FIC Ethics

As a field agent with the Knights of Columbus, I work with members access their fraternal benefits with us. The most valuable of these benefits is our insurance portfolio–various forms of life insurance, retirement annuities and long-term care insurance. Advising members on these issues require a great deal of training–both initially and continuing–and it requires members put a great deal of trust in that knowledge.

In the insurance industry, one way that agents try to quickly show the depth of their knowledge is through advanced designations. Basically, a set of coursework designed to help an agent advance in his knowledge of the field. I’m currently enrolled in a program that, when finished, would result in a “Fraternal Insurance Counselor” designation.

This initial program has an ethics requirement, which exams separately.

Overall, ethics is common sense when looking at work through Christian lens. Don’t lie. Don’t say a product is something it really isn’t designed to be. Make sure members know what they’re looking at, with all of the pros and cons outlined. Don’t try to replace someone’s insurance to help your numbers. (There are a few times where replacing life insurance makes sense, but it isn’t the norm). Don’t trash-talk your competition. It’s fair game to discuss the difference in ratings between companies, to explain what it means that the Knights of Columbus are certified by IMSA, but be clean in your discussion.
Sadly, there is a reason this course must be taken and why it is tested separately from the rest of the material.
Insurance agents, generally speaking, have sometimes not played fairly. The general public knows little about how life insurance works, what different types of policies do what exactly, what policies have what guarantees, and so forth. Some folks have purchased a variable universal life policy without realizing their death benefits are not guaranteed.* When they get a letter in the mail saying their $100,000 policy for $30 a month that they purchased 20 years ago either needs to be funded at $150 a month for the same benefit or for $30 a month, their benefit would be greatly reduced, without ever realizing that could happen, it’s a bad day for the insurance industry.
That’s why I like working with the Knights of Columbus. First of all, we don’t sell VUL policies. There are people and situations where those policies make sense, but, in my opinion, life insurance is to provide death benefits to families. It’s there to take worry away. VUL/UL policies can’t take all of the worry away because of the nature of the policy. The real reason I like working for the Knights is that, even if we did offer policies like that, we would be crystal clear on how they work.
Ethic courses shouldn’t be needed. No one should think it is right to do anything that would violate the simplest ethical standard — the Golden Rule.
* One disclaimer: Each company and each type of policy have different times of riders (subcontracts that “ride” on with the primary insurance contract). There are riders that can guarantee VUL benefits for certain time periods if certain conditions are met, almost always for an additional fee. Generally speaking, a vanilla VUL policy would not guarantee death benefits since the policy is tied to the market.

Sir Knight

Members of the Knights of Columbus salute duri...

Image via Wikipedia

Today, about 50 Knights of Columbus were knighted into the 4th Degree–the highest level within the Knights of Columbus. If you know virtually nothing about the Knights of Columbus, but have seen them, you’ve seen the 4th Degree. They’re most known for the colorful regalia worn by their color corps members who serve as the honor guard at special Masses and for any event with the bishop, by request.

Within the Knights of Columbus, there are four degrees which candidates work through before reaching either their third or fourth degrees.

The ceremony attached to the degree is secret to allow the full impact of the ceremony to be felt by aspiring candidates. Honestly, there is not much to these ceremonies, but nevertheless, after going through all four degrees, it is a good thing that I had no expectation of the ceremony as I learned from them their intended lessons.

The first degree is devoted to the most important principle–charity. If someone “joins the Knights”, they are entering into the First Degree. Membership in the first degree allows members to attend virtually all meetings, join in service work and participate in the financial options of the Order. The second degree is devoted to unity and the third degree is fraternity. In Texas, the second and third degrees are taken in a back-to-back ceremony at once. The third degree is, all in all, the terminal degree and is required for attendance at state and national meetings and to be an officer in a council.

Joining the fourth degree is joining an organization in an organization. You’re still a 3rd degree member within your council, pay dues to them and function as before, but you’re now also a member of a fourth degree assembly, pay separate dues to them and have added responsibilities to the fourth degree. The vast majority–over 80%–of Knights never reach the fourth degree, so it is a relatively small fraternity of men.

The Georgetown Assembly hosted the day’s events and did a fine job at that. Congrats to all of the new Sir Knights in Central Texas. Sir Knight Brandon Kraft, signing off.

Pick Yourself Off The Mat

One of the various tasks I do on a daily basis in my new role with the Knights of Columbus is work the phones. There are about 900 member Knights whom I’ve been ask to serve and the first step of the service process is to contact them all, individually, at least once a year.

This annual contact is intended to check-in on the member, offer them the chance to hear an update on the broader status of the Knights of Columbus individually and discuss with them more about some of the services they are eligible for as a member.
Overall, this is the hardest part for me. The majority of these calls go to voicemail or answering machines. Few go to other family members who take a message. The fewest, it seems, actually result in contact with a member. Of my calls over the last three weeks, almost all of them have been pleasant enough. Most folks appreciate the call, but decline the offer to visit them. Some wish to sit and talk. Some people, however, are simply jerks.
I could vent for sometime, but rather, it’d be better if I just picked myself off of the mat and turn the other cheek.

