Life Insurance in the Internet Era

A few months ago, as my wife and I were reviewing some of that “important” stuff, we realized that it was time to update my life insurance coverage. Based upon our current situation and our changing needs over the last few years, I needed to ditch the policies we had and pick up some new term coverage.

Now… I’ve heard the radio ads from the “big guys” promoting their websites… and I’ve also done some price comparison. And even though I wanted to handle the transaction online (as much as possible), there’s something reassuring about knowing that there’s a real agent on the other end of the website that you can get on the phone if you need to talk. My term life insurance is probably not the last thing I’ll need from an independent agent, so building a relationship (much like the old-school hometown insurance agent we all grew up knowing) seemed like a good idea. But I still wanted the convenience of instant online quotes and a transaction that didn’t eat up huge amounts of my time.

TermDog.com - the website I used

For all of those reasons, I chose to go with TermDog.com. Even though they’re not based here in Florida (HQ is in Naperville, IL), TermDog is licensed to sell insurance in a number of states. Mike Fry and his team have done an outstanding job of providing a very high level of service. Here’s what my experience was like.

  1. I went to the TermDog site and played with the online quote generator. It’s easy to find, as they’ve stuck it on every page of the site. After playing with a few parameters, I found the approximate level of coverage I could buy and still fit my budget. In my case, I needed more than $500K worth of coverage, but wanted to spend less than $50/month.  Within just a couple of minutes, I had settled on a $750K 20-year policy and got the process started. (I liked the fact that even though I was giving the website enough information about me to generate a quote, I wasn’t asked for my real name or e-mail address until I was pretty sure I wanted to move forward.)
  2. Within a day or so after submitting the quote, I heard back from Michael Fry. He needed to ask a few more questions, which only took a few minutes on the phone.
  3. A few days later, a package arrived containing the life insurance app from the company that Mike had determined would probably be the best fit for me. It’s been quite a while since I bought life insurance, and I must say the length of the application surprised me. But after checking around a little bit, I’ve found out that that’s the new “normal.”
  4. I actually dragged my feet getting the app filled out (did I mention I wanted to spend as little time on this process as possible?). Thankfully, Mike gave me a couple of gentle reminders. I truly don’t like being harassed, and Mike kept me from forgetting about it without being even remotely annoying.
  5. I had the option of scanning and e-mailing the app, faxing it, or mailing it. Ultimately I opted to drop it in the mail because it feels more likely to keep my information secure. Arguable, I realize. But I needed to send a check for the first month’s premium as well as a voided one for the automatic draft, so it made sense just to do it all at once.
  6. After reviewing my app, Mike did me a favor. There were a couple of characteristics about my situation that didn’t match up perfectly with the original company he had in mind, and he’d also had a little bit of difficulty with that particular company. So… he and his team completed a new application for me using the information I’d provided on the first one and they e-mailed it to me already ready to sign. Nice huh?
  7. From there, I faxed in the signature pages from the newly completed app (just for speed).
  8. In no time, I was getting phone calls from a local company here in town who handled the health screenings. They were easy to deal with and even had a location 5 minutes from my house. They took blood, weighed, measured, poked and prodded… all the usual stuff. I was fully prepared for the experience because TermDog had e-mailed me a list of what to expect. A very nice touch.
  9. Within a few days, I received a call that my policy was on its way… and the premium was lower! Evidently my health screening results put me in a different category on the actuarial tables. And that saved me 20%. When was the last time somebody quoted you something and then sold it to you for less?
  10. I had to sign the policy and drop a check in the mail (made out to the new company). Nothing to it. I’m now insured.

The  Bottom Line

The whole experience was virtually ideal. I’m very busy and didn’t have time to visit an agent’s office and spend a lot of time on the phone. With TermDog’s online quoting, I was able to make my own decisions about the level of coverage without being pressured by an agent. Once I had decided to move forward, they handled the whole process very professionally and expediently. I not only highly recommend TermDog, but I plan to use them for future insurance needs.

For the record, I’m not being compensated or otherwise rewarded for telling you about this. I realize some bloggers get paid to express opinions. That’s not the case here. I’m absolutely a TermDog fan. You will be too!

