Are you aware of Life Insurance Awareness Month? If not, as a senior advisor you should be, because there are several good reasons to get behind this initiative. Held each September, Life Insurance Awareness Month is an industry-wide effort involving some 100 leading companies and numerous agents.

Founded by the Life and Health Insurance Foundation for Education (LIFE) ( www.life-line.org ), it has grown in four years to receive the official support of the federal and 20 different state governments. Last year, even President George W. Bush provided encouraging words for the campaign.

“As part of a sound financial plan, life insurance enables people to face challenges and have peace of mind about the future,” he noted. “Life Insurance Awareness Month is an opportunity to recognize the value of life insurance and its impact on American families.”

Consider the figures. The number of individuals who do not have life insurance is staggering, creating concern as well as opportunity. According to LIMRA, nearly 70 million American adults (about 30 percent of the population) have no life insurance. Those who do own policies have an average of four times their annual income in coverage – considerably less than most experts recommend.

LIMRA also notes that 70 percent of affluent consumers feel that protecting their estate from the impact of taxes is a critical financial objective.

Among middle-income wage earners, the numbers are also eye-opening. Another recent LIMRA survey cited bills, health expenses, mortgage payments and education costs as the main reasons most working-class Americans are not able to save for their financial futures. The survey estimates that about four in 10 non-savers – some 44 million working Americans – have cut discretionary spending to make ends meet, yet still find it difficult to save. The dependents of these individuals could be very hard pressed to maintain their current lifestyle should their major breadwinner suddenly die or become disabled.

“Anyone with dependents, a mortgage or who simply wants to provide for their heirs in a dignified, systematic manner should have life insurance. Just look at the costs of things like weddings and college education,” says Rich Pombo of William Tell Financial Services in Latham, N.Y., a top producer and senior advisor with 20-plus years of experience in the industry. “In the case of the death of a spouse, simply meeting the mortgage can be a major financial hurdle. Everyone understands this message but it’s always been a challenge getting people to act on it.”

LIAM program perks

Utilizing the tools and the media-consciousness generated by Life Insurance Awareness Month can be one more arrow in your sales arsenal. Advisors who participate in the program can often develop synergies with LIFE’s programs as well as their own. In some instances, running a local campaign that’s consistent with what’s being done on the national level can pay impressive dividends in awareness of your practice as well as in expanded sales. Advisors can participate with direct mail plus print and radio ads, as well as with new media such as DVDs.

There’s a lot of room for creativity in the initiative as many of the supporting insurance companies also have programs to help build one’s practice in coordination with LIAM. Participating companies are, however, absent from LIAM material. Some of the points covered in the campaign urge consumers to annually review their policies with an eye on adequate coverage as well as competitive rates, updating beneficiary designations, considering long term care insurance and having an income-replacement plan.

“Each year industry support for LIAM has grown and I don’t expect this one to be any different,” says David F. Woods, CLU, ChFC, president of the LIFE Foundation. “It’s no small task reaching tens of millions of Americans.”

This September, comedian, actress and former “Saturday Night Live” cast member Molly Shannon will serve as national spokesperson, encouraging Americans to take stock of their personal insurance needs by sharing her family’s story. Prior spokespersons have included Olympic Gold medalist Scott Hamilton and actress Marilu Henner – each has had relevant personal experiences plus name recognition to help draw consumers to the campaign.

The media campaign will be in full swing during September when Shannon will share her story through national television, radio and print media. She will give a video message to the industry and a speech on September 10 at the National Association of Insurance and Financial Advisors annual convention in Washington.

LIFE will also spend several million dollars educating consumers about life insurance and the importance of obtaining financial advice from insurance professionals by sponsoring a series of public-service radio announcements and print and online advertising including a Newsweek supplement: “Real LIFE Stories.”

Brian Ashe of Brian Ashe & Associates Ltd., in Lisle, Ill., has participated in LIAM since its inception. “It’s a good opportunity to educate clients and prospects, participate with the national campaign and co-brand my practice with it,” Ashe says, who has more than 2,000 clients and is a past president of The Million Dollar Round Table.

“It has raised the profile of my business,” Ashe adds, who also regularly networks with local accountants, attorneys and a nearby property-and-casualty agency. “People have become more aware and receptive to my message, which is to help consumers understand how essential life insurance is and to be aware of its benefits. This is very consistent with how I want my practice to be recognized.”

Ashe utilizes ad slicks as well as LIFE’s “Real LIFE Stories” DVD to help further educate clients and prospects. He says the 4-5 minute scenarios have been “very favorably received” by clients. He’s also a proponent of wearing LIFE’s “Life Happens” blue-and-orange bracelet, relying on it as a “conversation starter” that has the benefit of spontaneity behind it. “People notice it,” he says. “When they do, it naturally leads to a talk about risks and is a reminder to protect one’s dependents.”

Taking the effort to participate in LIAM, Ashe says, also demonstrates a level of concern and knowledge clients cannot receive when using an Internet-based insurance quoting service.

“It’s a myth that Internet-provided insurance quotes are cheap,” Ashe says. “An agent can help them get a much better idea of the rates and what’s being covered. Insurance is a complex product with many implications and options. An agent can coordinate it as part of an estate plan and to do this, wisdom, knowledge and experience are needed.”

Raising awareness

LIAM was designed four years ago to increase consumer awareness and since then has created many agent resources to educate clients and prospects, says Marvin Feldman, CLU and ChFC, of Feldman Financial Services, which has offices in East Liverpool, Ohio, and Clearwater, Fla. “It provides a third-party, unbiased opinion as no companies are involved in its material,” Feldman says.

Feldman, chairman of LIFE’s board of directors and a past president of MDRT, has 40 years of industry experience, and with more than 3,000 clients, admits he is “still learning” about this business. “We’re in the business of solving problems,” he says. “Advisors who utilize material such as this and coordinate it with their marketing efforts will find it’s easier for the public to see the need of life insurance.”

Feldman is particularly fond of LIFE’s “heart monitor” radio ad. It discusses the need for protection with the beating of a heart monitor in the background. “Anyone can recognize that sound and it’s striking when it stops.”

More than 100 insurance companies and industry trade groups are participating in LIAM through such efforts as consumer advertising, direct marketing campaigns, web promotions, community seminars, producer-incentive programs and campaign signage in field offices. Many companies also use the month as an opportunity to remind their own employees about the importance of having adequate life insurance coverage. A partial list of participating insurance companies includes State Farm, AEGON, New York Life, Mass Mutual, John Hancock, Penn Mutual, Guardian, AXA, Principal Financial Group, Nationwide, Southern Farm Bureau, Country Financial, Farm Bureau Financial Services, Prudential, Allstate, The Hartford and Thrivent Financial.