Working with Seniors
Regulators are increasingly concerned about the way professional agents communicate and communicate with senior prospects and clients. When an agent works with a senior client they should:
- Avoid using industry terminology. Rather, use plain language and marketing materials with large font, if available.
- Test the client’s understanding of the proposed solution.
- Present a fair evaluation of the product(s) features, benefits, fees, expenses and risks.
- Communication must be based on the merits of a product or service, company or agent, and not on dire predictions about the future, unwarranted claims about the need to act quickly, or any other methods of creating a false sense of urgency.
- Document your meetings in the event there are problems with lack of recall or to help resolve any misunderstandings/misinterpretations.
- Provide ample opportunity to ask questions about the products discussed.
Undue Pressure Sales Tactics or/ Creating False Sense of Urgency
All Presentations must be fair and balanced in nature and based on principals of good faith and fair dealing. Presentations should not create a sense of false urgency or pressure to make a decision with respect a product or service. Agents may not use any marketing that may induce the purchase of a product or service through force, threat, fright or undue pressure. Terms or phrases such as these are generally not acceptable and should not be used with seniors:
- Take advantage of this offer today or it may expire
- Limited time offers
- Don’t delay
- Don’t become a statistic
- Act now
To determine the appropriateness of a product is a regulatory requirement and requires a careful analysis to determine the client’s financial needs, investment goals/objective, risk tolerance, and time horizon. Working with senior clients, you have a higher requirement to make certain that such client fully understands all aspects of the product being recommended. You should know the important facts related to each prospect and/or client prior to a sale including but not limited to:
- Explain that you are a licensed insurance agent and that you are presenting a life insurance or annuity. Try to avoid using any confusing terms or misleading names or titles.
- Determine client’s liquidity needs.
- Avoid high-pressure selling tactics. Some seniors may be vulnerable and easily frightened, intimidated, or confused.
- Avoid using statistics or facts that will mislead, confuse, or give false impressions.
- Reconsider the sale if the senior seems confused or unable to understand it.
- Don’t use any professional designations that indicate or imply that you have special training or certification in such a way as to mislead any person.
- Determine a senior’s needs, objectives, and risk tolerance, as well as the appropriateness of the product for the circumstances. A senior’s advanced age and special circumstances are significant factors in making these determinations.
- Understand the client’s expenses (e.g., mortgage, medical expenses, college expenses, etc.).
- Do not engage in overselling or stacking. Be conservative when determining the issues, concerns, needs, and suitability of the purchase and by careful documentation.
- Maintain good documentation and notes. This could include having the client sign-off on copies of notes and other types of meeting summaries. You must be certain that a client fully understands the impacts of any transaction executed on his/her behalf. It is important for you to be certain the client fully understands the potential risks and ramifications of a financial decision.
Dementia Issues with Seniors
One challenging issue agent face in dealing with seniors involves clients who show signs of reduced mental capacity. In these situations, a client may no longer be capable of making his/her own financial decisions. Agents should know the signs that may indicate reduced mental capacity and learn to recognize the potential signs of a client who is impaired due to a physical or mental disability. If a client exhibits any of the following behaviors or characteristics, or any behaviors or characteristics that raise concerns, agents should contact the Home Office for guidance. Clients with diminished capacity may exhibit behaviors including but not limited to:
- The client has difficulty communicating.
- The prospect/client appears unable to process simple concepts. His/her questions and comments seem disconnected or contradictory.
- The prospect/client’s physical appearance suggests an inability to care for himself/herself.
- The prospect/clients seem confused, nervous or afraid.
- The prospect/client is disoriented with his/her surroundings or social setting. The prospect/client’s home seems unusually disorderly (e.g., piles of unopened mail).
- The prospect/client is making decisions that are inconsistent with his/her current long-term goals or commitments.
- The prospect/client cannot manage his/her own checkbook, financial affairs or other personal matters.
- The prospect/client’s spouse/partner is answering questions for him/her.
- The prospect/client appears unable to appreciate the consequences of decisions.
- The prospect/client does not remember details from prior discussions including requests to process transactions.
- The prospect/client appears to be concerned or confused about missing funds in his/her account.