When Consultants Make YouTube Videos

Okay, I haven’t actually verified that it was made by a consulting firm. But that’s beside the point. Give a consultant a chance to play with a script, sets, a cast, and some nifty cameras and video editing equipment, and this is what we’d create:

And for all you consultants and other providers of professional services who’ve been in this situation–you know who you are–I know you enjoyed this as much as I did.

H/T: Joe Brachle and Phil Cooke

And by the way, if anyone from Scofield Editorial is reading this… I’m sure that you understand what I mean when I say that any consultant could’ve created a video of this quality… 🙂

It’s A New Day

Photo Credit: Jayme Leita - BigStockPhoto

Setting political viewpoints and economics aside, today I am rejoicing.

Why?

In the last couple of weeks, I’ve thought long and hard about the issues faced by African-Americans in our culture. As a Caucasian male, I won’t pretend to have any real comprehension of what this is truly like. I spent most of my early childhood years in a suburb of Houston where racism was completely unknown — at least to me.

However, I’ll never forget the year I spent in Montgomery, Alabama. Many of my friends were African-Americans, and while I was completely bewildered by the culture shock I experienced, I did my best to try to develop an understanding for why — even as recently as the 1980s — racial tensions were unbelievably high.

That year changed my perspective forever. The bigotry that existed left an indelible impression on me. And it seemed clear to me that a lot of healing needed to occur — for all races involved — in order for there to be real progress.

And that’s why, today, as I sit and watch the pre-inaugural proceedings, something in me wells up with joy. I feel it in the air… I am thrilled for what the election and now the inauguration of Barack Obama  means to my African-American brethren.

A couple of weeks ago, my wife mentioned how much she enjoyed the song “It’s a New Day” by will.i.am. You must admit — it’s got a great hook. I downloaded the song from iTunes and we’ve enjoyed it ever since. The song seems to capture the feeling of victory that we should feel in this nation as an African-American reaches the highest office in the land.

Writing a post like this one may stir up feelings that I don’t intend in any who read it. Perhaps, if you’re an African-American, all I’ve done is reveal my real ignorance. If you’re not, you may feel as though I’m making too much of this event.

I don’t think we can make too much of it, but I’m also not ignorant enough to believe that there isn’t more healing needed. But I’m hoping that this goes a long way.

Happy Birthday, USMC

A gigantic “Happy Birthday” to all of Uncle Sam’s Misguided Children today as the Corps celebrates number 233.

While I myself was not privileged to have served, I am the proud son of a US Marine. Thanks, Dad, for fighting for freedom with honor. And thanks for instilling in me the respect and value for the freedoms you and so many others fought — and continue to fight — to uphold.

It is my further honor to be the proud grandson of a US Marine. My mother’s father is one of a dwindling number of remaining Pearl Harbor survivors. Thanks, Pa-Po, for your dedication and service.

I’m proud of the heritage of the US Marines.  Thank you to all the leathernecks for your sacrifice and your service.

As we honor all veterans tomorrow, the Marines have a special place of honor in my family and heart.

Semper Fi

I Voted in the 2008 Presidential Election

And for all of you eligible to do so, I hope you have, too!  If so, you get your nifty new “I Voted” Sticker. The design is brand new for the 2008 U.S. Presidential Election.

Since my real sticker is on my shirt today, I thought a “virtual” one was in order for the blog.

Thank you to all of our new visitors who have been here recently for information on the 2008 Florida Amendments. We hope to have you back again real soon!

9/11 in Sarasota… Remembering 7 Years Ago

The Twin Towers of the World Trade Center prior to 9-11

It’s been said before… we’ll probably always remember exactly what we were doing that day.

For me, it was an early morning networking meeting at the now-demolished Sarasota Quay. I remember hopping on my motorcycle to leave the parking lot when a State Trooper pulled up and blocked the exit.

President Bush was passing by on his way from The Colony on Longboat Key up Tamiami Trail to head toward Booker Elementary School.  It delayed my departure from the Quay for a while. I had completely forgotten he was in town, so I sat there on my motorcycle facing the road and watched as the entourage of black vehicles eventually went by.

