“I’m Brian Fellows!”

I don’t know about you but I am geeking out a little over the return of Tracy Morgan to Saturday Night Live tomorrow. A super fan of SNL and 30 Rock, Tracy has made me laugh hysterically more times than I could ever count.

My happiness isn’t only about seeing an incredible comedy actor star on a favorite show but more so, alongside many of his fans, we’ve missed him and we’re relieved that he is once again capable of doing what he loves and comes so naturally to him…making us laugh.

If you hadn’t heard about it, Tracy was in a fatal 6 car crash back in June of 2014. After an 8 day coma he awakened to a broken femur, leg, nose, ribs, and a traumatic brain injury (TBI).

Up until his recent appearance at the Emmys and one reported standup performance, Saturday’s SNL hosting gig will be Tracy’s first time back at it after having to put his life and career on hold in order to heal for the last 16 months.

If you missed him on the Emmy’s you can guess it was emotional. He cried, I cried, the audience applauded and gave a standing ovation and in true Tracy form, he made us laugh when he said that after he regained consciousness after the accident, “I was just ecstatic to learn that I wasn’t the one who messed up.”

Now because I’ve grown up in the insurance industry I can’t help but think about how disability insurance plays into this. I know that most people (including myself) believe that “something like this would never happen to me.” But let’s face it, it can happen to anyone. Car accidents happen every day and we could only hope for the full recovery that Tracy is beginning to experience.

So what happens in this situation if we aren’t able to perform our job for 16 months (or more or even less)? How do we pay for our homes, utilities, groceries, and other monthly expenses (while also potentially shelling out money for medical expenses)? If we have a spouse or family, how do also continue to provide for them? How do we keep from depleting our savings? And most importantly (I have said it before and I will say it a million more times), how do we heal when we’re stressed and anxious about money?

Disability insurance policies are there to provide you with a portion of your income if you can’t work due to injury or illness. If income protection is something you’ve never thought to look into, it’s worth the time. We can only control so much in this life and it’s important to have things in place to protect what’s most valuable to us; our families, our future, and our ability to earn an income.

I hope you will join me in celebrating Tracy’s recovery and return to the comedy world; welcome back Brian Fellows!

Melody I. Herman

Insurance Specialties, Inc., Pine Street Insurance
Broker specializing in Disability Insurance, Holistic Agent, Lover of Comedy
melodyherman@insurance-specialties.com
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The Talk of The Town

Have you heard about the integral role Voluntary Benefits will be playing in the future of employee benefits???  If you are a group producer, we are certain you have!

For some companies, many of these benefits will be offered in lieu of the employer paying due to cost of providing health benefits to employees.  For others, it is a mechanism to enhance the value of being an employee of that business.

So what is being offered in today’s Voluntary (or Buy-Up) marketplace? It’s not just your group life, short or long-term disability, accident insurance, vision, or dental.  Today, the offerings go on to such plans as whole life, universal life, critical illness, legal shield and/or identity theft, concierge services, pet insurance, homeowners, and the like!  There appears to be no limit to what is being offered depending on the industry and company location.

Other changes to consider are the manner in which these benefits are offered.  We still have the traditional face-to-face group meetings followed by the one-on-one.  However, if there is a large group, that process is far too cumbersome and time consuming; that said, some insurers are offering to do this for you with no loss of compensation.

As a rule, if the case is large enough, you will want to offer a specialty web portal for the company that includes training pieces to help the employee (and their family) make the proper voluntary benefit selection.  At the very least, you will want online or telephonic enrollment.  The latter’s’ benefit is that there is a person that can help the employee to better understand what they have available.

Taking this to the next level are carriers that provide these benefits not on a group chassis but on an individual (and portable) platform.  Do not get lost in the analysis and try not to over complicate the process.  Even if you have an enrollment company assist you, it is better to let a group of professional enrollers take on the case then to sit and learn on the job.  The overall enrollment will increase and your client will be far happier with the results.

From the less expensive group basis to the individual platform, we can help you and your clients make the best-informed decision.  Please let us know how we can together, help your clients tailor and enhance their benefit offerings.

It is our advanced knowledge and understanding that drives us forward.  Let us share our expertise with you!

From My Perspective

May is considered Disability Insurance Awareness Month, but every month should be.

If you told me a year ago I’d fall in love with Disability Insurance I most likely would have laughed and rolled my eyes. Weirder things have happened but I’ve been struck by cupid’s arrow! Why am I so passionate about Income Protection? Thankfully I have never suffered from an injury or illness that kept me out of work; however, I have lived for a lengthy period of time without an income stream.  I can attest to the stress and anxiety that can accompany the inability to pay your bills and basic life expenses.  In addition, I have watched friends and families close to me struggle both emotionally and financially when either they,  a parent, or spouse had breast cancer, a stroke, a heart attack, became paralyzed from spinal nerve damage,  tore a rotator cuff, or endured a knee replacement to name a few. These disabilities and illnesses, all of them out of the blue, either temporarily or permanently took away the ability to earn an income.  Some suffered a tremendous financial loss without an income protection plan in place and some were able to focus solely on healing as they had a disability insurance policy.

