Yuka Nakahara-Goven traveled 7,000 miles to pursue her dream. Now, she uses her experience and compassion to help empower other women to pursue theirs.
Perseverance in the Face of Adversity
Nakahara-Goven1 grew up in Japan and Taiwan and dreamed of becoming a diplomat. Bilingual in Japanese and Chinese, she had everything she needed to succeed. She worked hard, studied harder, and passed the first exam needed to enter government service. Her hopes were dashed, however, when a professor revealed that it would be difficult for her to be hired as a diplomat because she was a woman.
Disheartened but not defeated, Nakahara-Goven decided to move to the United States to pursue an MBA. She chose Texas because that state had the least expensive tuition and fees for out-of-state students and has stayed there for over 40 years. Full of hope and promise, Nakahara-Goven graduated with her MBA, only to come up against the same forces she faced in Japan. It was the early 1980s and the major financial institutions saw hiring a woman as doing her a favor. Nakahara-Goven describes her frustration at the time. “I didn't come all this way, 7,000 miles from Japan, and spend all this money on my graduate degree to be told what I can do and cannot do,” she insists. Finally, she was able to find one company, New York Life Ins. Co., to give her a chance as an agent.
Entrepreneurship and Mentorship
What Nakahara-Goven likes most about her career is the independence it offers and the opportunity to mentor young women professionals. Because of her own experience as a woman coming up in the insurance and financial services industry, Nakahara-Goven is a stalwart advocate for women joining the profession. “The opportunity that it presents, especially to young females, is that you can plot your life,” she says. “We are entrepreneurs. We are in control of our lives. I literally designed my own life how I want to be.”
Nakahara-Goven is passionate about sharing what she’s gone through to achieve success in an unwelcoming environment. “Another reason I'm involved in an industry is that gives me a way to share a broader perspective, to meet more people, and be able to share my experiences and encourage them.”
Keys to Success
Nakahara-Goven recalls the differences in the industry between the 80s and today. She is a self-described generalist, but she knew early on that she wanted to help small businesses. When she started out, Yuka Nakahara-Goven was using the yellow pages, cold-calling prospects, and visiting businesses in person.
The key to prospecting, Nakahara-Goven believes, is learning about the people she serves. “What I advise younger professionals is to be a wealth of knowledge - know about the culture of the people that you're dealing with. What do they love? What are they passionate about?”
Nakahara-Goven believes the most important qualities of a good professional and agent are perseverance, repetition, and learning from more seasoned professionals in the industry. “Whatever market you're working with,” she says, “there is still an established course of training. Follow that course of training, put in the dues, and don't laugh it off. Follow that. Do it over and over. Persevere. Never give up.”
Making a Difference
The most rewarding thing about her profession, Nakahara-Goven says, is being able to help families. She describes an experience with the family of a client who passed away. He owned a business, and his wife and son were running it in his absence. When Nakahara-Goven delivered them his life insurance check, they broke down in tears. Because of her client’s life insurance policy, his family was able to keep their business, and his passion, alive.
Nakahara-Goven shared this story with her state representative and explained the role that life insurance plays in his constituents’ lives. “That's what we wanted - our government to understand that life insurance is not only for wealthy people. It is for all of us, for the business owners, for people that work hard every day, and because of the life insurance proceeds, they will survive. It's the difference between surviving not surviving, giving them dignity or not.”
While Nakahara-Goven has been involved in several charities over the years, her primary focus now is the Million Dollar Round Table (MDRT)2 Foundation. She currently serves as the chair of the MDRT Foundation Grants Review Committee. She appreciates the foundation’s global perspective and describes the impact it has on the world stage. “It is amazing what our members do, what they're passionate about. A lot of times it moves me to tears,” she says. “There are so many problems and issues that we’re not able to resolve in this world, but at least we can make them less painful by offering support.”
The Benefits of NAIFA Membership
Nakahara-Goven believes that NAIFA membership is essential for anyone in our industry. She speaks about NAIFA’s Political Action Committee (IFAPAC) and its role in representing our agents and professionals. “Being a member gives me that peace of mind,” she says. “The more members we have, the more power we have.” She insists that everyone in our industry should be participating in NAIFA's advocacy work. “Somebody has to do something. If it's not us, we're benefiting from what NAIFA does.” She asks, “Are we just receiving benefits without paying the price?”
The Importance of Family
Family is Nakahara-Goven's number one priority. She and her husband love to travel. They visit their daughter and grandson every month and cherish the quality time they spend together. Nakahara-Goven also prides herself on cooking dinner every night. She emphasizes the importance of spending quality time with family. “Life is long, but it's short,” she says. “We need to have more time together, doing things that we enjoy with each other.”
Thank you, Yuka, for your service to our industry and association. We’re #NAIFAproud to call you one of our own.
1. Yuka Nakahara-Goven, MBA, CLU, Agent
New York Life Insurance Company
Dallas Ft Worth General Office
12201 Merit Drive, Suite 1000
Dallas, Texas 75251
2. The Million Dollar Round Table (MDRT), the Premier Association of Financial Professionals, is recognized globally as the standard of excellence for life insurance sales performance in the insurance and financial services industry