Thriving in the New Normal: Lessons from the MDRT Podcast
Does 2020 remind anyone else of the beginning of A Tale of Two Cities? Here’s that famous opener: “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times…”

We’ve all lived through a similar paradox in the past few months. The way we do business has changed, and that’s put some of our peers at a disadvantage. But it’s also been a time of great opportunity for those who can adapt and roll with those changes.

We hope you’ve found your stride by now. As we start to think about what happens next, it’s time to turn to the MDRT Podcast to see how forward-thinking agents are coping with the present and preparing for the future. All the quotes below come from these episodes:

Here are some highlights, anecdotes, and tips we think you’ll find helpful.

Personal Growth & Reflection

  • David Appel, ChFC, CLU: This is a time where people do need to reflect on their personal lives. They do need to reflect on their financial lives. They do need to figure out what’s going on and clean up things that might be missing. Think about what they have or what they didn’t have going into this situation. No different than my 2008 speech in Anaheim from the main platform, when I said you need to have your own financial house in order. When I got diagnosed with cancer at age 35, and I had all my insurance in place, I didn’t have to worry about it. I knew my family was going to be okay. But if you don’t have that stuff structured and in place, it sometimes can be too late. This is an opportunity for all of us to kind of hit the rewind button, figure out where we’re all at, and where we want to be going forward when we come out of this thing.

  • Anant Jain, AFP, CFP (India): I’m very bad at book reading, trust me. So I started to make it a habit to daily read a chapter from Mr. Rizal Naidu, a very good friend and motivator. He has a book called Power Closing, an amazing book. What I do is I start a chapter from his book and I make a video. I’ve started sharing that with my group of fellow advisors in our study group. That has kept me motivated to read the book for the last 12 days so far. I started reading to upgrade myself...Self-training is important. I listen to a lot of motivational speakers’ videos. In my spare time, I’m on Zoom trainings and doing a couple of online courses from Google. Some of them are for certification, some of them are just for your own learning. Everyone should learn. If you are not coming out of this lockdown on version 2.0 of yourself, trust me - you’re not lacking time, you’re lacking discipline.
This is an opportunity for all of us to kind of hit the rewind button, figure out where we’re all at, and where we want to be going forward when we come out of this thing.

Client Communication

  • Miliana, CFP (Indonesia): We have to focus on long-term relationships with our clients. On one side, the economy is down. On the other, I believe that people are aware about protection. People are aware that life is so fragile…What I do with my clients is I try to talk to them about the importance of having protection. If they don’t have the buying power at this moment, I can also encourage them, “Why don’t you start with half of it or a quarter of it? If you can’t afford to pay yearly, why don’t you pay monthly? At least now you have more protection. Because you never know what will happen. Maybe now you are healthy and no problems diagnosed. But this COVID is still around. Maybe in one month or two months later when you need it, you have it.”

  • Right now, the market is on sale. We don’t want to say the market is down, so we say the market is on sale. We also have to reiterate the importance of having life insurance.
  • Sherry Ong (Philippines): For quite some time, we’ve been more on the investment side of it. But right now the market is on sale – we don’t want to say the market is down, so we say the market is on sale – so we also have to reiterate the importance of having life insurance. It’s more for protection, for critical illness, for health care...We have to be responsive and responsible to our clients, especially those who have been affected by COVID. We have to identify which areas or which occupations are most affected by it, and we have to be sensitive about it. For example, I have clients and prospects in the tourism industry who are greatly affected with cancellations of flights, hotels, and resorts. We have to be sensitive in approaching them in doing the policy review and telling them what they need...right now, all they want to do is get hold of cash because they don’t know when this will end. And they don’t want to think about the future just yet because they want to be ready for what’s going to happen now, tomorrow. For those flight attendants that I know or friends in that industry, I tell them to invite their friends to be part of our profession. Because right now, they aren’t flying. So maybe they can help us, they can join us in our advocacy.

  • David Appel, ChFC, CLU: People are hearing and facing mortality issues right now like we’ve never seen before, especially with how publicized it is. They’re getting the stats of how many people die every day...in the middle of all this, Sunday morning, one of my clients died, who I had both personal and key person insurance on. One of the largest PR men in Boston, biggest firm – was all over Google, all over the paper. He had 60 some-odd employees. My key person insurance that I sold him is going to sustain them for a period of time...and all I was thinking was, “Wow, if I didn’t do that or I didn’t convince him to do that at that point, not only would these people be struggling right now with this virus and not really working, but the company would probably be going out of business upon his death." He was 59 years old. But there’s a $5 million key person life insurance policy that’s going straight to the company coffers.
If clients don’t have the buying power at this moment, I encourage them: Why don’t you start with half of it or a quarter of it? If you can’t afford to pay yearly, why don’t you pay monthly? At least now you have more protection.

