Wednesday, November 30, 2011

The Dangers Of Speaking For Yourself

It's never just about you
In my business of insurance and benefits, I come in contact with people every day. People ask me questions, I give them information, and then they usually make some level of decision as to what their next move will be.
Every now and then, I come across the person with no questions and a surly attitude about the entire insurance "scam" process by saying the six words destined to come back around and spank them firmly on the tookis..."IT WILL NEVER HAPPEN TO ME".
Just typing that hurts. However, in some cases they might be right (to a certain degree). I can't predict the future any more than they can, however, I know of people who have never spent a day in the hospital, have never been to see a doctor, never taken a medication, or had anything happen to them physically or mentally that they needed to be concerned with.
Should someone like that really see the need to insure themselves. I think so but I can see where they are coming from. Call it luck, good genes, or born under a favorable sign. Whatever it is, the "charmed ones" feel invincible and impervious to painful situations where they will ever need a shred of insurance. They even go so far as to be very cavalier with their aging process and inevitable death as they say, "WHAT DO I CARE...I'LL BE DEAD".
This is where I take my chance to speak up and remind people that it's not all about them.The discussion could go on for days with just a simple phrase of "But what if?" They can reply back and I'll reply with the same phrase until one of us just agrees to disagree and move on.
The harsh reality about insurance of all kinds is the fact that it really is not all about the person in the place of decision. In all insurance aspects, other people in the lives of the decision-makers come into play. Let's look at a few insurance pieces and I'll show you what I mean:

1 - Health insurance. This is the big one. Sure it's expensive, but so is health care. By saying no to health insurance you are telling all those around you that should something happen to you you are counting on them to help you pay the exorbitant hospital bill. By saying no to health insurance, you are telling all your future creditors that you don't care if you have to file for bankruptcy.

2 - Disability insurance. Disability insurance allows you to have an income while you are away from your job due to some illness or injury. Unless you are able to accumulate sick days or have a pretty big savings account (which is a form of insurance), a disability can ruin you...and those around you. Things happen every day that keep people from doing their jobs. Some of those things last a couple of days while others can last a year or more...or indefinitely. From the time it takes a working person to go from injured to getting any government assistance to gain income, it could be two years or more. What do you think happens in that time? Your stuff starts getting taken from you. So when things start to fall apart, where does the wise one now turn for help? That's right...others. Those people he didn't think about to begin with are now his lifeline to survival.

3 - Life insurance. I go over this one until I am blue in the face. While the insured doesn't care what happens to them when they die, others and the law do. The "hefty bag" answer is not an option. A "Weekend At Bernie's" comedy is not in the cards. Life insurance has never been about the insured. It's always been about who they leave behind when they die. Even for the single 20-something, life insurance says to their friends and family that they will financially take care of their final expenses and leave the money so that things may be done properly and in order.

As I type this, I am reminded of one word this all boils down to...RESPONSIBILITY.

My last statement is this: the next time you have a decision to make, ask if anyone else will directly or indirectly be effected by this decision at some point and how making the right one can make for a better situation for everyone involved.

It's never just about you.

Would you like to talk about insurance options for yourself? How about for others in your life who need to consider the options they have?

I try to be a phone call (205-370-8453) or an email (

Since I used RESPONSIBILITY (it's ok to admit that sometimes you just don't want it) as the key word in here, I thought a funny take on it would be in order:

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Healthy Is Up To You

As many of you know, I am the Birmingham Association of Health Underwriters President-Elect. With that duty comes the responsibility of acquiring speakers at our monthly meeting to come and present something on a topic we can all use to further our education.

This month, I was able to procure Dr. James Fox to come and talk to us all about wellness and wellness programs. While this may seem like a topic of little to no interest for people, the reality is that it applies to everyone whether they were in the room or not.

Thinking about wellness made me think back over my life and the health I have had...both good and bad. I've been through kidney disorders, weight problems, inactivity, and the usual cuts and bruises we all get through life. The message we heard and the message I give a hearty "Amen" to is that wellness can no be packaged in a cure all and be expected to be entertained much less activated by those who are delivered this "miracle" option. Ask any company who has had a wellness program in place that failed miserably and I am thinking that the reason for that failure was that the plan was not personal for the individuals who really needed it.

Another main point that Dr. Fox made was that wellness is up to the individual. The person must want to change before change can begin. It's like the person who has an addiction and needs rehab. You can take them there 100 times, but until THEY want to change the trips there are just chances to see old friends, have a place to sleep, eat and be left alone.

With that in mind, let's look at some things we can all consider as we look at wellness as a program within ourselves, our families and/or our places of business:

1 - Get input from those who will be putting in. Let's be honest, the best laid plan in the world is worthless if the plan is never acted upon. The best way to get a plan acted on is to be sure that everyone involved has a say to start with. No one likes to be told what is good for them or what they need to do to change. Start off right by involving everyone in the planning process and success has a better chance of following.

2 - Have a way to monitor. Whether it's a goal of financial gain or a personal goal to achieve something, everyone agrees that setting the goal and then monitoring progress is the key to achieving those goals. Monitoring must be scheduled and consistent to see results and allow for feedback. A wellness plan without a way to monitor is just a list of "do it if you feel like it". This part is where a good plan gets weighed way down because activating the plan took so much work. Many feel the hard part is over but the monitoring is what makes a difference. Weekly meetings? Reminders? Charts? Whatever you and the crew decide is best, let that be your measuring tape and make sure everyone checks in regularly.

3 - Accountability. Ask anyone who has successfully lost weight or quit a habit and the majority of those people will tell you that one key to their success was having someone in the trenches with them. Partner people up who have similar goals they want to achieve. Give them a lifeline when they want to stop after 3 days. There is no better cure for feelings of "I can't" than to have someone right there with them encouraging them on to "I did it".

4 - Honesty. Ask anyone who has been a part of a weight reduction program. The scale doesn't lie. We can lie to ourselves for months, but when we hop on that scale the truth comes out. We have to be like that scale with ourselves. When we blow it on our part, we have to own up, push off the guilt and start fresh tomorrow. Pretty soon we will get used to being honest with ourselves and be able to string days together where we don't have to lie to ourselves because we are sticking with it...honestly.

5 - One day does not an entire goal make. Many times as we start to change something on ourselves, we get all excited up front and ride that wave for a few days and then WHAM! We get blindsided by a setback. In wellness it is definitely that way. We want to lose weight and we do so well for weeks and then our birthday comes or whatever and we eat like we want and see ourselves heading back in the wrong direction. The same could be said of that one cigarette or that 2nd beer. Don't beat yourself up. Tomorrow is a new day and you can get right back on track. This is where the accountability and honesty come into play quite a bit.

6 - It's not about wellness for the now. When you start a wellness program you are determining that these changes you are about to make are not just for now and today's goals. You are looking at a much farther reaching process of a lifestyle change based on good and solid decisions for yourself. Remember, achieving the goals along the way are not the end result and reward. It's a life that has been changed for the better and for years to come.

So, while wellness programs in businesses may help a company show that they have healthier employees and insurance companies should consider that before they increase their premiums, the ultimate goal should be healthy employees...period. A bottom line means nothing if your crew is filled with people having heart attacks, being overweight, and living shorter lives. Employers can give their people much more than a paycheck. With a solid wellness program that is alive and active and properly administered, the employer provides something that can last a lifetime whether those people work for you or not.

For those who feel they can just plop a wellness program in front of people and expect them to be excited enough about it to be a part of it, think again. It's up to each person to have a say and have the desire to do it. No one can be made to change. However, let someone decide to change and then give them some tools to help them one can stop them.

