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In the 37 years, I have spent in the financial services industry, the overwhelming majority of the time I have had some sort of educational role of one kind or another. That includes showing new reps the ropes on joint field work, teaching industry-related courses, doing seminars for the public and even running a training department for a major market firm.

Somehow, some way, to somebody, I am teaching or enlightening them about something. Right now, on behalf of the American College, I’m teaching a large property-casualty insurance company’s agents about life insurance. “You do realize that what you are doing is trying to teach fish to breathe air,” a new student once told me. I promised him that it wasn’t going to be as hard as he thought it might be, and he was very happy to find out it wasn’t at all what he had expected.

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One of the issues we discuss is how life Insurance sales occur because people make an emotional decision to purchase it. People have to care about someone or something that needs protecting when they die, and it has to be that important to them, right?

Life agents cannot simply wait for that phone to ring in order for people to take action. It’s us, the licensed professionals, who have to proactively find our prospects and show them the importance of getting this done. I always tell my students that, after all, we live here on Earth. If this was the Planet Vulcan, where everything is based upon Logic, our lives would be all that much easier, wouldn’t it?

Just think about how your day in the life insurance industry would be on Planet Vulcan. Every day, you would go into your office at about 8:30 a.m. You would get yourself prepared. At 9 a.m. when the front doors opened, you would go to the lobby and call out, “Number 27? 27? Yes, Mr. and Mrs. Spock, thank you for coming in.” You would go into your office and have an interview, determine Mr. and Mrs. Spock’s needs and their budget, and write them a plan.

Why? This is Vulcan, remember? It’s only logical that they would need life insurance to cover their mortgage debt and other debts, save for their children’s education, provide income for a surviving spouse, and so on. What could there possibly be to think over? Nothing. After you turn in the paperwork, you would go back out to the lobby. “Number 28? 28?”

However, we don’t live on the Planet Vulcan, and therefore there are very few people out there that have those logical minds that make them actually want to call a local firm and set up an appointment. So, how to change that? Some will say that we can’t. Some people say that a lot of things are impossible. I remind you that the Chicago Cubs really did win the World Series in 2016.

Where should we start?

Seminar (Photo: Thinkstock)

A ThinkAdvisor writer recently wrote about promoting insurance literacy by getting school children to run in-school insurance funds. I think she is right on the money. In fact, teaching our children all about money, including insurance, over the course of their elementary, middle school and high school education is very likely the key to the solution.

Other than when you had to pay for things at the store and when you paid for the work you did, just how often did you learn about money when you were in high school? I would hazard to bet, not all that often, right? In fact, except, possibly, when they are paying taxes and bills, a lot of adults don’t get that much more of a chance to learn about money, either. Perhaps you have noticed that too?

Let’s face it: People out there could use some help, right? If we as an industry don’t step up, the general public will eat up whatever the so-called “gurus” will sell them. What we need is organizations such as the National Association of Insurance and Financial Advisors, the Association for Advanced Life Underwriting, the American Council of Life Insurers, and the rest of our wonderful financial professional associations to get together and create a curriculum for our schools. It is also a safe bet that many of our companies in our industry would happily lend a hand. Then work with our schools and these curriculums. Then, in about 20 years, we would start having financially literate people entering adulthood. Gee, what a cool idea!

(Related: These 4 Behaviors Lead to Financial Confidence)

Yes, I know, but what about right now? In the meantime, we need to form a grassroots effort to reach out to our schools and our communities and offer our help. People need to become more financially literate and then maybe it will even become fashionable for the public to become responsible for their financial health. We have access to the tools right now.

For example, every so often I get invited to go into a school, mostly middle schools or high schools and talk about money. What it is and what it does. As an aid, I use reports from Advysis. Some of you know Advysis for its Back Room Technician library. They have a plethora of reports on a whole host of subjects such as what an annuity is, how a mortgage works” or “The Rule of 72.” They have all sort s of reports on how life insurance works and why people should have it. I spoke to a seventh-grade class and gave the students all a series of reports from Advysis, and the students brought the reports home.

Some parents actually called me and thanked me, not only for what their sons or daughters learned, but also for what they themselves had learned from reading what their children had brought home.

I’m also the benefits resource for a professional association. I did a workshop at their annual meeting. I simply did a “Q & A.” I let the attendees ask me anything about insurance or money that was on their mind. The session was only supposed to last for an hour, but it lasted for two. What if you had events in your office like that a few times per year?

The point is that people young and old have a ton of questions about a lot of things when it comes to money, and they also feel as if they don’t have anywhere to go and ask the questions. Maybe it’s about time we worked on fixing that.

— Read 10 Smartest States for Financial Literacy: 2017 on ThinkAdvisor.


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