Monday, September 24, 2012

What Is Your Type?

In my last post, I said that I would provide some guidance and education on the life insurance options that are readily available and easiest to understand for people looking to make their first purchase or for those looking to subsidize their existing life insurance portfolio.

The outline will be simple and I will give some advice on each.

Here we go:

1 - Term Life Insurance - You see this stuff everywhere. If you've ever seen an ad on TV or gotten a flyer in the mail, it is most likely a GREAT rate for more life insurance than you thought possible for so little money.
THE GOOD: Term serves the purpose of insuring a block of time where you feel you are leaving others at the greatest risk should your untimely death occur. For example, if you are a parent raising children...let's say you have a 5-year-old and a newborn baby in your home. I always look at the youngest child to determine the amount of time you should consider in the child-raising period (in this case, the newborn). Most of the main term policies come in 10, 20, or 30 year options. With a newborn you may be hoping for college and such so a 30-year option is the safest policy based on that timing because chances are you will be raising that child past the age of 20. However, you will most likely not be raising that child for their life span and so the need to have a safety net after they have grown and gone and started a life of their own diminishes greatly.
Term is equal to time. You are wrapping a bubble of protection around a portion of the timeline of your life to cover a tragic and premature incident so that your family can continue (at least for a time) on the financial path you set out for them when it all started.
THE GAMBLE: So many people see the small premiums of a term policy and they get all excited that this will certainly be all they will ever need. Term is the insurance company's big "Gotcha". The people who look at something called a mortality table look at every number needed and every risk factor possible to assume the risk the person taking insurance out has the potential to be. Your individual situation helps determine rate and longevity of your life span. Most of us land in the "safe zone" and so to charge a small premium for the next 20-30 years is a no-brainer from their standpoint. The insurance company looks at you and basically says that unless something unforeseen happens, the life insurance payout will never happen and you will live long past the life policy's term. You're basically "renting time" for a BIG what if. The insurance company gets all those premiums from you for the next 20-30 years and never pays out a thing. CHA-CHING! Then they turn right around and send you a reminder notice that you are about to live past your term, you are now 20-30 years older which means all your life premiums just went through the roof for you to acquire again. What was once a $20.00 per month policy is now a $50 or $100 dollar per month policy for the same death benefit.
WHO NEEDS IT?: Essentially any person who has people in their lives who count on them for something is in need of some form of additional term life insurance. Parents, relatives, spouses, and home owners all have either certain financial responsibilities or desires to someone least for a time period. That time period is where term comes in and sets up a chance to get more financial gain to the beneficiary at a time that has been determined to be more important and more crucial than at other times.
WRAP UP: At some point in everyone's life, term life insurance is a necessity. To be able to leave behind the financial hopes, dreams, and/or responsibilities in the event of an untimely death is a huge benefit. A mom or a dad can insure a college education, that first car, paying off the home so loved ones can still live in it, the son or daughter who wants to be sure an aged parent continues to have quality care...the list goes on and most of us will have a block of time where we are at the greatest risk. Term life is there to help. It is not the only means if insuring your life or the expenses you might leave behind, however.
The next type I will discuss is a permanent life policy.