Do you have some ideas for wellness in your life or your place of business? Contact me. I'd love to hear them and even work on them with you.

The video I picked is "Break My Stride" set to some great "moving" movie scenes. Enjoy.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

I Am Not My Competitor

In my business of voluntary insurance, I am often asked, "Isn't what you do just like...?" or "That's the stuff I see on that commercial, right?" I have to admit that in the past I have said, "Yes, that's just like it only with a different logo attached to it." I did that for ease and so we could move past the whole quizzical look I sometimes get when I talk about voluntary insurance benefits.

However, I am done with that response. I am in no way affiliated with or like my competitor. That's one reason why we are competitors and I don't represent them. I either don't agree with their way of attracting customers and/or I am especially not fond of the way they talk to individual clients like they are stupid for not getting a certain insurance product they might be peddling today.

It is now time for to stop myself before I go off on a tear about how my competition stinks and I'm way better. That's no way to conduct myself or do business. I have been reminded for the past few weeks how my competition works and what they do. I have also thought about what they do well. Let me focus on a few of those things right here and now, just to be fair:

1 - My competition does a great job of advertising. In many ways they make my job easier because people know their name or company. I can use that information to let them know that I do it better and I won't be on their TV set every 10 minutes wasting their premium dollars on my advertising.

2 - My competition is all over the marketplace. I call on businesses all the time who tell me, "Thanks for your offer, but we have (fill in the blank)." I'm always OK with that because when I show someone I can do it better, at less expense, and with better benefits within the policies I offer I know I have their attention and my competition is being escorted out the door.

3 - My competition has agents busting out all over. While it may seem like a great thing for people to have jobs in this day and time, in this insurance business it means two things are about to happen: (1) you are about to get your door knocked on more than before (even if you already have the competition as a client) and (2) your current agent will be disappearing and will be replaced by someone new. I definitely won't be happy having to answer the phone from pushy cold call salespeople more. I don't know about you, but I'm not a big fan of changing who I do business with. Many times the like or dislike I have of a company is directly related to the person who I have dealt with in the past. When that changes, I may not be as happy as I was. Also, many issues that came up in the past rear their ugly heads again with a new person who does not understand the expectations that have been worked through.

4 - My competition does a great job of selling. Unfortunately for my competition, business is not about's about buying. I can walk into any of my competitor's client offices right now, take one look at their billing statement and tell you that the people at that business have been sold. Wrong policies, double policies, unnecessary policies run rampant on many bills I see and it's a dead ringer that whoever had been in there had someone believing that if they didn't buy this or that they were missing out. I don't sell. I offer and educate and let people buy what they feel they need and can afford.

5 - My competition has a great customer service department. In the business of insurance people need to know they are covered and that when they need help with a claim or an issue, they know who to call or contact. Many times the client contacts the person who sold them the policy expecting some help there when all they get is an 800 number and an extension for them to call. I am the face my clients know and I want to be there when they need me.

So, a word to my competitors: Keep doing what you're good at because you're keeping my phone ringing.

Are you in the insurance industry and trying to take care of your clients?

Do you want an option that will help you stop the competition from bugging your clients?

Do you own a business and have my competitor selling to your employees?

Are you tired of being put off to someone else to handle your service questions?

Would you like to work with an insurance professional that will be there for years to come?

If you answered YES to any of the questions above, I am a phone call (205-370-8453) or an email ( away.

Are you ready?

Another tag line I have adopted over the years is "Step into my office, let's talk business." I am revealing the origin of that quote here.  I love it and you know what? It still applies.  Thanks Ray.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

It's October, So Think Pink?!

It's the month of October. While the children in our lives get excited about what Halloween costume they might be wearing and we all feel that little cool in the air, there is another reason to make October a little more special each year. October, for the last few years at least, has served as the official month for breast cancer awareness. Companies and retailers get out their pink colored products and display the fact that they help support a cause for research and cures for breast cancer. We start seeing emails come to us about various events and fund raisers that are happening all over to help raise money and awareness for breast cancer.

For my very first year, I have decided to take part in raising funds for this cause AND put my body in the action through the Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure in Birmingham, Alabama. I am not much of a runner, but figured I could put together a decent showing for 3.2 miles of distance without causing myself too much physical pain or general embarrassment. How it all happened is kind of a nice story, but I will just post some points for all of us to consider as we go through October and help those around us to be more aware of this good cause:

1 - We have all been effected by someone with breast cancer. If we stop for just a moment, we can think of someone we are either directly of indirectly in touch with who has been effected. Any kind of cancer brings its own set of concerns, but for women this one ranks at the top. The physical and psychological effects can be devastating. Some have died as a result of having it, while others have battled on after some severe surgeries. I can think of no better reason to support a cause than to possible be able to help in some way those I know.
2 - You don't have to do it all by yourself. The reason these companies offer special products and these races are offered is so that the collective good of many people can allow us to at least give something. $5.00 may not seem like a great amount, but multiplied by thousands of people all working with their own $5.00 a life could be saved. We don't have to give it all by ourselves. A small part makes a big difference.
3 - Giving time is just a valuable as money. Maybe funds are tight and even $5.00 seems like a hurdle. We all understand that. However, there are ways you can give of your time to these causes. Maybe join a team in a race or offer to volunteer to help raise money in someone's behalf. The only thing I would consider a bad move in this process would be to not move at all. Be creative and do what you can to help those in need.

Those are a few things we should keep in mind as those around us all become more aware. Hopefully we do as well. As for my participation in the Race for the Cure, I have stated that I would not only race but also attempt to raise $100. I also joined a team whose goal is $1000.00. The reality goes back to what I stated earlier. Everyone working together with their small piece adds up to a big piece that can make a difference. With that in mind, please go to my personal race page here and donate directly for me and my $100.00 goal. If you would rather give directly to the team "Counting Our Blessings", please go here. In fact, if you are feeling good about yourself, join the team and come run with us on October 15, 2011. It's early on a Saturday but when it's over I plan on feeling pretty good about doing all I could do to help.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

How Much Is Your Name Worth?

In business, I am often faced with a dilemma of making money to help me and my family make it in this world and doing business with the wrong people. I am reminded almost daily of how doing business with the wrong person or group can really have a negative impact on how others view you.  The question we have to pose before launching off into ventures with others is, "How much is my name worth and will doing business with this person or people or company cost me in the end with regards to who I am at the end of the day?"
It's not an easy question when money pops its little green eyeballs at us with those dead presidents staring at you. The lure and love of money have taken down many a person.  Ask anyone in Gamblers Anonymous or the bank robber, or the illegal trading stock broker. The chance to get buried under cash is a big bit of bait in a world that constantly asks for more and more of us. We might be faced with a financial crisis of our own and we need the funds to get us back to even. Medical bills, college tuition, weddings, funerals, cars, homes, etc. They all add up to needs in this world and all of them come with a price tag. However, as we are sitting in the car mechanic's shop waiting for the total of the "damages" of getting the family truckster fixed we have to contemplate what really matters and what we will be willing to do to make ends even meet, much less thrive monetarily.

