Make Certain You Are Right and All Else Will Follow

By Mayer Smith


In my first year in the Life Insurance Profession, the brother of my General Agent, David Klein, was visiting.  Dave took us out to dinner after the agency closed for the day. While walking to the restaurant from Dave’s office, I asked Dave’s brother (who was a lawyer) “If you had one piece of advice to give a young man, what would it be?”

He said “Boy! That’s a tough one. Let me think about that.”  After musing for a few moments, he said “Make sure you are right and all else will follow.” I never forgot that piece of advice.  And, I applied it to my most competitive trial in my life insurance career.

In the 1960s, a law was passed enabling public school employees the same right as employees of non-profit schools to set aside part of their salaries into a Tax Deferred Annuity.

I learned of this from a booklet that I received from a life insurance publishing company. When I finished reading the booklet, I thought to myself “This is going to be one helluva market.  But to succeed in it, I am going to have to know more than anybody else.”

From that point on, I read everything I could lay my hands on. But, more important than that, I knew I had to know all about all of the annuity products in the marketplace.  I checked out the products of over sixty life insurance companies, took the most competitive thirty of them and put their cash accumulation values per $100 of annual input on a thirty-column spreadsheet with over 1,300 entries!  I then showed my spreadsheet to five of the most respected agents and General Agents in the DC area. When they saw that I had really done my homework and could prove my case, They ALL signed a statement affirming one company as having the best guaranteed product in the marketplace.

Within six months, Mayer Smith was the go-to guy if you wanted to know about Tax Deferred Annuities.  The crowning point came when I received a call from a Federal Agent who said he was seeking an answer to a question about the program and had been referred to me by the Fairfax Education Association Executive Secretary.  

I had in my possession a booklet published by the US Government on the tax laws relevant to Tax Deferred Annuities (which the agent also had in his possession).

When he posed the question, I already knew the answer.  But, my response was “I think I know the answer. But, let me check my booklet.”  I opened my booklet to the appropriate page and said “Ah, yes. Here it is. I think you will find your answer on Page xx about halfway down the page.” Pause.  He said “Oh. You are right. That’s exactly what I’m looking for. Thank you, Mr. Smith.”

I then called the Teachers Association Exec and thanked him for the referral. He, in turn, thanked me for taking care of the situation.

The Alexandria, VA School System had allowed the Horace Mann Insurance Company to sell casualty insurance to school employees for years.  The agents had served the teachers well. So, when the annuity program popped up, its sister life insurance company was allowed to sell annuities.  

The Alexandria Superintendent of Schools had retired.  So, I approached the then Assistant Superintendent for permission to market my annuities.  He responded, “We already have an annuity company so we don’t need another.” I replied, “What are you going to say when they find out you turned away the best product available for your employees?”  A momentary silence was followed by “Well, I guess we can allow one more company to come in.” No surely didn’t stop me!

It took four years for the Fairfax School System to implement the program. I had to stay on top of every new bit of news and every new product that came out.  Fortunately, the company with the best product maintained its position. Because of a variable annuity company’s vice president’s unethical attempt to derail me, I was given exclusive rights to sell both guaranteed products for one company and the variable annuity products for the only other variable annuity company for one year in Fairfax County.

Fairfax County, at that time, had 125 school buildings housing elementary, middle, and high schools.  Therefore, I had to recruit five trustworthy, knowledgeable agents to help me serve them all.

In their later years, I was able to develop a program for the teachers that enabled them to have a lifetime income from the annuities and preserve the entire accumulation for their heirs tax-free by using a small portion of the income to purchase life insurance equal to the total cash value of their annuities.

As a result of making sure I was right, I built a huge list of clients that continued to allow me to serve their annuity and life insurance needs for many years and enabled me to pay full tuition for my children to attend Brandeis, Carnegie Mellon, and Johns Hopkins University.