Planning for the future can often feel overwhelming and it's sometimes difficult to know where to start. The good news is you don't have to go it alone. Agents proudly representing Aviva are available to help you reach your goals and be prepared for the road ahead.
Help you through the process
Just like having a tour guide accompany you through a foreign land, an agent can lead you through the insurance process. From start to finish, they can assist you in mapping out your objectives, offering strategies and recommending products that may work best for you.
Explain terms and insurance lingo
Your agent can also act as a great translator! A key to feeling comfortable with future planning is often understanding the language. They can break down everything you need to know from terms like premium, cash value, to annuity and beyond.
Whether you want to know more about preparing for retirement, leaving money to your loved ones or saving for college and other goals, your agent can help you be better equipped for the future and offer support as you make these important decisions.
Offer you choices
Once your agent learns more about you, your needs, and what you hope to accomplish, they can provide customized solutions. If you are interested in taking the next steps, your agent may help you compare plans and policies to match your budget.
Keep you on track
Through periodic check-ins, annual reports and assistance during various life events, they can make sure you stay on track to reaching your goals.
Getting to Know You:
The key to any good relationship is trust. It's important you have confidence in your agent's knowledge, experience and professional judgment, as this person can be a long-term support of your family and your future.
Chat & Learn
Through an easy going conversation, your agent will ask questions to assess where you're at and where you'd like to be headed. This is often called the "fact finding" stage.
Financial Needs Analysis
Together, you'll outline your living expenses, major assets and liabilities. Your agent will explain your options and help set reasonable financial goals for you and your family.
You may expect questions about your age, medical conditions, medical history, family health history and hobbies.
Don't worry! Aviva regional general agent Dave Sorensen has a plan to help you avoid making this common error.
As any good coach knows, planning is key to winning. Just ask Dave Sorensen, who is both a regional general agent with Aviva and one of the founders of the local Little League program in Verona/Fitchburg, Wis. "A key mistake that people make in almost any endeavor in life is failing to plan," says Dave, who is also president of Legacy Advisor Network and has been in the insurance and investments business for nearly 40 years. "Planning helps get you clear on your objectives, your goals, and what motivates you to move ahead in life," he explains. "When folks get clear on their motivations, they're much more likely to do what needs to be done next—the gritty, hard work."
The Difference Planning Makes
Dave offers this striking example from a client who came to him 10 years ago as a middle-aged business owner: "His 80-hour workweek was dominating his life. His heart was racing. His health was diminishing. When he came into the office, he was wondering 'How long and how fast do I have to run to achieve my goals?' It turned out that he didn't have to run that fast at all. By simply changing how much he was charging, he was able to work fewer hours and actually put more money away for his retirement. Today, his ulcers are gone, he works out at his health club every day, and he takes four months off each year to teach overseas, which he loves. Good planning literally changed this man's life."
Your Best Plan
Here is Dave's advice on how to make sure you have the best possible financial plan to meet your life goals.
Step into your future. To set good goals, you need to picture yourself in the future—three years, 10 years, 20 years. Where do you hope to live? What kind of expenses might you have? Once you have those things in mind, you need to work backward and figure out what you need to do now to achieve them. Sound daunting? Having a financial advisor and an insurance agent can help, Dave says. He or she can help you figure out concrete goals and then make a doable plan to achieve them.
Imagine the obstacles. As every coach knows, nothing goes quite by the playbook. Having a variety of investments—including some annuities—and life insurance can make it easier for you to deal with any curveballs that life throws your way.
Picture the extras. Once you've thought about your basic needs, widen your circle a bit. Do you want to leave a legacy for your children? To help your grandkids through college? To help your community or worship center? To travel? To own a second home? "Your agent should be asking the kinds of questions that help you figure out these types of goals too," Dave says.
Put your boots to the ground. "A lot of people talk about the power of goal setting, but just setting goals is a useless exercise without the grit or support to do the needed work," Dave says. Goals don't achieve themselves: You have to take steps to make them happen. If you're not sure what to do next, ask your advisor. "The main thing is to get started," he says. Don't get so mired in planning that you never make that initial investment. Start with something, then move on from there.
Revisit your goals regularly. Goals are like sailboats, Dave says: They're constantly in motion and can drift off course without you realizing it. By meeting with your financial advisor and your insurance agent regularly, you can readjust your plans sooner, which may save you money and stress.
