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Lifesaver Beach

June Is National Annuity Awareness Month

44 min read

The Persistency Pathway

By NAIFA on 9/21/23 3:04 PM

Topics: Podcast

Rick Demko

Richard (Rick) Demko is a licensed life insurance agent who speaks nationally to associations, consumers, and producer groups regarding proper life insurance planning strategies. He holds the Chartered Life Underwriter (CLU), Chartered Financial Consultant (ChFC), Retirement Income Certified Professional (RICP), Life Underwriting Training Council Fellowship (LUTCF), Life and Annuity Certified Professional (LACP), and is currently challenging the CFP. Rick was Texas’ fourth Advisor Today national 4 Under 40 recipient, inaugural Texas Young Advisor of the Year, past NAIFA Houston President, and current State Director. 

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Here’s a glimpse of what you’ll learn: 

  • Rick Demko talks about his career background and how he got into the insurance industry 
  • Why Rick chose to specialize in life insurance
  • Rick’s involvement with NAIFA and a wealth management firm 
  • Marketing channels Rick uses to implement growth strategies 
  • The importance of being persistent in the life insurance industry 
  • Rick discusses how he’s overcome professional struggles throughout the years
  • Tips for aspiring life insurance agents 
  • The future of the life insurance industry — and the impact of AI

In this episode…

Life insurance is a crucial component of financial planning that provides peace of mind to individuals and their loved ones. As a life insurance agent, how can you cater to the needs and concerns of your clients to ensure they receive the best possible coverage?

According to Rick Demko, being a successful life insurance agent requires knowledge, communication skills, persistence, and a commitment to ongoing professional development. By following these tips, you can build a successful career in the industry while providing invaluable protection to your clients and their families. His journey to success is fraught with industry knowledge, serving the next generation of aspiring agents.

On this episode of Advisor Today, Chris Gandy and Suzanne Carawan sit down with Rick Demko, a licensed life insurance agent, to discuss tips for thriving in the life insurance industry. Rick explains how he got into the insurance industry, his involvement with NAIFA, marketing strategies for growth, persistence, and the challenges he had to overcome.

Resources mentioned in this episode:

Sponsor for this episode...

This episode is brought to you by the National Association of Insurance and Financial Advisors, or NAIFA, the #1 association for producers in financial services.

At NAIFA, we enhance professional skills, promote ethical conduct, and advocate for legislative and regulatory environments.

By joining NAIFA, you gain access to a partnership that elevates your performance while providing greater purpose to your professional work. NAIFA members are happier, make more money, and stay in the business longer.

Get in touch with NAIFA and learn more about how to join NAIFA by visiting NAIFA.org.

Episode Transcript

Intro 0:02 

Welcome to NAIFA's Advisor Today podcast series, where we focus on how financial advisors work, live and give to their local communities and our greater financial services industry. Now, let's get started with the show.

Chris Gandy 0:20

Hi everyone this is Chris Gandy, one of your co-hosts for Advisor Today's podcast with our wonderful co-host, Suzanne Carawan, who's happened to be stuck in Chicago. But Hi, Suzanne, how are you?

Suzanne Carawan 0:31 

I'm good, Chris, how are you?

Chris Gandy 0:32 

I wish you could get out of here. I just told her Chicago hack. Those who want to know tune into the podcast, we can talk about it at the end. So Suzanne, share with us who's our sponsor for today's program?

Suzanne Carawan 0:47 

Yeah, so today, it's actually sponsored by this month, we're doubling down on get out the vote. And so NAIFA is a big supporter, we have multiple coalition's we're in about getting out and vote. And so, September 19, is actually National Voter Registration Day. So this is a great opportunity for you to get out to your clients, especially if they have 18-year-olds who might be turning 18, let's not forget to remind them that they need to get registered to vote. And also, we want to make sure that all of our financial advisors who are members and non-members also vote. So you can go to gotv4financialsecurity.org. Or you can link to it from NAIFA's site to get registered to see who all of your elected leaders are, etc. Because we want to be able to make sure that we all are creating great citizens here at NAIFA. So looking forward to spell celebrating all month long on get out and vote.

Chris Gandy 1:39 

Get out to vote. Get out, you have to be active, you have to be involved, you have to be engaged. With that being said, Suzanne, thank you for those announcements. And we're super happy as we've taken a little bit of time off a little bit. But now we've got a wonderful lineup of guests for the next year. As always, you don't want to miss that. So with that being said, Suzanne, would you introduce our guests for today?

Suzanne Carawan 2:03 

Yep. And Rick, are you look a little frozen. I hope you're not. But one of the things we also want to do with the month of September is September, of course is Life Insurance Awareness Month, and with our new partner with longtime partner life happens, but we're growing even more close, because they're going to kind of come into the NAIFA family. We wanted to also introduce Rick Demko, who's one of our rising stars have NAIFA and talk a lot about his practice and what he's doing in life insurance and whatnot. So Rick, are you there with us?

Chris Gandy 2:32 

I think we lost Rick for a second. But you know, technical difficulties is always okay, so, Suzanne, with that being said, though, the hack here in Chicago is if you want to leave, and you happen to be right around O'Hare, just get on your application, get on your cell phone and actually look up Southwest Airlines who flies primarily out of Midwest. And so this frontier, and you are Midway Airport, you typically can get out of Chicago, same day, reasonable prices. That is a Chicago hack. So with that being said, I think we have technical difficulties. We lost Rick, but we will get him back. Suzanne, do you want to comment? We had a wonderful lineup of people coming up, we'll let him back in the room. But we had a wonderful lineup coming up. So you want to tune in you don't want to miss that opportunity.

