[podcast src=”https://html5-player.libsyn.com/embed/episode/id/4928016/height/360/width/450/theme/st andard/autonext/no/thumbnail/yes/autoplay/no/preload/no/no_addthis/no/direction/forward/” height=”360″ width=”450″]Health insurance can be expensive. Having a diagnosis of cancer can cost you a ton of money even with the best health insurance. In this week’s story, Karl Susman and guests tell a story about Jason, who battled cancer and still was able to pay the bills. Transcript follows.
JIM: Today I am really happy to have our current guest with us. Someone that I have gotten to know personally and consider a friend through different industry meetings that I have attended. He’s got a unique story because he underst ands insurance the value of insurance from a business perspective but never expected to find out what it means from a personal st andpoint. To share his personal story we have Jason Mendelsohn. Jason is the co-founder and president of the Ashar Group that’s a nationally licensed firm specializing in secondary market sector for estate and business planning professionals.
JASON: Hi how are you.
JIM: Fantastic. I hear your own personal story because we’ve gotten to know each other personally through the years because we’re in the same kind of industry and business and we’ve met at a lot of company meetings through the years. After hearing your personal story I was inspired. Shortly after hearing your personal story to hear you present in front of an audience of your peers, I got to tell you I was touched in your willingness to share so that others can learn from your experience is just awesome, and I really appreciate you joining us today.
JASON: Thank you very much, thanks for having me.
JIM: Let’s start out, I just want to share with the audience, we talked about it a little bit in the intro, but your company that you’ve been in, it’s kind of a family business. I know you’ve got a brother involved, a sister involved, and you’re one of the pioneers in this life settlement business, which is a business that helps people that want to or need to get rid of some life insurance that doesn’t fit their circumstances anymore and finding someone else willing to pay for that that might give them an option of getting more than maybe just a cash surrender value. It’s interesting you being in that position of being in the business there’s probably not too many people that underst and the value of life insurance much more than you do, would you agree with that?
JASON: I certainly underst and why it’s important, yes.
JIM: Let’s talk a little bit about your personal story you shared with me off the air. You’re similar in age to me, you’re a couple years younger, you’re 46, right?
JIM: You went through a health experience. Why don’t you share with the audience your story.
JASON: Sure. Back in April 2014, while taking a financial exam, I put my h and on my face and the neck to ponder a question, felt a bump, finished the test, called my doctor and ENT and said what is this what’s happening. He said not to worry about it. I’m a guy that goes to the doctor so I went immediately a few days later. They got me in, went on 10 days of antibiotics and steroids, nothing changed. Had a CAT scan and needle biopsy and then two days later found out I was diagnosis with Stage IV HPV related tonsil cancer, which had spread to two lymph nodes in my neck. Obviously went from someone who was working 7:30 or 8 in the morning until 6 in the evening to someone who all of a sudden was going to be dealing with surgery. Ended up having a radical tonsillectomy neck dissection, so 42 lymph nodes removed in my neck followed by seven weeks of chemo, radiation, and _____. Honestly, for someone who is busy with family, I’m married 19 years, three kids, to all of a sudden have to be going to radiation five days a week, 32 rounds of radiation for 15 minutes at a time, and then chemo one day a week, around eight hours each Thursday certainly took over my life.
JIM: Now again, how old were you when all of this happened?
JASON: I was 44.
JIM: So you’re at really arguably your prime of life, you’ve got a young family at home. At that age I think back I still feel the same way now even though I’m 51, you don’t really think about things like this happening to you, it’s usually other people that that happens to. Did you go through that same thing?
JASON: I was feeling the healthiest that I had felt in my entire life. Back when my third child was born I was, just to give you a little idea as to health and weight, I was 228, a few years later I went down to 208, through Weight Watcher’s went down to 188, and then all of a sudden had cancer and was down to 172. I will tell you at 188 I was exercising, feeling great, really feeling awesome, and all of a sudden out of now where a diagnosis of cancer really took over.
JIM: At to go through all this radical treatment, obviously I mean you’re in business, describe what your role was in the business. You’re not just somebody who shows up for work every day, you’re the leader in the business, so talk about that a little bit.
JASON: Obviously, you know the name of our company is Ashar Group, we appraise life insurance. We are nationally licensed, so as president of Ashar my role is to build relationships with insurance carriers, broker/dealers, BGAs, attorneys, BPAs nationally, so I’m working and building relationship from morning until night. We appraise life insurance as you know, so when someone has a policy they no longer want or need, we appraise it and then we sell it to institutional buyers, but I am working on cases with clients, I am working with carriers, broker/dealers, again, we travel probably two to four times a month visiting national accounts, so I am actively involved in our business. I truly get to the office around 7:30 and leave everyday somewhere around 6 o’clock. As you know I’m president, and my brother is CEO, sister is vice-president of sales, and then we have staff of 20 people, father is on the board, so we are a tightly knit family business and work all the time, pretty much seven days a week to make things happen and provide a high-level of service. So all of a sudden being hit with a cancer diagnosis was devastating to me and put a lot of pressure on my siblings and the company overall.
