Before I address the upcoming opportunities I would like to correct an error I made in my previous column (Dec. 24/31). In it I stated that the National Association of Insurance and Financial Advisors had no individual members.

That was true until September 2007 when the bylaws were changed, giving individuals membership status in local and state associations, as well as the national. I apologize for the mistake and hope those who took umbrage from my statement did not miss the central thrust of what I was saying–”NAIFA’s primary mission is to nurture its member local and state associations.” Like politics, membership is essentially a local function. Until NAIFA finds a way to strengthen its local associations it is unlikely they will recapture its lost membership. Come to think of it-that’s a great opportunity for NAIFA in 2008.

But now on to other opportunities for the coming year. It seems to me that a great opportunity for recruiting new agents is presenting itself. Often when other doors are closed, a career in life insurance becomes more appealing. The current door closure for many is the crash in the real estate market. A local news item recently cited the closing of 13 offices of a national real estate chain–releasing 350 agents and with a large amount of commissions not paid and in some doubt. This, I suspect, is an event being repeated in other localities around the country. I believe many of these people could be attracted to a business not subject to such periodic volatility and one that produces a stream of income rather than a series of one-shot paydays.

An offshoot of this is the hundreds if not thousands of so-called mortgage brokers who are now looking for work. It will be a long time before that business blossoms again–if ever. This year should provide fertile field for enterprising recruiters.

In a related vein, it is a great time to sponsor a young person to enter our business–a son, or daughter, or a niece, or nephew perhaps. We have an aging field force. Most of my contemporaries have either retired or passed on like others recruited in the heady days of the 50s, 60s and 70s.

Perhaps the greatest opportunity of all is the fact that nearly 70 million adults in our country are without individual insurance. It is more than just an opportunity; it’s an obligation, it’s our mission. That number of uninsured is in many ways an indictment against our business. Our products enjoy favored status in such matters as taxation and bankruptcy because we serve the masses. If we fail in this, we may not continue to enjoy such preferred treatment. This is particularly critical today when the envelope is being stretched with creative uses of our products and the often questionable uses of life settlements. We always come under scrutiny when such conditions exist–that’s how we got modified endowment if you recall. It is important that we stay on mission and if we adequately serve the masses our own survival is better assured.

Another great opportunity is the potential for annuity sales. The leading edge of the boomers is now arriving at retirement age and they are followed by millions more–most inadequately financed for retirement. Many have IRAs, 401(k)s, some savings and brokerage accounts, most of which will not support a comfortable retirement. It takes a lot of money or other financial assets to produce a decent income from interest and dividends alone, and you can’t buy groceries with paper gains. Converting such assets to an annuity can substantially increase one’s income and, in addition to being steady, it’s the only way you can be sure that your money and your life run out at the same time.

It will be an enormous market and if we don’t capture it, someone else will.

Another important opportunity is offering your service in some capacity to your local NAIFA association. In addition to providing value to your association, it is a growing experience. I have known many people who, having committed themselves to association activities, have grown professionally and personally. And on the other side I have never known anyone who has suffered financially from the experience. I know that volunteerism is suffering in many institutions but that is no reason people in our business should shun the opportunity to serve.

In the 23 years that I was associated with the NALU/NAIFA board I observed many trustees, officers, and committee persons as they served the association. It was amazing to me to watch the growth of people from the day they came on to the board and the level of maturity they had attained by the time they left–particularly those who went through the chairs. It is not a sacrifice; rather, it is a marvelous opportunity.

But aside from your own growth there is another equally important dimension to working for your association. We hear a lot of talk today about the importance of legislative advocacy and it is all very valid. But the most important aspect of legislative advocacy, insofar as NAIFA is concerned, is numbers. Having 100,000 plus members working in every political subdivision in the country counts more than anything else to members of Congress. It is hypocritical to demand “advocacy” from your leaders–then be unwilling to help boost membership in your local.

The opportunities abound in 2008; don’t let them slip from your grasp. And have a great New Year.