Suzanne Carawan 3:22 

Definitely next week, you're not gonna miss we're gonna have Morris Morrison, who's going to join us on the podcast. We also have John Wheeler legend unto himself joining us this month, as well. And then boom, all right on time, Rick is back. So and now let us introduce Rick Demko. Rick, you're going to tell us about you who you are, where you're from your practice and the whole bit, we'll get going.

Rick Demko 3:45 

I caught the tail end of that. And John Wheeler is absolutely fantastic. And has became a friend of mine and he's not far from where I'm currently sitting, which is great. But he's one of those types of folks that when I get together with John, I just keep a mouth shut my ears open my hand going and scratching down notes. I do not deserve to be in the same room as that man. And it I just soak it up as much as I can.

Suzanne Carawan 4:15 

Have you heard him sing?

Rick Demko 4:17 

I have not heard him sing?

Suzanne Carawan 4:19 

Oh. Well, we're gonna get John Wheeler singing Chris, let's make that our mission when we get them on the podcasts.

Rick Demko 4:24 

I know. I'm going to see him the first week in October, because we're going to Boston together for another industry thing. So I'll make sure that while we're sitting in and playing, I get him to serenade everyone around us. How about that?

Suzanne Carawan 4:37 

That sounds good. That sounds good. Well worth it.

Chris Gandy 4:40 

Definitely. All right. So Rick, tell us a little bit about yourself your practice and how you got started in the industry.

Rick Demko 4:49 

So it's the same goes it's been a broken road to get to where I'm at now. And my practice has certainly been that it's I think I've finally come around full circle to maybe where I started and cut my teeth. I intently got into insurance without a doubt, I was running my own consulting firm at the time sales and marketing consulting firm. But I quickly discovered that the folks that I was golfing with were still making money and I wasn't, then I later found out that most of them were insurance and finance professionals. So I thought maybe I should reconfigure the direction I'm headed. And I talked to producers, I actually plugged into my father who was not in our industry. But he connected me with a young man, I think he was 80 years old at the time, it was a State Farm producer. And I really enjoyed that conversation. And off to the races, I went to get licensed and found some mentors, and had an early experience with a life insurance product, that forever changed my trajectory to really, really focus in that one side. So I'm not adverse to saying what it is that I am. And I've been known to say it from stage and my partners are trying to get me to change the language a bit. But I just tell folks, I'm a dumb life insurance guy, that chases some people away, which is great, because that's fewer people that I need to waste my time on. And then the 90 or so percent that kind of lean in, like there's no way you would call yourself that. Like there's more going on here. So tell me more about it. And I focused for some time really focusing on advanced planning, and found, again, the broken road part that I couldn't serve everybody, which led me into Simplified Issue products, and I built an agency in about half the country, focus primarily on the senior market, and doing final expense type planning. I would literally go to East St. Louis, or here down in Houston, the third ward and some of the rougher areas. I had teams that ran in Chicago Gandy, so I would teach my team even cold approaches are nine different approaches that I would teach folks, some are lead base, some are just blindly knocking on doors, and I've been known to just scream out of my window, hey, you want to buy some life insurance, and sometimes it hits. And if it doesn't, so what. I was blessed, in one of my banner years where I was doing mostly training for my team, I wrote, or I got 354 hubs is what I share with folks. And that number is really important to me, because I remembered I wrote 356 policies. So if we're doing the math, that means that two people didn't hug me that year. The men allowed me the women hug be the kids hug me, I delivered to babies, while I was I was writing policies, I got bit by two dogs one year, I used to sleep in my vehicle, just because there were times where I had to run an appointment at 4am. And other times where I wouldn't be done running appointments until 2am. So there's a lot there. But I really took ownership of those products in that market. The Simplified Issue side, we might get into later that I do have some medical training, so I was a fireman or an EMT. And that training helped me sort through medical conditions. So even now today, I have quite a few advisors from around the country that asked me about different underwriting guidelines, what are these conditions look like who in the market is going to be able to write these types of plans. But I went from top tier products with New York Life to kind of doing what I almost consider the black sheep of the industry with these Simplified Issue products where the average application is about 50 bucks a month. But the story that I tell folks, especially my friends within NAIFA, or top of the table or a forum 400 and some of the other industry groups is that I went from doing $50 apps month apps to $50,000 a month apps. And that that journey from the kitchen table to the top of the table, which I've been encouraged to change. I'm working on a manuscript for a book that I was hoping to release this month, September Life Insurance Awareness Month. I've been encouraged strongly to change the title of the book to that. But I I like the It's Depends Part of the Business. So that's kind of the soft title of the book. But I've gone from there to now being a equity partner of a wealth management firm here in Houston. We're on northwest side of Houston in Cyprus. I live work and play in the same zip code. So I'm super bougie now these days because everything is just in my little bubble but I get to focus on what I enjoy which is the conservative levels of planning you know the income floor planning the tax planning, got a bunch of letters after my name but the other two output Equity Partners focus on the operation and the wealth management and the assets under management but really, I'm just a dumb life insurance at the end of the day.

Chris Gandy 10:02 

So how did you determine that that was going to be your unique value proposition, everybody has to have a value proposition that you know what, I'm going to be different. I want to be different, I'm going to pull myself out as differently in the marketplace. I mean, that is a marketing strategy.

