My Year of Living Less Dangerously: 8 Things I Learned as a Startup Insurance Producer


By Lawrence E. McCullough
Insurance Producer / Farmers Insurance

I JUST CELEBRATED my first full year as a producer for Farmers Insurance. Having had no previous background in the field, it’s been quite an education.

Here are a few things I’ve learned:

1)  Most people don’t like thinking about insurance. Any kind, any time. 

Until, of course, they’re forced to by circumstances beyond their control.

However, the rates for most of the insurance types that impact our daily lives are controlled by state legislators and regulators and, therefore, subject to frequent change on a state-by-state basis.

You can obtain a quote or review of your current insurance, anytime. You get regular checkups for your teeth and eyes, a basic annual health physical, right? Right? (please say “Yes”, especially before applying for life insurance – see below). 

Reviewing your insurance policies at least once a year is a good habit to acquire.

2)  If you have a question about your billing, ask. 

Never hesitate to check on your billing. Never assume a sudden change in your premium stems from something you did or didn’t do.

With the enormous amount of information processed on an hourly basis by the average insurer, the law of statistical probability guarantees mistakes will occur. Or, new rates may have gone into effect. Just call your local agent or the main corporate billing number and have them explain the change.

3)  Think of the worst thing that could happen … then see who will insure you for it.

I once published a book on a Famous Deceased Celebrity. While I was wholly convinced of the factual accuracy of every single word on every single page, I was aware that others might conceivably disagree. And that defending my viewpoint would require significant monetary expenditure on my part.

I purchased a basic publisher’s insurance policy. An umbrella, of sorts, just in case legal raindrops started fallin’ on my metaphorical head.

It was surprisingly affordable, considering the potential cost of court, attorney, travel, settlement fees you could incur in the course of establishing your veracity.

You have a small business? A home-based business? A part-time business? You’re going to want some kind of specific coverage in place to protect your assets (home, personal savings, business earnings, kids’ college fund) should a financial judgment be rendered against you.

This extends to your basic daily existence – home, vehicle, business, health, etc. Even if you’re a dyed-in-the-wool climate change denier, 100 Year Flooding is happening all over the U.S. Are you going to be prepared if what you don’t think will ever happen does happen to your home or business?

4)  Conversely, make sure you’re not paying for coverage you don’t need

With home insurance, for example, your home’s “fair market value” isn’t the same as the actual assessed value that determines what an insurer will pay to rebuild your house if it is totally destroyed. Again, different companies have different formulas that assess your coverage amount, and those amounts may change from year to year. Call your agent and learn more about your particular policy.

5) Many employees don’t realize that the life insurance policies they hold through their employer typically end when they leave the company. 

Many of those employees are of a certain age and/or have some sort of health issue(s) that will make it a challenge to obtain affordable life insurance when they’re no longer working at that job.

Solution? Ask an insurance specialist. The company you’ve left may cancel your policy, let you convert it to an individual policy, switch the policy to another group plan, or let coverage lapse. 

While you’re still with the company
, why not find out your options … and how to use them to your advantage before it’s a problem.

Today, the average person changes jobs 10-15 times during his or her worklife, with most of us spending less than 5 years per job. Maybe you should consider having your own life insurance policy in place to ride out the inevitable abrupt career swerves.

6)  Speaking of life insurance, consider buying it today for the young people in your life you hope will attain a senior citizen status in the future

I’ve explained the reasoning for this in this article; down the road, they’ll thank you for your foresight and wisdom.

7)  Your insurance producer and agent are constantly seeking to expand their knowledge base to serve you better.  

Here at Farmers, in addition to our state-required continuing education professional credits, we get invitations weekly from our main office to participate in learning opportunities designed to keep us on top of inevitable changes in rates and coverage; other companies follow the same practice, so don’t necessarily view your provider as merely a salesperson, but rather, a source of updated insurance information that could be very helpful to you in the short and long runs.

8)  Risk is part of the human condition; we can plan for it. 

Our word “risk” derives from a Classical Greek word meaning “cliff”, as in the precipice from which one can fall to one’s death. 

You’ll find it in the story of Odysseus when his raft is being pulled into the deadly whirlpool of Charybdis; his raft disappears beneath the surface, but Odysseus saves himself by grabbing hold of a small fig tree on the cliff.

Insurance is that fig tree – in Odysseus’ case, conveniently placed by the gods. For us moderns, that fig tree is also there to keep us going under ... 

If we take the time to plant it.

Here’s what I like best thing about the story. 

After swallowing the raft, the whirlpool heaves it back up again, and Odysseus hops back on and paddles safely homeward.

That’s about the best example of “getting your life back to where it belongs” I can imagine.