JIM: I always kid people that are fellow business owners, I say yeah I just work half days, any 12 hours will do, and you were actually putting a little more than a half a day.
JASON: Yeah, I mean we worked all the time. I’m not saying this to make our business sound awesome, but I enjoy coming to work every day. I think you know this already but I get along very well with my family. My brother is my next door neighbor. I mean so we work across the hall, we’re always together, and we do work a lot. Again, for us it’s work, it’s taking care of people, it’s serving, and it’s something we enjoy.
JIM: Obviously now there’s been a big disruption, so talk about what the disruption was both for your family life and then how did the business adjust or what tools did you have in place to deal with this?
JASON: I’ll try to touch on all points. Through treatment, surgery, that whole timeframe, which was really end of April to my last chemo and radiation was August 11, 2014, but really due to the side effects of radiation I was really having issues probably to the end of October or November, and so during that time period it put a lot of strain on my brother and sister, as well as the entire company. At one point I was in bed 18 hours a day for a week, got up to do some email but I was not able to even swallow my own saliva after radiation for a month, and for weeks I even ate just through a feeding tube, so six Ensures a day, two Gatorades a day through a feeding tube because I couldn’t swallow, so it was crazy. I’ll tell you back to my home life, my wife, like I said married 19 years, three kids, love my family more than anything, my wife’s biggest job during that time period was to shield my kids from me, which again I have to tell you I choke up every time I say that because I speak to my parents every day, and so parents, family, the whole thing means everything to me, so the fact that my wife’s biggest job, and by the way she was a superhero, to shield my kids from me so they weren’t worried their father was going to pass away, meant everything that she could keep them safe. At the beginning, again, I know ultimately here I want to speak to you about what life insurance and disability insurance did for me as far as giving me security, but at the beginning I even made videos to my kids that certainly no one on this program ever wants to make, but it was one such as this to my daughter, hey Lauren one day you’re going to get married, I’m not going to be there, and this is what’s important, and so I will tell you a lot of strain on the family just watching me go through all the treatments. A lot of strain on the business due to the fact that I was taken out of the business due to just fighting to survive, and so I didn’t mention it yet but the fact that I had life insurance and disability insurance gave me peace of mind.
JIM: I’ve talked to a lot of people through the years in the medical profession, and they say that’s probably one of the biggest things for recovery is having someone who has their supposed house in order or they have peace of mind about that where they’re not, I mean obviously you worry, but to not have that financial worry on behalf of your family if you’re not here anymore, to not have that financial worry about how the bills are getting paid and all those things, that that’s about as strong as just about any medicine, just having that peace of mind so you can focus on getting well, probably the most important thing you came through it pretty well as a matter of fact.
JASON: Thank you. The day I got the diagnosis my wife was there with me and my father at the ENT, and I got in the car, and after speaking to my family and my first two calls were to my insurance agent saying could you please make sure that my policies are on automatic draft, because I was truly concerned as the one that h andles the finances for our home that what if a premium didn’t get paid, what if I passed away and all of a sudden my family wasn’t left with the coverage that I had in place. It gave me tremendous peace of mind.
JIM: Let’s talk about where you are at in the recovery process as of today.
JASON: Today I actually went to the radiation oncologist for my checkup. I am obviously a few years out, almost a few years out, and I am cancer free. I had clean margins after the surgery. I still go for checkups every other month to either the ENT, the oncologist, or the radiation oncologist. I have some side effects from the treatments, so I have neuropathy in my knees to my toes in both legs, in my h ands, dryness of mouth. I use special fluoride gel trays every night but I’m not worried about dying anymore so that honestly is a tremendous comfort and thrilled to be alive. Little things don’t bother me, and cancer free again like I said, and working every day to serve as a positive role model to either cancer patients currently going through treatment or survivors and their families trying to be a good role model.
JIM: That’s awesome. We’re going to take a short break, and Jason when we come back let’s talk about that importance of insurance, because it’s something that none of us really like to talk about. I hear it said all the time I don’t believe in life insurance, I don’t believe in disability income insurance, and I had a good friend of mine once share with me well that’s good because it’s not a religion let’s talk about what it does. When we come back let’s talk about what our insurance program did for you and your family so please stay tuned.
