Episode #115 – Marc interviews his health insurance agent, Valerie Friesen.
In this episode, Marc interviews Valerie Friesen from Blue Angel Solutions. Valerie is an early-stage Baby Boomer who moved with her husband to Mexico from Canada during the Great Recession with intentions to teach English, on the side. She now has a very successful business providing health insurance solutions to expats in Mexico. Marc hopes you enjoy this fascinating episode.
[1:33] Marc welcomes you to Episode 115 of the Repurpose Your Career podcast. CareerPivot.com brings you this podcast; it is one of the very few websites dedicated to those of us in the second half of life and our careers. Please take a moment to check out the blog and the other resources delivered to you free of charge.
[2:01] If you are enjoying this podcast, please share it with other like-minded souls. Subscribe on CareerPivot.com, iTunes, or any of the other apps that supply podcasts. Share it on social media or just tell your neighbors, and colleagues. The more people Marc can reach, the more he can help.
[2:23] Marc is not completely sure at this time what next week’s episode will be. He is scheduled to record a Question and Answer episode with Susan Joyce of Job-Hunt.org fame, but Marc also has appointments with Chris Farrell, author of Purpose and a Paycheck, and previous podcast guest, John Tarnoff. You’ll see which one, next week.
[3:03] This week, Marc interviews Valerie Friesen from Blue Angel Solutions. Marc reads her bio by way of introduction.
[3:32] Marc welcomes you to the podcast and presents Valerie Friesen. Marc bought his health insurance from Valerie after three recommendations from other clients.
Now on to the podcast…
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[3:54] Valerie is a first-stage Baby Boomer. Blue Angel Solutions is a boutique health insurance brokerage with relationships with several insurance companies. That gives an opportunity for new and returning customers. She tells how she chose the name.
[5:08] Valerie and her husband moved to Ajijic from Canada in late 2009. They came partly for the climate, at the tail end of the 2008 economic meltdown. Their careers were impacted in Canada and on the advice of a relative who had been to Mexico, they decided to move.
[6:34] They checked out the possibilities and within six months they had divested themselves from their careers, home, and investment properties. Then they moved.
[6:52] Valerie had worked at two banks and through the banks, she had offered disability and health insurance to her banking clients. She had also taught English as a Second Language much earlier in her career and she had liked it, so she planned to teach again in Ajijic, Mexico. She enrolled in a fast-track program for accreditation in Guadalajara.
[7:40] Valerie passed the accreditation class, but then her husband saw a newspaper ad for insurance sales and he asked her to check it out. She started at a full-service insurance agency. That’s how she got started in health insurance in Mexico.
[9:00] Unfortunately, the founder of the agency passed away and things changed. Her husband encouraged her to move on. In five months, she launched Blue Angel Solutions, in November 2012.
[9:40] Valerie’s vision for Blue Angel Solutions was not to be the largest agency but to be the best in responsiveness to clients — current and prospective. Everyone shows up on time, answers the phone, answers emails and is respectful. She holds her insurance providers to the same standard of service.
[11:03] Valerie’s initial clients were fellow expats from the U.S., Canada, and Europe. Primarily from Canada and the U.S. Their ages generally ranged from 62 to 67. That was the age of people retiring at that time.
[11:53] The bell curve has widened now. Her current prospects and clients range from age 38 to age 80. Some have children in college in the U.S. and teens at International Schools in Mexico.
[13:40] One of the reasons people are moving to Mexico is that technology allows them to do business around the world from home. In Ajijic, the cost of living is less and the community is great, and the environment is attractive.
[14:33] Marc has worked around the world, in 40 different countries. He can adapt to any culture. Mrs. Miller has not. When Marc first looked at moving, he asked a Chapala area Facebook group for recommendations for endocrinologists for his wife. He got 28 responses in 48 hours.
[15:18] Valerie compares the area to a college town. Everyone is new. Everyone is helpful. The norm is to pay it forward.
[15:55] How did it turn out differently for Valerie than she expected? She had expected to teach English as a Second Language. She got a contract to teach for one year in the a.m. in Jocotepec, while she worked at the insurance agency in the p.m. After a year, she knew it would burn her out so she continued in the insurance area.
[16:45] Valerie’s typical day is to rise early, do some reading, make some supplier phone calls, and look at the day’s schedule. She and her husband walk the dogs. She comes to the office at 10:00 when it opens. She has a receptionist who opens if she is not yet there.