I can easily get off point here and preach for hours, but my initial point was to talk about who we choose to do business with and how that will effect how others see us. As you do business in any venue, stop and ask yourself how much your potential partnership will make you versus how much it could cost you in terms of loss of character and having your name associated with the wrong people. Consider these things:

1 - What is the reputation of the person or people you are about to do business with? This one should be an easy one because as the old saying goes, "Good news travels fast, but bad news travels faster." While not all the bad news is really relevant to your partnership, weighing this is crucial to any initial questions and fallout from those who would question that partnering. When you hear words like liar, cheat, dishonest, greedy, slimy, etc. I would advise running the other matter how much money that partnership might bring you. When you hear fair, honest, awesome, listener, caring, compassionate, etc. you can be rest assured that a good character will only be enhanced by such a combination of people doing business together.
2 - How will this effect the relationships I already have in place? If you have ever cringed when someone told you who they presently work with or have worked with in the past, join the crowd. Also realize that the same holds true if you tell others who you work with. Our true character and reflection comes out in the referrals and reflections we get from others. Any time your name is mentioned it will bring up one of three responses: (1)People don't know you. (2)People don't like you (3)People like you. If you have a great relationship with others in your circle and you value them, be very cautious and possibly even get their input when you are thinking about adding someone new to your colleagues list.
3 - Can I walk away if things go badly? While the money may look good and your fridge is full, you always need to be able to have the strength to walk away if a business relationship goes badly. Many times things start out great. Remember what I said about money and its effects? In a partnership only you can be truly responsible for you and your reactions to it. With another person, that's up to them and their case of the "money at whatever cost bug" might be more severe than you could have planned for. You can try to talk them down off the ledge, but you can't be afraid to walk away and leave the negative vibes behind. Like it or not, those actions and switches in attitude are seen and effect the group...not just the individual.

Our own name is all we really have. When we decide to enter into any relationship, but especially a business one, we become associated with that other entity. Some relationships are better left alone at acquaintances or cordial friends. Other relationships are perfect to go to the next level and to be a mutually beneficially pairing of good business practices and ethics. A name is not something you can have to earn it. Sometimes it gets drug through the mud and it can take a lifetime to get it back to where it's clean again in others' minds. Choose partners wisely and your name could be your legacy.

With a deep blog like this, you need a little something to ease the moment.  This short video on good versus bad character might do the trick (just remember, save your drowning friend...don't help him drown):

Would you like a partner in your business ventures? Would like to involve yourself with me and what i do daily to help others in the area of insurance and employee benefits? Maybe you want to play a good game of tennis or learn to play the trumpet. I'd be happy to speak with you there too. I'm pretty multi-faceted and would welcome an opportunity to see if we can do some business together. I try to always be a phone call (205-370-8453) or an email ( away. I look forward to our future interactions.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Inspiration That Makes Me Speechless

Many of you know my ability to talk and write can get rather lengthy at times...especially when I'm passionate about something.  Well, this post I am very passionate about, but I will do my best to keep it reasonable so you might read on.
Most of you are aware that my wife, Julie, is a teacher. About 2 years ago I went with her to a conference in Atlanta where she was asked to speak. After she spoke, a lady approached her and asked if they could talk.  That discussion took place on a bench outside the main hall where people were coming and going.  The lady who approached her was an editor for Stenhouse Publications. This editor, Holly, asked Julie if she could take what she just presented and make that into a book. She was flattered and thrilled. Many times when we get that way we say things and then wonder if we really knew what we were saying. Julie said yes and the journey began.

Now, I am never a fan of things that stress people out. In fact, I do my best to help remove obstacles from people's lives if I can. This holds especially true with my wife. The months passed and then a year and with each passing moment this book idea seemed like a mountain that might not be climbable. I've known Julie for over half of my life and you know what? I learn new things about her all the time. Through the process I was inspired in many ways to evaluate and adjust my life in areas I felt I needed to as she went diligently through this process.  Here are just a few:

1 - Remember what you agreed to and don't back out. How often do things come our way that we choose to tackle, only to decide we just can't do it and we bail before ever really giving ourselves a chance? You know what we call those people? Quitters. I'd rather not ever be lumped with people like that. Julie had many times she wanted to say, "I've had enough. Writing is not for me. I'm done."  In fact, I may have even encouraged her to do just that at times when she seemed frustrated. However, she would not fall prey to that feeling and she would press on...remembering the promise she had made.
2 - Get mad, get over it, and get moving again. No one likes to be judged. We get tense if we are evaluated on our work because our work is personal and our own and we don't want to hear anything about it. "You can state your opinion, but I'm not changing my ways" is our statement. In book writing, you can't have this attitude. Your editor has a vision for you and your work and you have to be willing to trust them when they ask you to change this or expound on that. It's tough to do and you'll run the gauntlet of emotions. However, on the other side of that is a moment of clarity and you realize that what you thought you had may look different but now it's a little better. Basically, humility rules the day and that's a big life lesson we can all learn from.
3 - Don't think outside the box...eliminate the box altogether. Everyone has a story to tell and something to say. We have thoughts and ideas and then we think to ourselves, "I'll just keep to myself because people have already said all this" or "I don't want to have people make fun of my ideas or tell me 'that's not how we do it'". While I witnessed the process this book took, I was amazed at how Julie's eyes would light up as her brain sparked a new idea. Fortunately, she was working with a wonderful editor who encouraged her thoughts and ideas. What came out of a pretty black and white process was a product full of color that could not be duplicated. In life many things tell us to think or feel a certain way. Those are the boxes we live in. I got rid of mine and you know what happened? Things got really colorful and kind of fun.
4 - Just when you think you're done, there's just "one more thing". If you think there is an end to something, be prepared for one more thing. Often times we miss this little detail or forget something completely. There is nothing more frustrating to us and we pound our heads on the desk and call ourselves stupid. There were many times a chapter seems finished or the order of the book was set, but guess what...there was usually just "one more thing". The end result of that one more thing could be the difference in something that is finished or something that is AMAZING! If one more thing will make something amazing, I'm in.
5 - Be confident in your matter who notices. As you can tell by now, writing a book is a huge undertaking. It's not like just putting things down on paper like we did our term papers in school. However, when Julie looked back at 23 hard months of writing and re-writing she had moments where she thought to herself, "What if nobody reads it?" "What if nobody cares?" That's an easy road to take but it really diminishes the process and the fact that what she had to say already had caught the attention of an editor who felt she had a voice that needed to be heard. What we need to remind ourselves of is that we should never apologize for our hard work. Our confidence in our work will always shine through and people are bound to notice.
There are some other things that I took away from watching Julie go through a process where she was so deeply involved, but those are what come to mind right away. By the way...her book was completed and released just a few short months ago in June! You can see the official page for the book here

You know what else? Others are seeing the value in what she has written. Other teachers can take her book and work on their classrooms and their way of reaching their students and look for ways to be better and more creative in the classroom. Julie has often inspired me to good things, but the lessons I learned as I watched her go through this process will hopefully continue to make a positive impact on me and others that I serve in years to come.
Does someone or something inspire you? Have you learned some great life lessons through the process of others? Feel free to share in the "Comment" section of this blog.
Obviously if you have insurance/benefits needs and/or questions I'm a phone call (205-370-8453) or an email ( away.