JIM: Welcome back as we continue to visit with Jason Mendelsohn. Jason had quite a scare for him and his family, his business partners, which were also family members, where he was diagnosed with cancer at a very early age, with an outlook not looking so good were really preparing for the end result, which fortunately ended up being a clean bill of health and not the opposite. Jason, please share with us, you talked about disability income insurance giving you peace of mind and knowing that you had life insurance. As a matter of fact you shared your first call was to your agent to make sure that the premiums were being paid and not the policy would lapse out right at the time when you might need them. Talk a little bit about your insurance program and what role that played.
JASON: Sure, and thanks for asking. Like I said I called both my insurance agents and made sure my policies were on automatic draft because who knew what was going to happen health wise. I have $6 million of coverage, one of the lessons, and by the way I know that amount of coverage I always had because I understood being raised by parents who valued life insurance, that God forbid anything happened to me I wanted my wife and kids to be well taken care of, meaning I wanted my wife not to have to marry for money, I wanted my house to be paid for, I wanted my kids to go to the schools they wanted to go to, I wanted to just give them comfort. They would have lost their father had it obviously paid out, and they didn’t need to have financial stress. I actually appreciate and value paying for my life insurance because I know it will be there to give my family the support they needed when God-forbid when I pass away one day. One of the things I wanted to mention is that of my coverage I was diagnosed back in 2014, in 2012 a million of my coverage expired as far as the conversion option, so it was 20 year level term, I have a certain amount of time to convert it and I chose not to convert it in 2012 because of the expense of business and family, and I thought you know what in a few years I’ll just get more coverage. Who would have ever thought I would have ended up with stage IV cancer and all of a sudden become uninsurable. It’s just one thing I wanted to mention. The life insurance certainly gave me peace of mind, the disability coverage my insurance agent included a future increase benefit, and while I had peace of mind going through all the treatments, the diagnosis, that if I needed it it would be there. Around 10 months ago, after finishing treatment, I got a letter from the carrier stating that I had the ability to double my coverage without proof of insurability due to the future increase rider, and I certainly did that immediately. It actually brought tears to my eyes, never would have thought I would have needed that either. Again, the insurance peace of mind for me, for my wife and kids, the disability coverage the same thing, and just really appreciated that the agents I had expressed the importance of life and disability and what it could do for my family if I ever needed it.
JIM: Jason, I just got to share with you, because you talk about the amount of coverage, and I think a lot of our listeners would think of that and say oh my god that’s way too much coverage. I meet with so many couples, they have a quarter million dollars of coverage, or even $100,000 of coverage, and they think that’s plenty. They don’t believe in the life insurance, and I look at that. What’s interesting about that is the value that people put on their lives. I had one person say if you were to pass away how much would you recommend or how much would a plaintiff attorney recommend we sue for as far as loss of value. You see these multi-million dollar lawsuits all day long, and people say it’s such a tragedy, yet when it comes to people taking care of their own family we don’t have some lawyer ready to sue somebody for us passing away and now we’ve only left our family $100,000 or a quarter million, you think it’s a lot of money but at today’s interest rates environment, you have mortgage payments, with the cost of health insurances many people don’t even look at the health benefits that are being provided through an employer or matching benefits to a 401(k) and all the different things that are going to help make that family financially sound if everything goes okay, but you lose that bread winner and all those benefits go away and then there is no money left as well, it’s really a double edge sword. We really appreciate you sharing that with us.
JASON: Jim, when talking about life insurance and why I have the amount I have, I chose that amount when looking at how much I earn one year and for how long I would be earning it, and so I was trying to figure out what’s the most coverage I could qualify for where I would support my wife and kids, and so I started with my first policy back in by 20s and I figures 50 years later how much life insurance would I need. I also look at there are some people that have family money, which I had none of, and as well from an investment st andpoint, no investments when starting out, and so while some people have a little bit about of life insurance and they’re comfortable with that because they have a large investment portfolio, I didn’t have that. As far as I’m concerned and the way I planned for my family was get the most life insurance I can get today and then save money over 10 to 20, 30, 40 years, and maybe later cut back on some of the insurance once I’ve actually saved the money that I can invest, but to me having a lot of life insurance makes sense from the beginning especially if you haven’t yet built your nest egg.
JIM: If you look at the Wall Street Journal today, it says 3% is the last thing I saw, isn’t even a safe withdrawal rate anymore, and you mentioned you had $6 million and then $1 million lapsed out, while if you take 3% of $5 million, that’s $150,000 of income. Now that may seem like a lot but today that’s not a huge amount for someone, and you’re president of a company and you got a lot of people dependent on you. Talk a little bit about the disability insurance. Did you end up collecting on it?
