I ran into an old friend this week whom I haven’t seen in about six years. We grew up in the insurance business together. We were
trained by the same company, promoted within a year of one another to management positions, and even used to have personal contests for both production and recruiting.
As we caught up on all the small talk, discussing family and people we both knew, our discussion took a turn for which I wasn’t quite ready. Knowing this man as well as I did, I had always admired his ability and dedication to always do the right thing.
Even when we competed fiercely, Doug always kept the fight clean, and therefore, we both knew that if we lost that particular round, the other won fair and square. I guess that’s what caused us to issue one challenge after another, oftentimes even before
the previous challenge was even finished. Oh yes, those were some fun days.
My friend complimented me on my radio show being picked up by a Fox News affiliate. He said he listens whenever he can through live streaming. “I love your show, Rod, but I have to ask you, why do you do it? Don’t you feel like you’re beating your head up against a brick wall as you’re still trying to teach people who don’t want to learn? People today don’t want to think for themselves. They just want to be told what to do.”
Doug started telling me how his practice had changed since he left the captive company where we both had worked. He told me how his organization was growing, and that he now had agents writing policies like the order-takers at McDonalds. He said he is making money hand over fist, and he owes it all to people like Dave Ramsey
and Suze Orman.
“Dave Ramsey is making me a wealthy man,” said the friend whom I thought I knew so well. “He lines them up and we knock them down. I’ve gotten so involved in this thing that I now sell Ramsey’s events to churches just so I can place mutual funds or term life insurance. Heck, I’ve even got employers letting me take over their 401(k) plans, and you know how much money’s in that racket.”
I was absolutely floored to hear this from a man I’ve heard complain about this very thing a million times before. Doug used to yell at the radio in his car every time he heard this guy Ramsey give what we both knew to be bad advice to unknowing callers time and time again. We had both made it our life’s work to educate people about the dangers of following this one-size-fits-all mentality.
"Doug," I said, "what happened? You and I both know these entertainers are nothing but unlicensed blowhards who make millions selling bad advice. You used to teach advisors how to overcome this bad information and teach people how financial tools really work. What on earth could have changed your mind? What could have happened to make you start following these people and become part of the problem?"
“I got tired of fighting it,” Doug said. "We’ve always heard, 'If you can’t beat 'em, join 'em.' I got tired of trying to beat them, so I joined them. I still don’t agree with Ramsey, but things are sure a whole lot easier now because all I have to do is open the doors to my office and turn the radio up. People flock in like bees to honey."
"More like sheep to slaughter," I said. I couldn’t believe my ears. I asked my friend how he could sell financial tools to people just because it’s what an entertainer recommended. "How do you put aside all you know to be right, just to make a buck? How can you
look people in the eye knowing the long-term problems they are going face, and just recklessly sign them up because that’s what the guy on the radio said to do?"
His answer was as worrisome as his earlier statements. He said, “By the time these people figure out what a mistake they’ve made, I’ll be long since retired. Somebody else can clean that mess up. You and I have cleaned up enough of those messes, haven’t we, Rod?”
"Yes," I replied, "I guess we have cleaned up a bunch of them, but that doesn’t make what you’re doing right."
We changed the subject and talked for a little while longer. After some more pleasantries, we wished each other well, and parted ways once again. Doug, off to his agency where he uses deceit and trickery to line his pockets. And me, off to my office where I still do it the old-fashioned way.
I’d be less than honest with you if I said I didn’t ask myself why I’m doing what I do. I still sometimes think, wouldn’t life be so much easier if I just went with the flow? If everyone else is doing it, am I just crazy for believing there is a better way?
See also: Is Dave Ramsey an idiot?
If you’ve read this entire article, would you leave me a comment? Are those of us who believe in truth and the long-term benefits of competent and accountable financial planning doing the right thing? Or are we just relics who have missed the boat to the future? Do agents still care about what’s right and what’s wrong, and choose honesty and dignity?
This encounter with my old friend has really gotten me thinking. Are there more of us in the industry who demonstrate truth, honesty and respect in our business than just the sales people out for the paycheck today?
I hope you will leave me a note saying which side you’re on. It might be good for all of us to see a long list of colleagues who, just by commenting on this article, show their commitment to always doing the right thing for their clients.
Thank you for your thoughts!