Prime america

 

“Buy term and invest the difference” has been Prime America’s mantra since the late 1970s when the company was founded. Although it has a relatively different reputation now, questionable roots haunt its past. Why is this information vital to you or anyone wanting to purchase life insurance? Mostly because of how Prime America {AKA PrimeAmerica} approaches the business. As always, we aim to help you make informed decisions. In this post, we dive deep into the company that Prime America was back several decades ago, what it is today, and why you should be careful doing business with them.

Who Is Prime America?

Prime America is a financial services company that calls Duluth, Georgia, its home base. Insuring over five million people and managing more than 2.5 million investment accounts for clients, some of the business’s figures are astounding. Even in 2020 — one of the most challenging years for many — Prime America increased its revenue by 8% to reach $2.05 billion, growing profits along the way. But what is this company?

History

In 1977, Arthur J. Williams Jr. founded A.L. Williams & Associates. He was known as “Coach” back then, and many called him the nemesis to the more conventional life insurance industry. Williams developed the sales pitch, “buy term and invest the difference,” to demonstrate how his middle-income client base could buy adequate term life insurance and still have plenty left to invest. The idea was to gain a more significant return by “investing” instead of utilizing traditional whole life insurance and its build-up of cash surrender value. 

Investment salespeople have been touting this financial strategy for decades — but no one had built an entire company around the idea until Williams. Although A.L. Williams & Associates changed its name to Primerica Financial Services (PFS) in 1991 and again to Primerica, Inc. after its initial public offering (IPO) in 2010, the mantra remains the same. And as you might have guessed, “Primerica” is merely a play on the words “prime America.” 

Multi-Level Marketing Model

Prime America is unlike any other insurance company. For starters, it advertises itself as the “largest financial services marketing organization in North America.” According to Business Insider, the company will vehemently deny it, but it’s undoubtedly a multi-level marketing (MLM) company for finance. Some people have even accused it of being a pyramid scheme.

Here’s why Prime America is an MLM; its agents get paid based on how many policies they sell and agents they recruit. Frustratingly, the company encourages its new “agents” to sell policies to friends, family, co-workers, acquaintances, etc., with the ultimate goal of recruiting them to be “agents,” as well. 

Another disappointing aspect of Prime America is its payroll. According to Primerica’s recruiting disclosures for 2019, “Primerica paid cash flow to its North American sales for at an average of $6,249” annually. In short, your “agent” is an independent contractor with the primary mission of recruiting others to Primerica and a secondary role of serving you. 

IPO

A.L. Williams & Associates (aka Primerica Financial Services or PFS) was a private company until about a decade ago. As a spinoff of Citigroup, Primerica went public by undergoing an IPO in 2010, making stock shares available to the public. It operates under the NYSE ticker “PRI.” Not surprisingly, it was a strong start, opening with 21.36 million shares at $15.00 — over three million shares more than anticipated and at least a dollar above the expected $12.00 – $14.00 price per share.

Naturally, if you invest in stocks and bonds, companies that continually produce growth are desirable. Strangely enough, Primerica’s earnings per share have grown 22% yearly for three years. If it can keep this pace, its shareholders will be ecstatic. When it comes to investing in the markets, the future is typically more important than the past — but what about when it comes to securing your family’s financial future?

What Kind of Company Is Prime America Today? 

Although Primerica appeared to be a reasonably shady company several decades ago, it has a slightly different reputation today. Remember that insurance experts still question it because of its products and its marketing structure. 

Unchanged Structure

In the 1970s, Williams encouraged new “agents” to sell to family, friends, co-workers, neighbors, and close connections. The goal was to use the relationship’s segue as added pressure for individuals to buy policies and become part-time recruits. 

While this “warm market” strategy isn’t uncommon in the sales sector, experts view it as an ill-focused practice for a business trying to come across as a life insurance company. Strangely enough, this approach hasn’t changed in over 43 years.

Many consumers have issues purchasing financial products from 1.) an “agent” who likely won’t be around in a year, and 2.) a company with insurance as a secondary focus. If you’re like most individuals shopping for life insurance, Prime America’s approach might seem severely off-putting. 

Term Insurance

Most insurance carriers offer multiple products in various forms — but not Primerica. This company only offers term life insurance; however, it does provide several add-ons, which could benefit some individuals. However, most other carriers offer similar riders; Primerica merely changes the product names to appear more consumer-friendly.

