By Lee Barnathan, California Business Journal
Igor Zey has a question, and it has nothing to do with his business of life insurance.
“Two o’clock in the morning. You’re driving back from somewhere. You come to a stoplight. It’s red. You stop. You look left, you look right. Nobody. Do you wait until the light changes?” he asks. “You know the light at the freeway’s onramp that regulates the traffic inflow? What if you’re the first car and only car? Do you stop?”
The answer almost doesn’t matter, for what is important is the philosophical framework in which you have arrived at your answer. He did not stop at the freeway’s entrance and a cop gave him a ticket. He went to court and won.
“Statutorily, I had to stop, but in reality, whose individual rights have I violated? Nobody’s,” he told the judge. “Protection of everybody’s individual rights is the essence of the law. It was a victimless crime, number one. Number two, it makes no sense to stop when you are the only one makes no sense for it does nothing to regulate the inflow of traffic. We live in a rational world.”
When you work with Zey, managing member of PFR Advisors, President/CEO of Professional Financial Resources, Inc. and head of Zey Financial Group, and you get more than just a life-insurance agent.
You get opinions, stories, theories, meditations on philosophy. You get salty language. And you get a 59-year-old with 36 years in the business, self-described as a secular Zionist and anti-religionist who has no tolerance for stupidity, loves logic and rational thought, and uses that to help his clients with the appropriate products and strategies.
“My rational-thinking faculties is what influences my business,” he says. “I don’t believe in life insurance. Actually, I don’t believe in much of anything for believing is not a rational process. I thrive to think everything through. Life insurance is an instrument that allows people to keep their promises. So, from the philosophical standpoint, being in this business gives me an enormous access and opportunity to assist people with keeping the promises they make to themselves, their loved ones, and their business associates. I think of that as virtuous.”
Except he’s not in it for virtue, or modesty. “I don’t do anything that doesn’t please me,” he says.
What pleases him is the scientific methodology and the rationality. For example, he asks a series of standard questions to clients: Does your spouse work? Who makes more money? Do you have a mortgage? Retirement funds? Who manages them? Do you own life insurance, and what is its purpose? What are emotional and cultural tolerances for risk? And then the “big one”– what touches, moves, and inspires you in this world?
When choosing products and strategies, one must consider the overall financial needs and wants. Needs are generally easy to plan for, it is the wants that make people do crazy stuff. “It’s never a carte blanche prescription,” Zey says. “‘Whole life or universal life is better.’ No it’s not. It’s highly contextual.”
Zey is currently working on completing his PhD dissertation in Behavior Finance. What is it? “In simple terms, everybody wants to be rich, but how many people are? Why? Very few know how to become one and to be one,” he says. “Those that come into money generally don’t hold onto it very well. You can take a look at how many pro athletes and their financial wealth after their contracts end. They’re mostly screwed, with the exception of very few. Same thing with lottery winners. Fortunately, the people I deal with are diligent and fairly rational about their wealth, thus their choice of dealing with me is not a function of need. It’s a function of want. I bring elegant and cost-efficient solutions to their overall financial and tax issues and concerns. I’m a tax guy. I’m a CFP, a certified financial planner.”
To Zey, insanity isn’t doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result; that’s stupidity. Insanity is not being able to tell the difference between right and wrong.
“Multiple peer-review studies have shown that the efficacy of educating the general public on the virtues of financial planning and financial well being is roughly equivalent to rearranging the lounge chairs on the top deck of the Titanic: It makes just a little difference,” he says. “We’ll still make mistakes and we’ll still act stupidly due to our inborn predispositions, cultural and religious imprints, and even genetics. Now, stupid sounds more like an insult, but it’s not. It’s just an impactful way to say that your actions are irrational, your actions are not congruent with the stated goals.”
His adherence to logic, personal education, and learning all pertinent facts endear him to other professionals, resulting in a majority of his clients come from their tax attorneys and CPAs.
Zey has been called many things: “crazy,” “a mad Russian,” but professionally, the one he likes best is “Probably one of the most brilliant insurance agents I have ever met.” He pauses for a moment and quickly says, “It is the truth. But you know what — that’s not actually as important to me as something quite more fundamental: that I’m a decent human being. That is more important to me.”
Copyright © 2018 California Business Journal. All Rights Reserved.
Igor A. Zey, MSFS, CFP®, CLU®, ChFC®, CAP®, AEP®
PFR Advisors, LLC; PFR, Inc
Zey Insurance and Financial Services, Inc.
15490 Ventura Bl. Ste. 220, Sherman Oaks, CA 91403
(213) 503-3404 mobile / (818) 614-3931 direct
E: igor@myPFR.com / W: pfradvisors.com/about/igor-zey-2/