PS - Guess who is working on ideas for her next book.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

2011 NAHU Leadership Conference...and "The Star Spangled Banner"

A couple months ago, I was helping to prepare for the Alabama Association of Health Underwriter's Conference in Birmingham, Alabama.  As part of the program of events, I was asked to use some of my musical contacts to acquire a group to perform "The Star Spangled Banner" to help get things going.  I contact my old high school and their band director was more than happy to get a small contingent together to play a beautiful rendition of our National Anthem.  However, day two would have no such pomp and circumstance and it was requested that I provide a solo version on my trumpet.  I was more than happy to oblige.  I prepared and did well.
Apparently I had done well enough that the main coordinator of the conference contacted the person in charge of setting up the Region 5 & 6 Leadership Conference which was to be help in New Orleans, Louisiana.  The next thing I know I am taking my local chapter President-Elect status and my musical abilities to New Orleans to kick off the conference there.  Needless to say I was both flattered and little nervous.
People are always amazed that I still get nervous after all my years of playing.  I'd be scared to know what it would feel like NOT to be a little nervous.  I feel nerves enhance what we do and show a deep level of concern that we really want to put our best out there for others to see.
This conference would be a combination of the two things I feel very strongly and my abilities as a health and life insurance professional and an up and coming President of the Birmingham Association of Health Underwriters.  My rendition was well performed and well received.  When the cheers and thanks died down, I was in full "learn mode" so I could capture all I could from other NAHU leaders from all over the Southern US.
Feel free to check out the few pictures from the conference I loaded below:

Let me tell you what struck me the most that many of you reading this can relate to:
1 - No matter how much we believe in something, it's only until others give that positive experience feedback that we make a difference. Have you ever been a part of something and felt like you were the only one who really cared about what was going on in the group?  Have you ever tried to get others involved, only to be summarily turned down and made to feel that what you were doing was essentially a waste of time?  It's kind of like that with NAHU/AAHU/BAHU.  Until others hop on the train we won't truly see that together we can do something special for ourselves and our clients in our insurance industry. The rules apply to any group or organization.
2 - There will always be naysayers.  Don't fight their arguments, build your own beliefs and let them be heard.  They are everywhere.  The people who say, "No" and "Waste of time and money" and my favorite..."What's in it for me?" We all have those people in our work or our organizations.  While we look for solutions, they sit by idly and just fold their arms and grunt.  Forget them.  Get a plan and some people who will help you and watch the naysayers either hop on or disappear.  Either way is a better way.
3 - Some expect to just be entertained.  Do you really learn anything and make a difference by just watching?  Nope.  Last I checked life was not a spectator sport.  Neither are the things that matter to us.  If we want what we do to be viewed with importance and have a sense of excitement to it, then WE have to get going.  We can't just expect to "sit and get".  In fact, what you find many times is that those who have the "What's in it for me?" mentality would make great additions to a project or idea even they might have.
So, thank you for the invitation.  It may have been to provide a rendition of our National Anthem, but I got much more out of it that I hope I can take and use now and for years to come.
My question to you is this...would you like us to help each other?  Maybe you have an idea or a need and you're having a tough time getting your head wrapped around to starting it.  Contact me and I'd love a brainstorming session.  It doesn't even have to be about insurance.  Anything at all and we can get a ball rolling that may change lives and attitudes for the better.  I'd love to be a part of it if you'd like me to be. I'm always a phone call (205-370-8453) or an email ( away.

Monday, July 11, 2011

What Do You Want?

In the business of insurance, things can get pretty personal. A person reaches out to me to acquire some insurance they feel very strongly that they need to have to protect themselves and/or those they love. I listen and evaluate the best way I know how to and attempt to steer my client in the direction that I feel will best suit their needs and concerns.  The real question throughout the process is sometimes not, "What kind of policy do they want"? Rather the question is plainly, "What do they REALLY want"?
In the daily relationships we all have with people, I have found that many people land into just a few categories and as long as we are aware of where they are coming from we can not only be of the best help but can truly fill a void in people's lives.
1 - People want help. Seems like a no-brainer, but it's the basic human need to reach out to others in our times of need and ask for help.  Some people are too proud to come right out and ask for it, but if you pay attention it will quickly and easily be revealed that the person speaking to you needs help.
2 - People want explanations they can understand. In a business like insurance, things can get complicated and words and phrases I understand as an insurance professional may sound perfectly normal are just nonsense to the average person. When someone asks about a policy wording or how some type of insurance works, they don't need to be bogged down with the impressive speech I have...they want an answer they can understand.  I strive to do that with every person I speak with. If you are an attorney, or a doctor, or whatever your profession...steer clear of your verbiage and change it up for the person you are speaking with so they are informed without being further confused.
3 - People want someone to care. There is the phrase out there that says, "People don't care how much you know until they know how much you care."  It's so very true and something we all need to keep in mind as we try to understand what people want. Showing someone that you care can be as simple as acknowledging your feelings for their current situations to doing some physical gesture and/or assistance that directly could help help/enhance their moment. Most of these things boil down to the final thing...and probably most important thing that people want:

4 - People want someone to listen. All the things we have mentioned above can be combined into this final piece.  Listening is crucial to everyone. If we listen (not just hear) to someone, we make HUGE leaps and bounds into providing others what they truly want. True listening involves tuning out distractions, focusing on the person speaking, absorbing what they say. I never mentioned anything in this list about "solving" anything or just blurting out your feelings and opinions. Sometimes people just want to truly be listened to and that's it.
As we interact every single day, let's try to keep in mind that everyone has needs and wants and if we can step up to fulfill that moment then we have gone a long way toward being someone special to someone else at that moment.
My clients know I do my best to be there for them.  If you want someone to help you with what you need and want, and I can help in some way...I'm always an email ( or a phone call (205-370-8453) away.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

For the Ladies!

OK, I promised that my next blog would be devoted to the ladies and that I would be talking about health and wellness. So, here is the next blog and I'm promised.  Now ladies, if you wish to add to any of the basic principles and information I have outlined here please feel free to contact me and I may be able to do another blog on this important subject later.

