A couple of years ago, I left behind an accomplished and lucrative but ultimately unfulfilling career on Wall Street to pursue work that meant more to me than a big paycheck. I wanted to demonstrate to my kids a broader set of values beyond chasing the next dollar.
One immediate consequence was that the incredibly cheap group life insurance I got from working for a big company disappeared and I needed to replace it. Armed with an MBA and 20 years of financial services experience, I figured I should be able to sort this out without too much difficulty.
Boy, was I wrong.
I couldn’t get consistent answers to even the most basic questions, like what kind of insurance should I get? How much do I really need? Who should I be working with?
The resources available online kept pointing me toward incredibly expensive coverage that I couldn’t justify under even the wackiest math. Products were so complicated the salespeople themselves couldn’t make sense out of them. No one I dealt with could give me definitive advice I could trust. All in, the process took me over 6 months and left me less than impressed.
I wondered, if someone like me was struggling like this, how does anyone get this right?
It turns out that very few do. Digging into the academic research, I was astonished to learn that only about 5% of all life insurance shoppers purchase the right coverage. How is this acceptable? I also talked to a bunch of people – not just consumers but also insurance executives, academics, agents, financial advisors and regulators – and learned that you are much more likely to get the right coverage if you have access to a financial planner who can objectively analyze your whole financial picture and design a coverage plan specific to your situation. [I also learned that it is easy to get a pedestrian to walk faster just by approaching them with a clipboard and asking “what do you think about life insurance?”]
Often, these financial planners will recommend a “term laddering” coverage plan. Term laddering is an approach where your coverage steps down over time, with the idea that you won’t need as much insurance when your kids are older, you have fewer working years left to potentially replace, and hopefully more financial resources on hand if needed. This approach makes effective coverage much more affordable and sidesteps the all too common scenario where people are forced to choose between options that are either excessive and expensive or affordable but inadequate.
But very few people can afford a great financial planner, and good luck trying to build a term laddering plan on your own. Of the 781 insurance companies operating in the United States, you can count on one hand how many are set up for it. Many insurance executives are completely unfamiliar with the concept – in fact, one CEO told me that he first heard of it only recently, when his own personal financial planner recommended it to him. When I tried to get a term laddering plan for myself, I found that none of the available online calculators were sophisticated enough and the supposedly innovative online insurance agency I was working with could not handle it either.
Everyday Life was born when my ambition to do more meaningful work met this incredibly frustrating experience. I found a big problem where I could make a difference in people’s lives and I haven’t looked back since.
You shouldn’t have to be a super persistent finance nerd to get effective and affordable coverage. Everyone deserves access to high quality financial services and technology now makes this possible. We are presented with a huge opportunity to level the playing field for people who too often in today’s world are left to fend for themselves. I see the potential for a new way forward that brings real financial security within reach of every family.
Today is a big day for me as we announce that we are open for business with our first offering. It has taken us over a year to get here and yet I recognize that in many ways the real work is only just beginning now. Still, this is exactly where I want to be and I am deeply grateful to my family, my co-founder Dipali, our business partners and everyone else who is helping us fulfill the promise of this opportunity.