It’s hard to believe that not only are we drawing close to the end of another year, but also closing in on the end of the first decade of the Third Millennium.
(I already expect to hear from pedants and calendar officials informing me that in strict terms a decade goes from a year beginning with the number one, not zero. Then I expect to hear from some people telling me that zero is not a number. But most of you will know what I mean, and the others will just have to deal with it.)
(By the way, these same folks are very likely the ones who are still preoccupied with what to call the decade now about to end. My own suggestion (considering the tenor of most of those 10 years) would be the Naughties.)
In any case (and to get back to life outside the parentheses) it’s been quite a year, hasn’t it?
For many people it will be the equivalent of Queen Elizabeth II’s annus horribilis, 1992, and not because two of their sons’ marriages went bust and one of their castles caught on fire, to cite some of the royal disasters of that year that caused Her Majesty so much distress.
Rather many will remember 2009 as a horrible year because of more mundane reasons. They lost their job and couldn’t find another one. Or their house (castle) went into foreclosure. Or their retirement funds, once so safely (or so it seemed) parked in a 401(k) had managed to recoup only a small percentage of the 40% or 50% they had lost when the market went into free fall. Or because they were in sales (including insurance products, of course) and every day was more of an uphill climb than it usually is, due to the fact that consumers all over the place were holding on to (not to mention squeezing hard) their depleted shekels.
And on that subject, the first six months of 2009 will be (bitterly) remembered as the time when sales of insurance products saw their steepest decline in nearly 70 years, according to LIMRA International.
Things may have started to pick up in a couple of lines, however. So, in a time when looking for good news is the equivalent of grasping for straws, then the uptick in whole life sales (which account for a thin sliver of the market) is something worth celebrating.
We could also, I suppose, take cheer from the fact that economists are declaring that the recession officially over. But the response of many non-economists to that claim is: Really?
The danger in trumpeting the macro view in something like this is that it stretches the disconnect between what people feel in their own lives and what they hear from those who see the “big picture” or who have a stake in pushing the rose-colored view of things that the macro view encourages. (President Obama, take note.)
Needless to say, the widespread pain has made sales of insurance products ever so much more difficult. The ‘intangible’ thing combined with the depletion of discretionary income has taken a toll on producers and companies alike.
All of which makes it imperative for both producers and companies to keep plugging away and using this time of trouble to reinforce the message of the security that insurance products provide. Even if sales of those products come later.
The reality is that these tough times will pass, although not as quickly as we would surely like. But if producers and companies don’t stay on message now, they will have to compete with a myriad of consumer preoccupations later on (like looking for the best HDTV).
So many consumers are still very scared and want to hear about security. And that’s whether they can pay for it now or not.