Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Why Compare?

You've been with the same agent for a long time. There's never been a problem. No accidents. No big question about service, because nothing has happened. So why check out anything else on the market? Why spend the time (your valuable time) when everything is in place and seems to be operating just fine.

Here's why. Most people never question anything about their insurance until something happens and they end up paying much more out-of-pocket than they ever expected. Or, they have to reach somebody by phone and all they can get is a toll-free number and maybe a voice on the other end of the phone in some far off place. That person sends you to another, then another.

When you do business with a local agent, someone you know personally, someone you may get to know well in fact, you create a safe place for yourself and your family to rely on in really bad times. That's why we buy insurance anyway, right? It's not because we think something is going to happen, it's because it invariably does happen, and not at the right time in our lives.

Sometimes it is hard for an agent to talk you up to a level of insurance they know is right for you, but if they truly care about you, they will. They will insist that you consider some higher levels of coverage because they know you have more to protect than a car, or a home, or any number of other things. Insurance protects you and the lives around you if the really bad thing happens. And those bad things do happen all the time. Just watch the news or read the papers. Every day someone who really needs insurance maybe doesn't have it, or they don't have it quite right.

You have an income and income potential that others can go after in a lawsuit. You have accounts, and assets, and all sorts of things that the other attorney will want. Pain and suffering, hospital bills, well -- you name it, they want you to take care of it after someone is injured.

The other primary reason you may want to check out another company is one that you may have already considered -- price. How does your current company stack up against the others? Are you paying for things you don't need? A good agent does the work for you and shows you points that are weak in another policy, things that may be covered in a different policy, in a different company. How much time do you spend shopping for a vacation? For a new sofa, or a new TV? Probably as much or more than your insurance, but you're bound to spend more money on your insurance than any of these things. And for good reason. Good insurance isn't cheap. It takes care of you and your family. Good insurance means you have a personal agent you can talk with face-to-face to resolve issues when the going is tough.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Graham Insurance 2 Tickets Giveaways

Graham Insurance is offering two tickets to see a play, an opera, a concert, or a game to two lucky fans. Just stop by a restaurant on our list below, have a soup or sandwich, and drop a business card in the fishbowl. You stand a chance to win if you meet certain criteria posted at the restaurant counter.

We just finished our fishbowl giveaway for two tickets to see Sacramento Opera's Pagliaci at Sampino's Italian Towne Foods Cafe at 16th and F streets in Sacramento. Dena, the tickets winner, also stands to benefit from Graham Insurance's discounts for occupation or education, as well as other discounts if she chooses to go with her insurance quote from Graham Insurance.

Our next restaurant for the Graham Insurance Agency Two Tickets Giveaway, is:

Shine Cafe, at 14th and E Street. This place has a relaxed atmosphere, inexpensive eats, often with live entertainment, and interesting art on the walls. Stop by and drop your business card in the fishbowl for a chance to win two tickets to see "Watching Wynter" -- a B Street Mainstage performance by Buck Busfield. Contest ends December 20.

Menu, Entertainment, Schedule, etc. -- http://shinesacramento.com/

You must be eligble to be quoted for insurance in the state of California, and age 18 or over, to win. Must have been a customer of the restaurant on the day of entry into contest. Winner must be reachable within 36 hours of the close of contest or another winner will be selected, each subsequent selection will be given a few hours to respond, and no more than 4 additional selections will be made. Correct phone number and address for each entry must be on the business card. Cannot be an employee, nor a spouse or domestic partner, nor a child living at home, of any employee of  Zurich, nor the Farmers Insurance Group of companies or its affiliates, agents, producers, or agency employees, nor a current customer of Farmers or it's related companies. One entry per customer.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Cash Accumulation Has Value and Purpose

by Frank Graham, Owner of Graham Insurance Agency

Most people outlive shorter term policies. That's why it is so cheap! It might be in your best interest to have both coverages - a term and a whole life policy. Whole life or universal whole life (a form of whole life) almost always pays out with a death benefit as long as the customer continues to pay the premium. Cash value is part of that whole policy (which does not exist in a term policy), but it is sometimes sold by inexperienced agents as a retirement benefit. That's not often the best purpose of a whole life policy, nor of the cash accumulation.