JASON: I did not collect on it because I’m partner in a firm and I’m paid differently; however, if I ever got to a point, again back to the whole comfort. I think people to buy life insurance and disability insurance buy it because they underst and taking care of people is important, people that depend on you. I at the end of the day have both of those coverages because I knew that if I couldn’t have an income that I needed something to pay my monthly bills and to take care of the normal expenses for my wife and kids in our household, so again, it’s been kind of the underlying theme of everything we’ve talked about today, I think if you love someone and whether it’s your family or from an insurance st andpoint for a business you’re taking care of employees and their families, it’s important to have life insurance that supports your family personally or your business, and then also from a disability perspective, if you’re dependent on your income I don’t know how you can with good conscience go through life without disability insurance, because people always say that you’re much more likely to become disabled.
JIM: Now one of the things you mentioned with your DI insurance, you were made the offer to double your insurance. I got ask you a question, this might be hard to really conjecture, but do you think you would have went ahead with that had you not had this health scare?
JASON: You know it’s an interesting question, I don’t think so. Should I have, yes. Again, as long as you qualify and you can afford it I think yes. I don’t know that I would have. It’s easy for me to say now absolutely I would have. I might have delayed it, but I’m so happy that I had the option. Again, not happy about having cancer or having had cancer, but happy with the decisions I’ve made before and after that to make sure that my family and business are provided for.
JIM: That’s funny, because I just talked to an executive that came into my office not so long ago and I asked him about do you have disability income insurance. He said oh yeah it’s all taken care of, it’s one of my benefits at work. I have long-term disability and it takes care of me. I said well how does it take care of you. They said well I think it’s 60% of my income, and I said you think or you know. He said I think. Alright, well this guy was making pretty good money and he was living off the money that he was making as most people tend to do. They spend up to their income level, and he was saving for retirement the way he should be and all that, but the income that he was making his family was really dependent on to reach their current goals as well as future goals. I said okay well maybe you should verify how much coverage you have and if there is a cap. He said what do you mean? I said well most plans are capped out at $5000 or $6000 a month, and if that’s the only policy you have I’d be surprised if you have much more than $5000 a month. Well he looked it up, he did have 60% of income to $5000 cap, which ended up being more like 30% of his income, plus he didn’t realize that that disability income on the group was taxable, so I said okay so if all of a sudden tomorrow, let’s say you don’t even have any extra medical bills that aren’t covered by your health insurance with deductibles and co-insurance and things like that, would you be able to live on $2000 a month. He just kind of looked at me with a blank stare, and his wife was looking at him with a different type of stare knowing that their family was in a pretty vulnerable position. He was in a very stressful job, let’s face it if you have a lot of stress that can cause health issues, so disability income insurance with this being disability income insurance awareness month is one of the things that gets most overlooked, and while you are very blessed to have recovered the way you have, you certainly have learned some lessons and have shared some lessons with us today that at 46, the president of a company, and on top of the work and working out and getting healthy and all of a sudden something still hits you, you need to make sure that you’ve got your loved ones protected and your family is protected and your business partner is protected if you’re in business for yourself. Jason, any final words or any words of advice that you’d like to close with?
JASON: Yes, thank you. I was trying to put my last few years in a brief summary for you to hopefully encourage others to learn more and find out more about what their needs really are for life and disability. I will tell you a brief story and then I’ll close with this also. Since recovering I now am being a good role model or working to be a good role model for other people going through my same cancer and the process. Right now I’m dealing with a gentleman 44, another one 49, and two men in their 50s, all of which had my exact same diagnosis, all of which healthy, working out, business people, all different income levels, and I will tell you that you never know when some of these things, one of them being life insurance, one of them being disability insurance that you never think you’re going to need and that you can always qualify for, are going to become unattainable. I would say that if you’re listening to this program, learn from my story because and I tear up or get choked up when I say this, but as a guy who for all intents and purposes sitting on top of the world was 19 years being married, three kids, a business and loving life, and all of a sudden out of now where got hit by cancer, I couldn’t stress enough to all your listeners to say go speak with your insurance agent, financial advisor, and find out what you have, underst and what you qualify for, because I never thought I was going to be the one feeling comfort from it, and that’s exactly what was perfect for my situation, so I would just tell you that anyone listening to the program, speak to your financial advisor and insurance agent, because you never know when you’re going to be or if god forbid you end up in my position, and this will protect your family and that’s all.
JIM: Jason, I really appreciate it. If you just inspired one person it was definitely worth the time, and hopefully we’ve inspired a lot more than that. I know from dealing with people on a daily basis, so many people we get, it seems like the world is so fast tracked today, we’re so busy day to day to day to day that we don’t always take the time to look at those important details and make sure we’re protecting our family, so thank you very much.
JASON: Your welcome, thanks for having me.