our family. My father was diagnosed with Stage 1a/1b Hodgkin’s lymphoma. Back in 1988, we were told my father was going to beat the cancer within 6 months. Three months later – one day before my father’s 53rd birthday – my father suddenly collapsed and passed away.

Our world had changed in a heartbeat. 

It took me a few hours to truly process that the person that I looked up to was no longer in my life. I went for a much needed walk by myself late that night until the early morning hours. As I was trying to wrap my brain around the instantaneous changes that were taking place in our family’s world, I came to the conclusion that maybe the passing of my father was his way of expressing to me that I needed to learn life lessons by trusting my own judgement.

I realized then that even though I was the youngest in the family, I would do anything to protect them. One of my other sisters was finishing up her last year in college, while my stay-at-home mother was now being thrust into the workforce.

I’m not sure what would have happened to my family if my father did not have life insurance. 

That my father had life insurance for the “what if’s” in life really helped me have a better understanding of the importance of protecting your loved ones. There are many different ways to utilize life insurance in today’s world. When my father passed away, it was there to help keep my family afloat and allowed me to recognize a path to potentially help others with situations similar to my family’s.

Protecting individuals and families with life insurance is my way of paying it forward. My father is “my why”.

Lee Halperin is Sales Vice President for Zenith Marketing Group, LLC.

Leave a comment

Why We Do What We Do

Business people in a video call meeting

Prior to rejoining Zenith Marketing Group on May 1st, I was employed by a very focused organization, catering to a specific market niche with the ultimate goal of selling cash value life insurance.  So, for the past 18 months, I was isolated from “brokerage”.

I don’t use social media tools like Twitter or Facebook because they can be challenging for broker/dealer compliance; instead, I rely on LinkedIn.  I use LinkedIn because it’s a business-to-business network.  I use it because it’s a “professional” network with an additional benefit of connecting, or trying to connect with, individuals who you may have worked with years, or decades ago.

But I’m noticing two disturbing trends on LinkedIn: self-promotion and, as it pertains to insurance brokerage since most of my connections are from that area, individuals and brokerage general agencies blasting out blatant product and commission announcements.

I’ve marveled at some of the ineffective posts I’ve seen recently:

  • I received my [fill in the blank] designation. Here is a picture of me holding it. I would be more concerned about a “value-match” we would have in determining whether to do business together rather than knowing you can pass an exam.
  • Have you ever considered selling [fill in the blank] whole life contracts? They have an [filll in the blank] rating. Isn’t it more useful to tell me why I’d want to consider presenting one type of contract over another?
  • Exclusive annuity: [fill in the rate] for 5 years! Top commissions. I knew that already.
  • Check this out: We can pay you [fill in the blank] commission on your next sale. Yeah, that’s the reason I entered the financial services business. Why can’t someone tell me how to sell more and increase my revenue overall?

And the list goes on and on.

Why can’t individuals and agencies on a business-to-business network tell me how to increase my revenue or be more effective in my sales process?

Why are individuals and agencies so quick to tell you what they do or what they’ve done – not why they do it?

After all, aren’t we in a relationship business?  Unless I share with you “why” I do what I do, I’m just like everyone else telling you “what” I do.  And “what” just doesn’t have the same emotional attachment.

I believe there is no nobler profession than protecting American’s assets and livelihoods. I absolutely love the business that we’re in.  I believe it’s always better to protect what you have, than chase the accumulation mentality. A lot of people will tell you how wealthy they can make you. Very few will tell you that they will protect you from becoming poor.

I believe that most people aren’t financially sophisticated.

I also believe that anytime money changes hands, problems can arise.

I believe that insurance company representatives market their products as “the best”. It’s not their fault – they sell what they have and I was certainly guilty of this when I worked for a carrier.  But this creates a lot of noise.  I believe producers and registered representatives need unbiased guidance to cut through the marketing spin from the carriers.

Many registered representatives don’t focus on insurance sales for a wide variety of reasons.  I believe these registered representatives would benefit by partnering with a focused brokerage general agency to offer the protection insurance provides.  I believe in sharing the value of protecting assets and more importantly, streamlining the process.

All these reasons are why I do what I do.  They’re my passion.

Now you know my “why”.   And it’s the reason I rejoined Zenith Marketing Group.

Sure, there are a lot of brokerage general agencies out there.  And most are all the same.  Let me help you understand why we’re different.

Mike Pinkans, CFA, CFP is Executive Vice President & Chief Marketing Officer for Zenith Marketing Group, LLC.