I have always felt like and said that women are built more like a Ferrari and men more like a good old Ford truck. The woman's overall body make-up is such that it is a finely tuned machine that requires only the best and most advanced knowledge to keep it running at optimal performance, whereas with men some duct tape and Velcro can fix most of the issues guys face (cue canned laughter).
I try my best to read most of what comes across my desk in the health and wellness area as I truly believe that this is one of the major keys to helping all of us in the way of medical expenses and keeping costs down.  Many times people are unhealthy by their own hands and many times a simple adjustment to eating and exercise could be worth pounds and pounds of cures for the body.  How many times have we heard of someone contracting cancer and not wanting to go through the usual chemo and radiation "poisoning" process.  They drastically adjust their diet to only be fresh foods and weeks later the cancer seems to be gone. The person successfully eliminated agents from their body that the cancer fed on to spread and by eliminating the agents eliminated the cancer. The real question is, why would we wait until the clock strikes twelve to do something when there are little, non-life altering things we can do each day to give us at least a better chance at a healthier lifestyle.
Here are a few things to think on for the ladies (guys, you might be able to pick up on some things here too):
1 - Women who exercise regularly have a lower risk of dementia. Nothing earth-shattering here.  We all know exercise is good for our bodies but as the obesity levels rise in our country we just throw our hands up and catch the remote and grab a bag of chips. The NFL had it right when they started their "Move 60" program.  Just an hour a day of some type of movement can have a huge effect on our lives and health. I even talked to a lady awhile back who taught a basic exercise class and she called movement "wiggling" just to make it fun. She said we all needed "wiggle time" each day. PLEASE does not say if you exercise regularly you will be a super model. We are talking about our brains and one of the scariest and most unsettling things that can happen as we age...dementia. Get that blood pumping and "stay with it" for years to come.
2 - SEVENTY percent of those who suffer from rheumatoid arthritis are women. Many things could attribute to this fact. To better understand, do some research on what causes arthritis as age increases. Fighting this off revolves around eating right and staying active. If your joints stay well lubricated and you feed the Ferrari the right fuel, you can help keep this at bay.
3 - Menopausal hot flashes and night sweats could lead to greater risk of osteoporosis. Fight this back with exercise (do you see a theme here yet?) and a diet rich in calcium and vitamin D (do some research on what foods are rich in just might surprise you).
4 - Women are more likely than men to experience lesser known heart attack symptoms, like shortness of breath, nausea, and back or jaw pain. In my meetings I have, I often kid that the reason I believe women have a larger propensity to heart conditions is because we men drive you nuts. While that may be part of it, don't take these minor symptoms lightly. I feel the reason God may have given women the lesser symptoms is because they pay attention to when their body tells them something is not right. Guys need the full on stabbing pain to the chest to get the point (cue awkward laughter).
5 - The risk of breast cancer is 30 percent higher in smokers than nonsmokers. Wait, smoking is bad for your overall health? Who knew? I'm being sarcastic of course but come on's a no-brainer. Also, a little side note here...if you would like people to find you more attractive then drop the smoking. You don't look any cooler or prettier.
6 - Fiber helps reduce high blood pressure and cholesterol. It also helps you feel full on fewer calories. FIBER IS SOMETHING WE ALL NEED DAILY! There, I said it. Growing up, I thought fiber was that stuff old people needed to keep their bodily functions steady as they aged. I could not have been more wrong. Look at any good eating program and it's usually loaded down with good and healthy fiber options throughout your day. Don't ignore this important part of your daily food regime. You might make a few more trips to the bathroom but if the result is better blood flow, increased metabolism and weight loss then I say grab an extra magazine or two for your restroom breaks.
7 - Migraines happen to three times as many women as men. So ladies, guess what...saying "I've got a headache is a VERY legitimate reason (more awkward laughter).  If you have them, start keeping track.  Journal them.  When you have them, there may be a pattern that starts to emerge. Guess what the best way to fights migraine is...start handling it before it starts. Reasons could be food, stress, odors, too much or too little sleep, smoking, or good old hormonal fluctuations.
8 - Fighting fatigue. Fatigue strikes twice as many women as men. So while many women wear MANY hats and fill many roles this can lead to fatigue. Want to have a better chance of lasting out the day?
 - Try rising with the sun. While many of you may not be "morning people", getting up with the sun and avoiding that nasty snooze bar can set in better sleep patterns and gives your body a chance to get in sync with your busy life. Remember, Ferraris are finely tuned and require constant maintenance.
 - Snack attack. Get healthy snacks to much on through the day. Keeping that metabolism up all day is a good way to be sure you make it.
 - Exercise. Shocking right? Not really. Getting the heart pumping can make your metabolism crank way up and get you through some serious time where you might really want to slow down. Instead of giving in to that, take a short walk and see what happens.
 - Breathing. No, not the run of the mill stuff. Deep breathing. Deep cleansing breaths can go a long way to regain some vigor and also help you clear your head. It should be done for a few minutes when you feel fatigue coming on, but it may just help you make it over the slump hump.
 - Get OUT. Being outside for some fresh air might be exactly what the internal body ordered. Remember the Ferrari? You can't just let it sit in the garage. Sometimes you have to get it out and let it breathe.

Finally, I can't talk about women and their health without addressing one of the biggest fears most women have and that's about breast cancer. Every week people hear about a friend or relative who was just diagnosed. Maybe you went for a yearly exam and the doctor saw something "not quite right" (which always takes 2-6 weeks to get an answer...kill me now!). I am going to mention some basic myths and facts about breast cancer:
FACT - 1 in 8 women will develop breast cancer in their lifetime.
MYTH - If you find a lump, it's probably cancer. (CUE LOUD BUZZER NOISE). While a lump or thick spot on your breast or near your armpit is one possible sign of breast cancer, many times these lumps are non-cancerous. Worried about something you haven't seen or felt before? Go to the doctor and get it checked. Again, more often than not it's something non-cancerous.
MYTH - Most women who get breast cancer have a family history of it. This myth kind of set me back because it seems that often times in my insurance business I have talked to women who are worried about breast cancer because their grandmother had it and then their mom and even their older sister. They just knew their time was coming around. Truth is one one-fifth to one-third of women with breast cancer have a close relative with it. We can't change our genetic makeup but we can control some other factors that can be attributed to cancer. Things as simple as decreasing your weight drinking less alcohol could help prevent breast cancer. In fact, women who have 2-5 drinks daily have one-and-a-half times the risk for breast cancer as those who stay alcohol free.
MYTH - Breast cancer rates are increasing. Good news ladies, it's down to like 2 percent. Why the decrease? Interestingly it seems that it's because menopausal women are taking fewer hormones during this time. A 2002 study showed hormonal therapy increased the risk for breast cancer, and women in general listened and acted.

I have done my best with this and I hope you might find some of this information helpful. Most of the basic information came from I added my own twist on it for you but there is a ton of good info on that site and many others.

As always, I try to add a video that goes along with my topic. Nike helped me out with this "Make Yourself" video. Sure, the ladies on here are athletes but they have to push themselves to do something just like we all do. I hope it inspires you in some small way.

Again, if you would like to add to this article or help me create another blog feel free to send me links and communicate with me so I can try to help the many who will read my blog. Thank you for reading this installment of "The Ramsay Bugle".
Please remember that I'm always a phone call (205-370-8453) or an email ( away.  If you feel i can help your business or someone individually, I am here.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Worrier or Warrior?

You know, in the hectic world we live in it's easy to get all caught up in the "little stuff". The little stuff becomes big stuff in our minds and the next thing you know we just entered worry-mode. What is worry? The best definition I've ever heard is when a a dog has a bone and keeps going and going with it they say that dog is "worrying" the bone.  In other words he will not let it go until he's completely satisfied that there is no more good quality to it so that no other dog can take it from them and enjoy it. Many times this worrying can lead to the dog actually splintering the bone and causing sharp edges and the next thing you know the dog is bleeding from the mouth...unaware that anything has changed as the animal barrels on toward the goal.
Obviously, this is not a healthy practice and must usually be stopped before harm can be done to the dog..  Are we that way sometimes? We get something in our heads and we just keep thinking on it and worrying over it day and night. We let the worry consume us to the point of losing sleep, becoming irritable and high strung in other areas that should keep us balanced.  It permeates every area of our lives until we are metaphorically bleeding as we continue to worry over this situation. Just like the dog, the more we continue to worry it, the worse it becomes.

Let's contrast that with a warrior. A warrior is usually depicted and thought of as a fighter. Someone with a strength to them to take on all things great and small. The warrior either attacks or is being attacked. The warrior must be ready at all times for whatever may be coming that day. The warrior is always at the ready and never backs down.
However, a warrior may sometimes come up against a foe that can not be beaten. The warrior was not ready or was not properly trained to handle the attack and they lose. The warrior usually does not give up nor do they die, but they walk away having lost.  They lose pride, dignity, and a battle they know they should have won. The warrior does not sit around and worry about it. They heal and evaluate and then they train to be ready the next time. Oh sure, they may have the opponent who beat them in their minds at all times, but they approach it from a standpoint of doing all they can to be better prepared...not worry. They don't worry so as to make the situation worse for themselves. The warrior realizes that if they prepare themselves properly and think on the mistakes they made that they can come back even stronger and better the next time they face something potentially stronger than they are.
You see, being a worrier can consume you. Being a warrior can drive you. Warriors do not worry...they prepare to fight. No matter the outcome, they fight and move on. They don't dwell on or worry and throw themselves into a tailspin. They work to be better versions of themselves all the time.
So, which are you? Are you a worrier or a warrior?

Now, who is up for the best non-worry song ever?

Thursday, June 2, 2011

The POWER of Social Media...Should It Have So Much?

