Alas! Choosing which insurance agent to place your trust, faith, and financial future in, one of the most common questions asked. Lets unravel the mysteries of agent choosing and perhaps it may even be easier than choosing a spouse (no kidding)
Just how do most of us choose an agent anyway? We are not going to conduct any long term studies, but we have sure money on one of the following options:
A) He/She is my friend lor, just support
B) He/She is my relative lor, just support
C) He/She is my friend of my relative lor, just support
D) He/She is the relative of my friend lor, … ok you get the picture.
An agent is supposed to be someone you can trust, someone who is expected to act in the best of your interests to advise you financially, which products are suitable at a particular point in your life and such. Most of the time we (as financial laymen) take the easy option (if we do take that option at all) to just allow someone we know and trust to be our agent. Hey, we know that person, he or she is bound to act in my best interest right?
Not so fast, Sherlock. Here is a detailed guide on what to look out for when choosing an agent.
Someone who has sufficient knowledge and knows his stuff
Insurance buying is definitely not a straight forward task, which is why many shy away from it all together. (Feeling a distinct lack of knowledge is not one of my favorite emotions either). Choose an agent that can explain to you, in simple terms, what is the difference between say a Term Insurance vs a Whole Life Insurance. Who can explain to you what is a Waiting Period is, and how it affects you. Who can explain to you what is the difference between paying premiums monthly vs yearly, and how claims are calculated when push comes to shove.
To be sure, to get a feel of an agent to see if he knows his stuff, arm yourself with the basics first. Our Learn section is an excellent resource to get up to speed, and fast.
Someone who you can hold fully accountable
Here is an important point, not often considered. An agent that you choose to purchase from is in many ways, like an employee. Are you comfortable in making your employee accountable for his mistakes? Are you capable of firing that employee? You need to be able to have a tough conversation with the agent that you choose, because this is necessary to protect your self interests.
Agents who are friends/family might not actually stand up to this scrutiny, and you might end up sacrificing your self interest for the sake of the relationship (or vice versa)
Someone who is trustworthy
One of the biggest problems that the industry faces is that agents are remunerated based on sale of policies (ie the more you buy, the richer they become). So of course there is an inherent interest for agents to “encourage” you to buy as much insurance as you can. Here is where a trust worthy agent is worth his weight in gold.
A trustworthy agent is someone that explains properly why you need this and not that, and why you need some of this and some of that, not “ALL of THIS and ALL of THAT”. You can tell if an agent is (generally) trustworthy if they recommend a suite a products instead of one or two singular products alone. But it can be hard to tell, so your best bet is to arm yourself with knowledge first (its really not that hard) before you go agent hunting.
Here are some other nuggets when it comes to choosing an agent:
Don’t be afraid to choose more than one agent – this is called diversification, and it is a smart move. Even within the same insurance company, it is ok to have more than one agent.
Actively meetup with agents to access their ability. This industry has a moderate barrier to entry when it comes to becoming an agent (not everyone is a paragon of virtue or capability), so take your time to shop around. You will benefit, for sure.
Track record and length of service can be important – or not. There are pros and cons for choosing agents that have been around for a while. They are usually more knowledgeable, can serve your needs better, but you may just be one of their hundreds of clients – and hardly get any service from them when you need it. In contrast, giving a newer agent your trust may earn you his gratitude – it really depends.
And finally, don’t be disheartened when your agent leaves or is changed (that is beyond your control). Most companies will assign another agent to take care of your policy. Knowledge is your best bet here, and it is really not that hard to service your own policy.
Do you have any stories or tips to share when it comes to choosing an agent? Share in the comments below!
www.ClearlySurely.com aims to eradicate the knowledge gap between consumers and Life Insurance. Our Vision is that one day, every Man, Woman, and Child will be properly insured.