2 - Permanent Life Insurance - Permanent life insurance is still being left to a beneficiary, but this is the stuff that stays with you long into life and will most likely be the type of life insurance you pass away with...if you planned ahead and planned early. The biggest benefit of permanent life insurance is the locked rate based on age and health at the time coverage was issued. In other words, you get this when you are young and you are not penalized for getting older, and sicker, or just succumbing to the things that happen in life as we age. Permanent life looks at each person and reminds us that we will all pass away at some point. That is unavoidable. Whether we die now or when we are in our 90s or more remains to be seen, but permanent types of life insurance will be there for us throughout and will assist our families with the final expenses associated with our final day.
THE GOOD: My own example is the best one I can come up with to show the need for considering this life insurance. When I was but 2-years-old, my dad bought a small whole life insurance policy on me. When I turned 3, I was diagnosed with a kidney disorder. Now, I went until I was 16 with this issue and was medicated for it for most of my growing years. When I became an adult, my dad signed the policy over to me and told me about it. It wasn't a large policy, but it was enough for final expenses and it had actually grown over time (I'll explain this in a moment). I paid on that policy every month from that day. It was the same premium as my dad had started off with when I was 2, so it was affordable and useful. I found out exactly how useful when I attempted to get my own life insurance after I had gotten married. Because of my medical history, I was a higher risk and many companies would not even consider me for larger amounts of coverage. It's the sad fact of life insurance...if you are too risky for their big "GOTCHA" on term, you just don't get it or they ramp your rates up so high it gets ridiculous. The end of the story is this...with my dad's thinking on this when I was young, I will always have a policy I know will be there and will remove the concern of final expenses from my family's mind because I have that covered. At $13.00 a month, that's a reasonable amount to pay for piece of mind, don't you think?
Now, I mentioned this policy had "grown" over time. Another good part of these types of policies is the cash value that accumulates over the length of the policy. This money can be withdrawn, reinvested, or in some cases it adds to the face value of the death benefit (like in my case). Since it will not get cheaper to bury people, the fact that it continues to grow is a nice option that tells me that I am also planning for a long and healthy life without having to worry about if what I got when I was 2 will be enough when I am 90. Since it grows each year, I know I've left enough for my family for that final day and that funeral home bill.
THE "BAD": While my scenario makes sense, so many people have gone years without any form of life insurance. They may have health conditions now or their rate to acquire permanent life insurance may be out of their budget. Permanent life insurance is always more expensive on the front end (or at least it seems that way). If you did a comparison of premium cost between term and permanent life insurance, the permanent life would be almost 4 times more than what term would be (depending on age of acquiring it).
Many financial advisors will also tell you to take the difference in premiums between term and permanent and invest that money so that at the end of the term policy, you have your own life insurance money set aside. This is a great plan, but requires discipline on the individual's part to make that happen. It does make sense and would save someone quite a bit in terms of premium dollars over time.
WHO NEEDS IT?: In my opinion, life insurance is the only kind of insurance guaranteed to pay someone something at some point. You can have all the car insurance, or home owner's insurance, or whatever and never have a claim paid. Death is guaranteed and if you hold life insurance at your death, it's guaranteed to pay as well. So to answer the question...we all need it. Obviously, the earlier the better is the best way to plan but the key is that on your last day there is something there to pay for the final expenses that will be expected to be paid to a funeral home for your final resting place. It's expensive to die, and you are the only person who can really help cover that cost so your family does not have to. I can't imagine paying back a loan for a funeral. I would just as soon not be reminded of my loss every month for the next 5-10 years.
If you live to a ripe old age, this policy is for you. If you are a single 20-something with very little debt or responsibility right now, this policy is for you. If you are getting term insurance at the beginning of a life with others around you counting on you, this policy is for you.
This type of policy can also be for the person who was not able to set aside their own funds each month for their own life insurance and now they have some health issues or just need enough to be buried with. Many times a permanent policy goes easy on the underwriting requirements. In some cases it's as easy to acquire as signing your name. I'm not a fan of people waiting that long and it can be expensive, but it's good to know that the option is there.
WRAP UP: Unless I'm super devoted to a financial plan and I have enough funds to put aside for my own life insurance AND I have no unforeseen issues in 20-30 years that will require large sums of money I may have squirreled away, then acquiring permanent life insurance as early as I possibly can will help me and my loved ones know that if nothing else, the final expenses of this life are covered.

I hope this has helped as you continue to search for the best way to protect you and your family. There are hybrids and options to life insurance policies, but these are the main two to consider.

If I can be of any assistance in any sort of advisory capacity, I am always available at 205-370-8453 or you can email me at

PS - I usually leave a video of some kind at the end dealing with the post I have just written. This one is a little tough to do that with, so no video for this one.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Life Myth Busted: Size DOES Matter To Women

Those of you who know me are probably dying to know what this blog post is about based on the title I gave it. I had to get your attention. What I am about to say is important to everyone who opened this blog post. The first thing I have to do is amend the title right here.  It should read, "Life Myth Busted: Size DOES Matter to Women...and everyone else in your life."

The key phrase is "Life Myth Busted" because I am indeed going to break down something I am VERY passionate about and that's life insurance. For those of you who are suddenly looking for the X in the upper corner, hear me out and let me get this information out to you so at least I know you can go from today on being informed and letting me do what I people.

In the last few months, I have had at least 4 death claims pass across my desk. I am always saddened when I see them. A life has been lost and that's a harsh reality. Do you want to know what's even harsher? Not having any life insurance for the family or not having ENOUGH life insurance to leave behind for little more than a dug hole and pine box. I have heard the phrase, "I had not idea that they..." You can finish the sentence with "I had no idea that they...didn't have any life insurance" OR "I had not idea that they...let their life insurance expire" OR "I had no idea that they...only had a $5,000 burial policy".