How Can I Help You?

[This is the last in a series looking at my decision to leave the UCC and what’s next for me. Return to the first post.]

A Knights of Columbus Field Agent?

Yes sir! Yes ma’am! The Knights of Columbus was founded in 1882 by the Venerable Servant of God Father Michael McGivney. Fr. McGivney had his own seminary studies interrupted by the premature death of his father, forcing him to return home to work for the survival of his family. Later, as a young priest, he witnessed first-hand what was happened to the families in his parish if and when the primary breadwinner died. Emotionally, it’s hard to lose a family member, but financially, it can be downright cruel.

Fr. McGivney at one point volunteered to be a count-appointed guardian to a boy whose family couldn’t prove to the court that they had the means to support him. (At that time in Connecticut, families had to prove their income potential after the husband passed away. If they couldn’t prove enough potential, the courts would move to break apart the family to try to keep the family as financially solvent as possible).

Between that and seeing a need for a way for Catholic men to have a sense of belonging, he founded the Knights of Columbus as a fraternal benefits society to give men both a brotherhood of which to be a part as well as to help ensure the welfare of widows and children if one of the members died.

As a Field Agent, basically, I would see to further enact Fr. McGivney’s vision of financial security to Catholic families if the unthinkable happened for a geographical area within Austin. I will be assigned a number of councils (the local, parish-level organization) and will meet with those families to help them assess their financial needs with a particular emphasis on life insurance, annuities and long-term care insurance.

In other words, I’m not about what you should invest in or not nor other things like that, but rather to help with the questions of: What would happen if one of us passed away? What is a safe vehicle for retirement? What happens if the stock market crashes the year before I retire–can I plan for that? What happens to my family if I need some type of long-term care (rehab hospital, nursing home, home health care, etc)?

The Knights of Columbus offers to members various products to help find solutions to those questions and my job will be to personally help members figure out what they need and to get it.

Additionally, I will be a resource to my councils to help them in other ways related to the Knights and to help introduce men to the Knights of Columbus.

Vanessa and I are excited about this new opportunity and I’m honored that I will be welcomed into so many homes around Austin. I’m looking forward to being able to do some good for families. If you have any questions about this all, leave a comment, give me a call or shoot me an e-mail.

Thank you all for your prayers for our family as I transition into this new role.

Good Job Brother Knights!

I’m a few days late on this one, but for the year ending December 31, 2008, the Knights of Columbus has set an all-time record for money donated and time volunteered.

While the Knights of Columbus, as a national organization, as local councils and the men as individuals are all far from perfect, we are men dedicated to charity.

Fulltext of the press announcement below:

The Knights of Columbus announced June 12 that it set new all-time
records for charitable donations and volunteer service hours in 2008.
Supreme Knight Carl A. Anderson released the results of the Order’s
annual survey in a presentation to its board of directors and state
leaders, meeting at its international headquarters in New Haven.

The results of the Knights’ annual Survey of Fraternal Activity for
the year ending December 31, 2008, indicate that, despite the economy,
total charitable contributions reached $150,036,865 – exceeding the
previous year’s total by more than $5.1 million. The figure includes
$32,295,376 donated by the Supreme Council, and $117,741,489 in
contributions from state and local councils assemblies and Squires

The survey also indicated that the quantity of volunteer service
hours to charitable causes by Knights grew to 68,783,653 – an increase
of 87,885 hours compared to the 2007 total. There were more than
413,000 Knights of Columbus blood donations during the year and, among
the most common service programs, Habitat for Humanity received 156,295
K of C volunteer hours.

The Knights of Columbus has been promoting a Year of the Volunteer
and sponsored a summit on volunteerism, A Nation of Neighbors Helping
Neighbors, in New York Feb. 27, to promoted increased participation and
collaboration in volunteer efforts from individuals and organizations.

Cumulative figures show that during the past decade, the Knights of
Columbus has donated more than $1.325 billion to charity, and provided
nearly 626 million hours of volunteer service in support of charitable

My First Knights of Columbus Meeting

Last night, I attended my first actual Knights of Columbus meeting, transferred and was formally accepted into Council 10131 at St. Ignatius Parish in Austin.

I say first actual because I went to a couple of meetings when the UT council attempted to revive themselves, but by no means were those meetings formalized. The experience reminded much of Lambdas before I was involved in leadership. The guys obviously cared a lot about what they were talking about, except there were a few more guys and the age range was quite wide.

The older guys, instead of being around for 5 years, had been around for 50 years. While this is quite normal for the Knights of Columbus, after working in campus ministry for the past four years, it is nice to know that the leaders of today will be around tomorrow to help the next crop.

This is one of the steps of married life.