The insurance business

When we returned from Andrew and Tina’s wedding, I was planning to devote my full time to selling ad space on 9×11 postcards. The idea was that this would increase our income and provide a means to advertise my LocalStakes sweepstakes, which I had renamed to Yalzi. I was also continuing to run a sweepstakes with weekly drawings. Prizes were items I’d purchased on Groupon and Living Social.

However, the more I thought about, I didn’t like the pressure of having to fill up one or more cards every month with ads. I’m sure someone else could have turned this into a nice business, but I just didn’t have the energy and enthusiasm I knew I would need. This was compounded by a temporary depression I went through after returning from Ohio where I was reminded of my poor relationships with my children.

So, I decided to drop the postcard ads idea, but keep the sweepstakes going, feeling that, in time, my email list would continue building until it finally reached a critical stage and businesses started noticing and taking me seriously. I knew that with a large enough list of people in Albuquerque, businesses would eventually be interested in paying me to promote their business.

Unfortunately, our cash flow situation didn’t allow me to do enough advertising (I was using Facebook ads pretty effectively to build the list, but it was still costing more money than we had).

At first, my thought was that the solution was to get a better job, which could then allow me to continue running the Facebook campaign, and even increase the budget. But the job search was slow and I really didn’t know what I wanted to do. The best lead I got was from one of the volunteers who cleaned the Temple one night while I was working there. It was for a copier technician position. It was full-time and included a company car. I went for an interview and after 2 week was offered the job at $13/hour – not great pay, but better than anything else I had come up with.

However, during that period, I also found an ad for Medicare sales that promised big income. After thinking about it and discussing with Susan, we both decided this was a good fit for us. In fact, she decided it would be a good fit for her, too, although she was more interested in working as a financial counselor. Heather Emms, in our ward, was also factor. She works in the industry as well, and helped convince Susan that this was something she could do very successfully.

I want to add that Susan’s been somewhat frustrated throughout our marriage because she hasn’t been able to complete her schooling and get into something that could support her better, and that she could feel proud of, especially if something happened to me. In fact, right before making this decision to get into insurance sales and financial planning, Susan was feeling some pressure from Holly who thought she should become a sonographer. And before that, Susan was seriously thinking about becoming a Spanish Interpreter or a School Teacher. This has been a constant theme throughout our marriage. When we first got married she wanted to be a Speech Pathologist. When she was taking the Pathway classes, she considering becoming a school psychologist, among other career choices. Then, of course, she’s also wanted to own a worm farm, a wedding barn, an aquaponics farm, and/or a bed and breakfast. I would really like to help her achieve something she can be proud of before it’s too late.

Since this was a commission only position, and a business instead of a job, I decided that I couldn’t effectively work on it and Yalzi at the same time so made the decision to end the sweepstakes and devote my full time to insurance sales.

As with any business, however, it’s never as easy as it first seems. After some concentrated study, I was able to take and pass the insurance exam on Oct 21st and pass it with a score of 87%. It felt good to achieve that goal, but I’ve found that was really the easy part. Right now I am trying to get appointed by insurance carriers and finding it to be a daunting and frustrating task. Plus, the more I learn about the business, the less confident I am that I’ll be able to do it. The Medicare insurance industry is so complicated, and regulated to such a degree, that I’m having trouble seeing myself get through a sales presentation without making a lot of mistakes. I hadn’t given it much thought initially, but there’s a reason you have to purchase errors and omissions insurance as an insurance agent. It’s because you can screw up and receive complaints or even get sued. I’m suddenly reminded of one of the reasons I got out of the home inspection business back in the early 90s — because I hated the constant worry of receiving complaints.

Although I like the idea of being well-paid to sell insurance, and receiving residual income for years after the sale, this will still be closer to a job than I would like, and I’m less certain now about the wisdom of getting into this business. The LocalStakes idea still seems like such a good idea, and with very big potential, that it’s hard to give up on it. One thing that could help change my mind about the insurance business is the possibility of selling leads to other agents. I could get excited about that, if I can develop a good system for generating them. I’m kind of counting on Facebook to work well for that.

I’m also wondering if I still need to get a part-time job to get us by until Medicare sales becomes profitable.

UPDATE Jan 21, 2018

After floundering for over a month, I finally hooked up with a broker who has an office here in Albuquerque — American Senior Benefits. They found me through LinkedIn somehow. Susan and I met with Zach Mikelson on Dec 22nd and they seemed to offer everything I had been looking for — mentoring, free leads, a focus on Medicare, and they even let use their office to make calls or meet with clients. I was excited.

I’ve primarily worked with Carmine Lombano who is the regional manager. The office has only been open for a few months so there are growing pains. They gave me a little bit of training and then put me on the phones. The first day, I was able to set up 8 appointments, although no one was home at either of my first 2 appoints which were the following day. It’s gotten better, and I may have my first sale – Janet Robinson wants a Medicare Supplement.

I’m hoping to start getting my own leads, using Facebook ads, so I don’t have to rely on them, although it’s hard to beat free leads. I also need to know a lot more about our products. They lead with Medicare, but offer all sorts of other products, including life insurance, and insurance for long-term care, final expense, dental/vision/hearing, hospital indemnity. It’s a bit overwhelming. I’m trying to work my into a system, but I need to know the products a lot better. The represent over 150 carriers so it’s a daunting task.

I confess that I’m less interested in the whole thing now than I was back in October. Financially, we’d be better off at the moment if I hadn’t gotten into it. I don’t really want to be driving all over for meager returns. One possibility is that I can learn how to create leads cheaply enough that I can sell them to other agents at a profit. That could be an ideal business.

And I haven’t forgotten about LocalStakes/Yalzi. I rewrote the business plan (adding a multi-vendor store to the sweepstakes idea) and currently looking for a developer to help me build the website.



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