My brother Jason committed suicide on May 11, 2009. The shock and lifelong pain have never really subsided. I have made what I think are meaningful efforts to love his memory, forgive him, forgive myself, trust in God, and in my own way, channel his beautiful spirit in the things I do personally and professionally. I share this because it is part of my life journey, and how we conduct ourselves on a day-to-day basis is only a reflection of our experiences.
In my line of work, I deal with people whose children have died, or who have lost their parents, spouses, and practically every meaningful relationship you can imagine. The emotional experience of working with these people coupled with the experiences of our family's own personal losses has led me to believe that what anyone finds in the wake of the loss of a loved one is a matter of focus.
Recently a young man came into contact with our firm. He had a structured settlement worth a substantial amount – over $500,000. His dad died when he was not even in third grade, and the asset was all he had (financially) to remember his father by. Like with many of our customers, their stories are profound and are often emotionally complex.
A bright, educated, and well-meaning individual, he was not in financial distress, and from my perspective, he didn’t need to sell the structured settlement that had been designed by a professional in the wake of his father’s wrongful death lawsuit. We talked about why he was interested in selling, and how he felt about it. He felt that if he didn’t put this money to good use now and get a great deal in doing so, he was dishonoring his dad and would perhaps forever regret the decision.
These were all the right questions and emotions, in my opinion. He had dreams, and the fixed annuity that provided monthly payments was acting like a disincentive to really live his life. It was holding him back.
We talked about what he wanted to do with the money from selling the asset, and what plans he had in place. We talked about what our marketplace was trying to do for people just like him, and what it could get him in terms of a price. He negotiated what he felt was a respectable price, and decided to sell at a 4% discount rate, which, in the business of factoring structured settlement payments, is an almost unheard-of rate.
Then, on the night before his court hearing to approve the sale and transfer, he had second thoughts. Whatever the specific reasons, he wanted a little more time to feel comfortable with the transfer. Instead of pressuring him, we called off the court hearing, and let him know that being conflicted is normal. We told him to take the time he needed. We think that giving customers who are considering selling a structured settlement time and space is a hallmark of a good origination firm.
I tell this story because I think our company, CrowFly, did the right thing. And I’m proud of it.
The reality is, I don’t know whether that individual will ever sell payments and make good on his dreams. It is important to me that this young man had the benefit and access to a firm that understands what he was going through and provided assistance that was timely and appropriate. These actions speak to the DNA of our firm CrowFly, and why we are even in the business at all. So many of my peer settlement planners in the industry take the position that selling a structured settlement is always bad. I beg them to reconsider and to become part of the solution as stakeholders in the industry.
Standing in stark contrast to an industry known for aggressive sales and marketing tactics, CrowFly is here to change the industry and the perception of what selling a structured settlement should means. For now, the industry is all but self-regulated.
Many assets, like stocks, bonds, or even real estate, are left in estates for the next generation. Rarely is there a stigma about selling these assets if the meaningful thing to do is to liquidate them for the best interests of the next generation. The difference is, the heirs of an estate aren’t preyed upon, and in a fire-sale-like environment they aren’t only given 50% of the value of the asset left to them. That’s because the liquidity of traditional assets like investment accounts and real estate is robust, and there are thousands of buyers at any given time.
This is the exact liquidity CrowFly aims to create for structured settlement annuitants online. Retirees and wealthy couples looking to transition away from the risk of the stock markets will naturally look to annuities to provide guaranteed income. All structured settlements are annuities. We think this universe of buyers is an excellent match to help people in structured settlement annuities connect with others who actually want to hold the rights to the future payments from that asset long term.
Assistance for people who have a structured settlement and are interested in selling should come from people who know what they are talking about, and who have a reputation for doing the right thing. As best as I’m able, I’m trying to translate my own life experiences and coach, teach, train, and pay forward the gifts and blessings I’ve been fortunate to have, and to try to make the world a slightly better place. CrowFly and its team is an expression of that, and we hope to change this industry for the better.
John Bair, Co-founder of CrowFly