During the Korean War, my National Guard unit was called to active duty. My wife, Bette, followed me to Camp Picket, Va., where our division trained to become combat ready. We were fortunate to be sent to Germany while another Guard division was sent to Korea. Bette, now six months pregnant, returned to our tiny three-room apartment in Connecticut.
While I was overseas Bette gave birth to our first child. She did a great job of keeping things together while I was away. After coming home we decided that I should go back to college. We knew the course we had chosen would require sacrifices on our part. We also realized the potential benefits of this decision.
I started school while supporting our family with the milk-testing job I had before entering the service. I also sold life insurance. The strain of two jobs, going to school, a wife and now two children took its toll. I developed hepatitis. It took the better part of a year to recover fully. We had no disability income insurance. The farmers I had tested milk for were wonderful. They kept us supplied with food and also raised a significant purse to help us get by. Bette was incredible. She was nurse, wife and mother. She kept our spirits up with her positive attitude and enthusiasm.
After my recovery I gave up the milk-testing job and devoted my time to school, selling and family. At the age of 28 I graduated from college and began my full-time life insurance career. As we celebrated the occasion, we realized how much we had accomplished by working together as a team.
Announcing my career choice
To help launch my career, Bette arranged a party at our home where I could tell my friends about my career choice. I waited for the appropriate moment, took a deep breath and said: “I thought you’d like to know. I’m going to sell life insurance for a living.” The silence was deafening. Finally one of the guys asked, “You mean to tell us you worked your way through college so you could peddle insurance?” I was devastated.
Later, as we were cleaning up, Bette said: “I don’t care what Charlie had to say. You’re doing the right thing because selling insurance is a noble calling. When you succeed, as I know you will, Charlie and the others will eat their words. In the meantime know that I love you and respect your decision.” Interestingly, most of the friends at that party became clients. In two instances I have since paid a substantial death claim.
Like most agents, my early years were a struggle. In those days you had to work five nights a week to survive. Bette would always wait up for me to find out how I did. All too often I had to tell her that I failed again. Her response was always the same, “I’m not worried; tomorrow you’ll make a sale.” Thankfully she was right because with a third child on the way, we needed every sale I could make.
Both of us are very active people. Most of my clients are people I have known before they became clients. Additionally Bette has been a great supplier of prospects. I know we can’t share commissions with nonlicensed people, but I don’t believe there is a law that prevents me from making gifts to my wife.
A word to the wise
The years have gone by, and our relationship has grown. If you are fortunate enough to have a partner in life, my advice is:
- Make all important decisions together. Work as a team.
- Listen and be interested in what that person tells you about their life.
- Share freely about your business and other aspects of your life.
- Help each other.
- Advise and guide each other and above all respect each other and the path in life each of you has chosen.
The happy result will be that one plus one will equal much more than two.
Thomas John Wolff, CLU, ChFC, served as 1979-1980 president of NALU (NAIFA). A member of MDRT since 1958, he is a recipient of the John Newton Russell Award. He is a member of Hartford AIFA (Conn.). His address is P.O. Box H, Vernon CT 06066.