Rick Demko 10:21 

When it comes to, in talking with my team, we've got a brand new building, and I've got stuff sitting on my desk that needs to go up on the walls. It's been three years getting this building, constructed. And here we are. So we stormed the castle, they weren't ready for US president I'm moving in. So Advisor Today wants to chat with me. And I need a good backdrop. So here you go. When I talked to my team members and other advisors around the country, and we discussed sales or marketing, my personality is very direct. So I wanted to get away from some of the constraints that we have about salespeople. When you think of a Salesman, what do you think of? Well, I think of the used car salesman, I think of this manipulative and there's a lot of adjectives that people use. And then when he asked him, well, besides use car salesmen, you know, what's next on the list, and usually life insurance sales is a close second. I wanted to differentiate myself from that, being that some my 13th year, and I feel like I have any left the starting block. I've been the youngest guy in the room for those 13 years. What's kind of funny at my firm, I'm the old guy, which is kind of unique to me. I'm 42 As the old guy, it's kind of fun. I like disruptive types of language, but people talk about trying to disrupt this industry quite a bit. So I like using some kind of shock terminology, I talked about kind of dying, and people think what is kind of dying, so it fits my personality well, but I wanted it to be concise and compelling. And being the dumb life insurance guy just came out and bashed him over the head with it right away. Some folks are gonna like you and plug into you and other people won't and the ones that don't. So what, on to the next? I don't have a lot of time. So for me it sped up the process quite a bit.

Chris Gandy 12:25 

Got it? All right. So tell us about your affiliation, Rick with NAIFA's I mean, obviously, you got to be doing some amazing things for you to be a part of this podcast. This is the exceptional podcast, we like to promote and we also like to encourage engagement, right? So tell us what NAIFA has meant to you. And how did you get involved with NAIFA? And what it's meant for you over the years?

Rick Demko 12:54 

shamefully, I was a late adopter when it came to NAIFA's. Because I was in St. Louis. My mentor, I was working out of his office, gentleman by the name of Darren Robinson, who I still greatly respect. He at the time was mostly due in New York Life products. And I came into his office and he was the president of NAIFA's St. Louis, what a great time for me to join. And I didn't join. I figured I was getting all the benefits for free.

Suzanne Carawan 13:25 


Rick Demko 13:28 

So I was late to the party. But I've been published saying that NAIFA kept me in the business. If it weren't for NAIFA, I wouldn't be in this business. And I sincerely mean that. I was very well connected in my hometown of St. Louis. When I moved out to Houston. I didn't know anybody. In fact, I knew one person and when I got here, he left. So he was the captain of the Houston Dynamo, which is our professional hockey soccer team, got hockey Lymbery, my son's got hockey later that. He played for the Team USA and the World Cup against Germany. He was the only guy I knew. And because I played high school soccer with him and as soon as I got here, he left. So I didn't know anybody and I needed people to benchmark with at the time I was an independent and I don't think it matters, whether you're in the career trajectory, you're in one of the larger agencies and one of the larger programs or whether you're strictly on your own, which at that time I was. I needed to be able to bounce ideas off of a John Wheeler, I needed to meet the Chris Gandy's I needed to meet the Jamie Hopkins and other people that you guys have had on this podcast. And now, I've seen a lot of your podcast, and a lot of those folks are friends of mine. So yes, I got engaged as soon as I moved to Houston, and it was a blessing to be able to not only get the fellowship but to serve, because I was asked very quickly also to join committees and to consider running for the board. I ran several times and was not elected, actually, which is a story for a different day, I think. I think I was Houston's first president that was never actually formally elected. But where things happened, I was at the right place at the right time. And it seems like the more that I served, the more I ended up getting back. It's not my intent I serve because this industry has been really great for me. And as a man who's paid over 160 death claims, knowing what these products do for those on Main Street America, I've seen those checks, I've delivered those checks. So to protect the industry, but also to benchmark get the education. All of those things were critical for me to be sitting in this physical chair right now.

Chris Gandy 15:51 

Well, congratulations on the journey. Man, I think that's super important, is that everyone's journey is not the same. I think, one of the things we've been able to do with this podcast is to identify individuals that did not take the journey to the top the same way, but somehow, you end up getting there. So congratulations on that. Tell us a little bit about you mentioned the transition. And I always like to talk about things that triggered that. Right. And so you're out there doing your own thing, jam it up, growing your business, and again, doing things that other advisors just were like, yeah, I don't really want to try that. But you were doing it a little bit differently. What brought your practice kind of full circle, you say, you know what, I'm gonna kind of do this. But I'm also now going to join a management firm, and I'm actually going to expand my horizons, what brought you there to that kind of conversation even being open to it, right, because we're so tunnel-focused in our business that we forget about all the other things that are going around understanding this industry is a billion dollar industry. And unfortunately, we forget all about these other things, what brought you to that point, and what helped you make that decision that make that kind of leap?

Rick Demko 17:11 

I was fat, dumb and happy just running my agency, I had producers in 24 states, I don't know if I mentioned that. I really didn't need to do you anything else, my future was spelled out in front of me, I had already done the work. I had already written 15,000 policies on my own pen, not including all the 1000s and 1000s, and 1000s that my producers did. So I was good. I didn't need to make any changes. But the more I know, I say I'm a dumb life insurance guy. But there's some organizations that were kind enough to give me letters and put after my name. So there's some sort of, of intellect in this brain that I've spent some money on. So I'm not dumb, I knew that my clients were talking to other people. And I felt like joining forces with my firm-centric really just made sense. As a guy that really likes life insurance, when the saying goes that if your only tool was a hammer, then everything starts to look an awful lot like a nail. I wasn't trying to force life insurance into every avenue, I believe in holistic planning. But I also believe that getting a jersey on someone and doing something can shorten the overall planning experience. Sure, I want to take them through everything. And I want to do the holistic financial planning, but my dad said, Rick, if someone wants to buy, let them buy, that's okay. And being able to do that and focus on the area that I wanted to and to pour more resources into a high-level producing team we do a lot of premium finance and a lot of what I call sexy things in life insurance. So being able to have the resources and a good bench that I could tap into and to utilize and the resources that we have just an under our roof has been great. And knowing that my clients, because I'm not going to talk about assets, I'm not going to talk about equities. I believe in all those I'm watching Tesla take off today, which is a lot of fun. I wanted those conversations to be had by folks that thought similar to me. So for them to be on the same team. They're not going to unravel the planning that I want to do. So we just decided that with our forces combined, we're probably stronger together than we were apart. And again, I was a late adopter, as someone who makes decisions very, very quickly. It was strange that it took me a while to join NAIFA, I didn't join until 2015. And to pull the trigger to join centric, I probably should have done a little sooner. But, again, the broken road to get to here.

