There is nothing better than working for yourself knowing that your efforts are creating your future.
I worked hard, invested aggressively and created a nest egg allowing me to leave corporate America and become an entrepreneur before I turned 30 years old. I believed in my abilities and knew I would work harder than anyone else in order to become uber successful!
The problem was that I didn’t understand at that point in my life that sometimes events are out of our control and these events can change our lives for better or worse regardless of how hard we work.
At the beginning of 2003 a routine doctors visit exposed a major health issue. I was diagnosed with lymphoma and that diagnosis changed everything!
I was determined to continue working while I fought the disease. I had excellent health insurance allowing me to get the best care possible to beat the disease along with a hopefull prognosis from my doctor who told me “I would beat it” if I did what he said.
The problem for me was what others thought when they heard I was sick. Some key employees left wanting to ensure their futures in case something might happen to me. My lender found out I was ill and reduced the line of credit I used to fund monthly expenses down to what I owed leaving me without working capital.
My stores failed causing and I lost my income. This caused me to lose the money I needed to pay my health insurance premiums so I could get the care I needed. I also didn’t have the money anymore to pay my mortgage, power bill, car payment, or anything else.
I had $100K of equity in my house but the banks told me I would have to sell it if I wanted the equity out of it.Their reasoning was something about “not having an income to pay back a loan if they were to give it to me.” I tried to explain that I would use some of the money to make my payments on their loan but it fell on deaf ears. They instead threatened me with foreclosure if I didn’t make the payment on the mortgage loan I had taken out in better times.
Banks don’t lend people money that need it.
Luckily, I didn’t need to sell my house but my family and I struggled. We were humbled to have our friends and family sacrificing their income to help us get by. Without them, who knows what could have happened to us.
However, this time in my life wasn’t easy. All the wealth I created for myself over the previous 10 years was gone and I was pissed at myself for putting myself and my family in such a precarious position.
Because things went so bad in a hurry for me, I started questioning everything I thought I knew.
Why did that happen to me?
What could I have done to protect myself?
How could my life have been better if I would have known?
How can I fix this?
There was no way to fix it. It was gone. Which lead to the most important question I could ask myself:
“How can I turn this experience into a positive?”
Starting in the Insurance Business
Half way through my chemotherapy treatment I sat with my Grandmother at my sisters wedding. It was her suggestion that I look into becoming an insurance agent. Her husband, my grandfather, worked for Metropolitan Life Insurance Company from 1947 to 1972.
Though he had passed away in 2000, she shared some stories of people he had sold policies and some of those who wouldn’t buy.
As I listened I could relate to those who didn’t buy and the families they left behind when the prospect my grandfather worked with passed away unexpectedly.
Regret, anxiety, confusion, anger. If the husband had bought life insurance, the family could have had some financial security while they dealt with an tragic event in their life.
Once my cancer treatment was done, I went to work for MetLife as well. My first day was December 1, 2003. Finally, I felt good enough to get back to work. This time with a purpose.
This period in the US economy is significant. It was shortly after the booming 1990’s gave way to the slowing 2000’s. There was the “.com” bust which caused the stock market to plummet and with it, the value of millions of retirees investment portfolio’s.
One of my first appointments the company assigned to me was a couple in their early 60’s who had retired in 1999 with a stock portfolio valued at $1,500,000. When they came into my office in early 2004 the value of that portfolio had decreased to $250,000.
Now, there are a lot of people who would love to have $250,000. However, this particular couple had a lifestyle that required $150,000 a year of income to sustain it. They were looking for a “solution” to recapture their loses and generate $150,000 a year of income on what was left of their money so they could stay retired.
There were a number of people who had similar situations. When they retired early, they believed they would generate double digit returns on their investments for the rest of their lives only to see the value of their accounts drop significantly.
Like me, they questioned what they had done. They were full of regret, anger, fear and anxiety of what the future would bring to them.
I felt their pain. It reminded me of what I experienced and I wish I could have helped. But I couldn’t.
As I spent time at Metlife, I was encouraged to learn more about becoming a financial planner.
Financial Planning involves looking at every aspect of a persons financial situation.
It includes budgeting, debt, investments, insurance, taxes and legal documents to name a few. In doing so, a planner can find areas where resources and energy can be coordinated to work more efficiently thus increasing the families probability of being financially successful.
This means that when everything is going great, the client is able to enjoy the fruit of their labors.
However, if things don’t work out “as planned” (economy crashes, sickness, death of a bread winner, lawsuit) then the family is in the most optimal financial position to handle the situation and not be financially destroyed by it.
I never want one of my clients to be like one of those first few people I met with when I started my career at MetLife or feel what I felt when I lost everything in 2003.
Instead, I want to be able to give them a high five when things are going great and IF something happens unexpected and undesirable, I want to know I can look them in the eye and tell them that financially “Everything will be alright!”
Living What I Preach
In 2016, I was diagnosed with a new form of cancer. This one more aggressive than the first and likely caused by my radiation treatment from my first battle. Stage III Esophageal cancer has a 20% survival rate.
Though this was a dire diagnosis, my family was much better off financially than we were in 2003. In 2016, I had a plan in place that provided us with the flexibility to see any doctor in the United States to get treatment. It provided us with cash benefits to pay our expenses while we traveled to the best hospitals in the country. My plan provided income from a disability insurance plan to pay our bills while I spent 45 days that year in the hospital.
Finally, I personally had the comfort knowing that if I did not make it, my family would be taken care of as I had both life insurance and residual income from my businesses that would take care of them allowing me focus on fighting the stage III esophageal cancer instead of worrying what would happen to them.
I am a little thinner but I am still here with a renewed sense of purpose.