Recognize Abuse or Financial Exploitation
Be aware of is the potential for financial, mental or physical abuse of a senior client. Financial abuse is the unauthorized taking of funds or property by a relative, a caregiver, or an individual in a position of trust. If a client shows any of the following behaviors or any other behaviors that raise concerns, the agents should contact the Home Office. Issues of suspected abuse include but not limited to:
- Client gives power of attorney to someone that appears highly inappropriate.
- Requests information about the client’s account(s) without client’s consent.
- Client appears to be isolated from family and friends.
- A sudden, unusual change in the client’s transaction patterns (e.g., unplanned distributions/withdrawals, wires to a third party, etc.).
- Client does not appear to have knowledge of transactions or requests that were supposedly initiated on his/her behalf.
- Client’s mailing address has been changed to an unexplained address.
- An individual Inability to speak directly to the client, despite multiple attempts.
- Client indicates that he/she does not have control over or access to his/her money.
State Specific Requirement
Senior Consumer Protection and Suitability Law
The California Senior Protection and Suitability law for life and annuities sets forth guidelines for marketing to seniors in the state. These guidelines are noted below. Meeting in a Senior Client’s Residence When setting up an appointment with a senior prospect, California requires the California Senior Sales Presentation Disclosure form to be provided to anyone age 65 or older at least 24 hours and no more than 14 days before meeting in their home. As a result, you should schedule the appointment to allow time for the notice to arrive. You’re required to provide the disclosure to all potential and existing California senior clients and retain a copy in the respective client file to evidence it was provided. California law also requires an agent to do the following when visiting a senior’s residence:
- Immediately after greeting and before any other statements or questions, state that the purpose of the visit is to talk.
- Each person attending the meeting must provide the senior with a business card, which states their name, business address, telephone number, and license number.
- If and when asked to leave the residence by the senior, immediately end discussion and leave.
- About insurance or gather specific information for a follow up visit.
- State the name and titles of all person(s) arriving at the senior’s residence and the name of the insurance agency represented.
If the senior has an existing insurance relationship with you and requests a meeting with you the same day, you must deliver the notice the same day, as long as the delivery is prior to the actual meeting. If the meeting with senior takes place in a location other than his/her residence, the Disclosure requirements don’t apply. You should document in their client file (meeting notes) the location of the meeting.
Annuities – Medi-Cal Eligibility
California law also prohibits the sale of an annuity if the senior’s purpose in purchasing the annuity contract is to affect his/her Medi-Cal eligibility and the following are true:
- Senior’s assets are equal to or less than the community spouse resource allowance established annually.
- Senior would otherwise qualify for Medi-Cal.
- Senior’s purpose in purchasing the annuity contract is to affect Medi-Cal eligibility and after the purchase the senior or the seniors’ spouse would not qualify for Medi-Cal.
Guidelines Working with Military Personnel
Recent laws and regulations have been enacted regarding sales to military personnel, including the Military Personnel Financial Services Protection Act of 2006 and state variations of the NAIC Military Sales Practices Model Regulation. They aim to reduce abusive sales practices targeted at members of the military. Recently, state and federal regulators have taken action against insurance companies for their roles in allegedly abusive sales practices in the sale of life insurance to military personnel.
Military personnel refer to an active duty service member of the United States Armed Forces, i.e. all components of the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps and Coast Guard. It does not include members of the reserve component who are performing active duty or active duty for training under military calls or orders specifying periods less than 31 calendar days.
You must adhere to the following sales practices if you solicit and sale life insurance to military personnel:
- Posting advertisements that are limited to military personnel only or refers to military personnel.
- Placement of any advertising materials in any media that is directed primarily toward military personnel, which includes base newsletters, military newspapers or periodicals, or publications oriented primarily toward military personnel.
- Having a seminar or conduct a presentation on a military installation.
- Conducting any activity on any military installation including recruiting, sales presentations or solicitations.
- Conducting any seminars or public appearances or engaging in any speaking engagements on any military installation.
- Targeting military personnel for purposes of sales, solicitations, referrals or any other reasons.
- Allowable Sales Practices.
- Placement of a The Company or The Company approved advertisement in a newspaper or publication that has a public circulation, which also may include military personnel.
- Conducting a sales presentation to a military person at a The Company office or public location.