Suzanne Carawan 17:54 

So I want to know, so right now within your firm and everything you're saying, because it's really interesting that you're saying you're the dumb insurance guy, life insurance guy, and you know, very facetiously really tongue in cheek, right? So then people are like, oh, so that, but it does cut to the chase, they know exactly what you do. So that probably sticks in their mind, too. So that's interesting. So now when you're actually going out, and you're growing, and you mentioned, you have a couple of different pieces you're doing but what is your primary marketing channel that you're using for growth.

Rick Demko 20:13 

So there's really two different avenues because I'm really a designated closer either for my firm, or I work as an intermediary for a lot of other IRAs around the country, maybe there's a case that's such a size that it makes them uncomfortable, whether underwriting or just because of the sheer size of it. So I had a plate appearance on two last year one was 15 million a year and premium. It was in New Jersey, and then I had another one that was 10 times that size. Now those cases get brought to us just because of the experience in our bandwidth, which is a blessing. So those are a bit different than what my clients get. So my individual clients usually are a lot of them come from my son's sports teams. And I do, Chris would appreciate this because I really don't do anything other than lifestyle marketing. I don't mark it. I don't brand I really don't put myself out there. It's just I do the stuff that I enjoy doing. And then conversations surface, I'm hyper-aware of when people say certain things and my firm kind of gives me guff because they see that they don't think I'm trying I'm not doing anything but then all of a sudden I land a an eight-figure client, it's not by mistake. I've got an 86 Mercedes convertible. So I go to the Mercedes Benz clubs stuff. I'm a member of a country club down the street. I've been a Rotarian for 17 years, I serve as a district governor for our rotary. It's all intentional, but stuff that I like doing anyways. And then people see that and they well, I like that guy, what is it that he does my rotary club, in fact, for the president of a club in Houston. And I'm pretty confident that at least half the club thought I was legitimately just a fireman. They had no idea that I was getting publicity around the country for being a dumb life insurance guy. I don't know if that answered your question or not.

Suzanne Carawan 22:48 

It did. Yeah, but I think that's a really key point is that, you weren't doing those things disingenuously to show up to try to like hawk people at the rotary meeting, right. And I think I do think a lot of people do, they do that they get that instruction, like go and join these things. But then it'd be they are very obvious. They're the life insurance person, right? And you're just doing anyway, and then they're like, PH, we already trust them. So my as we'll see what he says about this.

Rick Demko 23:16 

It's really tough to get there. Because it takes a bit, you have to have the experience, you have to have a different level of understanding. It's after a period of time. I mean, I tell folks, it took me a decade for my overnight success, because what happens is people, they all of a sudden see all these accolades, and you can't see if there's a bunch of stuff on this wall. Yes, it looks like it happened overnight to people that aren't under my roof. But the other people have seen the work. And just to have that experience, and to be able to tap into friends and colleagues that are the upper echelon with this industry, most of which I develop relationships with because of NAIFA sped up my process, but it's a long game. So you have to survive in the first, say, decade or so before you can get to that point. I had producers that were really, really dependent on leads. And I'm not going to knock marketing or leads or whatever. But if your business depends on something, and I'd really, really consider what it is that you're doing. Because if that's taken away from you, then what are you going to do? Are you going to be able to serve families? Are you going to be able to serve your own? So I've never wanted to be dependent on anything. And thankfully, I pulled the trigger on really focusing on getting introductions into building real relationships that after a period of time that slow, long play finally starts paying off but you got to survive to get to that point.

Chris Gandy 24:52 

Right. There are those people that talk about the business and those people that do the business right. And when you're in The business doing the business, you start to see that there's, it's not as easy as it looks, I think skillful masters make it look pretty easy, right? And in that, but there's different ways of making money in this business. And I think people have to understand that there's so many different ways to do it. There's a team approach. There's the individual approach, there's the partnership approach, there's the specialization approach. And I think you got to survive long enough to be able to have that choice. Right? You shake it, you're like, yeah.

Rick Demko 25:32 

Yeah, and I've done them all. So again, so I'm reflecting on conversations that I just had, towards the end of last week, I used to keep a, so I run my cases. And I'd have a clipboard with a one-page piece of paper that I would take my notes on. And there was a time where I was, I tried everything and training, too, we had a two-week program, it was like a university style, we would take people and put them into a room. And after two weeks, it's just so long, and it takes me out of the field for two weeks. And then we went to a week. But that's still, it's tough to know, the persistency of those producers. And we went to three days and then one day, and then it became, three hours or two hours with just Rick but what I used to do is there was a two-year period where I kept every one of my notes from someone that told me no. And it turned out to be a pretty fat stack. So they would get frustrated. Why am I not having the success like you, Mike, let me show you, I go into my desk drawer, this is something was like a decoder and some of the old-school guys would do. And I would take it out and I'd drop it. In right on the counter, I'd say this is the difference. Because I have failed more than you've even tried. I've written 15 or 20,000 cases, but these are my no's. And mind you those no's. I mean, my closing rate back that like 98%, I mean, if I sat in front of you, you were probably going to write something. And my persistency was really high to my persistency was 96 to 97%. But also back then my 3% of my book was dying every year. So my persistency was nearly perfect. No one was getting rid of plans. They were just high-risk individuals.

Suzanne Carawan 27:26 

Right. Where did you get that persistency? What do you attribute that to?