Who is to say if I ever would have landed in the insurance business had it not been for growing up in it and joining forces in my family’s business, but here I am, destined to share knowledge and help others.   As we all know, insurance is all about protecting the “what-ifs.” We insure our cars, homes, and phones, but why not our life, income, and health?  The disconnect is evident and I am here to say, even as an industry professional and someone who believes in insurance, I totally get where the “non-believers” are coming from .

Personally, I embody the attitude of looking on the bright side and like most other Millennials and Gen-Xers, no matter what I have seen or heard about, I live with an attitude of, “that will never happen to me.” I take very good care of my mind, body, soul, and spirit; I eat nutritious and unprocessed foods, I do yoga, meditate, steer clear of drama, focus on what’s real, and regularly “check in” with myself.  I rarely get sick and to take it a step further I usually go for the homeopathic and spiritual remedy before taking medications or consulting a medical professional.   At the same time I cannot disregard the fact that really random and unexpected things happen in this world!   The more stories I hear from friends, strangers, clients, other industry professionals, and my parents (aka my business partners who have been both specializing in disability insurance for over 30 years), and the more in depth I get in on this topic, the more I have wondered, “if given the opportunity to protect your income in the event something happens to you, why wouldn’t you??”

There are so many facts, figures, numbers, and statistics that ultimately make the argument for income protection a no brainer, and while I feel it is important to share them all with you, I would rather throw out the what I consider to be the essentials (throw with love, of course):

  • A disability is an illness or injury that keeps you out of work for an extended period of time
  • Some of the most common causes for disability claims that you may be unaware of are cancer, stroke, pregnancy, depression, anxiety, heart attack, diabetes, back pain, arthritis, joint & musculoskelatal disorders, lyme disease, broken bones, and autoimmune disease
  • Disability Insurance replaces part of your salary if you’re unable to work due to the illness or injury
  • Worker’s comp does not cover illnesses or injuries unless they are caused on the job
    • 95% of disabling injuries and illnesses are not work related
  • Social security will only cover you if you are totally disabled and unable to perform any job
    • Before you can even file a claim you must have been totally disabled for at least 5 months
    • 65% of SSDI claims are denied
    • It could take up to 2 years to receive a benefit
    • The average benefit paid is around $1,000 per month (would that cover your expenses?)
  • If you are fortunate enough to have disability coverage from your employer you absolutely must review what you have with a licensed disability insurance specialist!
    • You may not have the coverage you think you have
    • If your employer pays for your coverage, you will be taxed on the benefit you receive (you already will receive only a percentage of your paycheck, usually 60%, if you then subtract taxes you may need additional coverage to cover the gap)
    • Depending on the stage of your career, unless you plan on staying at your company until retirement, you CANNOT take your disability insurance with you if you leave
    • After a financial review, any great agent will be more than pleased if they find you have all the coverage you need
    • If your employer doesn’t offer disability benefits, I would be happy to discuss various options with them
  • If you were smart enough to put an income protection plan in place at the beginning of your career, chances are your income has increased just as your financial responsibilities have. You may need more coverage, but as I mentioned above, any great agent will be excited to review your policy and find you are truly taken care of!
  • If you are at the beginning stages of your career (or have begun a new career), chances are you are not yet earning the income you expect in the future…plans can be customized with options as your income grows and needs change (without having to prove future medical insurability)
  • If you are in a profession where you have invested a great deal of time and money such as law or medicine, wouldn’t want to protect that investment?
  • The younger and healthier you are, the lower the cost of disability insurance (same goes for life insurance)
  • If you own a business you are responsible for more than just yourself!
  • If you have a family you are responsible for more than just yourself!
  • If you live with a significant other and share expenses you are responsible for more than just yourself!
  • If you are single, you ARE responsible for yourself!
  • You might want it, but not everyone can get disability insurance!!
    • Not only do you need the income and income stability, you also have to be in fairly good health (keep in mind if you do have an unfavorable medical history, we have expertise with hard to place cases).
    • Make sure you work with a broker that understands the underwriting requirements with different companies.

If we think we have control over our lives we are fooling ourselves! While there are actions we can take to minimize the risk of needing any insurance, doesn’t it make sense to protect that which we cannot predict?

We are here to help and answer questions. We have the knowledge and ability to tailor plans to your needs, desires, and financial capabilities. We work with many of the strongest insurance companies in the industry, and as a brokerage agency we only recommend carriers with the best plans for your occupation, health, and goals.  We are licensed in numerous states and can assist you no matter where you live.

While I will not negate the fact that I know my stuff, it is comforting to know that I have access to individuals with a deep understanding that can only come with decades of practice.