You see it in the news almost daily.  You may have friends who have been affected by it.  Almost all of us use it and everyone should be aware of it.  It's social media.  Whether you are on MySpace, or Facebook, or LinkedIn.  Whether you post or like or tweet, you are a member of the social media empire.
Social media has taken the world by storm.  Business is conducted by it.  People are introduced and re-introduced through it.  It's really inescapable in today's society. It's a valuable tool and a great way to find and connect with people from all over the globe who either know you or would like to communicate with you on things that connect you (hobbies, likes, loves, etc.).
I started my stint in social media when MySpace first came out.  Needless to say that was short-lived as I quickly realized that most people were misusing the platform to try and "hook up" rather than connect.  So, upon deleting that account I said that social media and sites like that were NOT for me.  Fast forward to almost 2 and half years ago. I got word that my high school band director had fallen very ill.  He and the band meant so much to me that I decided to start collecting memories and reconnecting with classmates from that era that I had, like many of us, lost touch with.  Since time was if the essence with my band director's health I needed my connections to be quick.  I hesitated but soon joined Facebook.  I found quite a few people from the high school days and that quickly turned into hundreds.  I kept waiting for the "evil" of it all to hit me but found that I had more control over who, what, and why.  With this connection through Facebook I connected with people not just from high school, but even elementary school and college.  Family connected with me and soon I was a part of the Facebook phenomena.  In fact, as I started to see the potential in this for my insurance business I built a page just for that where people who are interested in that part of my life can "Like" it and follow as I put information out there for people to see and possible use.  This led to joining LinkedIn, and then Twitter. MySpace even revamped their site and I rejoined there with some better securities and ability to decide who I wanted to connect with.
Connections were happening and the experience was going well.  Then I started to read articles written about Facebook and blogs and how people were being fired from their jobs or not even considered for employment because of their social media life.  It really kind of took me by surprise.  While I am the last person to support a liberal view on certain things, this seemed to almost fly in the face of the rights of others to have a life.  Social media was supposed to be all fun and games and maybe some business on the side but to get fired for a certain post or photo? I still think on this subject quite a bit and wonder where this all came from.  When did social media start bleeding into all the facets of our lives to the point where we are almost afraid to be who we are for fear someone might see who we really are?
To be "preachy" for a moment...I know people sometimes do silly things.  Some people even don't think before they do or say something.  It's a human epidemic. However, I believe in the power of others to change.  Many people change daily.  Some don't realize they need to. Is it fair for a society to base their total picture of someone on their Facebook posts and pictures?  Is it any more fair to judge someone based on their looks or ethnicity? Someones looks are hard to change, but people's opinions and values and thoughts can change daily.  It's what makes us human.
Social media is powerful.  It can connect in the click of a button two people who have nor seen each other in decades.  It can be an avenue of sharing the good and the bad of life to help make it all more meaningful and bearable. Should it get someone fired?  Should it cause people to tune you out because you are venting about a major event in your life and you are searching for perspective from anyone who might listen?  I'm not totally sure.  I struggle with this daily, as I stated earlier.  However, I do do believe social media has enough power that those of us who choose to exercise it need to be responsible.  Here are just a few things you may want to keep in mind before you click "Update" or "Tweet" the next time:

 - Be careful who you connect with. There are so many people out there in the social media realm.  Some are legit people and others are just looking to connect and then wreak havoc on your life.  The good news is, with social media those troublemakers are one DELETE button away.  However, if you will use your wisdom and the wisdom of others you can save yourself the nuisance by being careful before you "Accept" anyone.
 - Think before you post. There is good and bad news about social media.  The good news is that people read your stuff.  The bad news is...people read your stuff.  If you are going to put it out there for the world to see, understand that the minute you do you will most likely make a friend and an enemy.  It puts a line in the sand on who you are and to most it reflects the person inside who wrote it.  It can't be's just the way it is.
 - Pictures are worth a thousand words...but can cost you even more than that. Just because you take the photo does not mean you have to post the photo. Photos are kind of like the words we type. They reflect an image of who we are.  Some of those photos could be unflattering or too revealing for the general public to consume. Too many good teachers have lost their jobs because during Spring Break they decided to wear a bikini at the beach and post their photos to share.  Too many possible clients have lost the deal because of the birthday bash photos showing people drinking tequila shots off some body's navel. When you post those photos, people will see them.  Be cautious how much you want everyone to see.
 - Just because you have the right to post doesn't mean you should. Ah yes, the freedom of speech mantra. It's true but you have to understand that some things are best left unsaid, unwritten, or unposted. Getting into a text war with your ex on your Facebook page may not be your best plan if you want the general population to think of you as a class act and someone they would like to get to know. While certain things in your life many be true, it does not necessarily mean everyone wants or needs to know about it. We all have our issues and feelings...but sharing them with the world is where we have to draw the line between using our right or using our head.
Should social media have the power it does? Not sure, but it does anyway. It has become what we have fed it and how much we have put stock in it. It's just the way it is now. Just remember, your social media can not have any surprising power over you if you are wise in what you choose to share. While we all appreciate honesty, it doesn't mean sharing it all is your best decision in the long run. If you want to vent or speak loudly on something or show off that great tan, go old school and meet for coffee. Then maybe share the photos of you and your friends having a good time together and NOT the crazy photo of you throwing the TV off the second floor balcony.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Where Are You When They Need You?

This blog post goes out to all my colleagues in the insurance profession.  I love what I do and I have the good fortune of partnering with some really solid insurance professionals from all over the United States.  Unfortunately, not all of them are as solid I would have thought in certain areas of our industry.  Mainly this gap comes in the one area where our clients need us the most...claim time.
Here's the largest example I see...we come into a place of business and we talk about all the great things we are going to do to save them money, or the great new benefits we are bringing to the table.  The business thinks it over and final concedes to the fact that they need what we have.  We come in with all of our pretty brochures and we do employee meetings.  Everyone is excited and ready to embark on the new journey with more benefit options than ever before.  Everything is perfect as people start to sign forms and make commitments to be part of the overall solution we had envisioned the whole time.  Life is good.
Then it happens.  You get that call from that client/employee/employer you hoped would not come.  You gave them your business card and said, "If you need anything, I'm right there."  Unfortunately, this is where the breakdown comes.  Unfortunately, you now realize that was just like telling an acquaintance to "stop by any time", and when they do we can only act surprised and a little put out.  The person on the other side of that call needs help.  They have suffered some loss.  Maybe there is a billing error.  Maybe they just need to verify their coverages or beneficiaries because life for them has changed or is about to change.  Instead of fielding this call with all the professionalism you led them to believe you had, you "pass the buck".  You give someone another name...another number to call.  You put the burden of service on the person who trusted us.
Now, I don't have to tell you how wrong this scenario is.  If an insurance professional can't be there when a client really needs them, maybe they shouldn't be an insurance professional.  We tell everyone how important insurance is and then when it needs to do it's thing, that's someone else's responsibility?  Not cool.
So, to all of my colleagues and friends in this great insurance industry (that needs us all now more than ever)...step up.  Don't just be the "sales guy".  Be the service guy.  Be the answer man.  Be the person you led everyone to believe you were...even if it's inconvenient.  I believe if we all give of ourselves to our clients every step, we will be rewarded much more than any commission check could provide us.
Do you want to partner with another insurance professional?  Contact me via email at or call me at 205-370-8453.  If you are in Alabama or Georgia, I'm here to help...truly.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Working American's Financial Advisor