Ask the tough questions. Dave's top tip when working with a financial advisor: Ask every question you have. "Don't be embarrassed if you don't understand something—especially the lingo," he says. "Absolutely any question is fair game."
Bill Stubbs learned how important commitment can be in the Navy, and now he brings that same dedication to anyone he sees in need (client or not).
During World War II, Bill Stubbs served with the U.S. Navy's Underwater Demolition Team (UDT)-a precursor to today's famed Navy SEALs. "We didn't have scuba gear," says Stubbs. "We just held our breath." His operational uniform consisted of swim trunks, a face mask, flippers, a knife, and a slate to write on. But however different the UDTs were from the Special Forces of today, one thing was the same: their commitment to helping one another. "If I got a call today from another UDT officer or enlisted man who needed my assistance-even if he happened to live in California or Antarctica-I'd be on the next plane," says Stubbs.
Though active with the Navy Reserve until 1983, Stubbs opened the insurance firm of Stubbs & Associates in Middleburg Heights, Ohio, in 1956, bringing with him that same code of helpfulness-and Aviva took notice. Here's why we're proud to recognize him as our first Agent of Change.
A Return to Commitment
"After one of my close buddies and I got out of UDT, he married a young lady whose friend Ann* later became an Aviva policy holder," says Stubbs. As a California school teacher, Ann put away a certain amount of money each year into a 403(b) tax-sheltered annuity. After selecting a policy, Ann began putting money into it, only to discover several years later that it was not the correct type for her changing needs-a fact that resulted in both IRS headaches and the loss of her funds. What's more, the agent who had sold her the policy had dropped out of the picture. Since the funds had been the backbone of her retirement plan, Ann was understandably distraught. As an insurance agent in Ann's new home state of Florida, Stubbs was approached for advice through their mutual connections. He didn't hesitate to offer his aid.
"I've always found Aviva to be very scrupulous and customer-friendly," says Stubbs, who suggested to Ann that they approach Aviva about the situation. "We did that and-lo and behold-Aviva issued Ann a brand-new policy and gave her all of her money back," says Stubbs. "I felt that this was extremely kind on the part of Aviva."
The feeling was mutual: Aviva representatives say that Stubbs understood he would receive no commission for helping Ann, but he did so anyway. He selflessly spent hours on her behalf, thoroughly researching the best fit for her needs and eventually helping Ann choose the Aviva policy that she now holds today.
Helping You Find the Perfect Fit
Stubbs says that matching a client with the right insurance product requires "a large measure of listening," along with asking the right questions and understanding the products that are available.
"Aviva provides training to make sure agents understand their products," says Stubbs. But you, as the client, play an important role, too. "The more totally frank and honest you can be about your situation, the easier it is for the agent to come up with the proper product," he says. Also, if you don't understand something your agent tells you, ask questions. "Part of an agent's job is explaining the product to you in a way that you understand," notes Stubbs.
If you're worried about divulging personal details to your agent, Stubbs offers these words of comfort: "The information you share with your agent is extremely privileged-by federal statute as well as by moral standards and good business practice."
Another reason Stubbs suggests clients be candid with their agents: Though he's happy to help fix problems, he'd rather not see nice people have to deal with them in the first place. "Aviva found a tremendous solution to a real headache, heartache, and pocketbook-ache," says Stubbs. "I was just happy to be the messenger through the whole thing."
Hillard Rest knows how to uncover your financial goals (and barriers)—in a way that a worksheet could never match.
Hillard Rest had a rather unlikely start for a future financial professional and Aviva agent. When his two sons were young, Hillard spent seven years as a college professor in southern California. "I taught courses while my wife, Marilyn, was going to dental school," says Rest. His specialty? Not finance. Not economics. "Marriage and the family," he laughs. "I've always been interested in who people are and the experiences they're having in their lives."
Today, the Rests (now in their 60s) work together at Hillard Rest Associates in Newport Beach, Calif. "I'm a lucky man," says Rest. "Marilyn and I are very much in love with each other. Every day, when I awaken, the most important thing to me is to make Marilyn's day as easy and enjoyable as I can. She feels the same about me."
Though Rest's main career focus these days is helping clients make financial decisions that work for them, he sometimes can't help putting in his two cents when it comes to their relationships, too. It's that level of caring that got him nominated as this month's Agent of Change. "Hillard truly cares about each and every one of his clients," says the customer who recommended him. It's what makes him special—and helps him counsel his clients in a more personalized way.
