Get CE credits that matter

By Jim Ruta | November 18 2013 07:06PM

Everyone needs CE credits but the time commitment often seems like such a waste. What can I do to make the most of my CE credit time investment?Over the course of a year, 15 or even 30 hours doesn’t seem like a lot. But sitting in an airless, windowless room for the equivalent of a couple of days can feel like cruel and unusual punishment. But it doesn’t have to be that way. You can take control of your CE credits and the time you spend getting them. You can also make them mean something important to you.

First of all, since you have to get CE credits, why not get credits that matter? I mean credits that help you and your business. Just sitting in on a session that is of no practical use or interest to you in your business really is a waste of time. Sure, you get the credit but do you get ahead? I think not. This is the essence of wasting time.

The first thing you can do to protect yourself (and one of the best reasons for doing it) is to specialize in some part of the business. When you focus on something in particular, you automatically give yourself a category of CE credit session to attend. You also give yourself a category of CE credit event you DON’T need to attend. That on its own will save you a ton of time and make the time you do invest, that much more valuable.

For instance, if you focus on life insurance, stick to life insurance related events. If you are an investment specialist, investment topics make a lot of sense. I appreciate that you can have cross interests, but those should be minimized to maximize the value of your CE time. There are also general topics that are valuable regardless of what your specialty is. Things like practice management, ethics, business information and financial services regulatory affairs can all have an impact on your business and is useful knowledge for anyone. But again, stay focused.

But what of CE credits just for the sake of CE credits? This is where the real waste of time comes in. Many advisors just attend any CE accredited session at all just to validate their license or designation. Some advisors even attend sessions on topics that they have never and will never use in their business. Maybe they call it general interest CE but to what end? None, except that you can check another credit box. That is no reason for CE. It doesn’t help you either.

This topic came up the other day at a talk I attended with an insurance regulator present. The regulator made it quite clear that CE requirements were not their idea because, after some research, they believed that a lack of CE was never the cause of a bad advisor behavior. Telling statement, isn’t it? CE is an industry construct enforced by regulators. Therefore, take charge of your CE and learn the information you need to know to do your job better. Period. Over crediting yourself on topics you can’t use doesn’t prove much at all.

What’s the latest hot trend on selling more life insurance?

Gimmickry seems to be the only way advisors want to sell life insurance these days. Unless there is a tax or investment gimmick to support it, many advisors don’t seem interested in offering it. That’s all well and good until the CRA gets interested and then they head for the hills. (10/8 anyone?)

This philosophy is left over from the general disinterest so many advisors seem to have for the product altogether. Think about it. If they can make it something other than a life insurance product, they don’t have to tell anyone they sell life insurance. Then they are safe. This way they avoid the whole decontamination and disinfecting they suppose would be required if they actually sold plain old life insurance for old fashioned reasons. Call it something else, they don’t get their hands dirty and don’t have the problem. Whew!

But is this idea really helping the consuming public? I don’t think so. In my mind, agent avoidance of the basic need for life insurance in the lives of their clients is a failure of their duty to protect them from one of the certainties of life, death. It’s a big failure too and I have written about this idea already this year. Remember the terrible ten words...

The industry has done many things to help advisors avoid dealing with the topic. We aren’t “life insurance agents” anymore; we are “financial advisors”. We don’t sell “life insurance”; we provide “risk management”. We don’t do “capital needs analysis”; we provide “financial plans”.

Honestly, many advisors are just making this stuff up and clients’ survivors are suffering. You may have also read of a recent court case where a life insurance agent was sued for bad retirement advice as if it was given under the appropriate designation. Apparently the agent said the client could retire with sufficient income for life and it wasn’t. What are insurance agents doing giving this advice anyway? See how easy it is to get into trouble.

What’s wrong with agents just helping clients and prospects buy life insurance because they love someone or something? Industry icon, O. Alfred Granum called it “plain vanilla”. I say it was good enough years ago and it continues to be today. Regardless of how the world progresses, protecting the important relationships we have will never go away. So far at least, love, loyalty and commitment hasn’t gone out of style. Life insurance is the physical manifestation of that love, caring and hope. Life insurance doesn’t have to go out of style either.

So, if you’re looking for the hottest new trend in life insurance selling, why not go back to the future? I hear that the youngest generation today is starting to expect their professional advisors to dress the part like we used to. I hear they are starting to return to traditional values. Why not return to traditional values for the life insurance product too? Why not lead the trend to helping your clients do what’s right for their family, business and/or employees? You can and when you do, you will give yourself a hot new purpose that will increase your passion, your resolve and results. Be the new trend in life insurance selling. The best new sales gimmick is no gimmick at all.