Lessons learned the hard way as a child by Longmont resident and business owner, Bill Hazel, set him and his family up for success as an adult.
Hazel grew up in Pennsauken, New Jersey. He came from a neighborhood he describes as the “projects.” Growing up his family had very little.
“It was a disadvantaged environment,” Hazel said.
Hazel’s father worked in a manufacturing plant in New Jersey and struggled from “black lung” disease or coal worker’s pneumoconiosis — an occupational lung disease. During the seven years Hazel had with his father, the man had always been sick, Hazel said.
Money was tight and neither of his parents had the ability to plan for the future. His father died without a life insurance policy or money for his family. Hazel’s family could only depend on his single mother’s income to take care of Hazel, his brother and his mother.
“It was an extremely difficult time for us,” Hazel said.
Hazel wouldn’t leave a neighborhood that provided him with more opportunity to be a criminal than to advance.
Only years later, his best friend’s father also died. This friend lived in the same neighborhood and whose family struggled to get by.
The difference though was the Hazel’s friend was able to get of the “projects” because his father had planned for the future by buying a life insurance policy.
Hazel’s friend moved to a new neighborhood, had his own car by 17 and had all of his college paid for, Hazel said. It was a life Hazel dreamed of.
“I got to compare and contrast life and the importance of taking care of your family,” Hazel said.
Noting this difference right away, Hazel swore to himself that one day he too would invest in his future.
Hazel dropped out of high school at an early age, influenced by “the wrong crowd,” he said. By the age of 21 he realized it was time to change and plan for the future he wanted. He got his high school diploma and started at a local community college, enrolling in the business programs.
Searching for a job that would support his wife and child, he applied to a posting on the college job board for Lincoln Financial Advisors. He was selected and learned all the ins and outs of insurance, he said.
“They gave me a good position, for somebody who was a high school dropout,” Hazel stated.
Shortly after getting the job, Hazel invested in several insurance policies, ensuring his family would never struggle as he had if something were to happen to him.
Little did he know, time would take a toll on his body. Hazel, now 51, struggles with spinal stenosis — the narrowing of the spaces along the spine which can put pressure on the nerves and cause nerve damage. The condition has resulted in multiple surgeries and extended recovery times.
Hazel said the condition, in his case, is likely due to genetics and wear and tear on this body as he has never experienced an incident that would cause severe damage to his spine, such as a fall.
His condition sometimes prevents him from being able to do simple things such as tie his shoes without his wife’s help. This is a big change for a man who said he was very athletic in his youth. It also prevents him from working at times.
Hazel now owns a local Farmer’s Insurance branch located at 2130 Mountain View Ave, with his wife Heather. But even though he owns his own insurance agency, he said he is uninsurable due to the severity of his condition.
“The policies I would (now) be able to be placed on me would be extremely restrictive and cost prohibitive,” Hazel said, adding that a healthy 51-year-old man might get a $500,000 life insurance policy for $90 per month. In Hazel’s case, any policy he found would, at a minimum, could run $390 per month. “I can’t get private disability insurance. I can’t get private long-term care insurance. I can’t get a private life insurance policy that would be affordable.”
“People tend to put things off like this, but thank God I didn’t because now I have these policies in force,” Hazel said. He has been able to convert his policies to permanent polices and ensure the future for his wife and children he wishes he had had as a child.
Had Hazel’s experience not inspired him to take advantage of insurance opportunities while he was healthy, his family would struggle now, he said.
Hazel got into the insurance business to help people understand how to plan for their future and to not let others end up in a similar situation as his dad or need to use Gofundme pages to pay for unexpected funeral costs or major health conditions.
“I decided that what happened to me, I would never allow to happen to anybody else,” he said. “I have a real life experience they (other people) can learn from and not make the mistakes my father made.”