This is post 7 of 10 in my cryonics signup guide, and the fourth of five posts on life insurance.
What is an insurance agent?
An insurance agent is someone who acts as an intermediary between insurance buyers and insurance companies. They help you with paperwork that would otherwise be a Kafkaesque nightmare, and they have the expertise to help you understand your options no matter what your situation.
Technically, not all of the people on this list are 'insurance agents' – some are 'insurance brokers' instead – but I'm just going to use the term 'agent' throughout because it would be clunky and confusing to write 'agent/broker' every time (Alcor and CI make the same elision).
Why do they need to know about cryonics?
I strongly recommend working with one of the people listed here if at all possible, because a randomly chosen life insurance agent will not be familiar with the specific companies and options most appropriate for cryonics patients. (I discussed some of the complexities of obtaining life insurance for cryonics in the previous post if you're curious.) In fact, most insurance agents – like most people in the world – will not be familiar with cryonics at all.
There is no upfront cost to working with the US-based insurance agents recommended here. Instead, they are paid a commission by the insurance company once you've bought a policy – which gives them incentive to upsell you, so be aware of that. (Note that a large majority of insurance agents in the US have this same payment structure; I don't know about other countries.)
Alcor-recommended insurance agents (USA)
Alcor's website recommends a few insurance agents who are used to helping Alcor clients. I contacted all three of their recommended agents in the US, for value of information. Below are my impressions of each of them.
Since you can back out of the life insurance process at any time before applying without having to pay anything, shopping around is low-risk. I encourage you to take the time to find someone you like working with – I found that it really makes a big difference. You could also help others out by calling up some of the guys I didn't talk to and writing your own review.
Rudi is the agent nearly everyone I know has used. He's very aware of the rationalist community – he told me he's a long-time lurker on LessWrong and that we're the best source of 'marketing' that cryonics has, and he mentioned he's helped lots of rationalists sign up and thinks of them as friends. He himself has been an Alcor member since 1994, which means he has skin in the game.
Rudi will try to sell you an indexed universal life policy from Kansas City Life (his employer). He thinks of life insurance as an investment (evidence: he calls the policies "life insurance investments", and he himself has over a million dollars in such investments), and so will try to sell you more than you need to cover your cryopreservation.
I find Rudi very difficult to communicate with. His communication style is very energetic and rambling, such that I was never sure what topic we were covering, and full meetings went by without me getting much information at all. Others have also reported that it can be hard to get information out of Rudi. Not only is it hard to get a word in edgewise, and not only does he switch topics at lightning speed, but he's also always in sales mode, such that I don't expect him to ever say anything bad about IUL or anything good about other types of insurance.
I found myself in the position of playing along with Rudi's overpowering personality and pandering to his sense of humor. He was incredibly obsequious when talking to me, which I found awkward, and which I think might have been because I'm a woman (my male friends don't remember any obsequiousness). I've also been told that Rudi is not a very good choice for transgender clients.
In short, I'm exhausted after every call with him. However, I am also much more sensitive to this type of thing than most people, and I know tons of people who have worked with him successfully. So, if you are a man and/or really good at interrupting and steering conversations and/or you want an IUL policy from KCL and just don't care that much about interaction style, far be it from me to warn you off of Rudi. Hopefully some of the dozens of white male LWers who have worked with Rudi can chime in here.
Rudi will pretty transparently try to upsell you. While I eventually came to my own conclusion that I should overfund my policy, I didn't appreciate that I told him I wanted a $100K policy and he just decided to send me illustrations for $200K without any explanation.
Rudi also pronounced my name (and one of my friends' names) wrong, and ploughed ahead without ever checking. While it didn't particularly bother me on the object level, it's a further bad sign regarding his communication style.
Perks: If you sign up for cryonics through Rudi, you'll get a free ticket and free transportation to an annual conference for cryonicists under 30, and kitschy e-cards on every major holiday.
- Most rationalists go through Rudi.
- He will try to sell you indexed universal life insurance from Kansas City Life, and will try to upsell you.