In my line of work, I get called all sorts of things.  I get called "the insurance man" or "benefits guy"...just to name a few.  However, in the time I've been in the insurance industry my most important and needed title (in my opinion) is that of "the working American's financial advisor".
You see, I can advise people on certain things financially. I can explain how certain insurance policies pay interest or acquire cash value.  I can even talk about how an annuity works and how it can help those who need a steady income to happen from a large sum of money they have acquired (usually through being a beneficiary of a life insurance policy). Those things are all important and might land under the "financial advisor" title, but what I'm talking about is what I mainly do almost every day.
In my insurance business, I get the distinct pleasure and opportunity to offer my services to companies. It doesn't matter the company size or industry.  If someone has a job, I can help them (through their work environment) acquire quality insurance that they may need for themsleves and/or their families. Many of the companies I represent and help are the hard-working American labor force.  These are people that keep things moving to create the fiber of our country.  Whether those people work in the office of that company or they are the "hands on" of the company, I am there to help.
So much of what I do is sit with that wage earner and talk about things that, in many cases, they had no clue about with regards to insurance and how it can benefit and help them and their families. These are people who will make it paycheck to paycheck and most likely will never need an accountant or financial advisor or broker to help them with their money or money decisions. I sit with these people one-on-one and ask the hard questions like:
 - "Who would care for your children if something happened to you?"
 - "How long could you go without a paycheck if something happened and you couldn't come into work?"
 - "How would you deal with a bill from a medical insurance carrier that equaled more than what your home costs?"
 - "What would your family do financially without your paycheck?"
The list just keeps on going, but as you can see these questions are all very real. Many times I ask these questions and I get looks of uncertainty as to their answers.  These questions are never meant to scare.  they are always asked so that I know the person I am talking to feels they have done all they can do to protect themselves and/or their families.
Every day I appreciate what I have been given as an opportunity to make a difference in people's lives.  I appreciate every client and every work environment I am allowed to service. I strive to provide each working American I come in contact a chance to better themselves and their families in terms of money decisions and the peace of mind that comes from knowing they have done things to get their affairs in order for the "just in case".

I thought I'd let my friends Brooks and Dunn bring this topic some music...

Are you a business? Do you want your employees to have somebody to help them protect their families through your business?  I can help.
Are you a working American?  There are plenty of questions to consider. I'm here to help.
Step into my office...let's talk business.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Bugling Across Alabama...and Other Places Too.

I just finished attending the Trumpet Festival of the Southeast at the University of Alabama for the weekend.  The weekend was filled with meeting trumpeters from all over from novices to professionals.  Rehearsals, master classes, and the like were enjoyed by everyone in attendance.  It was also a great opportunity to keep the Bugles Across America name out there for future buglers in our organization.

I found out awhile back that if you never let people know what you do that you'll never progress to helping anyone.  I took this mindset last year as the Alabama group for Bugles Across America made its presence known at the Trumpet Festival of the Southeast (which was held at the University of Alabama as well).  When I found that the festival was again going to be close to home I was more than happy to accept Dr. Yates' (head of the trumpet studio at the University of Alabama) invitation to once again be there and talk about all things pertaining to our organization and to get people signed up who showed a genuine interest in helping serve our Veterans.
The event was an amazing time.  I was able to meet and recruit quite a few people.  Michael Sachs is the Principal Trumpet for the Cleveland Orchestra.  He was a guest artist and expressed an interest in participating with our group.  We also had young people in their early teens come by and talk about how their grandfather wanted them to play Taps for them at their funeral.  Story after story of people providing Taps for memorials and at the gravesides of fallen soldiers of all ages came through those two days.  It was good to be there.
Hopefully we have laid the groundwork for future Southeastern states to take their turns and make this into a yearly process of active recruiting and story sharing.  I tell people all the time when they ask about bugling and playing Taps for the deceased that it is literally the best non-paying gig I could ever be a part of.  It never ceases to amaze me how important what I do is to a family.  I know I believe in the service I am rendering, but to get that appreciative handshake or to see the look in someone's eyes as they thank you for what you've can't buy that or begin to put a price tag on it.

For more information on Bugles Across America, please go to the link to the left on the main page here or just go to .  There you can donate funds to a worthy nationwide cause or join the ranks of over 7,000 buglers across the nation. Also, if you know someone who has a loved one who is about to depart from the life and they served in the can let them know that we're here to be sure they get the honors they deserve.

Scared To Stand Out?

This world is changing at a pretty fast rate.  Most of this change we can attribute to technology.  When you can do anything anywhere from the convenience of your cell phone, you know we're in a different day.  In days like today, we have to be ready to meet these changes head on or get pummeled by what is obviously going to continue to happen...changing the way we do things and the way we are perceived.  Unfortunately there are some who are stuck in the "good old days" doing things the "good old way".  If that's the mindset, then I am afraid the pummeling will begin and those people just might get lost.
In a time where being seen and noticed and appearing to stand out is important, we must do our best to embrace the new world and try to adapt to it.  Here are a couple of things to keep in mind as you prepare to stand out:

1 - You can't change overnight.  With the way things are moving, find an area you feel would be a good starting point for you and learn it.  For example, try staying in touch with clients, friends, and family using an online source or email list.  It may seem simple enough, but for those afraid of change it can make a big step in the right direction.  My wife says it's like trying to get a sip from a fire hydrant.  It's all coming at us so quickly we could get overwhelmed and just give up.  The key is to latch on to just one thing and master that before trying something else.
2 - Be certain you will get the desired result.  There are way too many people making changes with our society that look at all this change and they just muck it all up.  They do and say things to get noticed only to realize that they now have a perceived value of being a jerk.  Don't let that happen.  Whatever you choose to latch on to, make sure the desired result is what you want it to be.  Also remember, in this day and time EVERYTHING you do and/or say could be fodder for someone's tweet, facebook page, or blog.  Do your best not to be "that guy".
3 - Standing out is a MUST!  I wish I could say you could keep on the way you've done for all your many years, but I afraid you will get lost.  People nowadays want to read differing opinions from those who have an opinion and can back it up.  They want to deal with people who are not afraid to be different and try new things.  The key is to realize that in a world that is bombarding us all with bigger, better, faster, brighter, etc., we have to stay in that zone that allows us to be seen and thereby allowing others to perceive value in who we are and what we do.

Here is a great video that puts all this change into perspective:

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Life Insurance: Need vs. Financial Discipline

In my professional career, I help people.  The biggest way I do that is through making sure that every individual knows some things about life insurance.  I want to be sure they know:
1 - No one likes life insurance.
2 - Everyone needs life insurance.
3 - There are different kinds of life insurance.
The first one may seem odd to say coming from me, but it's true.  It goes hand in hand with #2 and it becomes a "necessary evil".
Two of the main questions I get from people with regards to life insurance are, "What are the different kinds of life insurance?" and "What kind of insurance do I need?"  As you can imagine the first one is pretty easy for me to explain but the second question gets fairly personal.  The only way I can get the answer is through asking some personal questions and getting people to see how each kind of life insurance is there to fill a need of some kind.
Throughout the fact-finding process, many time it's uncovered that people have taken some time to listen to financial advisors, like Dave Ramsey, to help them decide the approach to take that makes the most financial sense.  I can applaud their desire to make this move and it usually signifies a person who is looking to get something for themselves and their family that makes insurance sense and financial sense.
Fortunately I am aware of Dave Ramsey's main points on life insurance and I try to be responsible to my client as well as not offend Dave and his concepts for wealth management (which I appreciate very much).
The financial advisor has done their homework and they understand that term life is inexpensive and that whole life is more expensive.  That's the easy part.  The next thing they want you to be able to do it look at how much life insurance you need at that given time.  Now, the way the financial advisor sees it is that a person should be able to take that amount of death benefit and do the math to see what a whole life type policy would cost and then compare it to a term policy.  99% of  the time, the term policy is substantially less expensive.  The financial advisor explains why they only need term life and that what they should do with the money they are "saving" by not getting a whole life option is to invest it into a savings account or something so that when the term life expires, they no longer need to purchase life insurance because they have funded their own death benefit with the savings account they started.

