Breaking the Cycle

“We first addressed income replacement and then embraced the attractiveness of cash value accumulation within the life insurance contracts,” says Johnson. “The cash value buildup was an effective source for paying college tuition on a tax-favored basis.”

Johnson admits he hasn’t always been so savvy about protecting his assets. At 33, with a wife and newborn son, he had mounds of consumer debt and no life insurance. “No one ever approached me about it. I was doing fairly well as a district manager with Capital Credit Corp. in Los Angeles. Sometimes people will look at you from the outside and think you’ve got it all together. That wasn’t the case with me.”

With the encouragement of his wife, Johnson met with her agent and devised a plan to build generational wealth for his family. He started with the purchase of $250,000 in coverage, his first policy. The purchase also spurred his new career and passion.

“I started building this business with those closest to me,” says Johnson. “It wasn’t until I got into the business that my family, both immediate and extended, started to understand the value of life insurance and financial planning.”

Although the family dry cleaning business wasn’t passed down, Johnson made sure he put a succession plan in place so that his insurance business will be left to his son. “My father is always trying to make things better for those that follow,” says Justin, a financial services professional with New York Life who joined the company in 2009.

Like his father, Justin also started by advising those who were closest to him, seeking out members of his fraternity, people in his community, and peers. “About 80% of my clients are under the age of 35,” says the Southern Illinois University graduate. But pitching life insurance to young people who think they’re invincible can often be a struggle. “A lot of young people get a distant feeling when you talk to them about life insurance. They put it off and say, ‘I have time.’ But what if you don’t? I tell my clients to think ‘when,’ not ‘if.’”