While some media outlets have focused on the unscrupulous acts of life insurers and agents marketing unsuitable products to military families, Mike Nordquist and his agency, Consolidated Financial Group, have worked diligently over the past 35 years to protect the financial interests of U.S. soldiers and their families.

Nordquist's patriotic heritage runs deep. His grandfather and father - both decorated veterans - started an insurance agency that they passed on to him. Experienced in understanding the financial needs of those in military service, Nordquist has become an advocate for soldiers - providing, along with his team, emotional support and educational outreach to military families, especially during times of need.

Over the years, Nordquist has developed a unique strategy in serving his clients. Military personnel have a special set of circumstances in terms of their financial and life insurance needs. "Young men and women serving our country during war time are faced with life and death decisions on a daily basis," Nordquist says. With those challenging realizations, young families are often forced to wonder what will happen if their soldier is killed in the line of duty.

"We have done our due diligence in finding an insurance carrier - Colorado Bankers Life Insurance Company, a member of the Dearborn National group of companies - that has a product that will provide a death benefit, even when the insured is killed in a wartime situation," explains Nordquist.

Steve Clabaugh, CEO of Dearborn National Worksite & Individual Solutions, attests to Consolidated Financial Group's commitment to serving military families.

"We have worked with their team for over 10 years now and they have never failed to deliver the highest level of quality service to our men and women in uniform," Clabaugh says.

In one instance, Nordquist and his team were able to help the widow of a Marine from Camp Pendleton outside of San Diego. Eight months pregnant at the time of her husband's death, she was devastated by his loss, but grateful to receive a death benefit from life insurance that didn't include a war exclusion. That benefit, in addition to her Serviceman's Group Life Insurance proceeds, provided enough money to buy a home and start a college savings fund for her children.

"Stories like these make us want to help even more of our nation's soldiers," says Nordquist. "For all that they've done for us, they deserve the best service and support we can give them."

While U.S. soldiers are putting their lives on the line every day to protect their fellow Americans, many of their families are without financial protection or adequate savings. "We know that these young families desire a comfortable retirement, college savings for their children, and protection in the event of losing a loved one," says Nordquist.

He and his team have a unique approach to meeting those needs. First of all, many military members aren't fully aware of the Veterans Administration benefits that are available to them. Thus, a client consultation begins with a broad educational focus on those benefits so his clients can utilize VA home loans and understand what other benefits are available.

Next they highlight military pay scales and advise clients on the need to increase contributions to retirement savings as a soldier progresses in rank.

Additionally, Nordquist impresses upon his clients the importance of setting up a life-long strategy, outside the realm of military benefits, to ensure adequate financial security. Planning ahead is paramount to long-term financial security - a lesson that can't be overstated for any American, military or civilian.

For example, one of Nordquist's clients was a young Marine sergeant serving in Twentynine Palms, Calif. After a series of physical-training activities in the heat of the California sun, the Marine suffered from heat exhaustion, collapsed and died. Due to his foresight and the advice received from Nordquist, however, he left behind insurance proceeds for his wife and two children that provided them ongoing income and other benefits.

Currently, benefits provided to military members are robust while they are on active duty, but often the opposite is true when a soldier is discharged or retired. "A large part of what we specialize in involves working with our clients who are leaving the military," states Nordquist. "We inform them of how long they can expect their military benefits to last, and we determine their financial needs to help ensure a seamless transition into civilian life."

Consolidated Financial's success was built on the firm's flexibility, determination, and willingness to do what it takes, Nordquist asserts. The agency has had to overcome several obstacles to assisting new and existing clients. "We are constantly confronted with the issue of working within the constrictive confines of the military's regulations," states Nordquist. However, he knows that those regulations are in place to protect families, in light of recent unfavorable publicity toward producers in his industry. Relocating his offices, developing new relationships, and relying on word-of mouth customer referrals are just a few of the strategies he's used to reach out to his clients.

Regardless of the market segment being served, Nordquist emphasizes that it's about helping people. "Military life is stressful and often without gratitude," says Nordquist. "As financial advisers, insurance agents, producers and brokers, we have a responsibility to provide our clients with the best service, support and relevant products and planning to ensure their dreams can become a reality.

"Every client I talk to is someone's daughter, mother, sister, father, brother, or son, and that's why I take my work so seriously. The very least we can do is connect with each one, empathize with their concerns and work tirelessly to provide them with solutions to their foreseeable needs."

 

Shutan is a freelance writer based in Los Angeles.

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