Comedians joke about insurance agents, but when you really need us, you’re probably not in a laughing mood.

You won’t believe what I’m about to say… I really enjoyed my 14 seasons starring on the Real Housewives of Orange County, but I’ve enjoyed my 31 years of selling insurance just as much.

That’s crazy, right?

Reality TV is fun. Insurance is boring. Maybe I’m just wired wrong, but I find insurance both fascinating and important. You don’t have to agree with that first part (fascinating) but you really need to believe that second part (important).

Why insurance is important

When my dad was 59 years old – just one year younger than I am right now – he was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease. He had no long-term care insurance, and that mistake was a financial disaster for my entire family.  So, I learned a priceless lesson at an early age: When you need insurance, you better already have it. Because it’s too late if you don’t.

Insurance is not a thing. It’s protection for things. Whether it’s expensive items like your car or home – or priceless items like the health and lives of you and your family – insurance is a sure-fire way to overcome bad news. But done right, insurance can benefit you even when nothing bad happens at all.

Unfortunately, even if you know you need insurance, it’s often impossible to know exactly what kinds you need, in what quantities, and at what price. That can consume hours of research. Or you can trust an insurance agent like me to find the most coverage for the lowest premiums.

How to find a trustworthy insurance agent

Problem is, few people trust insurance agents. Fewer appreciate them. We have a bad reputation for two reasons. First, like any profession, a handful are unscrupulous. They resemble greedy stockbrokers who convince you to buy stocks that are good for them, not you. But instead of high-commission stock funds, they sell you high-commission insurance policies.

So how do you find an insurance agent you can trust? The same way you find any professional…

  1. Look them up. Most states have insurance offices that let you go online and check to make sure your agent is licensed. Some even let you check to see if there are any complaints. I live in California, and here’s what that website looks like for us.
  2. Check them out. A quick web search of the agent and their company should give you a lot to go on. For instance, if you search “Vicki Gunvalson Coto Insurance,” you get my company’s website. We provide the licensing numbers of all our agents so you can easily check them out, too. Transparency usually equals trust.
  3. Lock them in. Before you do business with them, see how the Better Business Bureau rates them. For instance, Coto has an A-plus rating. Anything below an A, and you should probably keep looking.

Finally, trust your gut. Meet with your prospective agent. Do you get a warm fuzzy feeling? Or a sense of doubt and foreboding? This isn’t just a business transaction. This is an individual who will look out for you for years to come.

Laughing at ourselves

The second reason people don’t trust insurance agents is much simpler: we’re the butt of oh-so-many jokes. Here’s Will Ferrell receiving a national comedy award – and getting a big laugh by saying this: “I had one dream, one singular focus even at the earliest age. I can remember one thing and one thing only: sell insurance.”

But we’re damned good at protecting you. Ferrell continued to get laughs with this…

Whether it was auto, home or life, fire, flood, or earthquake, I just wanted to make people feel safe. Do you have enough inland marine insurance? Or business overhead expense disability Insurance? These are the things I thought of as a kid, but the insurance game didn’t happen for me so I fell back on comedy.

What’s really funny (at least to me) is that from a young age, I really did want to sell insurance – because I really did want to “make people feel safe.” I still do. The Real Housewives will always be a big part of my life. But selling insurance will always be bigger. And I’m not joking about that.

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About the Author

Vicki Gunvalson

Vicki Gunvalson

Before Vicki Gunvalson starred on Bravo TV’s hit series “Real Housewives of Orange County” – which launched the franchise in 2006 – she was already a financial expert. Gunvalson has owned and operated Coto Insurance for three decades. Based in Irvine, California, Coto has been ranked among the top 1 percent of insurance companies nationwide, with more than 10,000 clients in those 30 years. Coto’s success helped Gunvalson become a member of the Million Dollar Round Table – which represents the top life insurance and financial services professionals from more than 70 countries. She continued to grow Coto during 16 salacious years on the hit show and subsequent celebrity projects. But it wasn’t just Coto that has earned Gunvalson praise and awards for her financial acumen. Licensed in every state not just as an insurance agent but also a retirement specialist, she has made it her mission to help people – especially women – become financially independent. She has partnered with to help even more of them. “I’ve counseled thousands of Americans who experienced their own melodrama – over money,” Gunvalson says. “ is in some ways exactly like me – and in other ways, unlike me. We both care deeply about getting good people in better financial shape. But unlike me, they do it quietly!”

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