"My role is to accompany the client hand in hand throughout their lives, making sure they're safe and protected and there won't be any 'black holes' for them to fall into, from which they cannot come out," says insurance broker Jonathan Marcus. From his office at "Melman Nemlich" Insurance Agency in Jerusalem, Marcus advises his clients about financial management, insurance policies, and financial solutions.
Financial Planning for Families: On what do we waste money?
Marcus immigrated to Israel from the United Kingdom in 1979. For ten years he managed the JNF's insurance division, acquiring experience in complex projects in the fields of construction, contractors, and education, as well as in the field of general insurance. In 1999, after completing the Capital Market Authority's licensing exams, he began to work as an independent insurance broker. Over the 22 years since then he has accompanied his clients, basing his work on values such as professionalism, integrity, personal relationships and uncompromising diligence.
"I won't give up - I will swim the seven seas and do anything for my clients. After thirty years in the insurance industry, I know the area from within," he says, "I have good relationships with the insurance companies, and if I ask for something, they give it to me, knowing that I'm honest and professional and won't try to milk them for unreasonable benefits."
How do you provide your clients with the insurance coverage and pension solutions that are right for them?
"First of all, I examine the family or the business's financial structure, to put together the optimal product for them. I'm not here to just sell them a policy and disappear – I look at their entire balance holistically, and within the framework of a long-term plan and vision. I meet with the client and together we thoroughly examine their finances: incomes, expenses, loans, if there are, mortgages, family status, number of children, whether they have assets, expected inheritance, and other factors."
In addition, as a licensed financial planner, Marcus examines the balance to see whether the family is spending more than it should. "Sometimes this happens because the family is disorganized, sometimes there are funds 'on the ground' of which they are unaware, sometimes the family spends money for no good reason, for example if their cell phone plans are not good," he says. "As a rule, I look for ways they can save money and be smarter about their finances, to bring them to a better starting point. I check whether their mortgage is on the optimal terms. If the partners took the mortgage when interests were very high, I sometimes recommend refinancing in order to reduce expenses. I check the quality of their savings plans. If there are expenses that can be delayed, I recommend postponing them until the couple can afford it, rather than taking loans."
In order to plan the family's financial conduct optimally, Marcus talks to his clients and together they assess any significant expenses in the future. "For instance, when the children finish their military service and the parents may help them with rent or tuition," he explains, "I create a plan and explain what they should do from this moment on, so they can reach that point in the future with the sufficient funds. The financial plan is updated constantly based on various parameters, such as whether more children are born, if the investment market changes, and so on."
Life or Health? Which insurance do you need?
In addition, Marcus also examines the family's pension solution, to calculate what amount will enable the couple to live well, often needing to change the scope of pension and the plan to ensure they retire safely.
"As part of the financial structure, I study the family's insurance plans: how the various policies can help my clients achieve their financial goals, even if there are obstacles along the way. I check their life insurance, whether it's too low or high, the children's ages, what amount of money they need until the children are financially independent, and how much they pay for health insurance. I check all the existing coverages and make sure they are correct and accurate."
Which insurance plans are a must for any family today?
"All families need life insurance, unless they have very sizable assets. The question to ask is – how can I continue to live and raise my children after the death of my partner. In general, children are usually financially independent at about the age of 25. Therefore, life insurance should be structured to enable the parents to finance the children until that age. Together we decide whether it's better for the family to receive a single compensation, or monthly payments for a number of months.
"Private health insurance is also a must today. Because it can be set up in a modular fashion, there is no obligation to purchase many types of coverage, rather, it can be set up based on needs and budget – it's more accessible. You can choose certain services that your sick fund does not sufficiently cover, based on your budget."
What's the advantage of working with an insurance broker compared to direct insurance companies?
"The insurance broker takes the time to really examine the data, he understands the medical questionnaires, avoids mistakes that could be costly for the client, and tailors the right product for the client out of a variety of products from various insurance suppliers. In addition, the broker has a long-term relationship with insurance companies. Because he sells a large amount of insurance, the broker will have a certain advantage in receiving benefits and discounts for the clients. There are many grey areas in insurance, and brokers know how to handle them and give our clients the extra treatment and benefits. I bring proof, I debate and explain why the insurance company should approve the claim. This is in comparison with the direct insurance companies, they have no interest in fighting for the client, there are only clerks that can follow the rules and recite prewritten policies."
Tell us about some success stories.
"I took out health insurance for a 14-year-old girl. When she was 12 she broke her leg, and I stated this when filling out her medical application form. After a while, it turned out she had to undergo surgery in that leg, as it had not rehabilitated well, and was shorter than the other leg. There was need for another operation, to add plates and extend the leg. The insurance company would not cover the operation, claiming it had occurred before the insurance period commenced. As a broker, I know how to deal with these situations. I claimed that the insurance company had not stated anywhere in the insurance policy that her leg was not covered, and I got my client her compensation."
Marcus adds that in another case that occurred years ago, he had a client who discovered she was carrying the BRCA gene, which puts her at great risk for breast cancer. She decided to undergo a prophylactic mastectomy. "At the time it was innovative. Her insurance policy did not include preventive surgery, because it did not exist, and the company would not cover the surgery," he says. "I met with the company and explained how the client was actually potentially saving them hundreds of thousands of shekels, money that would have been spent on treatments and operations, and convinced them to cover the surgery though it was not on the policy. A good broker thinks outside the box and is willing to fight relentlessly for claims that are justified."