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What 'Breaking Bad' can teach you about insurance sales

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How do I know I watch too much “Breaking Bad”?

On a recent neighborhood walk with my dog, an older man we frequently cross paths with asked me what my name was. I hesitated. Actually, I went full-on Howard Hughes.

Why does he want to know? What is he going to do with this information? I read about this. I think it’s an identity theft thing. I should make up a name. What name? Tanya. That’s it. My name’s Tanya. I’m a Realtor. From Russia. I have seven kids…

I eventually told him the truth, of course. But my paranoid freak-out left me a little disturbed. Why couldn’t I tell my name — a name that’s already plastered all over, Twitter, Facebook and Google, besides — to a polite, suburban-dwelling neighbor?

Walter White is why.

I spent the better part of the summer catching up on the last two seasons of the anti-hero’s show on Netflix in time to watch its last season (which is currently airing on AMC) live. And the whole project has left my nerves a little more than frayed.

It’s also left me thinking about all the ways “Breaking Bad” characters could have benefited from proper insurance coverage.

Here are three important insurance-related lessons I’ve gleaned from the show so far. If you’re not caught up, be aware that there are significant spoilers ahead.

And if you’ve never watched the show? Please stop reading this blog, lock yourself in a room with a television and don’t emerge until you’ve watched every episode. You’ll thank me afterward.

Breaking Bad

1. Your clients really need adequate life insurance coverage — and sooner rather than later.

If Walter White had owned excellent life insurance when he received his lung cancer diagnosis, the pilot would have gone something like this:

Doctor: “You have lung cancer. You are going to die soon.”

Walt: “Oh, no. Good thing I have adequate life insurance coverage.”

Doctor: “Yes.”

The End.

Not exactly compelling storytelling, but who (besides maybe Walt) really wants to start cooking meth, get pulled into drug trade politics, lie, steal, kill people, chemically dissolve their bodies and eventually become the drug kingpin of the American Southwest? I mean, it sounds exhausting.

Walt’s diagnosis is also a good reminder that cancer — and death in general — can strike your clients at any time, no matter their health or age. It’s better to be prepared beforehand — because their chances of gaining coverage after a diagnosis are slim.

(Confession: In a later episode, when a rich friend offers Walt a job, talking up its excellent life insurance benefits, I snorted and thought, ‘Yeah, I’d like to see that policy get approved.’ Who’s an insurance nerd? I’m an insurance nerd.)

Breaking Bad

2. Never underestimate the cost of health care.

One thing I love about “Breaking Bad” is that, unlike most other TV shows, it doesn’t ignore the burden of health care costs. If, say, Jerry wound up in the emergency room on “Seinfeld” one week, maybe he’d gripe about the bill (“What’s the deal with doctors these days?”), but we’d never know whether his stand-up-comic paycheck could cover it.

On “Breaking Bad,” we see Walt’s chemotherapy invoices piling up. When Hank is shot up by a pair of vengeance-seeking brothers from Mexico, we see his wife Marie worrying about the care their health insurance won’t pay for — and struggling to cope with the strain of caregiving for a cranky convalescent.

Again, if both families had adequate health and disability insurance coverage, they’d be taken care of. But then, of course, we wouldn’t get to watch Marie steal trinkets from random open houses while making up stories about fake children. And Walt wouldn’t be able to use the fact that he paid for Hank’s medical care — $177,000 worth — to, ahem, encourage his brother-in-law not to arrest him.

Saul Breaking Bad

3. Trust is invaluable — and really, really hard to come by.

I’m just going to throw it out there: I think Saul — yes, the ambulance-chasing, strip-mall lawyer with a flair for making cheesy commercials — is the most trustworthy character on “Breaking Bad.”

I mean, consider the facts: he’s been nothing but loyal to Walt; he bails Walt (as well as Skylar and Jesse) out whenever there’s trouble; he’s quick with a solution for every problem; and he keeps his mouth shut.

Yes, Saul has earned every penny of his cut, which has me wondering: are you anybody’s Saul? The first person your client calls when there’s a problem? The trusted advisor who has a solution for everything?

If you’re not, I wouldn’t be surprised. Trust is really hard to come by these days — and maybe “Breaking Bad” is a little responsible for that, too.

See also: Why clients withhold financial info from advisors

We live in a world where politicians, salespeople, celebrities and, yeah, even mild-mannered, Cosby-sweater-wearing chemistry teachers lie to us on the regular. How can I trust you, Financial Advisor I Just Met, when someone like Walter White can wake up in the morning, eat scrambled eggs with his wife and two kids and then head off to a hard day’s work of poisoning children, making wheelchair bombs, and orchestrating prison offings?

But if you’ve done the hard work of earning a prospect’s trust, you’ve likely made a client for life. So — words nobody ever thought would be spoken — maybe it’s time to start emulating Saul. American Constitution wallpaper, anyone?

For more from Corey Dahl, see:

Stop worrying about the no-kids trend

Jurassic Park: Proof that we still need insurance agents

Royal baby prep: 6 financial planning tips for Prince William and Kate


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