The United States’ 65+ population continues to increase at record rates. In May 2021, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services estimated that there will be 80 million senior citizens by 2040. In fact, older Americans are one of the most rapidly growing demographic groups. Knowledgeable insurance agents are well positioned to meet these seniors’ specific insurance needs. At the same time, these senior clients are interested in saving money. John Ritenour, co-founder of Insurance Office of America (IOA), shares his insights on how seniors can get adequate coverage that meets their budget parameters.
John Ritenour’s notable insurance career began with an unusual job that demonstrated his strong work ethic. Young John was hired to shovel coal into the fire at a Pittsburgh steel mill. Naturally, he performed the job as quickly and efficiently as possible. Expecting to be recognized for his hard work, he was instead told to slow down as he outshone his co-workers.
Deciding to change jobs, John Ritenour entered the insurance field as a door-to-door life insurance salesman. After he built a respectable book of business, his manager notified him that the company was lowering everyone’s sales commissions.
That unexpected step backward gave John Ritenour an idea. He decided to start an insurance agency with a completely different culture. As John’s son, Heath Ritenour, describes it, his father envisioned an insurance brokerage that prioritized employees and customers over the profit margin.
This ideal insurance agency would allow agents to own an equity position in their book of business, and they would be encouraged to operate with an entrepreneur’s mindset. Equally importantly, every customer would be regarded as a valued client. John Ritenour strongly believed that professional harmony would naturally lead to strong customer relationships and business growth.
In 1988, John Ritenour and his wife, Valli, launched the small Florida insurance agency that transformed John’s vision into reality. Over the following decade, the agency expanded into additional states and eventually became known as the Insurance Office of America (IOA).
Currently, IOA is the 11th largest privately held United States insurance brokerage, and it is one of the most rapidly growing independent agencies in the country. This expanding business has over 1,300 associates located in more than 60 United States branches. IOA also maintains an international office in Northern Ireland
Although John Ritenour’s business has scaled up over the years, he has always remained true to the same core principles that guided him in founding the company. While creating the business’ structure, Ritenour recognized that building partnerships sets the stage for long-term success in any endeavor.
As a prime example, John Ritenour’s partnership with his wife, Valli, enabled him to coach his son Heath’s sports teams while staying focused on the insurance agency’s growth. Looking back, John clearly relished this time with his son. “I loved coaching. I wouldn’t miss a practice, and I wouldn’t miss a game. I wouldn’t miss any part of Heath’s life.”
On the business side, John Ritenour has also maintained the innovative business structure that enables IOA’s agents to thrive. With an equity position in their book of business, and an entrepreneurial approach that encourages out-of-the-box thinking, there are truly no limits to an IOA agent’s financial and professional achievements.
As IOA continued to prosper, John Ritenour launched a complementary business that targeted major league sports teams’ and sports organizations’ insurance needs. In addition, he created The IOA Foundation, a nonprofit to support worthwhile organizations in the local community.
As IOA’s services continued to expand, CEO John Ritenour created a new division that provided insurance for professional sports teams and sports organizations. John’s son (and now IOA’s chairman and CEO) Heath Ritenour, who has a well-rounded sports background, noted that each sport has its own potential risks and hidden complexities.
To accurately estimate the potential risks and implications, insurance professionals must thoroughly understand the team’s operations. “In insurance, you really have to [think about the worst-case scenario]. Your job is to mitigate risks for your customers,” explained chairman and CEO Heath Ritenour.
“To do that, you’ve got to look for the pitfalls. You’ve got to look for blind spots. You have to look for risks that may not be on the surface, and you need to educate your customer on the potential of the risk. Then, it’s their decision whether or not they want to buy a policy to cover it.”
If the team decides to proceed, the insurance agent must identify the policy that provides all the requested coverage. Current IOA clients include NBA, NFL, and NHL sports teams. Several racing teams and the USA Triathlon also utilize IOA’s services.
John Ritenour’s humble beginnings instilled in him a desire to help others better themselves. This led him to establish the IOA Foundation, Inc., a well-regarded nonprofit that primarily aims to assist children from birth through their college years.
In addition, the IOA Foundation supports other worthwhile local organizations. Areas of focus include health and wellness, animals, entrepreneurship, literacy, and financial empowerment.
When John Ritenour reflects on the course his life has taken, his enduring business success certainly deserves acknowledgement. However, he says that giving back is the best thing he has ever done.
In 2018, John Ritenour stepped down as IOA’s chief executive officer, and he handed the company’s reins to his son, Heath Ritenour. Now, John Ritenour has additional time to become more involved with his community and the Foundation’s partnerships.
During John Ritenour’s wide-ranging insurance career, he has helped countless senior citizens with their insurance needs. Now a member of that growing demographic, he provides useful advice on getting the best value for auto insurance and homeowners insurance coverage.
Drivers of every age should focus on finding the most comprehensive coverage at budget-friendly rates. Seniors should be aware that auto insurance premiums often increase for drivers over 65. However, new coverage and discount options also become available to clients in this age bracket.
As might be expected, a senior applicant’s driving history and financial profile, along with the vehicle’s location, also figure into the insurance coverage and premium equation. In addition, senior drivers can often lower their premiums with one or more of the following strategies.
When retired drivers leave their commutes behind, they usually reduce the miles they drive each year. When getting online vehicle insurance quotes, switching to “leisure” or “low mileage” driving status will often result in a discount. Although each insurer has different criteria, driving less than 14,000 miles annually often qualifies for a discount.
By taking a defensive driving class, drivers 55 and older can receive a government-ordered auto insurance discount. Each state specifies the driver’s age and discount amount, and the insurance provider may have its own criteria. Yearly premium discounts of 5% to 10% are common. After three years, the discount expires and the driver must take another safety course.
Some defensive driving classes are available online while others take place in person. Each state’s Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) website should list approved course providers.
The courses are four to six hours in duration and cost approximately $25. Drivers who complete the course will receive a certificate that they can send to their auto insurance company.
Drivers who pay their insurance bill in full, or set up an auto-pay arrangement, will receive a discounted auto insurance rate. In addition, “safe driver” discounts are often available. Green vehicles, along with those that contain anti-theft devices, also qualify for auto insurance discounts.
Combining, or bundling, several policies under a single insurer will likely result in lower auto insurance rates. Seniors should consider bundling their homeowners or renters policies along with their life insurance and/or umbrella coverage.
When choosing an auto insurance company, senior citizens should consider the premium along with any applicable discounts. Applicants should also learn whether the insurer offers a renewal guarantee.
Drivers should be aware that the cheapest auto insurance is not always the best choice. Many online coverage options are available at attractive prices.
However, there is great value in working with a local agency that understands area seniors’ needs. A community-based agent will work diligently to meet those needs while keeping rates affordable. Insurance Office of America maintains offices and/or associates in key markets throughout the United States.
Several factors can contribute to reduced homeowners insurance premiums. First, a “retiree discount” may be extended to residents aged 50 and older who work fewer than 24 hours every week. Homeowners who qualify may save up to 15% on their premiums.
In addition, residents with “paid in full” mortgages have a good chance of receiving a homeowners insurance discount. Senior homeowners with good-to-excellent credit ratings are also likely to encounter lower insurance rates.
Senior homeowners who live in a gated community, or who have a home security system, can also qualify for homeowners insurance discounts. Homes built with green materials or constructed with storm- and hail-resistant materials and technology, are also good candidates for premium discounts.
Like clients in other demographic groups, seniors’ personal needs may have changed since their insurance policies went into effect. An experienced IOA agent can reevaluate each senior client’s needs and recommend the right coverage at an affordable price.