What other product do you know that will pay your family $50K - $500K the day after you bought it if you die? Nothing. That's right. Nothing. No other product has this benefit. This is the primary purpose and optimum benefit. However, if you want to help fund your retirement, your payments into this plan provide cash too. If you have unexpected expenses you need to take care of, it is there. Or, in addition, or instead, an opportunity pops up that you want to take advantage of - it is there again. It may be used for a plethora of reasons - from college funds, to expanding your home. What other product offers you funds to borrow at low interest that you technically never have to pay back anyway? Nothing. That's right. Nothing.

Life insurance that has cash value may not outperform a high performing stock. It just isn't the role it plays in your investment portfolio. First and foremost, this is an insurance product. But if you want to accumulate some cash and maybe even see it grow, there's less risk involved in this product than many others, and tax treatment is favorable.

The flexibility of universal life policies makes this specialized product an even more attractive way to protect your family from suffering, loss of income, payment of debt, final expenses, and major expenses such as college if a family member should pass away early and unexpectedly. Maximize your contributions in good years to take full advantage -- or cut back on your premium, if you wish, in tougher years.

Life insurance is a valuable part of a thinking person's portfolio. Only with Farmers will you be certain to get a quality product -- with discounts on other lines of coverage -- that help make complete protection against any financial stress a reality.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Flood and Earthquake -- Northern California's Biggest Claims

by Frank Graham, Owner of Graham Insurance Agency

As a wise old agent once said, "You know what a no-brainer is, right?...It's when you don't have to use your brain to figure it out, you just do it." You do it because you're in an area that is at higher risk for flood or earthquake. Are you surprised to know that your homeowners coverage does not cover you for these specific perils? Well, that's the case. Unfortunately, these two perils present such high risk for disaster that nobody covers them, unless you specifically have the coverage purchased separately from (but quite possibly alongside) your homeowners or commercial insurance coverage. Call an experienced or well trained agent to find out if you are in a higher risk area. And don't think about it, just get it covered. Your lender may require it anyway, but protecting one of your most valuable assets is a necessity in today's world.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Don't Do your Insurance Business at the Bank

by Frank Graham, Owner of Graham Insurance Agency

It may seem common sense to some, but self insuring is a risky proposition. Let's say you decide to go with the minimum legal auto insurance coverage of 15/30/5 in California (and similar low requirements in many states). Those are the minimums and refer to what and how much will be covered for liability, bodily injury and property damage. These limits are far too low to cover many accidents.

The "5" in 15/30/5, refers to the amount of property damage coverage you have for vehicles or items you are responsible for repairing, should you be liable for an accident -- this amount is $5,000. How many $30,000 cars are on the road? Well....many! This means, of couse, that if you cause the accident that causes more than $5,000, you are responsible for paying the difference. Effectively, that's like having another deductible to pay - one that is perhaps three times your coverage!

Unless you have that money in your bank account, the courts may decide to go after other assets if you aren't liquid enough to satisfy the judgement that will come your way. The other part of the state required amount of coverage, the 15/30 part, refers to bodily injury -- $15,000 per person, $30,000 per accident. Long story short, if you put someone in the hospital, with emergency room visits, xrays, scans (not to mention setting a break, or physical therapy), can easily drive the cost for one injured person over $150,000, if not $300,000. Average settlements for injury cases are in the hundreds of thousands of dollars today, not tens of thousands like decades ago.