Then, it was off to visit a client. I had to make a brief stop at the bank where, after making a deposit, I exited into an eerily calm morning.  It was exactly 9:02am.  I looked at my watch before getting back on my bike and I remember the distinct feeling: something’s wrong.

I hadn’t yet heard about what was happening in New York City, but for a Tuesday morning something really seemed oddly quiet. In the distance, a siren wailing added to the unusual sensation.

A few short minutes later, I arrived at my client’s office where there was absolute bedlam. Someone had heard the news and was desperately trying to get CNN.com or any of the major news websites to load up.

We watched in horror as we finally saw clips of the planes flying into the buildings.

The 9/11 Community Prayer Meeting

For me, the next steps were both immediately obvious and now a blur. Thanks to my friends Raj Doraisamy and Joe Brachle, as well as the entire team at Joe’s CSI Networks (then known as Computing Solutions), a full-scale effort was in place which by the end of the day yielded a community prayer meeting at Robarts Arena on Fruitville Road.

As many as 30-40 congregations in the Manatee and Sarasota County areas participated. Carolyn Mason, then mayor of Sarasota, was instrumental in getting us access to the Robarts facility at no charge. She announced the meeting at the city’s own vigil held downtown that afternoon.  Jeff MacFarlane and the crew of The Joy FM, as well as many other media outlets, were instrumental in helping to invite the community to come out to pray.

From 5pm to 10pm, Robarts was open for people to come and go as they desired.  Estimates at the time were that approximately 500 people had come and gone by the time the evening was over. My own lovely wife, Jill, sang for a good chunk of the evening.  People like Cindy Wright and Carlos Ramirez helped provide music. Numerous pastors and other local ministers, including Dan Nawara from The Living Sanctuary and Richard Brantley from The Rock of Sarasota, came out to lead people in prayer.

That evening represented some of the best things about this community. A group of people in a wild time of uncertainty — we had no idea if we were in for other attacks or not — came together just hours after the first devastating tragedy of the day, and were simply there for one another. It was something for those who needed to reach out to other people… and to God.

It was an unforgettable day… for so many reasons. Thank you to those of you local citizens that helped bring some light into a very dark day.

Image © Kate Duffell. Image from BigStockPhoto.com

Father’s Day Is Big Business But Not Quite As Big As…

Email to Dad:

Dear Dad,

$chool i$ awe$ome. I’ve got lot$ of friend$ and I’m $tudying and learning ton$. I’m so bu$y, I $imply don’t have time to earn any extra ca$h. I mi$$ you though and $o appreciate your ongoing $upport.  I would love to hear from you.

Love,

Your $on

The Reply:

Dear Son,

I kNOw that astroNOmy, ecoNOmics, and oceaNOgraphy are quite eNOugh to keep even an hoNOr student running. Do NOt forget that the pursuit of kNOwledge is a NOble task, that putting your nose in your books is free and that you can never study eNOugh.

Love,

Dad

What is it about dads and money? When we think of Mom our thoughts are all flowers, hugs and appreciation. However, when our thoughts turn towards Dad things get much more practical.

Some relational experts say that this difference between the roles that dads and moms play and consequently the way we view our relationships with them is possibly why business on Dad’s Day isn’t quite what it is on Mother’s Day.

According to a BusinessWeek article published this month the projected consumer spending for Father’s day this year is $9.58 billion. Compare that to the close to $16 billion spent on Mother’s Day. The average consumer is expected to spend around $95 on Father’s Day, about 60% of what we spend on Mother’s Day.

Hallmark sold over 150 million cards for moms but is expecting to sell somewhere just over 90 million for dads.

Now this is usually where a writer would close the article with a wonderful sentiment about how we love our fathers no less than our mothers. Now that may be true but I want to go another direction.

The economic stimulus checks have gone out and consumer spending rose slightly in May. We all want to support economic growth and we all want to show dear old Dad that we love him as much as we love Mom.

So here it is, lets forget the $95. Let’s buy that electronic gadget that our dads really want and an extra card and take the spending up to Mother’s Day levels.