No offense here, but the deceased could care less how you pay for their funeral or their final expenses. It's no longer their issue. They left it with you. If you are reading this and this has happened, you've probably looked at a photo of the deceased and said out loud, "Thanks for that." Passing away is a costly proposition and it does not just end with a funeral. Bills, taxes, mortgages, investments...they all add up to a dollar amount and without enough the project of getting it all worked out when the loved one has passed away just became a BIG bill.

The reason why I specifically mentioned "women" in the title is to not only get your attention, but to remind all the "invincible" men out there that those spouses and loved ones you leave behind need you to be responsible men and be sure that you leave them with more than enough to keep going.
TRUE STORY: I was speaking with a client years ago. He was a man in his late 40's with a wife and 3 little girls. He came to me for a benefits counseling session at his work. As we talked about life insurance I noted how his demeanor changed and he got kind of surly when he said, "I'm not getting any life insurance because I don't want some other guy sitting in my easy chair." My response to him was just about as blunt when I said, "Without some sort of financial protection for your wife and girls, you don't give them any other choice." He considered my statement carefully before declining the life insurance. He died 6 months later in a motor cycle accident.

My final encouragement to men...and to be sure you have "done the math" as to what amount of life insurance will help get your family through financially after you are gone. No one wants to lose a loved one, but to lose a loved one...and a house...and the ability to feed and clothe children...and a way of life is MUCH more devastating because it's a constant reminder.

With life insure, I encourage everyone reading this to consider the following:
1 - AMOUNT. The fact that your employer pays for a $15,000 policy for you is a nice benefit, but in today's world it barely gets the funeral set. This is where "size does matter" so be sure it fits the needs of everyone you would leave behind. No one wants to be paying for your burial for 5 years on a payment plan.
2 - TYPE: Each person is different in terms of need, but it's not that difficult to figure out what you need for NOW. As life moves on you can adjust as needed. There are about 3 basic life policies out there to concern yourself with on a starting basis. Consult with a life insurance adviser to find the type of policy that is right for you.
3 - WHO/WHAT: All life insurance needs a beneficiary. This is the person who gets the funds so that things can be handled properly and in order when you are gone. Whoever or whatever you choose to leave this money to is the one you select to shut down the final pages of your life here on Earth. Choose wisely and adjust as needed.
4 - BUDGET: This sort of goes with the type you pick because what you can spend might be limited. The good news is there are decent policies out there for as little as $10.00 a month for $50,000 of death benefit (depending on how long you wait to get it). Financial advisers will advise one way and some even put you on the right path. However, insurance agents get licensed for a reason and we take our state exam for a reason. WE are the ones who deal in life insurance. Try not to get your banker and us confused.

My next blog will be to discuss the different types of life insurance and basically how they work and who might benefit from considering the different options.

In the meantime, do your homework. Figure out what you have now and what you need. Again, if you are reading this, this applies to you. No one is exempt (unless of course you have a bursting bank account with enough to be buried in your own pyramid in Egypt...then you're good).

What some advice? I'm available via email (, this blog (comments section or email), facebook (Gene Ramsay - The Insurance Man), Twitter (Gene_Ramsay), and text (205-370-8453). I get texts from my trumpet students, friends and why not you? I'd be more than happy to field your questions in whatever way is comfortable for you. People always seem to have "a guy" for everything. I can be your "Bugling Benefits Guy"...if you'll let me.

If you want to hear about it from comedienne Molly Shannon, here she is talking about what you just read:

If you prefer to hear from the Cake Boss himself on the subject, here you go:

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

It Can Be Too Late

The month of May is Disability Awareness Month. As I think on the month, I am reminded of the countless individuals I discuss disability insurance with. I explain all the benefits and all the needs as well as examples of people who have been able to survive through a tough time by having this type of coverage. Now, I realize that even the best of situations people will only half listen and tell me they are "not interested" or that they will "think about it" or even "do it later". Basically these people are the ones who believe they will actually have the time to make that decision.

Then something happens. One of those people invariably has an issue come up. A surprise surgery or pregnancy or an accident happens that puts them out of work for over a month. Then I get the phone call asking me if they can enroll now and have the disability policy help them. I wish insurance worked like that, but I have to tell them that they can still get the policy but it won't help with their current situation. These are the people who told themselves that, "It's never too late." Unfortunately for those people it's too late. In fact, in some cases they can't even be considered for disability insurance again until one year passes of consistently being back at work before we can consider this process again.

You see, the phrase, "It's never too late" is a great mantra for some things like traveling the far away places, sky diving, learning a musical instrument or taking a cooking class, but not insurance. There is a point and time where an ability to acquire coverage can be hindered because of various reasons. Policies like these are not just revolving doors we can hop on any time we feel we need it. It would be like getting home insurance after the tree has fallen in our living room. It's just not going to happen that way and be of any help.