Would it be a simple thing for you to come up with the difference on an injury claim? If taken to court, a trial and attorney costs can eat into your life savings and then some. In a serious accident the attorneys on the other side are going to investigate how many and what kind of assets you have and pursue that amount. If you have $500,000 to your name, that's what they want. If you have more, they'll be going after more.

Depending on the insurer you go with, substantial increases in liability can be increased with relatively low  increase in your premium. It's like buying a decent refrigerator. A good one will take care of you for a long time. Get a bad policy or one that minimally covers your assets (not just your car) and you'll be paying for more than the food that's going to spoil in the fridge.

Don't you want a policy that's going to serve you well and pay when it's really important that it does so? It's a good way to go. The best way, frankly. It's only then that you can drive with the ease of knowing you are covered for almost anything, anytime, and have no worries. And the best thing? It costs you next to nothing to do it right.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Why Life?

Life insurance is one of the most necessary, and yet, can be one of the most confusing, of coverages. It is available for several reasons. The primary purposes of a good life policy are to see that those who depend on you in some way can go on in a similar fashion after your death.

Life may be purchased by a person who has an "insurable interest" in you. If they could suffer from your death, they may insure you -- this goes for companies and family members, but generally for oneself with the beneficiary being a loved one.

These policies can provide an immediate estate if a large enough death benefit is selected. The death benefit passes on financial stability to survivors. Burial expenses are the most basic of purposes. But payment of debt, including a mortgage, or payments on other debt. Other features that may attract a family are favorable tax treatment, and even preparation for college expenses if a family provider passes on. The cash that is accumulated can help one in times of difficulty, providing a low interest, or no interest (in some cases) loan to oneself that may never need to be paid back. The funds will simply be reduced from the death benefit if necessary.

There are several forms of life policy. Whole life and term life are simple. Whole life insures you for exactly that, your whole life. You can drop premium payments at any point, but you will lose the death benefit. Cash accrual is possible, even likely, with a whole life policy and you may have access to that cash as you get older, or when it is necessary. It can take some time for any cash to accrue, but once it does, it is a plus to the policy holder. "Riders" - or little side policies -  may be added to this type of  policy for specific purposes, such as insuring yourself against untoward events that cause financial stress, but do not result in death, or covering a juvenile.

The most common way to describe term insurance is that it is like renting instead of buying a home. For a specific period of time you will have insurance on your life, a death benefit of perhaps $100,000 - $250,000, in case you or a loved one lost their life. Term policies are very inexpensive, especially if you are young and in good health.

In any life policy there is the issue of incontestability. After two years (this may vary according to your jurisdiction) life policies are virtually incontestable. They may be contested (or revoked) perhaps under certain conditions, but generally the death benefit is payable to you upon death. Within two years of purchasing the policy, things like preexisting conditions that were not disclosed at the time of application can be reason to deny the claim or limit it.

There are two more policies that get more tricky. One is a universal life policy and the other is variable life. Paranthetically, the agent you purchase a variable policy from must pass special registered representative licensing for selling variable life, because it is indexed to the markets.

Universal life, however, is a very flexible plan that, depending on the policy, allows you to adjust premium, death benefit, and/or cash accumulation. Universal life may be like moving from a one gear bike to a ten speed. The various speeds give one the ability to climb those hills when times are difficult and maximize the benefits of an insurance policy when times are easy.

You may be perfectly content with a "one speed" plan, but the options or gears of this plan make it very attractive to many people. These plans were developed in the 1980's when the idea developed to get term and invest in perm. So, as it goes, one can make minimal payments in times of difficulty to simply fund the death benefit. There's a target premium that is disclosed to the insured at the time the policy is written that will keep the policy running for the future. And there are also maximums that may be paid to the policy to reap the full benefit, if the insured so chooses.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Referral: The Name of the Game

by Frank Graham, Owner of Graham Insurance Agency

You need referrals to make your business grow. Any business depends on it. Most likely you will need more than one source of referral, because one person or entity can't provide all the business you need. Gaining one referrer is like making a sale, but this sale can mean so much more to you and your business. You have to cast a wide net, sometimes more than once, to get a pool of interested parties. Once you've got their interest, you must finalize that sale to count on them - again, and again, and again.