As a Dad I’m all for it!

Don’t Miss This

And if you want to read a great article on the origin of Father’s Day and chuckle at some awesome quotes about fathers, check out this Christian parenting site from bestselling author (and my good friend) Rick Osborne.

RIP: Starbucks Almond Syrup

**Latest Update** It looks like Starbucks Almond Syrup is truly gone for good. The Fontana choice was good for a while, but it’s no longer on the market either. I’ve tried the Torani Orgeat Syrup, and it’s pretty good…. plus it’s in Amazon Prime, so… free shipping, right?!

**Update #3** Thanks to our reader Joyce, I did a little checking around and it looks like this Fontana Almond Syrup is the very stuff that Starbucks uses (Fontana is evidently manufactured for Starbucks) You can still purchase the Almond variety in a 4-pack.

The Torani syrup we mentioned in a previous update is also delicious, but not quite the same flavor as the Starbucks / Fontana syrup. Even the bottle on the Fontana syrup is an exact match!

Enjoy!

**Update #2** All my Sarasota readers: you can get almond cappuccino and syrup from The Beanz Man Espresso Bar Cafe on Bee Ridge Road (just west of Shade). Tell ’em I sent ya! sells and services fantastic coffee equipment (especially for commercial purposes), but no longer has a coffee shop. 🙁

*Update 1* I’ve been told that this Torani Orgeat Syrup is the exact product that Starbucks used to sell with its own label (turns out the Fontana syrups are manufactured for Starbucks… see the update above). You can grab it up inexpensively from Amazon and use it in your homemade beverages. Alas, since I don’t make espresso-based drinks at home, this doesn’t help me.

Don’t forget the pump!

Those who know me know that I’m an enormous fan of coffee. In fact, I have a book project that I’ve been dabbling with for a while that deals with coffee as a source of inspiration. It will eventually be finished. Watch for it. 🙂

As a true coffee connoisseur, I drink my daily brew black, freshly ground (in a burr grinder for consistency), and brewed (by the cup) in my french press. OK, I admit it. I’m a bit of a coffee snob. I certainly don’t mean that I look down on those who drink, say, robusta beans. It’s just that I personally have a well-developed palette where it comes to fine coffees.

(A.D.D. Moment: Want a really great book on the benefits of caffeine? Nab The Caffeine Advantage: How to Sharpen Your Mind, Improve Your Physical Performance, and Achieve Your Goals–the Healthy Way)

OK, back to my point: I have one guilty pleasure, as it were, where it comes to flavored coffee beverages. I know, I know… real connoisseurs don’t use any flavoring. But, years ago an astute barista who was a personal friend of mine made me an almond cappuccino.

Now, I’m not going to say that the skies parted, light shone, angels sang, and that I was enraptured by a glorious ecstasy as I partook… but it was close. Thanks, Mike, wherever you are.

Since then, I’ve been an addict. When Starbucks finally entered the Florida market, I quickly made the Grande Almond Cappuccino my beverage of choice… when in the mood for something other than a bold drip or a doppio.

I’ve partaken of this particular beverage all over the United States in Starbucks locations and even as far away as Singapore. I love it. It is truly a pleasurable experience that I enjoy.

So, imagine my dismay when the baristas at my local Starbucks announced that the almond syrup was being phased out. First, their ability to ring the drink up properly was taken away by a software update to their POS system. Now, they’ve actually told me that the syrup is gone. Some locations still have some, but almond—as a flavoring syrup at Starbucks—is basically dead.

I don’t spend enough at Starbucks to have the clout to pressure them to bring it back (despite whatever my wife may think about my Starbucks budget), so I’m not planning to mount any major campaign to boycott or ask people to join me. However, I am truly saddened by the loss. Most people stick with vanilla or hazelnut or one of the more popular syrups, I know. But they simply don’t know what they’re missing.

So… I bid the Starbucks almond syrup a fond farewell. And yes, every time I’m in a small private coffee shop (which I’ll admit I’ll be on the lookout for now more than ever), I’ll be forced to inquire… just in case they have some.