Getting to Know You
"I believe that if you listen carefully to people, you can figure out their true life goals," says Rest. "When you talk together, they will tell you things that are interesting to them. Things that have happened to them. Things they've survived. And by listening to those things, you can learn what matters to them." That, he explains, is the key to helping people figure out what they need to do to feel financially secure.
"Everyone has an amount in mind that would make them feel psychologically comfortable. An amount that they want to have available if they need it," he says. "Everyone's number is different." Though some agents rely on questionnaires and worksheets to figure out the answers to those questions, Rest says that he gets more out of simply listening. For instance, one woman he met with had an idea of how much money she wanted her annuity to pay each month to cover her expenses … but because Rest knew her whole family story, he also knew that she had a grandchild who might need help paying for college. When he asked her if she would want to have the money to help her grandchild, she said yes. It was something she hadn't considered.
Working as a Team
Rest adds that the client-agent team isn't the only one that matters when it comes to financial planning. "When I see a marriage that's not functioning, I try to give some suggestions," he says. "Some of my clients have told me I've saved their marriage." Why get involved on that level? In part, because Rest likes people to be happy, and in part because their relationship can also affect their finances. "If a couple disagrees on politics, that won't affect their monetary situation," says Rest. "But if they're not listening to each other's needs and fears, that's going to have an impact."
Rest admits that his approach isn't right for every client. That's why finding a level of compatibility and comfort with an insurance professional is the first step in working together, he says. Sound advice, whether you're talking about money, marriage, or life in general. Perhaps Rest is still a teacher after all.
Want to work with an agent you can trust and who knows your needs? Wally Bitters clues us in on a top factor in a good agent-client relationship.
Make a phone call to Wally Bitters, C.L.U., of Bitters Insurance Services in Long Beach, Calif., and you might occasionally get a pleasant voice message. But you'll also get a call back—almost immediately.
"I was on a panel the other day and one of the attendees asked me for the secret of my success," says Bitters. "I said, 'Simple. Show up on time, and call back.'" While that might seem like a simple (and obvious) work ethic, it's not one that every agent shares. "A client told me that he has other agents whom he never sees," says Bitters. "That's not the way I work."
When (and Why) Meetings Matter
Though lots of people swear by email, cell phones, and texting, Bitters is committed to face-to-face meetings as a better form of communication. One benefit: When you are first meeting with an agent, you can get a better understanding of who he or she is if you visit the agent's office. You can see diplomas on the wall and pictures on the desk.
Bitters, though, prefers to meet clients on their own turf. That way, he says, he can often pick up some clues about their goals and priorities. Family photos tell him that you might want to one day help out your kids or leave a significant legacy to them. A golf bag by the back door might mean you'd like to have the means to take some annual golfing vacations when you retire. Seeing what matters to clients is one way Bitters knows the right questions to ask to reveal their financial needs, including those they might not have thought of yet.
Sometimes, Bitters meets with clients over lunch, dinner, or just a cup of coffee—whatever is convenient for them, day or night. When it comes to making important financial decisions, says Bitters, it helps to be totally focused on the task at hand, and you can do that far better when you're across the table instead of across town. "Plus, when you're sitting across the table from someone, you can get their reactions. You can tell if they understand what you're saying. You can't see that in an email or fax."
Making Time to Connect
Bitters admits that it can be a challenge to schedule time for the important things in life—financial and family-related—but both are well worth the effort. He and his wife learned this firsthand when their middle daughter, Katherine, became paralyzed after a car accident in 1997. She was 34 at the time and a successful chef. Now a quadriplegic, Katherine has adjusted her future goals—she's thinking of writing a cookbook—while maintaining an optimistic attitude.
Though life doesn't always work out as we plan, it helps to have resources to turn to. For his part, Bitters likes that Aviva's personalized customer service closely matches his own. "I've been doing this for so long that I usually know who to call at Aviva, but if I don't, they get someone to help me right away," he says. "I appreciate that a great deal, and so do my clients."
Whether you need to fine tune a plan that's already in place, you're beginning at square one, or you're somewhere in between, your Aviva agent is committed to finding the best financial solutions for you.
The Biggest Investment Mistake People Make
Don't worry! Aviva regional general agent Dave Sorensen has a plan to help you avoid making this common error.