A man looking out a window (Photo: Nadino/Thinkstock)

The original version of this article ran Oct. 20, 2016. We believe the advice Myra Palmer gave is still highly relevant.

(Chicago) — It’s quite possible that I’ve never heard a more touching and persuasive personal story about the importance of life insurance than the one Myra Palmer gave today at the Women in Insurance & Financial Services national conference.

Take a moment and think about all the people that mean the most to you in your life. Now imagine losing them, one by one. That’s what happened to Palmer (pictured below).

Her story

Palmer’s father had a successful career in life insurance, rising to the MDRT level. Over the years, the agency grew and the family (her father, brother, mother and Myra herself) all began working together in the family business of insurance and financial planning.myra palmer

“We built a family business,” Palmer said. “For years my father developed a succession plan. My brother was president, I was executive vice president, and a close family friend was a vice president. Dad transferred stock to us kids, and my parents moved into retirement.”

Palmer’s parents were able to enjoy a few years of retirement before her mother was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. A short time later, her brother, 37, died in his sleep from aortic dissection. Within two weeks of his funeral, Palmer’s mother could not process any commands and required 24-hour care. Within a month of her brother’s funeral, both of her parents physical and emotional health declined rapidly.

Unfortunately, it didn’t stop there.

Four-and-a-half years after her brother’s death, her husband was diagnosed with terminal cancer. Six months after his diagnosis, her mother passed. Sixteen months after that, her father died. Twenty-two months after she lost her father, she lost her husband and the father of her three sons.

Then, one year after her husband died, her long-time business partner was diagnosed with terminal cancer. He lost his fight in 2014.

She had lost most of those closest to her within an 8-year time period.

During an event at the WIFS national conference, Palmer said: “At times the pain was crippling. Loss and grief are not orderly. But our business is about helping clients plan for when moments of truth occur in their life. They can find order in a world of disorder.”

Now, as president of the Palmer Agency, a financial services firm in Decatur, Georgia, she constantly preaches the four lessons she learned in the most difficult way possible.

    1. Succession planning, key man coverage and buy-sell agreements: ”When my brother died, we had no succession plan in place. The day after we buried him, my dad and I discussed the future of the business. In a state of fog, I took over the company. We didn’t have a succession plan in place because the business owners were young and vibrant! That was a huge mistake. Too many of your clients will wait until they are fully matured and looking to retirement to start a business succession plan. The second error was that we had no key man life insurance on my brother. The business suffered. [Our business partner] had key man coverage when he passed but it wasn’t enough. How many of your clients are business owners? Do they have key man coverage, buy-sell agreements, business succession plans?
    2. Long-term care planning: ”My mother was in assisted care for a cost of $120,000 per year. Long-term care insurance is so valuable — I can’t stress this enough. The LTCI not only protected my parents’ financial assets, but it also protected their dignity. This is successful planning.”
    3. Estate equalization: ”My father let the majority of his life insurance lapse. The day my brother died, dad realized that was a mistake. When he wanted to get life insurance at that point, he was uninsurable. The little life insurance that was left to my sister and I was not nearly enough to cover expenses. And since my sister received half the company stock upon his passing, I had to buy her out. When talking to your business owning clients, please ask them how they want to equalize their estate when they pass on.”
    4. Family insurance protection: ”My husband had great insurance coverage. The disability insurance that came in each week for my husband allowed me to focus on him and the children. The last gift of love that he left me was in the form of a life insurance policy. The proceeds have allowed us to keep the lifestyle we were accustomed to, and allowed my sons to graduate college with no debt.”

“I never imagined this story of loss would become my story and I’d be here talking to a room full of people about it,” Palmer said. “I have felt the impact and disappointment of improper planning.”

And that disappointment has created a deep desire within her — a reason why — she focuses on helping families and professionals protect their livelihoods.

Are you prepared for the unimaginable? Are your clients? LIMRA stats say there are more than 100 million people without adequate life insurance. That’s 100 million opportunities out there for agents and advisors.

Use this story and your own personal experiences to get the point across. As Simon Sinek says, “People don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it.”