Ebony Ruffin is on a mission. It is her purpose to make sure her clientele knows all about the benefits of life insurance. Bronze Magazine recently sat down with the insurance guru to discuss establishing her own business, the importance of life insurance, and the insurance solutions she offers families and businesses.
Share how you got started in insurance and established your own business.
I started with insurance, not directly, but indirectly. As a young lady growing up in Montgomery, Alabama, I witnessed the life insurance man coming to my grandmother’s home where I would watch the life insurance appointment take place in the living room. That began the process to me understanding the important role of life insurance in our lives. When I began to go off to college at Auburn University, I was super organized and thought I had the perfect checklist together. There was one “to do” not on my checklist, but it was on my mother’s checklist. That was getting life insurance for me as I was entering into college.
I would say my last pivotal experience which was becoming a director of finance at a law firm in Reston, Virginia, is where I gained more knowledge and experience about key person life insurance. From there I knew that I needed to take on a role to better understand life insurance for myself as well as to be able to explain it to others. I got licensed in the state of Virginia when I first started off and appointed with a national life group. Since then, I have been on a mission and journey to change the narrative of life insurance from a death benefit to a wealth benefit.
I established my own business because growing up as a dependent in the military, I was kind of thrown into this lifestyle of adapting, understanding change, being relatable to people, and focusing on seeking to understand. I knew that from that experience as I met new people from different walks of life, there was one consistent thing that people recognized about me and that was my ability to write very well, communicate and speak well, and problem solve. So all of that led me to understand the importance of consulting. I did not know exactly what I would consult in, but I knew it would be something in the realm of finances and accounting.
I started my business as an employer while working in Georgia and I would take on small projects for other business owners and entrepreneurs being a consultant on the back end and being assigned projects. Of course when you start a business, sometimes what you start in is not where you find your sweet spot. I found my sweet spot in life insurance, being able to bring awareness and educating others. I use Ruffin Consulting Services as a platform to provide educational resources, apparel, and life insurance guides to the market. I also use it as a platform to be able to speak to audiences directly or through podcasts and social media platforms to explain the importance of life insurance, what it is, and how to make the best decision for their family and business.
Why is it important to have life insurance?
That is a great question. It is important to have life insurance because your life is an asset. Once the market understands the value of life, insuring your life becomes a non-negotiable. As we conduct our daily living activities, we are making decisions that either create wealth through assets or liabilities. As we pass on in life, there is someone that is going to be responsible for our assets and liabilities in life. Life insurance is important as long as we are living and breathing. It is no different than insuring cars, properties, and devices that we use daily. We want to take that same mindset and apply it to insuring our life. Our life is just as important as any material, brick and mortar, or device that we own and operate. Insuring your life not only reduces the financial hardship that maybe a family member would experience if he did not have life insurance, but is also the start of multigenerational wealth, specifically for Black families.
What is your business model?
My business model is business to consumer. I directly interact with my consumers on my platform or through other platforms, but as I study and prepare for the Series 65 exam to become an investment advisor representative, my motto will then incorporate business to business where I will focus on doctors with private practices as well as law firms.
What is your investment philosophy?
I am not technically licensed to speak about investments, but as a finance professional, my philosophy on investing is making sure that a person understands his or her risks with their investments. Risks as well as tax implications directly impact a person’s investment philosophy. My personal philosophy that I apply in life is to have six to nine months of my expenses in a savings account and also maximizing what I can contribute to a retirement plan both pre-tax and post-tax. From there I focus on companies that I use in my daily life or companies that have a great impact on artificial intelligence.
What kinds of insurance solutions do you offer families and businesses?
I offer term life insurance, permanent life insurance, and key person life insurance. Key person life insurance is the type of life insurance you will see most often purchased by business owners where they have a partnership and each partner plays an integral role in the business. The business pays the life insurance premiums and when the partner passes away the business is the beneficiary of that life insurance policy. Term life insurance and permanent life insurance are the two types of life insurance that are purchased mainly by families and individuals. Term life insurance satisfies the need of life insurance on the insured for a specific number of years typically between 10, 15, 20, and 30 years. Once that time period expires, the insured and the owner can renew that term life insurance policy similar to renting an apartment. You enter into an agreement and when that time expires you renew the contract. Permanent life insurance provides the insured coverage for his or her life. Permanent life insurance is mostly spoken of in the market as it relates to whole life insurance or index universal life insurance. Permanent life insurance not only satisfies the need of life insurance coverage, but it also provides a cash value accumulation which is a savings component which is a great benefit for your retirement years or possibly after policy year ten if you need access to capital, to fund a business idea, to help with any expenses that you have in life, and maybe the purchase on a property. Permanent life insurance provides a little bit more in terms of benefits long-term compared to term life insurance.
