Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Meet CSA Spotlight, Liz Gramm


Where Passion to do the Right Thing Meets Opportunity

I have been with the Society of Certified Senior Advisors® for over four years now, and since I have been here a couple of things have become apparent to me. First, there is a growing need for compassionate people to enter the field of aging. Second, the level of care needed for our seniors today has grown exponentially and it will continue to do so for the next 10-15 years. In effect, there is a great opportunity for your future as a professional in the senior field.

I began volunteering with seniors when I was just 13. I worked in our small town Assisted and Independent living communities first as a school elective, and when that ended I continued on my own. I would do dishes, set up dining, play the piano and visit with the senior residents three to four times a week. I come from a small family and by the time I was two, I only had one grandfather who was still with us. He died when I was 12, and though we rarely got to see one another, it was a loss for me since our family was already so small. Volunteering gave me a chance to do what I would later find to be my life passion. I was able to learn about people! I learned history first-hand from the residents; I learned about love, war, a simpler time and of course, loss. Unlike many people who do not wish to listen to stories of a time not too long ago (but longer than we can remember) I just wanted to learn about these experiences. Being in a small town where most people drove pickups and worked on ranches, I ached for other world experiences and my volunteer time was a way for me to learn about different places, people and ideals.

I left my small town when I was 17 for an education opportunity in Germany but not long after I returned, I was recruited into an insurance company that focuses on solutions for retirement. Before long, I was learning the ins and outs of Medicare, Long Term Care Insurance, End of Life planning and the myriad of insurance and financial solutions available for seniors. I was passionate about serving ethically; it was so important to me that when my head hit the pillow at the end of the day that I had worked hard and maintained a clear conscience.

One day, I met with a 74 year old retired Marine. His wife had just died and she did all of the paperwork in the household. I offered to do a review of his policies with him and see what he had in place. After hours of review, I was able to determine that three separate brokerage houses had sold him identical Cancer policies for he and his wife. He had SIX policies for which he paid premiums for two decades. The catch with Cancer policies is that you qualify for one with the company. You cannot have three policies and expect each to pay out, but no one told him that….until I got there. We called the companies, and confirmed that all six policies were active and only one would pay out in the case of him needing cancer treatment. We cancelled the three on his wife and cancelled two of his to save him hundreds of dollars a month. Then, all 6 feet of him crumpled in his chair and he began to sob. He was devastated that by trying to do the right thing, he had been taken advantage of. How could someone, something, or some company simply take money from a senior for products or services that are never going to be delivered? I immediately wished I had never offered to perform the review. That night, as I struggled to fall asleep in the face of injustice, I realized that there is a great need for people like me. People who care. People who want to find solutions and help seniors to thrive in their retirement, regardless of the level of life we believe they are living. Ultimately, it led me here.

I am blessed to be part of a human community. A community where we are all joined and can impact one another in beautiful ways. I believe seniors are our angels, our societal lynchpin; they have experienced the growth of our country and might be able to bring us back to the roots we came from. There is a need for professionals to take interest in seniors. There is an opportunity for all of us to make this positive impact in their lives, but there is an equal opportunity for all of us to find something rewarding and long-lasting into which we can pour our heart and soul.

Throughout the years I have seen the ugliest mistreatment of seniors. I want to stand with my fellow CSAs to send a message, “We are not going to allow financial, emotional, or physical abuse to be prevalent in the lives of our senior clients.” We must work hard to protect what they have worked so hard to earn and to forge for future generations. We MUST take care of our national economy, and these individuals are the only ones with any real money. Not the banks, not the stock market, but seniors. They have a great deal of wealth that needs to be managed by ethical professionals. You are being called to serve and you have an amazing opportunity to thrive if you are doing it right.

Hold yourself accountable to the highest possible standard of ethics. Align your goals with the best interest of seniors and go make a difference! There is so much to be learned from our senior clients. If we just listen and learn from their hard work and determination, we too can make this country a better place for future generations. We must not forget what they sacrificed to afford us this opportunity to serve them.

Bless you all on your journey, and thank you for allowing me to serve you and your senior business.

Liz Gramm, CSA ®
Certified Senior Advisor / National Account Manager
Society of Certified Senior Advisors®