Rick Demko 27:31 

Well, I was very real and very candid. I have a lot of feelings within the industry. And yes, we need to take care of our clients. But yes, we also have to take care of the insurance company. We're an agent for the insurance company. And I'm sorry for folks to hear that. But if you don't take care, adverse selection all day, right. So if you're placing product because you find a loophole, either in pricing or based on their health, if you love a product and you keep taking advantage of it, you're not going to have a product, they're going to take it away, the market is going to reprice it, so you got to take care of those insurance companies, what I would do also is tell my prospects, look, I'm making promises to you and to your family, that on a really, really bad day when you're no longer here, that I'm going to be there for your family. But you have to give me that ability. Because if this plan goes away before you go away, then we didn't do any good. And the only one that wins is that insurance company because they're going to keep your money. But if you give me the ability to be there on a really bad day and deliver a check. So I've also been known to scream from the rooftops a lot about the funeral industry. I talked about the funeral rule of 1984, I talked about how you can go to wholesale websites and buy caskets instead of spending $4,000 you can buy a casket shipped to the funeral home for less than 700 bucks, you can do those things. And I've been known to sit in the funeral home with a family because that's what I told someone to do previously. It's amazing how infrequently that happens. But my bride would even tell you that, you know, we were headed to do something on a Saturday and someone calls and hey, we're gonna go down to this lower income area, we're gonna go negotiate on behalf of one of my clients to make sure that this family is going to be okay. So I would try to talk them out of a plan or Suzanne to really answer your question is because if I could talk them out of it, then they don't need to be doing it. But if they'd fight me back, so there's an old technique, I don't like sales techniques, but this this is worth mentioning that you can't push people into things, but you can pull them pretty effectively. So if you can pull someone to know and they fight you back, then you probably have a valid opportunity and now let's pretend. And it's not just in sales. It's not just an insurance. But try it with your relationships. hey, hun, let's go to dinner. Oh, is that really wanted, we could stay home. And if they ended up saying, Okay, let's stay home, then they probably didn't really want to go out anyways. But if they fight you back, no, I'd really like to do this, okay? So it's, you can post, if you post someone to know, and they went out and they take the easy out, you didn't have an opportunity. So my persistency was really high, because I did all of these things, I think that's a big difference between what I would do and what the producers that I would train would do is, they might do a few of these Gandy, they might do one or two approaches, but I would do them all. And I would do them all the time, which yielded a different result. Not everything works every time, 40% of the time, it works every time. They say that 86.3% of all statistics are made up right on the spot.

Chris Gandy 31:05 

The reason why this is 100%, the best podcast. So tell us a little bit about struggles, everybody talks about the wins. Very few people talk about the struggles, what would you say was your turning point in this business, or the thing you struggle with the most they really either a still plagues you or b, it's something that you just had to overcome and had to deal with that you've kind of gone along. I think our younger producers are always looking at, okay, I want to get there. But I'm struggling with this, or I'm struggling with this. And it's always good to hear inspirational things from someone who's overcome with those.

Rick Demko 31:49 

Yeah, so there was a period. So I had already had some success in the business I had already done well at State Farm. I had already done well at New York Life. But I really took a left turn and went a different direction and went it's really independent. And I had no idea when I was getting paid again. I had a nice car, I built a home. I wasn't married yet. But she and I were certainly dating. I felt like I needed some sort of consistency to my income. So I used to go and stock shelves at Lowe's. And so I would go in at 4am every day until 9am. And then I go run a full day of appointments, I would pay an appointment setter in order to schedule me that way while I was running appointments, my next day was already been filled. I had a mentor again, Darren Robinson, who really strongly encouraged us to very quickly hire staff. So getting some support, there was a long, long period of time where I took care of my staff well, I mean, I don't think I took any income for a 14 month period. I mean, it was it was tough. But I so I quickly learned that the 90 hours a month that I was spending at Lowe's for like the seven bucks or whatever, and then taxes and I think I'd benefits. I don't remember if I had a union or anything but I realized all I had to do is sell one or two more cases, then I can go back to sleep. So I made a commitment. I'm gonna ban on one more door I'm gonna do what I what I need to so I mean, so that was back then. And I try not to do too much sob story, but I think it's important especially, you know, Chris, you're on a lot of different national stages when they see us on stage and must be nice, right? I don't know if you know Cameron Haynes is but him and Jim Rogan on the Rogan podcast a long time ago at all must be nice because people see the result they don't see the effort that it took. Oh, it must be nice to you know, to talk about, you know, 100 $50 million a year premium cases. Oh, it must be nice. Yeah. But you don't know what I had to go through and all the sad frogs I had to kiss before I found that Prince. So there's a lot to that I, I don't try to overemphasize the struggle. But what we think is important sometimes ends up not being that important. There's some things that just aren't shortcuts for the business, being able to really be in rooms where people were doing other things greatly sped up my learning curve, being able to hear I remember in NAIFA meeting in Houston, I knew enough about di to be dangerous. I wasn't practicing it. But someone made a comment. Either from a stage or even the table I was at, why aren't you selling DI? And I was like, well, I'm a life insurance guy. But do you use waiver of premium on your whole life products said, of course, well, then you're already doing waiver or you're already doing di, you just only care about your life insurance because great your life insurance can be paid up, and maybe not their mortgage or their other bills. You got me there. And then I started to understand the taxation a bit differently in that meeting, it's just gathering that knowledge and using those arrows. And there's a part of your brain called the reticular activating system, or an RAS for short, that once you have kind of this enlightenment, then you start seeing things everywhere. once something's in your mind, then you start seeing these opportunities. It's the same reason to where if you're in the market for a new vehicle, or new somebody that had a vehicle, you start seeing that vehicle everywhere. My bride and I have been together for 16 years married for 10. We just celebrated just last month, August 31. So just like two weeks ago, our 10th anniversary and I still see the red Volkswagen Jetta that she drove in high school, like it's same year too, which is crazy, that thing is still on the road. But I still see that vehicle. So for me, once I have this enlightenment, this awareness of different things within the tax code, whether it's 72 T numbers are important in our industry, what is the IRC section 101 7702? Were the one I just mentioned 72 t, what are those mean? Well, if you have that awareness, then you're not going out and seeking those opportunities, but they present themselves pretty frequently. And maybe it's not just that taxation, maybe it's talking about supplemental insurance, or like we were talking about di or hybrid plans or annuity products, guaranteed income, because we talk about baby boomers a lot, especially right now. And this big wave of transfer of assets that is coming before us, I'd be ignorant not to think that I'm in the right place. At the right time, with the right knowledge with the right people around me. This is the heyday for what it is that we do it and there's fewer producers. So organizations like NAIFA specifically, I love it, because I can benchmark with if I was in a career shop, and in my senior management, my partners were telling me stuff, sometimes hearing the message from your dad doesn't necessarily resonate, sometimes you need to hear it from the crazy uncle. And NAIFA's kind of been that crazy uncle for me and poured into me. So I owe a great amount. I'm in debt to NAIFA, which is why I continue to scream from the rooftops, the things that I do in trying to keep good producers in the business, which is the GA is at some of these big operations. That's what I tell them. It's so tough to get people in the business already. So LIMRA will tell you that the persistency will back to persistency of new producers in our field, there's a 10% success rate. So I'm saying that in a much more positive way, I usually pick the other figure to say 90% failure rate, but we'll keep positive. The problem is that's measured at two years, because our license is good for two years, I could probably successfully argue that that figures really in the first three to six months, that has that type of persistency most contracts might validate at the six-month period. So NAIFA's keeps good producers in the business and plug into your professional association and hanging out with Suzanne and Chris Gandy.

Suzanne Carawan 38:37 

Yeah, and I think people would ask, but I think before I asked this question, I'm gonna say also, I think the other difference with you is you are in so incredibly open. Like you just don't have, you're like very open to having information come to you. And then you're not coming with any sort of preconceived notions and block you sound like you have like zero emotional baggage, right? I did it. But that's great. So you've got that plus persistency. That's a winning combination, right? To really walk in and be ready to have that. I mean, just your whole attitude toward is incredible. So I think we all need to cultivate that. But what I was going to ask essentially said you're 42 So you're at the top of the Millennials, and then that million, maybe billion dollar question is great. How do you get more people in the industry? Right? So what are you telling them? Like, what's the secret to give? How are you going to pass on the persistency vibe here, like how do you give like that it's almost like it's in your DNA, but how do you get others to do that? How have you been successful in doing that with younger producers?

Rick Demko 39:38 

I'll direct comment first and then I'll be happy to answer that question. I found that this industry is very open about information, which is great. There are other industries that aren't, our secret sauce, we're gonna hold that really close to our chest. What I have found is that the people that are doing it and doing it well and doing it correctly, are willing to scream it from the rooftops. The folks that are keeping things close to their chest are probably not the people you want to hear from they're probably not doing things, right. And there are people in our industry that aren't doing things right. And NAIFA has a code of ethics that we operate under that my operation our firm operates under. That's why our firm is 100%. Member, agency, we're also 100% advocacy, payroll deducted firm as well, first in the Federation. So getting young new folks in the business is a challenge. But what I tell folks is for the right individual, I don't think there's anything better I think sales is a very noble profession in and of itself. But what about being able to learn a skill set, being able to learn something about finances that could help your family, us as producers, for generations to understand the tax code to be able to have some usable knowledge to be able to do some great levels of planning? So yeah, we have commissions, some of us operate in commission, some of us fees, some other structures. So sure, insurance companies pay me every day, I'm blessed. But I promise 100% that the benefit, and the value that the families that I serve, get in relation to my commission, that pales in comparison. And I get paid pretty well. But I've been able to help and serve a lot of families. So what do you have a value proposition that says, if you wanted to learn how to really do good and to take care of families, regardless of where they're currently at, depending on what you wanted to specialize in, because you can get in at this industry and a whole different points and, and get and continue to get more specific or niche within your marketplace, there's so many different avenues that you can go but to be able to have generational impact of change, and then be able to provide for yourself and for your family and to serve, what's better. I know, I'm actually in my office today. But most of the time I'm not in candidly, I'm wearing flip-flops right now. So I've got the business mullet going on as party up here in shorts and flip flops down there. It's just a neat market. And being able to run a business, it should you choose or to be able to plug into a firm, and not everyone needs to be the hardcore driver. And the number one, there's a lot of number twos, number threes, and number fours that get paid really, really well. And that can have a lot of impact for firms.

Chris Gandy 42:46 

When you look at work, and you look at the industry itself, where do you see the industry going? You've had kind of a unique view, similar probably to me, where you've kind of been a producer, you've got to help train and develop people, you've kind of been a part of this, and you've been in part of general agency system as an independent. And now you take a step back and you say, okay, let the chips fall where they may, we know that there's less people joining the industry, right? We know that right? As individual kind of advisors, we know that there's less, let's call it conduits to the products right? Because the distribution system we're watching to change before our eyes, right? We're literally watching companies that were mega companies, when we started the business become here, we're gonna gobble them up with the most recent one being the Lincoln deal that just went down I think couple of weeks ago or a month ago. But that beat as significant. So some of the players with a shrinking industry or a shrinking market space. Let's hear your view on the next 10, 15 years for you. And then I want to just ask you on a sec. Part B of that is how are you embracing the AI conversation in your practice?

Rick Demko 44:10 

Sure, I love all that. It's a lot of acquisitions going on these days. I won't mention any names. But there's been just a lot of it on the agency side as well as on the corporate side. It's, again, I'd be ignorant to think that I wasn't at the right place at the right time with the right knowledge. Like I had said before, I truly believe that. I've been hanging my hat more on the estate planning side and legacy planning the transition of assets and wealth. It serves me well. It fits my language, it fits my belief system. So none of that is going to go away. The foundations of that. Sure the names of trust can change. Yes, there's legislation that migrates and moves around. Time. Again, one of the reasons why NAIFA's so important. Also NAIFA being able to do it at the local level, right down the street, right here is Chairman Dr. Albertsons office, who happens to be my rep, and also happens to be the Texas Chair of the Insurance Committee, who happens to also know my name, which is a blessing. And when I think about DC and Austin, sometimes people have never met with a legislator, and I've met with every single one of mine for years, which is really cool. It's where the industry is gonna go. Spin the Bottle, no one really knows. But I see a lot of positive things that still continue to evolve. I think that there's going to be legislation changes in the positive, secure act, 2.0 is a good one, there's going to be more things, I think, RMDs will disappear. I like nonqualified planning. So that doesn't really affect me. But when I'm looking at transferring assets for some younger folks, then it could, so I think, I think it's gonna be a fun ride. I like going back to there's three different types of people, Chris, that really, really plug into our industry. And one of them, they have their names on a lot of different buildings. The banks, too, I can think of in particular, who I won't mention, because I want to get sued, but it's on their balance sheet, and you can Google it, and you can find it. So they have cash value life insurance on their holdings. So that's number one. Number two is the ultra-wealthy. If you were born at Vanderbilt, none of us were. In fact, the Vanderbilt family has not done so well in the past decade or so. But if you're a Kennedy or even a Trump, whatever, if you're a wealthy family than they're exercising these types of plans, you were born boom, million dollars a year, it goes into this policy for you. And then the third is the government. And maybe not necessarily the US government. I'm talking about the people that work in government. A lot of them are leveraging these types of plans. I think all of those three really bode well for our industry. Because there's some people that have some really, really vested interests. They might do it at a much bigger scale than that maybe Tom, and Betsy, down the street, Main Street, USA, but they scale really well, which is good. So I think the industry is going to be great. And I totally forgot the second part of your question.

Chris Gandy 47:18 

AI conversation.

Rick Demko 47:19 

AI. There were parts of my book that I considered using chat GBT for, it's not there. But it's, again, it's a tool. So there's ways to use tools. And I think AI is going to continue to develop is going to be a great resource for a lot of things. As far as planning, though, it's really tough. We do have some direct-to-consumer products that we use. And I also have some tools that some IMO is and some other groups are saying that makes it easy for people to buy in cash value life insurance. No one's gonna buy premium finance through one of those types of plans, they need someone like me, it was negotiating directly with the banks, because I work as an intermediary as well. And walking them through those plans. I don't think you're just going to be able to buy it like you do off the shelf, the financial products that I focus on, people love them, but it's not something you can just buy, you have to go through a process, you have to apply for them. They buy it for me right away. And believe it or not, I will sell really, really big cases, without showing an illustration without showing a spreadsheet. They believe in the concept. They believe in me, they believe in my firm, and then we get an action. All right, cool. Yep, we're gonna do this. Now let's go see what it looks like, you know, let's go put in an application. And now we can figure out what color each bolt is. I think AI does have a place in working through big sets of data. If you were to take information and try to figure out where you needed a market or for recruiting efforts or weeding through documents, I think you'll see a lot of that. I don't mind it even for some of the support stuff. Having a bot on your website, asking some general questions, fine, but is your client really served with that. Everyone on my staff is licensed, several of them are going through designation work, which is all really important. We want good information going out, because there's already so much bad information. Right? And some of the AI puts out because even when you play with it, Google it anything you know, tell me the pros and cons of premium finance or where our interest rates going to be in the next five years or whatever, just type in something, most of it's right. But a lot of it's not. So the only way that I know how to fix our industry, not to say it's broken, but in order to improve our stigma so that we're not number two on that, do not buy from list, use car salesmen and life insurance people is with every case that I run, or every case or every client that my team comes across. So we still like getting our hands on people. That's why we built this building was to be able to give folks a place to sit and to see to experience us. And back to what my dad had said previously is Rick if someone wants to buy, let them buy, well, my job and my staff job is to make that a really wonderful buying experience. The instant seller makes that buying decision from us. That's the day they like us the most. Never in the process are they going to like us any more than that day? Because Okay, now we have to apply for it. We have to go through underwriting MS premium finance, now we're talking about bank statements and tax records and all this other stuff. Heaven forbid, there's a claim you're not going to like me on a claim day, as you're probably not with us, unless it's living benefits and kind of dying. So can AI do all that stuff? No, but could it be a tool for? I'm not there. Suzanne said, I'm a millennial, I don't identify as a millennial, if anything, I'm an X anymore, because I'm like, right on the cusp. But maybe that these tools can help other advisors bring in good quality prospects that need proper levels of planning.

Chris Gandy 51:40 

Perfect. So all right, Suzanne, looking at the clock.

Suzanne Carawan 51:45 

Exactly I was gonna say it's time.

Chris Gandy 51:50 

We need some sound effects. The sound effects is like a lightning round or whatever. So Rick, we do something called a lightning round, if you watch the podcast at all. And the lightning round is really just designed to kind of really catch you off guard. Again, we're not going to ask any embarrassing questions about when you were in grade school, or where you were in college running around, we're not going to ask you any questions like that or your affiliations behind the scenes, but we will ask you some questions about the industry, about who you are, and some advice you would give to others. So and they're really easy questions. None of the questions are hard. So with that being said, we're gonna move on to the lightning round. Are you good, Rick?

Rick Demko 52:29 

Yes, sir. Let's do it.

