A few days ago, I was volunteering at a table at an event I’ll call a community bake sale.

The bake sale took place in a moderately affluent neighborhood. Many of the residents have beautiful houses, beautiful children and incomes that, at least in less expensive parts of the country, would make them the perfect prospects for personal protection insurance products.

A few years ago, when interest rates on the kinds of bonds insurance companies prefer to hold were high enough to make writing life insurance products and related products genuinely profitable, several life insurers might have sent life insurance agent trainees to distribute brochures at the bake sale.

Related: Investors fleeing negative rates may cap U.S. yields, Fitch says

The new agents might have just been learning how life insurance policies, disability insurance policies and long-term care insurance policies work.

Even if attendees at the bake sale had ended up buying the products, they might have bought the wrong products. Or, changes in circumstances might have caused suitable products to work poorly.

Maybe the new agents would have had a hard time making any connections. Maybe they would have gone home and complained bitterly to their cats and dogs about how stupid it was that they had wasted their time at that rotten bake sale.

But at least the new agents would have been exposing the attendees to the idea that grownups who have the money to own nice houses and support museums ought to do what they can to protect their families against the risk of death, disability and frailty.

Related: LTCI Watch: Capitalism

Instead, no insurance financial advisors of any kind worked the event. 

Family dinner

What should adult children do when Mom and Dad start slowing down? Friends are telling each other to put assets in trusts. (Photo: Thinkstock)

Filling the void 

My neighbors were at the bake sale on their own, without any financial advisor oversight.

They talked about their children, pets, siblings, home addition permit requests and parents.

A typical conversation about parents went something like this:

“How’s your dad?”

“He’s slowing down a little.”

“You really should get him to a lawyer as soon as possible, while he still has his faculties, to put his property in a trust. You know, Medicaid looks back five years when it’s deciding whether an applicant for nursing home benefits qualifies for Medicaid.”

A few years ago, financial professionals might have been at the bake sale giving my neighbors good, bad and indifferent advice about how to take responsibility for their own long-term care expenses.

Now, my neighbors are filling the void by giving each other advice about how to rip off Medicaid, without bothering to think about what happens when families with big houses and nice cars use the pot of money meant to pay for bare-bones care for poor people in order to keep their big houses and their nice cars. 

See also:

On the Third Hand: Controlled Demolition

LTCI Watch: Unmet need for care

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