Business Strategy & Positioning

  • Miliana, CFP (Indonesia): I’m trying to brand myself with social media because this is the time when people aren’t looking at us in face-to-face meetings. Their eyes are more on social media. I’m trying to refresh on Facebook, on Instagram, and my website. I want them to look good. I plan to hire people, as well, to help me design a nice website. I want them to learn I am the expert. So when later on, the need arises from the customer, they know who they have to look for.

  • Whatever happens in the future, you know you can count on this...your family produces a death certificate, this company will pay. That’s our guarantee to them. And here’s the contract to prove it.
  • Richard Dobson, Jr.: [This] is a great opportunity for the people in the life insurance business because we can cover these issues, particularly end-of-life issues, people are having, where many times they result in these huge unexpected medical bills for people...It’s not about your probability of dying. It’s about the consequences for your family if you don’t plan. You wouldn’t get in the car with an infant and not strap them in a car seat. Not because you hope never to get in an accident, but because if you do, you’ll protect the life of that infant...We do know there’s something coming, the magnitude of which will only be realized when it comes to visit. This is what we planned for. This is what we prepared for, what we tell our clients. Whatever happens in the future, you know you can count on this...your family produces a death certificate, this company will pay. That’s our guarantee to them. And here’s the contract to prove it.

  • David Appel, ChFC, CLU: When it comes to retirement accounts or retirement planning, it’s something that’s incorporated into all my meetings and discussions. We talk about, if the market goes down, have a piece of life insurance in place that’s there to fulfill the retirement chunk of money that might not be there from the investments...or, if the investments don't recover, to have that cushion of life insurance there for the family and the remaining spouse. Also, for a lot of my clients in their 40s and 50s, we’re talking about making sure some portion of the life insurance portfolio is permanent coverage building some equity. In a down market, the clients whose retirement accounts are 1/3 of what they were two weeks ago, instead of taking withdrawals and further decreasing the value of that account, they can take withdrawals from the life insurance policy first, going to fixed income and fixed assets there, and being able to have the option of a couple of buckets to choose from...It’s amazing when you run the graphs. If you took withdrawals from a million dollar account and you took those withdrawals at the three worst times when the market dipped versus taking those three withdrawals from another bucket, the money in 20 years, the difference is astronomical.

  • Julianne Hertel, CLTC: Every evening, my mother calls me and says, “How did the market do? How are you doing?” My parents are my clients. And then she says, “Are we going to take money out this year? What are we going to do?” I tell them the same thing I tell my other clients in retirement: "We have some money invested. It’s nowhere near as aggressive as the market as a whole. Let’s be real – you’ve lost some money. But we also have a fixed bucket. If we need to go into any money this year, that’s the bucket we’re going to go into. And we’re going to let the money just recover at the end of it." I’ve had that conversation with a handful of clients that are really concerned because they’re in retirement or they’re about to be in retirement, they’re taking their distributions. And we have fixed buckets, fixed assets we can go to and let everything recover. And I say, “This was the plan. And so now we’re just working the plan.” And people feel really great about that.
  • We have fixed buckets, fixed assets we can go to and let everything recover. And I say, 'This was the plan. And so now we’re just working the plan.'
  • Richard Dobson, Jr.: This will be over at some point, and so I think that gives us lots of hope as businesspeople, but also as we look out for our clients’ interests as well. We know it’ll be over with. So we’re asking them for their forbearance and their patience in this matter so they can see it through. I like to call it “clicking on the high beams.” Yeah, there’s a couple of potholes in the road here. But if we flip on those high beams, look how smooth it is down the way. We’ve got to look beyond the 10 feet in front of our car and look down the road further. And if we do that, I think that they’ll realize, yeah, maybe we’re a little heavy in equities. Look, when this is all over, we’re gonna get together and we’re gonna set that straight. So we’re gonna have some of your safe money that you know you can’t lose. I mean, kind of Tom Hegna’s approach, right? Paychecks and playchecks. Don’t mess with those paychecks. The playchecks, yeah, maybe have some fun with, but have enough income by design in your life so you don’t have to worry when events like this happen.

That’s what we found most helpful in recent episodes of the MDRT Podcast!

Which of these tips or strategies resonate with you? We really like the metaphor of turning on your high beams to see the smooth road ahead. Tells your favorite tidbit in the comments!


*For nerds like me, here’s the full opening line to A Tale of Two Cities: “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way - in short, the period was so far like the present period, that some of its noisiest authorities insisted on its being received, for good or for evil, in the superlative degree of comparison only.”