Not only does this apply to disability insurance, but also for other voluntary insurance policies like critical illness (heart attack, stroke, renal failure, etc), long term care, cancer, and the obvious life insurance.
So,, what are some things that can make it too late for certain insurance coverage? Let's take a look:

1 - Contracting an illness. Now, this illness can be anything from diabetes to heart conditions and high cholesterol to cancer and the like. Many times these illnesses are initial questions on an application to acquire insurance of some kind. If you are honest and admit to these items that you have, your underwriting window gets smaller and smaller with each one until your ability to acquire coverage goes away.
2 - Having had health issues in the past. Obviously going through health issues presently has it's disadvantages but even things you dealt with in your past can have a negative impact on your ability to get certain insurance. Many times policies have a time frame in which you could have dealt with something and be considered healthy enough to consider coverage, but all that time in between can creep up on you and keep you from ever getting the coverage to help yourself and your family.
3 - Getting older. It may seem like insurance is being age-biased, but the reality is that the older we get the more likely we are to have those go wrong in our bodies. When they do happen, the body also takes longer to recover and in some cases it never gets back to a healthy state again. State run nursing facilities are filled with people who tried to live by the "It's never too late" mantra. To walk into those facilities at times is sad, to say the least.
4 - Death. This one is the no-brainer, but it needs mentioning because so many people pass this one by...especially when they are younger and they feel invincible. I tell people and groups every day that there is no discount for the casket if they are younger. Funerals and the expenses of our final days are costly. How much? As of now, anywhere between $6,000 and $15,000 dollars depending on the situation. The point is that this is the ultimate "It can be too late" example. Without proper coverage, those we leave behind are stuck being reminded of a sad day until the bill gets paid because someone decided they could wait.
Those of you who know me know that I am not a "doom and gloom" guy. However, I believe in taking care of myself and especially those around me. My family needs me to make the smart decisions so that IF the time comes to help me out because I have fallen ill or passed away, they know the financial burden has been lifted because I took care of it before.

Do you have a need to fill a gap in coverage in your life or the lives of someone you love? Is there enough of the right insurance for your family to take care of you for the "just in case"? It can be too late for some people. Don't fall into that category.

I'm always a phone call/text (205-370-8453) or an email ( away.

Friday, March 9, 2012

You're the Only One Who Can Flip Your Switch

This is NOT some infomercial about a product that will make you instantly thinner or give you an amazing cholesterol number or any other sort of "quick fix". What I want to do here today is encourage a change of mindset that leads to change in your decision making which then effects your time and energy which will eventually, over time, turn into a life changing event.

A little less than a year ago I became keenly aware of the people around me. In restaurants and offices and even on the daily commutes I noticed that at least 70% of the people I came in contact with were overweight to obese. These people had trouble moving and some even had labored breathing just standing there. I would imagine their daily process of everything from their eating habits to their lack of an exercise routine. Well, then I took a look at myself and realized that the people I was looking at could very easily be me.
I was not as careful with what I ate. I did not have any legitimate exercise routine or plans. I seemed lethargic about health and wellness in general and was fine the way I was...or so I thought. However, those of you who know me know that I am not a tall person and that I have had my battles with health issues in my life. Ten extra pounds on me looks and feels like thirty. I woke up one morning this past summer and told myself that this was ending today. I got up, got dressed and headed to play some tennis at our local park where a nice big green backboard waited for me. Now, picking the dead of the summer when the temperature was 100+ was probably not the best option, but after 10 minutes on the wall I was totally wiped. Things hurt I had forgotten could hurt. I was breathing so heavy I thought I might just pass slap out right then. I sat and hydrated and caught my breath. I got back to business and squeezed out 30-40 minutes of really good cardio exercise.
For the next day I ached. Shins, back, shoulders, you name it. However, I was not going to stop. I knew that getting started in an exercise program would take some time for my body to adjust but I would not get anywhere giving up or letting up after one time out. Two days later I was back at it. I went 45 minutes with only 2 stops and I walked off the court (as opposed to the labored crawl I had a few days before).
Those few days turned into to three weeks and then something amazing happened...I saw the results of my labors. Tennis is an amazing sport for cardio and fat burning and I could visibly see the difference. That makes you feel good and makes you want to do even more.
In this process, I also decided to adjust my food management (I do not like the word "diet"). Food management involves picking the right amounts of the right foods and less or none of the wrong foods. It really is that simple. I changed my thinking from "sludge" to "high octane" to fuel my new and improved engine. Result? More visible reminders that this was working. I was starting to be in the best shape of my life and the switch in my brain had hit a new level of commitment to the changes.
Now, I tell you all this not to brag or say that "I've arrived". What I want to get across to everyone reading this is that it all boils down to one very simple thing. The process can not take place anywhere else first but in your mind and being. If you don't determine to make the change nothing will change. Your family can beg you, your friends can make jabs at you (friends can do that), and people around you can suffer miserably with health conditions you are just waiting to get because you are on the same path as they are and nothing...I mean NOTHING will flip your switch but you.
If it helps for me to challenge you to take that first step...consider yourself challenged. Come meet me on the tennis court and we can get started today. All I know is that if you want it and you are willing to go for it, then nothing will stop you. There is no better feeling than knowing you are doing good things to make your life better as a result of the "no excuses" hard work and determination to stay at it. Becoming the new and improved you will always be worth it.
Flip that switch.