[18:01] Valerie’s workday is a number of appointments, her primary method of doing business. On Monday mornings, she deals with the inevitable Monday walk-ins. That way, everybody is happy. Valerie compares business to the three parts of a golf swing — the setup, the swing itself, and the follow-through.
[20:22] Valerie runs her business like a consulting business. She always provides a personal orientation to the product for her customers.
[21:01] Marc comments on the personal orientation he and his wife received when they bought a policy.
[21:25] Valerie works to 5:30 of 6:00 to do “cleanup” although the official hours are 10:00 to 4:00.
[21:50] Valerie had no expectations about how much she would earn in insurance. With her good listening skills, good initiative, and commitment to excellence, she believed she would be successful.
[22:28] Valerie continues to work because she wants to work.
[22:40] Marc shares a story of meeting two elderly women at Tacos Frida in Ajijic who were thrilled with all the activities in the area. Marc told them he does not want activities; he wants purpose. Valerie agrees. Neither have any plans to retire.
[23:23] Valerie will mentor someone to take over her business. She separates herself as an entity from the business. She wishes to leave a legacy of her business.
[24:06] Valerie will never sell 100% of her business. She will find someone to run it for her. She will work fewer hours and be more mobile. In her business, she has the opportunity to experience and evaluate the aging process better than most people. She says it is sad that people used to retire and then pass within two years.
[26:09] On January 1, 1960, the visionary Del Webb opened up Sun City Arizona with five model homes and a strip mall. He had 10,000 cars lined up to visit. At that time, most of them were smokers and would not live long.
[26:46] Today, for a married couple, age 65, the odds of one of you living to 100 are enormous. Valerie’s receptionist has two aunties — 104 and 102 — who take care of themselves.
[27:20] People are living longer than they expected. There are a lot of economic refugees in Ajijic. They can live a good life on their Social Security.
[27:50] Marc thanks Valerie for sharing her story and asks her for some final words of advice for the listeners.
[28:04] Valerie knew when she arrived that she would live it and she would be successful in any endeavor. At age 21 after University, she had served overseas in the Canadian equivalent of Peace Corps. She had learned to be self-reliant in a third-world country. She had learned flexibility, respect for cultures, and a sense of humor.
[29:24] Valerie knew she had those qualities. She advises you to chill out and have a great time. This is no dress rehearsal; this is it.
[29:48] From 200 to 2004 Marc spent a lot of time in mainland China, where he learned the more he ‘understood’ the Chinese people, the less he understood them. It’s similar in Mexico. The U.S. perception of Mexico is not correct. In Austin, in the last two years, there was a SWAT team set up within 100 yards of his house. In Ajijic, he is safe.
[31:02] Valerie says, “Que sera, sera!” Marc thanks Valerie for the interview.
[31:14] Marc hopes you enjoyed this episode. Marc has several more interviews like this one lined up to introduce you to the many possibilities of working outside the U.S.
[31:24] Susan Lahey and Marc are working on the next edition of Repurpose Your Career, and Marc is looking for your help. Marc has formed a release team of readers who will get access to pre-release chapters of the book to provide feedback. Marc has already released the opening chapter to the release team.
[31:41] You can be part of this team by going to CareerPivot.com/RYCTeam where you can sign up.
[31:50] When you sign up, you’ll receive the pre-release version of the chapters when they become available. What Marc asks in return is for you to provide feedback and be prepared to write a review on Amazon.com when the book is released.
[32:03] Marc and Susan are adding about eight new chapters to the book and re-writing several others. Marc will release a new pre-release chapter on this podcast and to the team every four to six weeks in the coming months. Marc has been delayed by his move to Mexico. Susan has been delayed by moving to Portugal.
[32:32] The CareerPivot.com/Community website has become a valuable resource for almost 50 members who are participating in the Beta phase of this project. Marc is currently soliciting members for the next cohort.
[32:42] If you are interested in the endeavor and would like to be put on the waiting list, please go to CareerPivot.com/Community. When you sign up you’ll receive information about the community as it evolves.
[32:58] Those in the initial cohorts will get to set the direction for this endeavor. This is a paid membership community with group coaching and special content. More importantly, it will be a community where you can seek help. Go to CareerPivot.com/Community to learn more.
[33:21] Marc invites you to connect with him on LinkedIn.com/in/mrmiller. Just include in the connection request that you heard Marc on this podcast. You can look for Career Pivot on Facebook, LinkedIn, or @CareerPivot on Twitter.
[33:41] Please come back next week, when Marc will likely be answering questions with Susan Joyce — subject to change.
[33:48] Marc thanks you for listening to the Repurpose Your Career podcast.
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