<p>Image: <a href="http://www.freedigitalphotos.net">FreeDigitalPhotos.net</a>

I’m no Miss Cleo, but I bet I can tell you what my dad is going to order at any given restaurant before he’s even looked at the menu. Italian place? Spaghetti with meatballs. Mexican food? Beef tacos. BBQ joint? Ribs. Always ribs.

Once my dad finds something he likes, he sticks with it. You’ll never catch him ordering the latest fad dish or anything overly complicated. Walnut-crusted pork belly with gluten-free gnocchi in a red-pepper pesto sauce? Absolutely not.

My family teases him about his menu rigidity constantly, but part of me completely understands it. Why take a chance on something new and weird when something you know you’re going to like is right there? And let’s face it, sometimes no amount of kitchen innovation can improve on a classic dish. I’ll take a basic, well-made margherita pizza over a 700-ingredient, rose-scented seaweed foam any day.

I suspect many Americans would agree. There’s a reason plain vanilla is the top-selling flavor of ice cream here year after year after year. We like old-fashioned simplicity and knowing what we’re getting ourselves into.

I think the same mindset applies to our finances, too, and it might explain why fewer people are buying life insurance these days. Most of us understand basic checking and savings accounts. We’re okay with 401(k)s. And we kind of get home insurance and car insurance — or at least the fact that we’re required to purchase them in most cases.

Life insurance, though? I didn’t know much about it before I started working here, and I don’t think I’m alone. Study after study shows financial literacy in America isn’t exactly great. And until “What is life insurance?” shows up as a question on standardized tests, I don’t think schools will be too concerned about remedying the problem.

And while life insurance’s basic use might be easy for some to understand, it’s a product often sold for more complicated purposes, too. Walk into Target and see if you can find someone (who doesn’t work in insurance or finance) to explain an irrevocable life insurance trust to you. Or the difference between whole life and universal life. How about key-man insurance? A fixed indexed annuity?

No wonder many people avoid purchasing life insurance. It’s intimidating; it’s complicated. It’s a whole lot easier to stick with the cheese pizza of doing nothing, an activity we know and love.

That’s where agents come in. If carriers are the chefs in the kitchen, whipping up crazy insurance products no one understands, you’ve got to be the waiter out at your client’s table, explaining today’s specials in simple, everyday terms.

Working in the insurance industry day in and day out, it’s easy to forget that not everyone speaks the language. But taking the time to educate your clients in a simple, jargon-free manner can mean the difference between a waste of time and a sale. And more importantly, an unprotected family and a financially stable one.

 

For more from Corey Dahl, see:

A Sales Lesson from Nora Ephron (That’s Right, Nora Ephron)

Toilet Paper, Lightbulbs … and Life Insurance?

This Is Why You Matter