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A Courageous Man

Nobody likes asking a relative to buy insurance, but it's the right thing to do.

By Chuck Jones

You might call Auston McCay, CLU, ChFC, an average insurance advisor. The 60-year-old general agent and broker has operated his practice for 37 years in the same location in downtown Bowling Green, Ky., just across the street from the post office. His clients, for the most part just regular Kentucky folks, are fiercely loyal to him.

But McCay is not average. He is a courageous man who has committed the same act of bravery time and time again over the years. He’s an advisor who is not afraid to sell life insurance to his family and friends.

Every advisor knows the routine. It’s been institutionalized on almost every sales job application: “Can you name 20 relatives or friends you can call on and sell insurance to?” The number of names may differ, but the implication is the same. Advisors are expected to call on the people they know.

While many dread calling a friend or a cousin and asking them to buy life insurance—and a lot of them outright refuse—Auston McCay sees it his duty to make sure the people he knows and loves have adequate coverage. He’s insured his brothers, his cousins, their wives and their wives’ relatives. And he’s delivered death benefits to the widows of one brother and two of his cousins. It was the death claim on one of those cousins that especially validated his occupation.

Protecting family
McCay’s cousin was a barber in a medium-size town about 60 miles from Bowling Green. He was married with two small children, a boy and a girl. In 1979, McCay approached him about buying life insurance. “As the father of two small kids, the need for coverage was more acute than ever,” he says. His cousin bought a “good sized” annual renewable term policy, McCay says, and in 1984, he bought an additional large universal life contract.

Three years later, on the Saturday afternoon of Memorial Day weekend, his cousin went home after closing up the shop. After he arrived home, he didn’t get much past the front door of his house before his wife knew something was wrong. “He was just leaning in the doorway,” McCay recalls. "His wife took one look at him and said, ‘You don’t look too good.’

“He said, ‘I don’t feel well,’” McCay says. “Then he fell over dead.

“I know it was a terrible shock to his family because it was a terrible shock to me,” he explains. “I think, though, that it hurt his son most of all. His son was only 8 years old when his father died, and he always said that his daddy was his best buddy. The boy would get off the school bus in the afternoons—it stopped right in front of the barber shop—and his dad would be there. A lot of times, he’d even close up the shop early to play ball with the boy, help him with his lessons, whatever that boy wanted or needed.”

McCay learned of the sad news while he was out of town in Lexington with his family attending a beauty pageant in which his daughter was entered. At 3 o’clock Sunday morning, only hours after his cousin died, McCay was in his car making the three-hour drive to his cousin’s house to help with funeral arrangements and to try to console the family.

Delivering the death benefit
First thing Monday morning, McCay began processing the death claim on his cousin’s term and universal life policies, which would total more than $150,000. About two weeks later, he received the benefit checks. Then he visited the widow.

“She well understood what she was getting,” McCay says. “When I delivered those insurance checks, we sat down and had a good talk. We had a logical and reasonable discussion about the future of the money she was getting.”

Since McCay doesn’t believe that an insurance advisor’s job ends when he delivers the death benefit, he detailed the widow’s options for her. She decided to pay off her home, which took about $30,000, and she purchased a $100,000 single-premium whole life policy on her life. The rest of the money McCay arranged to put into certificates of deposit at good interest rates. Thanks to McCay, his cousin was still providing for his family, even in death.

The barber’s family has since moved on with their lives. Although she was a stay-at-home mother before her husband’s death, the widow decided to take an office job with the county government. She remarried, both her children attended college, and her son recently graduated. For his part, McCay is still taking care of the family, selling life insurance to the widow’s new husband and to several members of her family.

“This case gave me a recommitment to the business,” says McCay, who has handled more than 20 death claims over his career. “If you believe in yourself and what you do, you just have to sell to the people you’re close to. It’s really not hard to do because everybody knows somebody that’s died.”

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