Inspiration comes in many ways and from various places. Videos like this one are right up my alley to keep me inspired and remind me what it takes to achieve. Enjoy:

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Bring On the New Year!

We all look at a new year a little differently. Many people focus on the things in their lives they are resolving to change while simultaneously shutting the books on the past year (good or bad) and looking to improve in the coming year.
I thought about resolutions this year too, but I am going to approach them a little bit differently. Resolutions usually involve changing something about your life you need to change for the better and/or adding something to your life that will make it better (they are always for the better). Instead of just resolving to do whatever it was I felt needed changing, I decided to make new routines.
You see, we get in these ruts in life that we get so caught up in. Our lives become a series of routines. If you question that, pay close attention to your daily wake up process for a week and just try to do something out of order. It's tough to do. The daily grind just ruins us and our outlook and we can't wait for bad days to be over and it seems like good days are often overshadowed by the "have tos". That's not much of a life and so I feel that to make a true change I need a new routine. A new approach to life in general and not just a good intention and thought.
If you look at your life and the routines you are in, you may find some very interesting things out about yourself. I guarantee you that you will ask yourself, "How in the world did this happen?" once you start that evaluation. The good news is, you can act right now. Check some easy points to remember:
1 - You can start now. Don't say "I need to". Just do it. Find something fun or needed you want to add to your life on a regular basis that you know would make your days better.
2 - Set reasonable goals. Don't get crazy. This new routine is not about a total transformation all at once. You could throw the whole world off its axis and never get it back right if you do. Find some small thing, track it for a few weeks to check on how you are doing and the next thing you's in your routine making you better.
3 - Set specifics. Don't just say, "I'm going to exercise more". Say, "On Monday, Wednesday, and Friday I'm going to devote 20-30 minutes for exercise starting at 6PM". You see the difference? You're making a date with yourself and I dare say, you won't stand yourself up unless something pretty important comes up.
4 - Evaluate. Just because you do something for two days does not mean you are now in a new routine. Just like the two biggest resolutions people make about diet and exercise, you won't make any changes unless you make it a part of your daily self. The only way to do that is evaluate how you did on each day, week, and then month, and so on. Think of it this way: people who are stopping a bad health habit track their days since they last had any issues with whatever it is. They celebrate their accomplishment regularly but they realize that days add to weeks and weeks to months and months to years. They evaluate every single day, which in itself is part of their new routine.
5 - Don't be too hard on yourself. New things take time to settle in. If you blow a date with yourself to do something you are trying to make part of your routine, don't dwell on it. That's why there are 7 days in every week. There is always tomorrow or the next date. Some days need rain checks. However, as you evaluate, be sure it's a rain check and not complacency you are falling into.
6 - Share your goals carefully. We have many people in our lives and if they are close to us they look our for us like we do for them. Unfortunately, that sense of care can be one of the biggest roadblocks you will face as you move to make your new routine. Some of your closest companions might say, "You don't need to do that, you're awesome just as you are" or "Why would you waste your time doing that?" Do your best to take all those things that are said and move forward regardless. These are YOUR goals and routines. No one can live them for you and these are very personal. You can share your proposed changes with others (and in some cases it might even be necessary to keep you on track until it becomes part of your routine) but be careful who you share with and if the negative comes...move forward.
I look forward to the days to come. One big routine addition I am making is that I want there to be an element of fun in everything I do. The great thing is that it's not that hard to do. You just have to think about what might make this process, or job, or moment a little different or quirky and approach it that way. Make it interesting and the fun will come. Mix it up a little and you'll find that even the so called "bad days" will have  lots of good in them.

To finish off, here's some inspiration to get your blood pumping: