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bigstock-Cognac_and_Cigar_with_Smoke_on_black_background-34830566 (1)Quite simply…premium. Like, a lot of it.  Like the difference between, say, $70 a month and $240 a month. I know, painful right?

It’s a quick story, but one worth repeating.

Recently I was underwriting a guy who was an occasional cigar smoker. Only he answered no to the smoking questions when I asked them. You know, questions like “Do you smoke? Have you ever? Cigars? Anything else?”

It’s not that us insurance agents are out to learn every detail of your existence, but we need to have honest answers to these questions in order to get you the best underwriting results possible. Answers like, “I tried it in college” are appropriate to share (and not just for smoking!) because it allows us to determine what you’ll need to disclose.

It’ll also help us in coaching you for the exam. Because if you’re an occasional cigar smoker we can still get you non smoker rates. BUT, we need to know about it so we can say things like, “WHATEVER YOU DO DON’T SMOKE A CIGAR THE WEEKEND BEFORE YOUR MONDAY MORNING EXAM!!”

My guess is I don’t need to explain to most why that might be a bad idea, but in case you’re still wondering…YOU DON’T WANT TO HAVE NICOTINE SHOW UP IN YOUR LABS. It limits your options for carrier selection and may get you stuck with a smoker rating.

Plus, that result sticks with you for 12 months. Your results go to something called the Medical Information Bureau or MIB and anything that lands there is accessible to ALL of the insurance carriers. Which means that “I’ll just go to another carrier and say I don’t smoke” thought won’t really work. To get back to a non smoker rate you’ll have to be smoke free for 12 months (by most carriers standards) and go through underwriting again. So if we pretend that one cigar was indeed your first it’s going to be a) a very expensive cigar in terms of insurance premium and b) one that maybe should have been delayed another week.

All this said, we’ve got a few ideas on how to avoid this surprise nicotine in your blood because you smoked your very first cigar right before your life insurance exam problem. Nope, that wasn’t even close to a run on sentence…

1) Don’t ever smoke a cigar.

2) Definitely don’t attend any bachelor parties in the month before your life insurance exam.

3) Don’t hang out in cigar clubs.

4) By all means stay out of Vegas!!

5) Lock up any and all cigars within a 10 mile radius.

6) Just admit you smoke them from the start and find an insurance agent knowledgeable in underwriting cigar smokers (we’re one of them in case you were looking).

That last one is likely your best method. Message us for help. Before you smoke the cigar.

Insurance Forms

The bain of my existence sometimes. Don’t make it yours too. Nobody likes filling out paperwork, but if you get it right the first time you don’t have to look back. Insurance forms can be quite specific in how they need to be completed and silly little errors can prolong the underwriting process for weeks unnecessarily.

Some carriers are more persnickety than others, but as a general rule of thumb, DON’T TAKE SHORTCUTS. A good insurance agency will have someone to walk you through your insurance forms to eliminate any guesswork on your part. But every now and then there are blanks to fill or assumptions to make outside of that. RULE #1: PICK UP THE PHONE AND ASK. Even if it seems obvious, if you have any doubt on what to complete, ask your agent’s office.

Some of the common issues on insurance forms:

1) Beneficiary information is not clear. Some of these can be tricky if your wishes aren’t a straightforward “please allocate _____% of the death benefit to Alice Smith.” Your agent should be able to advise you on correct language to use for most beneficiary designations.

2) Completion of ETF forms. These are the forms used for setting up ongoing automatic deductions from your bank account of choice. Often times these are used for initial premiums required to activate a new policy and when they aren’t completed correctly you’re stuck in administrative mud. Also, you’ll need to submit a voided check along with it and those directions are often in the fine print and get missed. And if you don’t see those directions, send one anyways just to be safe.

3) Medical information. It’s best to be honest, but let’s face it, when we go to our doctors in need of a health solution we might just exaggerate because we’re impatient for that solution. Keep in mind those records work against us when we’re talking about insurance. A good example is the use of sleep aids. When we’re having trouble sleeping we’re cranky and impatient. As a last ditch effort we head to our doctor seeking some “assistance.” And in our explanation our occasional sleepless night becomes chronic causing a whole host of other “ailments” that warrant the need for sleep aids. And the doctor writes down exactly what we tell them as fact, because they need to document their use of a prescription. When you translate this situation into insurance applications you’ll need to come back down to reality and remember you’re not trying to get medication or any sort of solutions, but an insurance policy. Keep your descriptions light and factual. Leave the exaggerations for the docs.

4) Extracurricular activities. When you’re talking about skydiving, dune buggying (yes, this does specifically show up on some carrier’s application), tarantula hunting, or the like, the application is asking for codified events that have happened or are planned (with dates). If these crazy activities are still in a dream state, no need to talk about what MIGHT happen, because it might NEVER happen and now you’re paying the price for it in your premiums.

5) Financials. If you’re applying for a large amount of insurance (each carrier has a different limit here) and financial documentation is going to be needed, get it in ahead of time. Like at the time of application. This makes underwriters happy and content. And happy and content underwriters make better decisions. It also makes you look more upfront about it all, and underwriters also like people who are more upfront about it all. “Upfront about it all” is technical insurance language in case you aren’t in the know.

Above all, be honest and concise. Underwriters don’t want to read pages of your life story if it can be stated in a few simple sentences. And be realistic. Juvenile offenses and experimentations can often stay behind that little under 18 protective curtain. Best case scenario if you have any doubts is to talk them through with your agent. We like those crazy stories from your youth. And we’re bound by confidentiality. Plus, agents have been known to do a crazy thing or two in their lifetime, so you might just hear a fun story in the process…

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