Don’t apply until you’re ready. Are you sure you even need it? If you do, take the time to figure out how much insurance you need. This isn’t a one-size-fits all deal, so those old rules of thumb like “buy 10 times your income in coverage” are misleading at best. Fortunately, there are good online calculators out there that can make this easier, such as the needs assessment tool we offer at Everyday Life.
As a part of our series about the “5 Things You Should Ask Before You Purchase a Life Insurance Policy” I had the pleasure of interviewing Jake Tamarkin.
Jake Tamarkin, CEO and co-founder of Everyday Life, is on a mission to make life insurance accessible to everyone who needs it. The financial services professional wants to fix a broken industry where people with average incomes — those who need protection the most — can protect their families with just the right amount of coverage. Unlike “old-fashioned” one-size-fits all policies, the company designs policies that automatically adjust over time as people’s needs change, often saving thousands of dollars.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dig in, our readers would love to get to know you a bit. Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?
I never expected to be an insurance guy. I went to college to be a jazz musician at the Berklee College of Music. I was an alright bassist, but I was also a finance nerd thanks to my father, who was a finance professor and commodities trader. So, when my jazz career fizzled out after too many late nights in smoky clubs playing to too few people, I got an entry level job at MetLife counseling people on their 401K plans. I really liked helping people be smart with their money, and developed an appreciation for the way that healthy money habits can, over time, build real financial security for families. Clearly, I had an affinity for finance, because within a few years I rose to the position of Vice President at a Wall Street bank, went back to school for my MBA, and eventually became an executive at Ernst & Young, one of the “big four” professional services firms.
As I was building a career, I was also building a life. I got married, we bought an apartment, and our first child was born. I began to appreciate how a life insurance policy could protect my growing family. What made sense to me, and fellow finance nerds, was an approach financial planners recommend called “term laddering,” where my insurance gradually steps down in cost and coverage over time as my kids grow up. Despite knowing exactly what I needed, I had a hard time finding it. The industry was not set up to provide what I was looking for. The experience made me stop and think- if I can’t get what financial services pros say is the smartest coverage, how do everyday people ever get it right without overspending? I came to learn that there’s such a huge coverage gap in the United States — it’s most pronounced amongst middle income families — and I realized this was a problem I could tackle and make a real difference.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting in the industry? Can you tell us what lesson or takeaway you learned from that?
As an entry level executive, I ended many phone calls spelling out confirmation numbers. “A” is for “Apple” — you get the idea. I had a client on the line, and when I got to the letter “U,” I couldn’t think of anything. Eventually I said, “Uranus,” and started laughing and he started laughing and my professional demeanor was shattered! I don’t think he ever got the rest of the confirmation number, but I learned that it’s helpful to establish a personal connection and acknowledge our humanity.
Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?
The dirty little secret of the life insurance industry is that most people buy more life insurance than they need- if they can get approved for policies in the first place. I founded Everyday Life, a new life insurance platform that caters to the average earner, people who have been largely ignored by insurance companies.
41 million consumers want to buy life insurance but haven’t been able to get it, according to the 2020 Insurance Barometer Study by LIMRA and Life Happens. Employers are cutting back on benefits, and traditional agents are focused on wealthier people, leaving tens of millions of American families unprotected. Everyday Life makes buying life insurance simpler and more affordable, by making sure people are only paying for what they need, and by only working with insurance companies who are likely to approve them at the quoted price. And, unlike traditional agents and some online platforms, we’ll tell people if they don’t need life insurance! Some companies don’t.
Are you able to identify a “tipping point” in your career when you started to see success? Did you start doing anything different? Is there a takeaway or lessons that others can learn from that?
Our platform is basically an independent agency and recently we’ve had a sweep of insurance companies actively seeking us out to do business with us. They’re recognizing that we’re onto something different and better, and they want to be a part of it. Taking on new partners helps us do a better job of serving people and fulfilling our mission to help regular people be smart with their money when it comes to insurance.
What advice would you give to other people in the insurance field to thrive and avoid burnout?
Stay in touch with your customers. Too many insurance professionals think of it as a one-time transaction, but when you take the time to learn more about the people you are helping and why they want insurance in the first place, you may better appreciate the noble purpose of our profession and the incredible protective power of basic life insurance. Staying in touch is a great way to feed your soul.
Ok, thank you for that. Let’s now shift to the main focus of our discussion. As an “insurance insider”, you know much more about insurance than most consumers. If your loved one wanted to buy a policy from another person, which 5 things would you advise them to find out about before committing to a policy? Can you give an example or story for each?
- Don’t apply until you’re ready. Are you sure you even need it? If you do, take the time to figure out how much insurance you need. This isn’t a one-size-fits all deal, so those old rules of thumb like “buy 10 times your income in coverage” are misleading at best. Fortunately, there are good online calculators out there that can make this easier, such as the needs assessment tool we offer at Everyday Life.
- Don’t mix up investments and insurance. For most people, a basic term life policy provides great protection at a fair price. When you get into whole life or universal life, the details get more complex and making smart decisions gets more difficult. KEEP IT SIMPLE! You’re better off getting a cost-effective term policy and investing your money elsewhere.
- Be completely honest when you fill out your application, and don’t fill out a bunch of applications to try to get the best price. Insurance companies share information through a single resource, the Medical Information Bureau (MIB), so they know about your health history and trying to game the system will make you look like a poor risk; undermining your chances of getting a good policy at a fair price.
- The price that you’re quoted initially, the sticker price, is often not the final price of the policy. Underwriters will assess your particular risk before finalizing their price and it could be higher than what you were quoted, particularly if you initially try to downplay any issues you may have. The chances of this happening go way down if you are candid with your agent from the outset.
- If the reason you are looking for life insurance is to protect your family, look for a laddered policy- one that steps down in cost and coverage over time. You won’t need as much insurance when your children go to college or when you’ve paid your mortgage down, for example. The reason why we specialize in this approach at Everyday Life is because it can save our customers thousands of dollars over the life of their policy, while keeping their family well-protected.
Insurance agencies or companies are often known to be very creative and innovative marketers. Do you use any clever and innovative marketing strategies that you think large legacy companies should consider adopting?
People are so busy today; their lives are complicated. We try to meet people where they are, online, provide lots of easy-to-digest content for our customers, and make the process of applying simple too. Life insurance shouldn’t be hard to understand. We try to guide our customers by helping them get smarter about their decision to protect their families.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
Unlike most kids who choose music as a profession and who practice, practice, practice practically from the cradle, I took up the bass guitar as a teen. So, when I arrived at college, I was worried. At my first lesson, my bass teacher, John Repucci, the assistant chair of the bass department, asked me to play. He listened intently, then said, “Well, that was honest.” Professor Repucci explained that honesty- and practice, of course, helps people value your work. I’ve carried that idea throughout my life.
You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
I truly believe that providing protection for as many families who need it is critical. There’s a 10–15 year difference in life expectancy between our nation’s richest and poorest people. Insurance companies often ignore everyday people in favor of selling big policies to wealthier people who pose lower risk. Too many families are left trying to raise burial funds via crowdsourced campaigns, and tragically, the pandemic has reminded regular people of insurance’s value. However, they can’t get their needs met because too many insurers have essentially turned life insurance into a luxury good. That’s a shame, and we’re fixing that.
How can our readers follow you on social media?
I’m on Linkedin: https://www.linkedin.com/in/jake-tamarkin/
On Twitter: https://twitter.com/jaketamarkin
Thank you so much for joining us. This was very inspirational.