Friday, January 4, 2008

Drop your insurance: buy only what you need

This statement is not what you usually hear from an insurance person. However, a new way of buying insurance and all financial services has arrived.

Based upon the model used by businesses, this approach builds on the trend of more of us who must manage our own pensions--401k, 403b and IRA accounts. Even though many of us say we don’t want to manage our own financial futures, we will be better off in the long run.

We are being forced to self-direct all our financial products. Our agents, bankers and brokers have all moved on. Typically, we practitioners of this new “self-insurance” model use our savings to build up our own reserves. This “Wealth Reserve” as I call it is a self-insurance fund I use to cover many risks so that I don’t have to buy a policy for every risk. I built a sizable reserve by buying products “wholesale.” I invest the savings.

Businesses have been doing this for a long time. For instance, most large businesses do not buy health care like we do. They buy it “wholesale.” They pay the claims from their own account. The insurer acts as the administrator—following the employer’s plan to decide it your claim should be paid. The business funds the claim account only to the extent necessary to pay claims. The insurer makes a fee for processing.

This costs the business less because the money to pay the claims is actually part of the working capital of the business. It is not sitting in an insurer’s investment account paying interest before it is needed to pay claims. For large claims, like brain surgery or death, the business buys catastrophic insurance. Some companies have their own (captive) insurer (reserves) to save even more.

How can you use this example? Let’s take homeowner’s insurance. Did you know that many agents purchase the standard HO-3 homeowner’s policy for their own coverage, but with a $2,500 deductible? That policy takes care of 99% of the claims and saves them 20-30% a year. They understand that they need to maintain the property to prevent it from deteriorating faster than it needs to. But by investing that 30% savings each year, they build a Wealth Reserve that earns them interest and will cover the deductible if they ever need it. So, over 10 years, they save $2,000 in premiums and earn interest on the funds.

Taken together for all your risks, you can build a large Wealth Reserve. For instance, we have helped people save over $3,000 a year on financial services, including banking, mortgage, education, mutual funds, securities, annuity, insurance—life, health, disability, long term care, vehicle, homeowner’s, lawsuit, vehicle purchase, legacy, wealth transfer, retirement spending . . . almost any service. Over time, those savings will compound to a $500,000. This fund can be used to pay for your insurance, retirement, and health care needs. Some clients plan to save $120,000 on long-term care insurance this way. Others have dropped their life and disability insurance—placing the premium in investment accounts that compound at the market rate over time.

When I was just 22 and working part-time during college, I was induced to buy permanent life insurance. I later cancelled it when I could not afford the $1200 annual premiums. I was in grad school and taking out loans to finish an MDiv. The agent representing Columbus Mutual probably earned all of that $1200 in the first year. I got little back when I couldn’t make the payments.

The agent did not explain that I would be better off buying a mutual fund instead of insurance. This was probably 1970. By the end of the 1960s there were around 270 funds with $48 billion in assets. No one advised me to invest in mutual funds at that time. My high school and colleges mentioned nothing about the miracle of compounding $1200 a year in a mutual fund at the average market rate of 12% per year. I think I would have paid attention if someone had told me it would be worth $1 million by the time I was 60.

1970 0
1980 $ 23,233.91
1990 99,914.79
2000 352,991.38
2008 933,673.59

There are few financial literacy programs in high school or college even today. Consequently, even in 2006, the Jumpstart Coalition for Personal Financial Literacy found that half of high school seniors failed to answer basic money questions. Schools don’t teach basics of saving, investing, compounding, and getting what you want, so parents are expected to. This leaves the blind leading the blind. Parents teach spending but few are role models in investing with compound interest. The subject they missed the most about was investment in the market.

For Example, question 26. Kelly and Pete just had a baby. They received money as baby gifts and want to put it away for the baby's education. Which of the following tends to have the highest growth over periods of time as long as 18 years?
44.8% a) A U.S. Govt. savings bond
34.8% b) A savings account
6.3% c) A checking account
*14.2% d) Stocks
* correct answer