A post card printed around 1900. (Image: Curt Teich/Wikimedia Commons PD) An image of a family saying Thanksgiving grace, from a post card printed around 1900. (Image: Curt Teich/Wikimedia Commons PD)

Here’s an updated version of a classic relationship-building article that we first ran Nov. 26, 2013. It’s still a good guide to ways to use cranberry sauce and stuffing season as a chance to get consumers to thinking more about protecting themselves, and the ones they love.

With the holiday season fast approaching, we give thanks to the people and things that lessen our burdens and make our lives brighter.

As I write this blog, I’m reminded of how fortunate we are to live in a time where we can devote our attention to the things that matter most with the right planning.

(Related: 5 Simple Gifts)

In no small part, that’s thanks to trusted professionals like you who offer guidance to clients to ensure that they — and most importantly their loved ones — are protected from unforeseen events that could affect their ability to earn an income, the ability to care for themselves, or even their lives.

In the spirit of giving thanks, make it a point this month to go over the insurance policies of each and every client. You may be surprised at just how many may need to make adjustments. Here are a few tips to get started.

1. Educate and empower.

Though we insure ourselves, the policies are really there for the people who matter most to us. Regrettably, many people don’t fully appreciate how important these policies are until it’s too late, leaving their loved ones to try to pick up the pieces.

Life insurance is the single most basic policy that protects your clients, yet LIMRA has found that about 30% of American households are without it; some of the most vulnerable among them, including 70% of working women with children under the age of 18, don’t have a policy in place.

When it comes to long-term care insurance policies, people often wait until their health has deteriorated and it’s too late.

If they knew that 43% of people facing long-term care costs are under the age of 65, and at least 70% of people over the age of 65 will need long-term care services and support at some point, many  would jump on board immediately.

Do not assume your clients have a complete appreciation for the potential risks that face their loved ones or their long-term goals.

Educate them on the basics of life, long-term care and disability insurance. Call on your insurance partners and host a coffee (or apple cider!) hour for clients to gain better insight. Don’t let them miss this opportunity to act now before it’s too late. Here are a few more tips:

2. Get gathering… & I’m not talking about dust!

Chances are good that most of your clients have purchased life insurance (universal, whole or term), and many might also have long-term care and disability. But some of these policies were purchased years ago when your clients’ situations may have been drastically different; they may have purchased them directly, from an employer, another agent or yourself. They may not understand just how much coverage they currently have, which policies may be set to change or expire, or whether their policies are meeting their financial goals.

Rather than let these in-place policies continue to gather dust, request that your clients gather them up immediately. That may mean raiding through drawers and filing cabinets, but the small amount of time it takes can save them and their loved ones large sums of money down the road.

3. Provide digestible information.

Set a time this holiday season to reconnect with your clients, if only to review these policies and ascertain if they are still working well for them. During your meeting, offer digestible information about the specifics of their policies so that each client can play an active role in understanding them and making adjustments as needed.

Running ‘what if’ scenarios, formulating additional options and distinguishing any tax benefits or implications are important to your clients’ understanding of their policies and what they can expect. For products that change over time like universal life (UL) insurance, I’m a fan of running illustrations every other year to show how interest rates, premiums and other changes affect cash values.

I suggest using two visuals for UL: one showing the benefits at the present premiums and the other depicting the true cost to keep a policy in force to age 100. While clients with UL policies may face increased premiums, that doesn’t necessarily mean they should cancel them.

When interest rates decrease, UL policies can be a solid financial option if the rates are higher still than those of other products. The only way to determine if these policies are a good choice for your clients is to run the numbers and carefully go over them with your clients.

4. Inspire clients to proactively mitigate risks.

Our jobs would be much easier if everyone carefully considered life, long-term care and disability insurance. They — and those that matter most to them — would be better off for it.

But for many of us, our brains have a hard time envisioning ourselves in compromised health. While we may do our parts by caring for our bodies, reducing stress and enjoying what we have and the people in our lives that we cherish the most, we need someone else to remind us of the financial piece of the puzzle.

During this time of year when we give thanks to those that make our lives special, urge all of your clients to put insurance at the top of their priorities. This empowers each of them, letting them sit in the driver’s seat for some of the most important financial decisions that can make.

For clients with inadequate insurance, now is the time to act; for those with appropriate coverage, remind them to check back in each year to re-assess. And for all of you, I wish you a joyful Thanksgiving!

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Wendy BoglioliWendy Boglioli is an Olympic swimmer, long-term care financing planner and motivational speaker based on Hood River, Oregon.