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When I returned to New Jersey from Southeast Asia in the autumn of 2008, I was underweight, nearly out of money, frayed and ragged from the journey and knew almost nothing about insurance.

I had set out alone after graduating from Champlain College, brandishing my only formal credential — a degree in professional writing — and embarked on a career as a paid writer, covering a mix of geopolitics and local events for an English-language newspaper in Phuket, Thailand.

When I returned home in December 2008, I began work at Summit Business Media. Five years later, I am ending my career with Summit Professional Networks’ flagship publication, National Underwriter Life & Health and my career as a journalist, and joining the communications department at Prudential Financial.

In an attempt to avoid having my final column read like a long thank-you note or an acceptance speech at the Oscars, I will shun the urge to rattle off the names of the individuals who nurtured my career and instead speak holistically about the experience that brought me to where I sit today.

I entered the world of insurance with a nebulous understanding of how the mechanics of the business worked. In fact, I entered the business world at a time where the mechanics of everything seemed to be in a state of upheaval. Watching the financial crisis unfold behind my desk at my first ‘real’ job out of college was a truly formative experience for me.

I promised myself that I would avoid the hackneyed quotes and aphorisms that usually pepper farewell speeches — or columns, for that matter. However, the ancient Chinese curse: “May you live in in interesting times,” is one proverb that I cannot avoid mentioning.

My career covering the industry has coincided with a flurry of activity that is altering, sculpting and dictating the future of a business that will continue to provide security for individuals across the country and the world. Although this flurry of activity has not been pretty, the industry has handled this period of relative turmoil with thoughtfulness, passion and aplomb.

My tenure covering the life and health insurance industry has been an interesting time, to say the least. And here at National Underwriter, I have had the privilege of being part of a team that has monitored, advocated for and criticized the industry when and where it was appropriate. Our primary responsibility, however, has always been to inform industry professionals; to keep them abreast of, and attuned to, the movements and direction of the industry in which they operate so that they may fully serve the people who depend on them for security.

And that is what I have found to be at the heart of the life and health insurance industry: security.

I have often heard people refer to working in insurance as “unsexy” and “boring.” Well, what is skydiving without the parachute? Where is the racecar driver without his seat belt or the cruise ship without its life preservers? None of these things are exciting or glamorous, but the actions cannot take place without the security measures.

Providing security for individuals, families and businesses is a noble undertaking and it is what is at the core of every disparate arm of this sprawling industry. That is what I have taken away from my five years covering the life and health insurance world: That the products sold and the plans enacted by industry professionals impact real people in a powerful and meaningful way.

The world is a dangerous place, and everyone knows that. Everyone does not, however, prepare for those potential dangers. Most individuals do not realize how important insurance is until:

  1. Something horrible happens and they are insured and secured by a policy of some sort; or
  2. Something horrible happens and they realize how things could have been different if they were insured.

I was given the unique opportunity to learn of the invaluable merits of insurance without having to endure one of those two aforementioned scenarios, and I consider myself incredibly lucky for having my eyes opened without having to take a knock to the head to do it.

I am now an ardent advocate for the value the industry provides and I hope that in my new career I will be able to serve the industry that has served me and many others so well.

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