Sadly, Primerica’s website offers no online term life insurance quotes, making it challenging to compare their prices to other insurers. According to reviews, though, this company is rarely the most affordable and appropriate option for people. Its premiums are typically higher than other insurance carriers, and their lack of options tends to discourage consumers. 

Another drawback is that they have stringent medical underwriting. So, if you’ve experienced any health issues, there’s a decent chance Prime America will deny you coverage. That said, it rarely approves individuals with pre-existing conditions. 

Products 

As mentioned, term life insurance is the only life insurance product that Prime America provides. Aside from this product, it offers debt consolidation, pre-paid legal programs, retirement and savings accounts, college savings plans, investment opportunities, and small business solutions. 

Even with the seemingly extensive product line-up, debt consolidation is Prime America’s bread and butter. Keep in mind; these products are all secondary to the mission of recruitment. Lamentably, former Prime America representatives tell horror stories about being encouraged to push products onto their clients, even at the client’s expense and regardless of its necessity. Of course, I’ve never personally experienced this as I was never one of their “agents.” 

Legal Issues

With over 100,000 representatives, an “A+” rating with A.M Best and the Better Business Bureau, plus a growing revenue, Prime America leaves little to scoff at. And how it’s mostly shaken off its shady history is impressive — but its skeletons in the closet haven’t vanished entirely.  

Still, it doesn’t take more than a few seconds of Googling this company to learn of widespread skepticism about it. Sites, such as Sequence, continually call out companies for their frequently fraudulent multi-level marketing strategies. Unsurprisingly, Primerica is a frequent feature — along with Amway, Usana, and many more MLM companies.

Whether it was a case involving a former representative or the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), Prime America has faced legal issues since its founding. The company is notorious for setting aside funds to settle allegations. 

For example, it dedicated $15.4 million to settle allegations of 238 cases in Florida in 2014. In 2015, a school superintendent was penalized for holding Primerica recruiting meetings at a high school. Recently, Primerica manager in Rapid City, SD, Mike Lundy, pocketed $4.2 million in clients’ money. He was sentenced to five years in federal prison. Lastly, multiple accounts of Primerica not paying claims still circulate today. And that’s only the beginning.

How Prime America’s Legacy Impacts You

It’s safe to say that every large organization faces skeptics and even radical accusations. Sometimes, facts back these accusations flawlessly, while other times, it’s all a bunch of fluff. In Prime America’s case, it’s natural to feel doubt about some of the life betterments they promise. Also, it only makes sense to question any premise involving various investment and money managing programs. It’s your hard-earned cash, after all. 

Side With Experience

Typically, brokers and financial advisors earn the right to advise about wealth acquisition goals legitimately through various certifications instead of paying $99.00 (formerly $199.00) to “buy” into an agent or advisor role. That said, Prime America “agents” can enroll in plenty of certification programs. However, this education takes time, and the selling and recruiting process start immediately upon recruitment — unlike becoming a time-tested financial advisor.

Understand Your Insurance Rating

You might be wondering why premiums tend to be higher from Primerica. Most people do. The answer is simple: their multi-tiered sales approach impacts insurance rates directly. Premium costs are famously higher at Primerica, mostly to keep the MLM company up and running. Remember, the revenue flows up through multiple tiers of leadership. In short, your premium is paying a multitude of messy salaries and commissions. 

Know Your Financial Goals

The most crucial takeaway is to know what you want in terms of investing for your financial future. If buying into the stock market (i.e., mutual stocks, bonds, ETFs, etc.) is what you want, then talk with an experienced financial advisor focused solely on that. And when it comes to protecting your family with life insurance, work with a seasoned broker who can land you the best premium price and plan for your needs. 

Take the Next Step

It’s tough knowing how to protect your family after you’re gone, especially facing such unprecedented times — but we can help!

To support you as you safeguard your financial security, I’ve created an up-to-date guide for individuals who need life insurance here. My guide can help you with your long-term life insurance goals, especially with a family to nurture at home.

Here at CB Acker Associates, we want to help you take care of your family. If you’re ready to find a policy that fits your needs and your budget, we can help! 

With access to all the top-rated life insurance companies, we work extra hard to get you the best life insurance rates possible. You can even compare rates and benefits from over 40 providers with no obligation to buy here. Plus, it’s fast — under 60 seconds kind of fast. 

Please, give us a call today at 650-969-5844 or email [email protected]