Monday, May 25, 2015

Finding Strawberries

Hello Speakers, Business Owners, Future Entrepreneurs and Americans,

Happy Memorial Day!

Today we pay tribute to those men and women who served in the Armed Forces protecting our nation especially those who paid the ultimate price that guaranteed our freedom. When I look at the flag of the United States I have so much pride to know there was so much sacrifice involved and continued sacrifice keep that flag-waving. We will always honor you and remember you.

This month’s topic is a true story and it started about five years ago. Let me give you some background about myself so that you can understand what my true purpose is in my current profession. In the early 1980's I started my career as a financial planner for a well-known Life Insurance Company. After a while, I developed my own style of recommendations and presentations based on what I saw in the late 80's. Many of the families were not able to achieve the goals they had set for themselves because of excess debt. I once knew a very loving couple that ended in divorce because of fighting over money and expenses, and in some cases, if divorce did not occur life in the house was so miserable they probably should have divorced. These are common occurrences. Over time I developed the philosophy to not sell, but to get to know people at a friendship level and discover what their issues were with money, debt and income. The true problem is most individuals or couples never put the brakes on for spending. Many do not ask for help because of shame. To this day, I still go out and meet couples and sit down and do what I call a life planning review. The problem still exists because few want to ask for help.
This story takes us back five years. I was called out to an appointment by a middle-aged couple who wanted to buy $150,000 of term life insurance on each of them. When I pulled in to the driveway I noticed two newer vehicles, the house was above average, yard was well maintained, backyard well-maintained with a nice swimming pool and I thought to myself, they have done well.
When I met with them I could tell by the look in their eyes something was wrong. I let them know that I am in the business of helping people not just to sell life insurance policies. I always do and income to debt ratio with families because it is the starting point and it summarizes all the income brought into the house and sets it against all the debt that sits in the house. After three hours, of listing every credit card they were close to $100,000 in revolving debt. I estimated they were paying these credit card companies almost $30,000 a year in interest. They were living a sick existence. Basically they were looking for  Life Insurance just to pay off their debt at the time of death.

 I closed up the briefcase and told them to put on a pot of coffee. I took out a lot of blank papers and started to lay out a plan for them. I am not a credit counselor, a credit psychologist or credit adviser. I help people out through common sense advice that always seems to have worked for me over 30 years. This case however, I had to refer to professionals. It was a worst-case scenario. The plan we laid out back in 2009 was a plan of 5 to 7 years that involved sacrifice, discipline, and diminished spending to reconstruct their lives financially so that they could start living normal. The last thing I told them is you must put a Strawberry on your refrigerator.  ”Finding the Strawberryis just a metaphor that means to do something fun! For example: once a month, have date night together, pretend you're young adults again and you only have $15 to spend somewhere and make the best of it and have fun while you’re doing it. I explained to them that they needed to keep that Strawberry in front of them all the time, especially in the hard times when things aren’t always going so well. As time starts moving along you will need to start thinking bigger about what you’re going to do with all the money you’re freeing up in the future and you need to start planning for that now. 

 I told them you have to have look forward to things along the way as you continue on your course of achievement, reward yourself in small ways.
They wrote out their game plan and they turned in the direction of the professionals for help. I stayed in touch with them for the first year to make sure they were staying on track. On or about 2010 I lost my connection with them.

Present day.
A few weeks ago I received a call from one of the spouses I had worked with back in 2009. She said: “Hi John, how are you?”. I told her I was doing great and asked her how she was doing and she described to me that she received the certificate. I said to her: “What certificate?”. She said the certificate congratulating us on being totally debt free. She told me next month we don’t have to make any more payments. The money that we were once paying out every month is all ours from this point on. She said we always kept to the original plan you laid out for us and we made sure we kept finding our Strawberries along the way. Even though we didn’t spend a lot of money through the last five years my husband and I always made sure to have great times together because it was our goal as a couple to get out of this mess. She told me that the real big Strawberry that they planned together was a 10 day Caribbean Cruise. I told her that  they deserved every bit of it. I told her understand how successful that she and her husband were to have achieved their goal, because the statistics for success in long term debt reduction are minimal. She told me that they knew it was going to be a very tough road, but they also knew they could not live with the alternative. I suggested that we talk in the coming months about securing their retirement and redirecting this money so they can continue to find the Strawberries when they stop working. For now, go out and enjoy that Big Strawberry (The 10 Caribbean Cruise).  

  “The Insurance Coach”

      John P. Slosek, Jr 
   "The Insurance Coach ™"
Insurance Coach Radio Show

Airs Every Saturday Morning 8am