Be extremely careful when corresponding with editors-in-chief. Those crafty, silver-tongued devils are masters of psychology and are constantly casting their editorial net to reel in contributors to their publications.
A series of commentaries by columnist Trevor Thomas in National Underwriter caught my attention and prompted a response. They seemed especially one-sided, were not at all in keeping with the spirit of reasoned debate and, additionally, were not anywhere close to my own thoughts on the subject. I wrote a letter to Bill Coffin objecting to the tone of the writing–not the ideas themselves.
After all, as I told Bill, I have friends from across the political spectrum, and we certainly do not agree with each other all of the time. Heck, some of these friends were even draft-dodgers who fled to Canada during the Viet Nam war, so I can appreciate different political opinions. I just don’t like it when people get nasty or overly acidic about it.
Being the dedicated, personable editor he is, Bill called back and thanked me for the letter. During a pleasant conversation he mentioned he was looking for additional viewpoints and would consider material if it was sent. He must be an accomplished angler, because he didn’t pressure or cajole, he just left the thought dangling, tantalizingly, in the air.
This story actually begins in 1978 when I left the Air Force and followed a friend, Larry Erwin, into the insurance industry. I carried one of the clunky old rate books for three years while working diligently to build an insurance practice. To get an illustration to show a client, you sent a request to the home office and waited a week or more for it to return from on high. A rate card you could carry in your pocket was a huge leap forward! Retired Lives Reserve flashed on the scene and the IRS almost as quickly sent it packing.
Alas, the economy tanked and my fledgling practice was a casualty. I re-entered the military in the Army infantry and then got the chance to fly–first Cobra gunships and later electronic reconnaissance aircraft. My military career was book-ended by an Air Force tour in Viet Nam near the start and participating in an Army tour in Desert Storm near the end. Upon my retirement I realized that over the years I never stopped thinking like an insurance man, so I decided to give financial services another try.
My practice has evolved from being a generalist in nature to one that most often begins by working with business owners and in providing disability and life insurance protection to young professionals starting their careers. I have held series 6 and 63 licenses for 19 of my 21 years in the industry. I have completed the Life Underwriter Council Fellow designation and plan to continue working toward the CFP(R) and CLU(R) designations as well.
I’ve seen the advantages of being a member of NAIFA for both personal and professional reasons. Being around energetic, enthusiastic people is motivating. I’ve been fortunate to be able to attend the extremely valuable six-month-long Leadership in Life Institute course created by NAIFA, and then to moderate a class myself.
Our industry is facing issues that have never been greater. The average age of financial services practitioners has trended to its highest level ever while the dwindling number of those in the industry leaves a widening segment of our population underserved. Foundational concepts are slipping from use and misleading or downright harmful information abounds. The public yearns for sound advice and knowledgeable help building their financial foundations.
Solutions to the issues confronting our industry and nation, while inextricably linked, are unlikely to be easy and painless under the best of circumstances. The polarization and acerbic rhetoric we see in the halls of government, but among voices of the industry as well make reasoned debate infinitely harder. And it can make finding a workable solution to things just about impossible.
Following in the wake of Jack Bobo and working with Bill Coffin and the staff at National Underwriter is a bit daunting to contemplate. They have set the journalistic bar high.
However, as one in the vanguard of the Boomer generation, a military retiree, a dad with a teenage daughter at home and being an active producer in the financials services industry, I feel I have a unique and valuable perspective. I look forward to sharing ideas and offering “red-headed” opinions and participating in the spirited debate we find taking place now.
While the challenges we face are many and grave in nature, I’m optimistic that we will see dramatic opportunities in the future. We just have to have the presence of mind to see them for what they are, the resolve to make our own destinies and most of all, the stoutness of spirit to seize the day.