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I started in this business back in 1978 in Wyoming. My “area” was south central Wyoming, home to maybe 40,000 people and 200,000 antelope. I was licensed in Wyoming to do business for Mutual of Omaha and United of Omaha.

I don’t really look back at that as the good old days even though I made a pretty good living and met a lot of nice people. It wasn’t abnormal for there to be a 2 hour drive between clients. I worked hard for every client and made service the foundation of my business. The last thing I wanted after driving all over creation to find a rancher who needed life insurance was to lose that customer to someone who was willing to pay more attention to him than I was.

I stayed in touch. I lost two of my clients in spite of the great service I provided. It wasn’t because I didn’t take care of them. It wasn’t because they didn’t didn’t stay in touch via phone or mail or in person if I happened to be driving past their ranch. I lost those two clients because they moved to Colorado and Mutual of Omaha wouldn’t allow me to be licensed in two states. They became “orphan policyholders” in the eyes of the company and were assigned a new agent who was properly licensed.

Back then I couldn’t even begin to fathom the idea of being licensed in all 50 states and even DC. Being an independent agent was the door that opened and made it possible to not only have clients all over the country, but also be able to service their needs if they moved. There were now no holes in my ability to service and help not just my customers, but their friends, family and business partners. Providing life insurance for business partners in two or more states wasn’t an issue. Helping a parent in Colorado get life insurance for their child in Florida is no big deal. If someone in Kentucky reads a blog post about how I helped someone get insurance when they had bipolar disorder, they don’t have to worry about if I can help them also. There are very few “nation wide” agents who keep current licenses in New York, Alaska and Hawaii because of the cost in the last two and the laws in New York. Many agents drop states that are in inconvenient time zones. It’s hard to catch someone in the evening on the West coast when you live on the East Coast. That’s called bedtime at my house.

I have to admit there is occasionally a temptation to drop a state or two around renewal time. Keeping licenses current in every state is an administrative challenge and no small ticket item. I’ve had states where I haven’t written any new business in a few years and when a $400 renewal notice comes, well, I just have to remember those two clients in Wyoming and how it felt to lose them. I know it probably sounds corny, but service is still the foundation of my business even though I now have clients that I will never meet face to face. They know and their family knows that I am here for them. I have continued to renew all 51 of them for the past 13 years.

Bottom line. You deserve and should ask for nothing less than an agent that is independent and not tied to just one company, and an agent that can service you no matter where you might move. So pick a state and ask your life insurance agent how they would continue to serve you if you moved there. It’s a fair question. In today’s economy are we really sure where we’ll be 5 years from now.