Leave a comment

Catastrophes Happen…Is Your Income Protected?

andrew-gaines-365270-unsplash.jpg

A dear friend lost her home in a tragic fire on Friday. It was shocking news, since we had just spoken earlier in the day. Her husband, Tom was hospitalized with third degree burns and smoke inhalation. I spent the rest of my weekend in shock and disbelief. It seemed so unfair. I began to wonder, how will this family survive? The home is uninhabitable; the family escaped with only the clothes on their backs, and the husband is recovering, unable to work for an unspecified amount of time.

In my mind, this sad catastrophe even further confirms the need for everyone to have some sort of disability insurance coverage. This situation is a perfect (but sad) example. One moment, Tom was a happy and healthy 42-year-old man, and the next he was a victim of a horrific accident.

Thankfully a GoFundMe Page has been established. The outpouring of love and support is deeply touching, but I can’t help but wonder will it be enough?

We use insurance to protect our lives, our cars, our homes, and our possessions – why not use insurance to protect our most important asset – the ability to earn income and make a living for ourselves and our loved ones? More than 50% of those disabled Americans are in their working years, from ages 18-64.  It’s painfully clear that a disabling injury or illness can strike at any time, regardless of age, sex, occupation, or lifestyle habits.

Many of us don’t realize it, but the threat of becoming too sick or hurt to work is real. If you become a victim of a tragedy like Tom, how long can your family survive without your income?

Your clients need disability protection. They also need your help finding the right solutions to protect their incomes and businesses.

Leave a comment

Connecting With Your Female Clients

People hangout together at coffee shop

Not sure how to talk to women about finances…just start! The questions you are asking your male clients can be easily translated to any conversation you are having with women. Simple right?

However, the reality is that in our male-dominated industry there is a disconnect on how to communicate effectively with female clients. The foundation of being an effective financial advisor is communication. In this post, we will focus on some strategies to successfully market and sell to women.

COMMUNICATION

First, you need to understand the truth that men and women DO communicate differently. Men tend to talk about data, facts, and expertise, where women tend to share experiences and strive to be understood. For example, instead of asking  “How much do you have in investable assets?” you may want to say something like “Can you tell me your experience with budgeting and saving?” Instead of “How much money do you want to save for retirement?” you can say, “What event or thoughts caused you to want to meet with me today?” You will still get the information you are seeking, but you are posing it in a way that shows your female client that you are genuinely interested in getting to know them.

DECISION-MAKER

There are 2 main scenarios that you need to be able to navigate:

  • When your female client states that they are in control of the finances
  • When your female client states that they are not

Believe the answer that they have given you and move forward accordingly. Be cognizant of your body language, eye contact, and balance of speaking time in either of these scenarios. In both cases, the female client will influence the ultimate decision to work with you or not, so make sure you are including all that are present in the meeting.

You want to strive to help simplify their life when it comes to money – you’re not selling to your female clients, your helping them buy; you’re not another thing to plan for and think about – you are alleviating a pain point and making finances easier to understand and manage.

CLOSE FRIEND APPROACH

An easy way to approach the conversation is to treat every client like a close friend. When talking about insurance and financial solutions with a close friend you’re more likely to be looking to help and not sell. What would you want them to watch out for? How can you help them make the best decision for themselves and their family? How would you explain the options so they can best understand?

Remember that it’s not about slapping pink on your marketing materials, it’s a way to communicate slightly differently in order to build a rapport with female clients.

With these strategies in mind, you will build and strengthen your relationships with prospects and existing clients and connect more easily with your female clients!

Leave a comment

This Is My Story: Tema Banner

Temas-Dad

A typical fourteen year old, I paid little attention to the lives of my parents. I was wrapped up in friendships with girls and budding desires for something more than friendship with boys. My attention barely reached the end of my own nose. An argument with my mother brought the reality of life into sparkling clarity and the words she spoke stopped me in my tracks, changed my world, and have never been forgotten.

“I see your father limping where he never limped…” I did not hear the rest of what she said, in that moment nothing else mattered. My world shifted from the idyllic, safe haven I resided in, to the unknown. My question, “What’s wrong with Daddy?” went unanswered, because she did not know.

Eventually, we discovered that my Dad had two incurable illnesses, ALS and Alzheimer’s – in 1978 Alzheimer’s was not a term you heard every day and could not be accurately diagnosed until after death, it was a pre-diagnosis and it turned out to be correct. It was difficult to believe and harder to accept that my Dad, a man full of energy and life, could have his life cut short. He died two years later at the age of 52. I have outlived him by a year and never has his life seemed as short as it now appears to me.