During the pandemic, what kinds of assistance have you been offering businesses in crisis?
I offer a free life insurance e-Course and it is available on a teachable platform as well as the Clever Girl Finance platform. It is the first step where businesses can take to truly understand what life insurance is and how to incorporate it in their business and also at an affordable premium.
Share one of your success stories of helping a family.
My success stories are most often seen with families. I have started mainly with the woman of the household who will contact me about life insurance and not necessarily clear on how to navigate the process or understand it. But at the end of the process, I’ve consistently received positive feedback about how the family feels more confident about life insurance, how it is much easier for them to understand than they thought it was in the beginning, and how much more affordable life insurance is compared to what they thought in their mind. My success story is definitely seen mainly across families where they started the process unsure if they could afford life insurance, not quite clear on exactly the different types of life insurance and how to incorporate it into their family, to the family being insured as well as children and spouses, and why families continue to maintain active insurance policies.
Tell us about living benefits and annuities.
Living benefits is kind of this new way that life insurance companies understand that consumers want more than just life insurance. So just like any other industry, the life insurance industry has become a little bit more creative in offering consumers more than just the payout of the death benefit, the cash value accumulation, or permanent life insurance. Now they are offering what is considered living benefits. Living benefits, the technical terminology for that is accelerated benefits riders, and with the life insurance company I am appointed with, these riders are free riders to both term and permanent life insurance. So now at this point you may say that you still don’t quite understand what that is. The riders provide you access to the death benefit of your life insurance while you are alive in the event you are diagnosed with a terminal illness, critical or chronic illness, or injury.
So, life insurance companies understand that most individuals will experience a health crisis before they pass away and because of that your income is impacted, meaning you are not able to work at the same capacity, you have to take some time off, or your expenses are increasing because of your health crisis. As a result, a licensed physician will draft up the paperwork that you will provide to the life insurance company. Based on the severity of the critical or chronic illness or injury, as well as being diagnosed with a terminal illness, the life insurance will grant you access to your death benefit while you are alive. That is the concept of living benefits.
An annuity is incorporating life insurance as well as the ability to receive steady income throughout retirement for as long as the insured is alive. A great example is that my father just recently retired in January 2021. He is not eligible to withdraw from a company’s 401K plan without experiencing the federal tax implications, so he may consider possibly an annuity where he can shelter his retirement funds and not have to withdraw from them right now if it is not necessarily needed. In addition, when the annuity annuitizes, the person can receive a monthly amount as long as the person is alive. So an annuity is a way where it guarantees a certain amount of income through your retirement years until you have passed away. There is also a life insurance component to that as well.
What is the best insurance advice you have given customers? What is the best advice you have been given about insurance?
The best advice that I have given is life insurance is a wealth benefit not a death benefit. Typically when I provide that advice, most people go hmmm that makes sense. By providing that advice I am changing the narrative of life insurance from consumers being reactive to proactive. When a consumer understands life insurance as a wealth benefit and how speaking about generational wealth directly ties to life insurance, it becomes more of a positive conversation and not a dreadful conversation.
The best advice I have received about life insurance is directly from my mom and my grandmother. Growing up in Montgomery, Alabama I would watch this meeting between my grandmother and the life insurance man and understanding why she thought it was important to insure family members. At that time, I think the generations were more focused on insuring so that they would not have to be stuck with burial expenses that they could not afford. My mom taught me another piece about life insurance which is cash value accumulation and getting me insured at a younger age and when you are more than likely the healthiest. So the best advice I have received is understanding the importance of life insurance and going beyond burial expenses when securing life insurance and it can also be used as a wealth strategy and not just a death strategy.
How do you measure success of your clients?
I measure success of my clients by receiving their feedback of how they truly understand life insurance after working with me and how they now have a peace of mind knowing that they have checked this off of their financial planning list. So, my biggest success story is the success story of my clients and how they have a peace of mind knowing their household is now insured and they have an agent in me for life.
Life insurance is not a bad topic to discuss. Once you wrap your head around generational wealth, the importance of life insurance, and that it is more affordable than most consumers think, the rest of it is a piece of cake. I do invite you to enroll in my free life insurance e-Course. It is a great start to understanding life insurance and applying it in your life. Shake off the nerves of life insurance and embrace it in your financial plan. The e-Course can be found at www.ruffinconsultingservices.com. Select shop and then e-course. The link directs you to the teachable platform. Enroll in the course and take it at your own pace. There are interactive quizzes and worksheets within the life insurance course. It is really designed to help you understand what life insurance is, what your options are, how to calculate your life insurance needs, and what to look for in a life insurance agent and company.