Retirement? Never, say insurance agents

The latest Insurance Business America poll reveals some startling facts about today’s crop of independent insurance agents.

Insurance News


Our last Insurance Business America poll asked insurance agents when they are looking to retire—and the results could have a few people scratching their heads.

We offered five possible scenarios: a year from now, two years from now, five years from now, 10 years from now, and “Never—I’ll die selling insurance!”

The winner, by far, was “Never!” claiming 51% of the vote and nudging out “10 years from now,” which took 34% of the vote.

The results come despite the relative age of the industry; according to a report from management consulting firm McKinsey & Co., the average age of a US insurance agent is 59—well within the range of average retirement age.

That trend—the aging workforce and lack of widespread retirement—is echoed among American workers in all sectors. The Harvard Business Review estimates that by 2050, more than one-fifth of the US population will be 65 or older, many still going into the office each day.

According to analysts, these statistics should send two messages to insurance agents: First, it’s fine—perhaps even useful—to continue working past the traditional retirement age of 65.

"Some of the agents themselves will be advancing in age, so it’s entirely possible that this will give them an advantage if they are dealing with clients a similar age," said Dr. Steven Weisbart, chief economist with the Insurance Information Institute. "This is compared with someone 30 years younger, whose client might say [the agent] doesn’t understand my values my priorities, or my experience."

"I would argue that from an agent’s point of view…their advanced age and the advanced age of their customers could be a plus."

However, agency principals can’t ignore the need to hire younger producers. Not only will millennials comprise one-third of the workforce by 2018, and need peers to advise them in their insurance decisions, but agencies themselves will need younger workers if they want to survive.

“The data makes it clear that agencies cannot afford to continue to do business as usual when it comes to hiring new producers,” researchers with consulting firm MarshBerry wrote. “The most relevant agencies of the next decade will not only hire aggressively in the short-term, they will work to improve their retention in the long-term to ensure success.”

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