There must be a couple of million people in the US licensed to sell life insurance. If you take in the giant internet mega agencies, all of the independent agents, and all of the captive agents (work for just one company), the possibilities for purchasing life insurance become staggering.

Put in context, there are probably as many, if not more doctors. Does that mean that no matter what is wrong with you, there are 2 million choices for a place to go for treatment? I’m thinking not. If you have a cold, a cardiologist is likely not going to see you, and if you’ve had a heart attack, it’s highly unlikely that your general practitioner won’t refer you to a specialist. There are those unfortunate times when GP’s think they know the answer to everything and attempt to treat serious illness in house, but those are rare.

Life insurance is one of those areas where the millions of choices doesn’t mean you have millions of appropriate choices. For the average very healthy person under 50 probably any independent agent or agency can do a good job of finding a low rate with a good company. As I’ve mentioned before, young healthy buyer beware though. Even though the mega agencies on the internet can find competitive rates, they have a bad habit of signing lucrative bonus contracts to push the bulk of their business toward a certain company. The good news is that the company is generally competitive. The bad news is that, as I’ve noted in so many previous posts, competitive doesn’t mean best. An independent agent doesn’t do the volume and therefore we are never offered these type of contracts. Speaking for myself, I place every case with the best possible price and product for my client. Seems like the right thing to do.

One other note on our perfect health client. Stay away from your auto and homeowner’s agents. You will be outrageously overcharged for life insurance because it isn’t what they do. Sure, they have a product and they are licensed, but having a license doesn’t mean you know what you’re doing and having a product doesn’t mean the price isn’t way too high.

But I want to make a very important distinction. Just like the doctor scenario, if you have some medical issue, a knowledgeable independent agent is where you want to go. We are the specialists in the life insurance business. Just a quick list of what I am talking about will help separate the GP’s from the specialists. If you have diabetes, Hepatitis C, heart disease, a history of cancer, a seizure disorder, mood disorders such as depression, anxiety or bipolar, and on and on. These are issues that it is hard for the average agent to provide good service on. These are issues that will get automatically declined with most property casualty companies (auto, homeowners).

How do you know you’ve called the right person or stepped in the right door? All insurance agents make money from the culmination of a sale, the placing of a policy in force. They all want your business and the truth is that most of them are struggling. There is a real tendency in the business for agents to take on business that they have no idea what to do with, just in hopes that it works out. It usually doesn’t. You know you’ve found the right agent if they show a knowledge of your particular issue by the questions they ask. If they don’t ask questions they don’t have the information it takes for them to come through for you. If they don’t seem to know, for instance, the difference between type 1 diabetes and type 2 diabetes, they don’t have any business working for you.

Bottom line. Before you commit to applying through an agent, be confident that they know what they’re doing. In my next post I will reveal the secret weapon for weeding out the BSer’s from the straight shooters. It works every time, guaranteed.