- Communication style is energetic, chaotic, obsequious, buddy-buddy, and salesy.
- I don't recommend him if you're easily socially exhausted and/or not a cis man.
David has been working in this space for about 20 years and has lots of experience helping people who are signing up for Alcor – including some of Alcor's board members. I don't know many rationalists who have gone through him, but that might just be because Rudi cornered the rationalist market early on, and word of mouth is powerful.
David will try to sell you what he thinks is the best fit for your preferences and situation. While he generally prefers KCL for cryonics clients, he doesn't work for any single insurance company, which means he can shop around for the best deal for you.
I really enjoyed talking with David, and I think my solid basic understanding of the life insurance landscape is pretty much 100% thanks to him. He laid things out nicely before diving in, which I really appreciated, and I found it easy to follow his explanations. He appeared even-handed in his overview of the life insurance landscape – he explained the pros and cons of each of the options in some depth, and changed his recommendation for me from whole life to IUL upon noticing a change in my preferences.
I also really liked that he was careful not to overwhelm me with too much information at once; I felt that he fit just the right amount of information, at just the right level, into our calls, and he checked in frequently to make sure I wasn't oversaturated. He's a good listener, very helpful and accommodating, and he's open to communicating however works best for you, whether that's phone, email, video call, or text. He replies extremely promptly to emails. I just had a great experience working with him.
I recommend video calling with David if you're getting quotes, because he lets you watch him enter your information into the quoting software, and then you can play around with funding at different levels or projecting different interest rates, and see how differently things come out. Other agents just asked me for my info and then sent me back 20-page illustrations, which is more efficient but less informative.
David asked me at the beginning of our first call how to pronounce my name, which I appreciated, and I know a transgender cryonicist who had a good experience working with him.
- Super helpful and responsive, a great teacher.
- Wants to sell you the product that's best for you.
- Not tied to any specific insurance provider, so he can shop around for better deals and potentially save you lots of money.
- I had a great experience working with him and recommend him wholeheartedly.
Ryan Aug (Ben Archer State Farm)
Ryan is the cryonics specialist on a small State Farm team in Texas.
Ryan by default provides you with quotes for both term and whole life policies. By going through a State Farm agent, you automatically choose State Farm as your insurance provider.
All of my communication with Ryan occurred over email. His emails are short and to the point, in a way that I appreciated. Since I was looking for someone to proactively provide me with a lot of information, this wasn't the right fit for me, but it seems great if you already have a good sense of what kind of policy you want and are just looking for someone to help you with the paperwork with no fuss.
Ryan Archer State Farm is only licensed in Texas and California. I was told that they'd still be able to cover my family members in Wisconsin, but we'd need to list my (California) address for them on the forms. My guess is that this isn't actually sketchy, but I wasn't comfortable with it, so I decided not to go ahead with them.
The firm also offers services in Spanish. If you can read LessWrong you're almost certainly not a person who needs Spanish-language services, but maybe you have family members who are.
Note that I got a lot less information about this option compared to the two others, due to not having any calls with their agents.
- Effective, to-the-point communication.
- Good if you already know what you want (and want to get it through State Farm).
- Only really an option if you're in Texas or California.
- Offers services in Spanish.
Agents I didn't work with
CI-recommended agents (USA)
In addition to recommending Ben Archer State Farm and Rudi Hoffman, CI recommends Michael Flower, Jeff Hansen, Bradley Holland, and Joseph Kowalsky in the US. Because I had already chosen Alcor before beginning the life insurance process, and because I'm not a maniac who wants to spend another 20 hours of my life interfacing with insurance agents I already know I'm not going to work with, I didn't look into any of their services. If you've worked with any of them, please let me know your thoughts!
Non-USA insurance agents
Alcor recommends Ray Zadrey in Canada and Chris Morgan in the UK. CI recommends Serge Vallée and Josee Mainville in Canada and Graham Holliday in the UK. I also know a cryonicist who's gone through Carla Wojciechowski in Canada. Again, let me know if you've used any of these people's services!