He had life insurance. My mother received $62,000. Among four children it was insufficient. My Dad spent the last year of his life in the Veterans Hospital in Salisbury, NC – thank God he was a Veteran. The necessity for my mother to go to work meant there was no one at home to care for him. Long-Term Care was in its infancy, and frankly, coming from a generation that ‘took care of their own’ I doubt he would have made the purchase; after all, my great-grandmother lived with us the majority of my childhood. She never spent a day in a nursing facility and died at the ripe age of 96, at the time she was living with one of her sons.

My Dad did not plan on becoming disabled at age 50 and dying at age 52 – but then, none of us do. Today my mother receives paltry social security from my father’s years of employment and a small pension from the power company where he was an engineer.

This is my story; this is why I believe in Life Insurance, Disability, Long-Term Care, and Retirement Planning. This is why I care about your clients and why I work hard to find the right solutions for the different phases of their life. Everyone has a story – Zenith Marketing Group understands and is a company that cares.

Call our Sales Team for a customized, client-first approach to insurance planning.

Tema Banner

Leave a comment

5 Questions to Ask Yourself Before Becoming a Potential Caregiver

Lisa-Dad

I wasn’t prepared for the impact of my father’s cancer. The story of my father’s cancer is now our family story. Our story begins when my father was diagnosed with Stage IV base of the tongue cancer and continues even now that he is gone. It is a story I continue to tell, so that other families have the knowledge and the power to help each other.

Our story is a seven year journey of my father living with chronic pain, losing his ability to eat and drink, spending the last four years of his life surviving solely on a peg tube with severe nerve damage. Nerve damage so severe that his entire body would twitch and nothing could help him, nothing could alleviate his pain.  Nerve damage so severe I would walk into my parent’s home and hear my father screaming in pain rendering us all helpless. Nerve damage so severe that my father was housebound the last two years of his life, missing countless family moments.

My mother was my father’s primary caregiver throughout his entire illness, and she did this with unconditional love, dignity and grace. If love could have saved my father he would be here right now. Even as I am writing this, I am not sure how my mother was my father’s sole caregiver for so long. My mother is the definition of strength and courage while surrounded by heartbreak and human suffering.

Although my father had a strong faith and a great attitude, the effects from his treatments could not be stopped. Slowly cancer stole pieces of my father until he was no longer able to do the most basic tasks. Eventually my parents needed help and the reality was terrifying. For my father and the rest of the family it was difficult to admit that outside help was something we needed. Unfortunately families like mine, families in need of prolonged healthcare face a dilemma. They either have to be poor enough to qualify for Medicaid or rich enough to pay the costs alone. Paying roughly $80,000 out of pocket, the average annual cost for a shared room at a skilled nursing facility, was something our family could not afford. My father spent his entire life working and saving, a nursing home would have wiped my parents out.

My father was on hospice the last four months of his life. Hospice for my Dad was someone coming to the home a few hours during the day to check on him. But the need for care was at night when my mother desperately needed rest. As my father’s health continued to decline, he fell one evening while my parents were alone; his peg tube came out twice. Each time hospice was called and a nurse came rushing to the home in the middle of the night.

I am not writing this saying my father should have been put into a nursing home – at that stage of my father’s illness my parents did not want that. However, the reality of a live-in aide or just having care come in for longer stays was desperately needed.

There are ways to alleviate the incredible costs of long term care. There are ways to plan for long term care. Our family never thought we would need to think of the unthinkable, one minute my father was newly retired ready to enjoy golf and vacations with my mother and the next he was diagnosed with cancer. We naively thought after a few radiation treatments, he would be fine. We were wrong. My father’s radiation treatments slowly robbed him of quality of life, eventually leaving him dependent on my mother. It was a heartbreaking journey, but one that needs to be told so that other families are aware that they have options.

Being prepared for the role of a caregiver means taking numerous different factors into consideration. You need to ask yourself hard questions about how your availability and care-giving capabilities will affect your ability to provide effective care for the patient AND yourself.

  1. Am I financially prepared for the extra costs of caregiving?
  2. Am I really capable of taking care of my loved one all by myself? Do I need to hire outside help or consider assisted living?
  3. Do I have the resources I’m going to need?
  4. How will caregiving affect my physical and mental health?
  5. Will I be able to cut back on work responsibilities during those times when I need to care for my parent?

The life of a caregiver is not easy. I watched my mother selflessly care for my father.  She spent numerous sleepless nights fearful that my very weak father would fall if he needed to get up and use the bathroom. Her days would be spent caring for my very sick, frail father. Although he had hospice care the last 4 months of his life, that was only for a few hours during the week.  It was my mother who was my father’s primary caregiver.  It was my mother who dedicated her life to taking care of my father.

Millions of U.S. families will face the same reality my family faced. When your loved one needs long term care how will you pay for it? It’s a reality that we should consider and plan for.