Chris Gandy 52:32 

All right. We'll start with something pretty, pretty easy. Okay. When you were a little kid, what did you want to be when you grew up?

Rick Demko 52:40 

It's funny. So my son wants to be a fireman now, which was tough for me to bear because up until this year, I think he said that he wanted to be a police officer. Well, if you remember, I was a fireman. But I legitimately always wanted to be a businessman. I wanted to carry a briefcase. I wanted to wear a suit, which is funny, because I don't wear a lot of suits anymore. But I always wanted to be a businessman.

Chris Gandy 53:02 

Okay, see, really easy kind of just came off pretty, pretty easy. All right, you ready? Yep. All right. So here we go. So I'm a quote that stands out to you.

Rick Demko 53:16 

It's my dad taught me that life is difficult. He drilled it into my head for a long, long time. I really liked that one. And there's another Rockefeller quote, about, taking everything day by day, but going through life and dropping the worry along the way. And God was good to me every day. It's obviously loosely quoted, but I liked that one, too.

Chris Gandy 53:40 

Great. You're from St. Louis. Is that correct? Yes. So favorite team in St. Louis, the Cardinals or the blues?

Rick Demko 53:49 

The blues. Why? So I grew up playing hockey. I played baseball too, as a five sport athlete, but the hockey has grown quite a bit in St. Louis. A lot of it's been since they won a Stanley Cup in 2019 for the first time in over 50 years. But everyone in St. Louis is a Cardinals fan. But the blues games are just rare. There's fewer of them and it's a much, much more intimate setting. You're talking about 80,000 people versus 25,000 people. It's just the feel. Gandy, I know you've been from Chicago, I grew up going to the old barn in St. Louis, the old arena. And there will be fights between fans at the Blackhawks blues games. I mean, it's not like that anymore. It's very family oriented and very family environment. But we don't have hockey in Houston. We do have baseball in Houston. So I am still a Cardinals fan. And someday I'll get my Astros Cardinals World Series, but it's not going to be this year.

Chris Gandy 54:53 

Question is, here's the next question for you. Now that you're in Texas, what's been your favorite food in Texas because everything's bigger in Texas.

Rick Demko 55:03 

So in St. Louis, the pork ribs are really the shining star. It's pork, Texas, it's beef. So really plugging into brisket. I've gotten pretty good at cooking and I'm part of a competition cook-off team. I plugged into Texas, I drive a truck. I buy my own cow every year. So I've got hundreds of pounds of beef in my freezer. I'm here. I switched from drinking scotch. Now I drink bourbon. Because down in the south, it's a bourbon thing. So I'm here I'm in I got here as soon as I could.

Chris Gandy 55:39 

All right, last couple questions if you could go back in history and have a dinner with anyone in a conversation who would it be whether alive now or they've left us previous to no?

Rick Demko 55:57 

This is gonna sound strange because it's probably have to be different dinners. But I have some Edgar Allan Poe in my blood. So I think it'd be interesting to tap into that mine just I don't know if I could do it all day or even for cold dinner but maybe over a cocktail. But beyond that it would be someone in the industry like a Feldman, being able to, or gosh that's it's a really tough question. It's a what a Hopkins say. Hanging out with Jamie Hopkins, I think would be a pic for me. How about that?

Chris Gandy 56:35 

Well, I think we may be able to make that, Suzanne, we may be able to make that one happen. You can make that happen. I have dinner with Jamie probably every six months. So he's a good one. He's been on the podcast before. He's always got those quick quips and kind of nuances on you need to bring your pen and paper because he just starts throwing out statistics like and you're like, well, wait a minute.

Rick Demko 56:57 

Just as long as he doesn't ask me to go running with him. I'll be okay.

Chris Gandy 57:00 

Yeah. Last question. What would you give the advice for someone who was starting in the industry today? What advice would you give them the one piece of advice you would give them from someone like yourself?

Rick Demko 57:17 

If someone wants to buy let them buy, just like what my dad had said. So we do holistic planning is not about pitching products. But sometimes I talk about sales, sushi and being able to lead with the concept just to get them attracted to you put a jersey on them first. You can do a lot of other planning for folks that are already clients later.

Chris Gandy 57:38 

Awesome. All right, Rick, you made it out the hot seat. Look, that wasn't too bad. Right. So Suzanne, do you have anything else before I close this up?

Suzanne Carawan 57:49 

Just reminder that it's life insurance Awareness Month, and keep spreading the word and keep joining NAIFA if you haven't joined NAIFA, if you already belong, thank you so much.

Chris Gandy 57:58 

All right, Rick, final words.

Rick Demko 58:01 

If it is to be it is up to me to do so.

Chris Gandy 58:04 

Okay. Wonderful. All right, Rick, everyone out there, go back and listen to this. Rick dropped some great nuggets. You heard him mention that he's in it to win it. He made some choices that kind of left him making some decisions along the way. But how he got to where he's at was not because he wasn't hard work. And you heard him mention numerous times that he kind of had to do something do the things he had to do to be able to do the things he wanted to do. And that is that sacrifice at its highest level. So Rick, we appreciate you and your candid advice and also being 100% membership. As an organization we to strive to do the same type of thing and you guys out there can strive to do the same thing was your agency tell somebody else bring somebody else along the way it is Life Insurance Awareness Month is a great time for us to reflect and look at our programs ourselves and say, are we doing the right things on purpose with the right mindset as we move forward in the future. Thanks for tuning into today's podcast Advisor Today. Bye, everyone. We'll see you next week, same time, same place where we give the voice back to the advisor to uplift them and promote our continuity in the industry. Thank you so much for tuning in to Advisors Today. See you.

Outro 59:27 

Thanks for joining us for NAIFA's Advisor Today podcast series. Make sure to subscribe to get future episodes. And if you're interested in coming on the show, let us know.



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