by Jack Waymire
It used to be 70% of all financial planners were insurance agents who call themselves planners to facilitate the sale of life insurance and annuity products. The percentage is lower now, but the risk to the American public has stayed the same.
Deception (Part I)
Most consumers have a natural aversion to insurance agents. The industry created the aversion with its low standards for agents, its aggressive sales tactics, and shoddy business practices. The result, most consumers held insurance agents in very low regard which creates a lot of sales resistance.
The solution for thousands of agents was camouflaging their real roles by changing their titles. Agents began telling consumers they were financial planners because there is an almost universal need for financial planning services. The strategy worked. These “planners” sold more insurance products with less sales resistance.
Deception (Part II)
Agents who call themselves financial planners are only half of the deception. The other half is the financial plans they provide to unsuspecting consumers. They use “special” planning software that is designed to recommend large amounts of life, annuity, long-term care, health, and disability insurance products. Now the agents have easy access and their plans do the selling for them – very few investors question plan recommendations.
Is Deception Legal?
Yes it is. We live in a “buyer beware” world. There are no regulations that stop agents from calling themselves financial planners. There are no mandatory disclosure requirements. And, there are no regulations that require the use of legitimate planning software that puts your interests first. It is up to you to ask the right questions and know good answers from bad ones. Or, said differently, it is your responsibility to know enough to protect your own interests. But, this is a lot tougher than it sounds when you are up against professionals who use slick sales pitches to convince you they are experts who put your interests first.
How to Identify Insurance Agents
Ask the insurance agents what their licenses permit them to sell and how they are compensated. You are talking to an agent if their only licenses are life and annuity and they are limited to selling insurance products. You are talking to an agent if their only method of compensation is commission from the sale of insurance products.
Real planners are Registered Investment Advisors or Investment Advisor Representatives who work for hourly, fixed, or asset based fees. Their financial plans recommend a combination of investment and insurance products. They focus on what is best for you. They may or may not be compensated when you buy products that are recommended by their financial plans.
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