This is a portion of a presentation made during the 2002 Million Dollar Round Table Annual Meeting. The full text of this presentation can be purchased from MDRT.
I want to share with you a few concepts. Two of them are my originals. Others are some I have learned from meetings like this one and have used almost daily since hearing them. Over the years, clients told me of their wants and desires for their families and businesses. Since studying for my CLU And ChFC designations, I have found that mnemonics or acronyms have helped me remember key concepts. As I have worked with my clients, certain things continue to surface over and over. To help me guide them during the initial fact gathering process, I began to utilize two key acronyms.
They are “FFREEDM” and “BUSINES.”
Most of my work is with either families or executives of closely held businesses in Southern California. When working with the head of household of my family clients I help him/her focus on the task at hand by saying the following:
“Over the years my clients have told me there are seven areas that concern them about their lack of planning. I can identify them by using the acronym F F R E E D M.”
“If we were meeting here three years from now, and you were to look back over that three-year period, back to today, what needs to have happened, with us working together for you to feel happy with your progress?” (Those of you fortunate enough to know Dan Sullivan and his Strategic Coach program, recognize this as the “R Factor Question.” It is still one of the best opening questions I have eve heard and I use it in every interview.)
(Here is where I utilize the “Broad Concept Interview” that I learned at the 1979 MDRT annual meeting in Chicago.) “If you die tonight, where will your family be tomorrow? Where will you want them to be? What are the various ways of them getting to where you want them to be? What is the best way for them right now?” If that question is a little too tame for you, try this: “You died last night. In 15 minutes your widow is due in my office. She will ask me what you did to provide for her and your children. What will I tell her?”
“Do you plan to retire some day? At what age will you want to take life easier? Perhaps do something other than you do today. In today’s dollars, how much income will you want for you and your spouse? For how long must that income last? Perhaps you have enough for the first 10 years of retirement. But how about the second 10 years or perhaps the third 10 years?”
“Is it your wish to see your children receive the most education opportunities for which they can qualify? When my children were growing up, I told them that if they qualified I would send them to the college or university of their choice. Do you have any idea where you would like your children to attend college? Do you know what a year of college or university costs today? Are you aware that college costs are increasing by more than 8 percent per year? Should we plan to make sure your kids get to college whether or nor you are able to help them?”
“If you are fortunate enough to mass a large estate, are you aware that the taxing authorities could take up to half of it in confiscatory taxes and expenses. To put it another way, you and your spouse died last night. In 15 minutes your children are due in my office to ask me what you have done to protect them from the confiscation of up to half of your estate by the taxing authorities. What will I tell them?”
“If you became sick or hurt today and could not work tomorrow, where would your income come from? Is there a plan in place that would guarantee a lifetime of income for you and your family if you could not work?”
“As I do planning for my clients I have found that if we provide for enough cash to either liquidate a mortgage or arrange for enough principle, the income from which would cover the debt service so you can take advantage of the interest deduction on your mortgage loan, the amount that would be needed for family income would be less than if you did not provide for mortgage liquidation.”
About eight years ago, I had to make an initial business presentation to an auto dealer in Central California. It was a three-hour drive so I had lots of time to think. “FFREEDM” had worked so well for me that I decided to develop an acronym for this initial business meeting. It has met with the same surprising success. It goes like this:
“Do you know what your business is worth? Have you had it appraised? If I wanted to buy your business and you wanted to sell it, how big a check would I have to write? Isn’t it worth it to employ a professional appraiser and find out so if you had to know sometime in the future, you wouldn’t have to guess, as you are doing right now?”
Unfunded or funded business agreements
“If you or one of your partners or key shareholders active in this enterprise walked out today and never came back, how much should the surviving family receive? Should there be an influx of cash to this business to be used to replace that person? Is there an agreement that spells out what should be done? Is it adequately funded with life insurance?”
“If you became sick or hurt and couldn’;t work, is there a plan here that would provide an income for you? If one of your key employees suffered the same debilitating fate, would there be adequate cash to provide that associate and her family income until she was able to again be productive? You probably insure your cars, trucks and machines for their replacement cost. What have you done for the real money-making machines here—you and your key employees?”
“Many business owners I have as clients have incentive programs that are both productive and fun. Furthermore, they don’t cost very much. In fact, they pay for themselves in increased productivity. Such programs are dinner for two, a weekend at a local resort, cash or prize bonuses, etc. The possibilities are as many as you can imagine them. Most people love contests, they excite and challenge. Done in good taste, they can be a valuable tool that sets you apart from the competition.”
Nonqualified or qualified plans
“Are you taking advantage of the increased popularity of both nonqualified and qualified plans given new life by the recently-passed tax law in the U.S.? You don’t have to be a corporation to avail yourself of the increased benefits available. Let us show you how you can offer more to your people than you could prior to President Bush signing the bill last year.”
“Who around here contributes most to this enterprise? Could it be you? Who gets here hours before anyone else and leaves long after everyone else has gone home? Most everyone else doesn’t give this place a second thought when they leave here. You probably often wake up at 3:00 a.m. and can’t get back to sleep because you can’t stop thinking of this enterprise. If you are like many of my clients, you wake up unemployed almost every day. Why not let this business help you get what you deserve for the extra effort you are making to make it successful.”
“Are there a few special folks here for whom you would like to do something extra? Maybe your assistant, or someone in the shop or in the field who exerts extra effort without realizing that you are watching? Maybe someone who has a sick child at home who needs some extra support or encouragement? If you were in that position what would a gesture like that mean to your and your family?”
These are two approaches that have been working for me for many years. Try them.
Gene Mahn, CLU, ChFC, of Mass Mutual Life Investors Services, is a 33-year Round Table member, 1998 President of MDRT and 1994 Past President of the MDRT Foundation. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.