The concept is brilliant and I agree totally.  However, the snags come in a couple of areas:
1 - The client may not be as committed to this savings as they may have led the advisor to be they were at the time they were meeting.  It never fails.  We get our finances in order and we're excited that we can see a positive turn in our debt to income ratio.  We see ourselves finally taking control of ourselves and we commit to do better from that moment on.  The reality sets in and the realization of life steps in a throws a big expense at us we were not expecting.  Maybe we had time to squirrel away money for our grand plan, but when this unexpected thing happened we reached for our cash.  That savings plan was used to handle the "rainy day" and came in handy but now we're down to $0.00 and we start all over again.  The plan we laid out has just taken a hit and we're behind a big 8-ball.  The time for our term insurance to expire comes to an end (20 or 30 years later) and we realize that we did not self-fund our insurance like we had planned because life happened.  Our intentions were good but our reality set us back.
2 - No one can tell you your last day (except God).  We all want to believe that in 20 years we could accumulate enough money to fund our own burial and final expenses, but does anyone really know what that amount is?  Right now, in my state, the average funeral cost is $12,000.00.  That number will not get smaller as land for cemeteries will be depleted making it more expensive due to costs.  The reality of term life insurance is that it's only good if you die in the term you purchased it for.  Chances are that you are more likely to outlive your term life insurance and then you have the knowledge that you spent all that money and it's gone.  The naughty little secret of life insurance is that the insurance carriers all have an idea (based on research and averages) how long you will live.  Why do you think term life is so inexpensive?  If every financial advisor who ONLY focused on term life could tell their clients when they were going to die, then we could all buy term insurance for the number of years we would need and call it a day.
It's different for everyone, but the best bet is to look at both sides of the coin and NOT overspend.  Term life insurance is there for the times in your life where your dying prematurely could seriously effect a family or property.  The whole life option is more likely to be what we die with.  My advice...when you have need of life insurance it to try and mix it up.  Just like with investing, don't put all your money in one thing.  Fill the momentary need to leave larger amounts with term life. Do this when leaving those larger amounts makes sense. You also should  think of the time long past those need years and have something waiting for you and your loved ones when the term life insurance expires (because no one wants to pay rates at the end of a me) with a whole life-type option.  If you do this early enough in life, your expenses for life insurance are kept in check and you are even likely to still be able to save something for a rainy day.  Also, since whole life does accumulate some cash value, if that rainy day is more than you have you may be able to borrow from the funds you have still accumulated through the whole life insurance.
Please understand, everyone is different but the basic rules should still apply with life insurance.  The key is that whenever your final day is that you have money for your final expenses without the family you left behind having to take out a loan or "pass the hat" at your funeral.  It's YOUR final day...don't make someone else have to pay for it.
If you have any life insurance questions, comments, or needs please feel free to email me at  I'm an email away.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Christina Aguilera and Super Bowl "Whoopsie"...My Take

OK, I have been asked by countless people my thoughts on the Christina Aguilera "boo boo" while she sang the National Anthem before the Super Bowl.  I've been asked by football fans, friends, and even had debates with my professional musician friends.  I hope to answer everyone here and put a period at the end of this "mishap".
 - I will state this before I preparing to write this I asked some others their thoughts on it.  The majority had no idea she even missed a note and most enjoyed it.
First let me say I am a professional musician, I am a football fan, and I do believe that Christina Aguilera is a vocal talent like no other today.  With that said...let me address the basic question and answer.
The question always approaches me simply..."So, what do you think about the Christina incident at the Super Bowl?"  My simple answer is that I completely and totally back her and her performace of the National Anthem.  Now, when I gave that opinion freely to some friends of mine I was asked if I was crazy.  So I re-evaluated my stance.  After carefully considering the possible angles of how people viewed this I still came to the same overall conclusion...she did a great job and I'm very proud of her.  Now I will explain.
I was looking forward to hearing her sing since I first got the news she had been asked to.  It was going to be a highlight for me for Super Bowl Sunday.  I will say, as she started I saw something in her eyes that told me this could go wrong (almost "deer in the headlights"), but as she started to sing I felt myself right there with her cheering her on.  Each note came out in perfect Christina style and I appreciated her interpretation.
 - Let me pause for a second to address the "purists" who beat her up so mercilessly online.  I get your point.  You want to hear the "Star Spangled Banner" in it's purest and most legitimate format.  Some of you even suggested taking singers out of it altogether and just have a combination of the military bands play it with the pride and power we know they can.  I get it.  I play military funerals all the time and to "jazz up" Taps would be a travesty.  However, in this venue and on this stage of the Super Bowl and the person singing being knew it was coming.  Don't act shocked and please don't beat this amazing talent up for her creativity and her ability...which is far superior to most anyone making the negative comments.  Leave armchair quarterbacking to the football game and leave the musical talent alone.
Now, back to my post.  By the end of her rendition I was in tears, as were many on the sidelines and in the stands.  I feel she did her best job and I was happy for her.
Then the posts started and the media latched on to her "whoopsie".  It was at this point I had no idea myself that she had even messed up.  That tells me one thing...she was in the middle of the grandest performance of her life...she missed lines...and still sang with the passion and power the song deserved.  Lesser artists would have bailed on the live stage or started over.  So, I replayed the video that was posted and sure enough..."O'er the ramparts we watched were so galantly streaming" had been replaced by a mix of words that really did not belong together.  I heard it and I thought immediately, "Hmmm, even the best can get a little emotion boggled in a big moment."
However, the media was less than kind and they continued to smash her for her "mistake".  The more they picked, the more upset I got.  Here's where my musical education background and love for people who truly love and appreciate music came out.  I backed her even more, and here's why:
1 - She sang it LIVE.  She did not rely on a recording for "safety".  Those who would compare previous Super Bowl Anthem performers have no comparison because it's not there.  In fact...ACCAPELLA and LIVE.  Double whammy few could even boast wanting to attempt.
2 - She dressed with class and humility.  We have all seen Christina migrate into her "Diirty" girl persona.  Even her songs lend themselves to being less than worthy of even a primetime spot.  However, she chose an understated black bling (except on her shoes).  This tells me she honored her position and what she was asked to do.  It also tells me that she was telling the world, "It's not about me".  Who can't appreciate that?
All-in-all, she was great.  Sure, she needed to acknowledge her mishap, but her response was just what I felt it would be.  She stated she got caught up in the moment and lost her place.  So, my third reason is...
3 - She acknowledged her flub and had the most legitimate and reaosnable reason any of us could hope for.  Being a musician, I TOTALLY understand that.  Again, when I play Taps at a graveside I get one shot to honor the fallen.  Lots can go wrong and there are variables even the most seasoned could not be ready for.  Stuff happens in live performances.  For those who want to beat up Christina, go on over to youtube and search for JFK Taps.  One man...military and professionally trained musician.  Largest stage of his life.  24 seemingly simple notes.  He splits one and people call it "emotion".  OK...then let's use the same logic people.
I looked at this from every angle and from every position I could.  I still end up standing right next to Christina and thanking her for a gutsy job well done.  Had I been right there I may not have even heard the mistake even then, but had I...I would have been right there to tell her, "It's happens."
That's my take on Christina and I can't wait to hear her sing again anywhere and anytime.

If you missed it, here she is...doing her best...