Truth be known, the best referral source is the one you never have to ask, but those are few and far in between. While close friends and people who have been very happy with the way you do business are your best workers, you need to expand your search for more than one pot of gold beyond the immediate rainbow. You see, there are many rainbows in the future and many pots of gold!

You will want to recall that even those closest to you, and those others who want you to succeed along the way, must be coached on how to help you. Some may even need to be coaxed into it, but not as many as you would think! Ask for their referral - tell them, "My business depends on people like you who have benefitted from what I do and tell other people about it."

The referrer can use their own words for the referral. After all, they know their friends and neighbors and people they do business with far better than you. They also know how those people think and and how they speak. So don't over inform the person you think might actually help deliver your message, but do let them know you count on them and appreciate them passing along the word about what you do and how well you do it.

Always reward your source. You may think that they do it for nothing, but everyone helping your business deserves some recognition. Find out a few things about the people who seem most comfortable with referring your business and reward suitingly. If they garden, maybe a little shoveling of manure is the trick. Ok, maybe that's going to far, but know what they like and make a small gift, a token of your appreciation.

Don't stop gifting your referrers. I had a dog who I trained to bring the paper to the front door. He was a puppy named Gatsby. This small dalmation, after about a week of helping him pick up the paper each morning, would proudly pounce up the long drive to the house, paper locked in his jaws, and drop it religiously each day at the front steps. But it didn't come without reward at first. He wanted his treat each day for a couple of weeks. After that he delivered the paper each day, on Sundays the paper was bigger than he, so he would literally drag it the quarter mile, the front page in shreds, but we got the paper, on cold days, without much effort. Gatsby kept delivering the paper, day after day, week after week. But one day, then one week, then one month, the paper disappeared completely. Our family went bezerk. You see we are curious about the world - and curious about what happens to our paper when it is missing. So we accused the paperboy of not delivering. We accused the neighbor's kid (at least among ourselves). Well, not to get too off the lesson here, one day I went out to clean Gat's pen. He had a stack of 30 papers in the back of his doghouse, piled neatly like logs.

Rewards don't need to be excessive, nor every single occasion, forever. But they do need to be meaningful, regular, and permanent. By this I mean to say, you should keep giving - and never forget the true value represented in what is otherwise work offered to you for free.
Even if they aren't a client, you can take the referrer (or potential referrer) to lunch. This is the best opportunity to sell them on the idea and coach them on how to do it. Always recognize birthdays, holidays, send cards of thanks to people you come into contact with. The internet makes it simpler, but tangible recognition of who they are and their value to you is to your benefit. B

By all means refer back to the referrer and the people around them. Drop cookies for the office to share. Recognize the administrative assistant(s) and others working for the "boss" referrer. The people around your clients and primary referreral sources have far more power than often estimated.

Some businesses may be more dependant on the process of referral than others, but all need a good word for them now and then. That's the nature of referral. It's a good word that sends a client or prospect your way.

Don't just go for the business the referrer is sending you - the referrer should also be a client. Your treatment of any client will make you. Word travels fast about what that person thinks of you. And the people you don't close the sale with also have something to do with whether you prosper or not. You can't go making people angry with poor service during the sale, not listening, pretending to care. You have to care about every person who seems interested.

I once told a sales manager, "I've learned that the primary motivator for a person to do business with us is that we make them think we care about them." The manager, who had far more experience and, more importantly, understanding, said to me, "No. They have to know you care about them for them to listen." People don't think that you care about them if you really do - they know it. There's no fooling anybody and what are we in this for anyway? This has been my biggest lesson in sales. I know that I must genuinely care about my clients. If you care about your clients, you will have an endless source of referral. Word gets around.