If a career at Farmers Insurance is a scam, then pretty much all insurance sales opportunities are scams. Having said that, I have made a good career as a Farmers agent, and life is good. I am now at that stage where I don't need to knock on doors every day, and long lazy afternoons at the golf course are the norm. But things are not what they used to be, and it has become increasing difficult to make a decent living as an insurance agent, especially for those just getting into the business. Factors like the economy, internet, changing consumer trends, and stick-in-the-mud management of agent based companies like Farmers and Allstate etc. are squeezing your friendly neighborhood agent out.
Consider the following before you commit to becoming an agent with Farmers Insurance:
1. Are you are born salesperson. Do you have a convincing style and personality to make people part with their money in return of a protection promise? If the answer is yes, then you are already on first base. However, if you lack presence in a crowd, and if you have difficulty getting your way in everyday life, then stay away from this career. I have been around long enough to know that people who are good communicators, have a style of their own (dress-up, looks, popularity etc), and are not bashful, tend to make good money as insurance professionals, and most everyone else just buy themselves a job.
2. Are you willing to be a professional. Selling insurance is a lot more than just making the sale. Unlike car or real estate sales, insurance sales generate long-term relationships. This profession gives you residual income, and you have to service your client, sometimes for decades. This takes a type of person who is willing to stay on top of product knowledge, industry trends, inside politics, and social networking. The more industry designations that you have (CPCU, CLU, etc) the more you are likely to be trusted and admired. However, this type of education takes years to accomplish, and it is not easy to come by. Additionally, Farmers is interested only in the money that you bring in, and could care less about you burning the midnight oil to polish your career. Additionally, do you have the vision to have a professional office with all the needed technology, staff, and class-A amenities? Look around, some insurance agents have pretty skanky offices, and equally skanky attitudes, but there are also those that impress you from the moment you step into their offices.
3. Do you have a natural market. You don't become a Farmers agent to sell policies to your in laws. Successful agents have a very large ready-made market that they solicit to. This market could be all your students if you are a retired teacher/coach, your constituents if you were the mayor of your town, or the ethnic community that you belong to. Today, agents from ethnic backgrounds (Asian, Russian, Hispanic etc) do much better simply for the fact that they have a readily available base that trusts them, and shares cultural/language/religious/immigrant ties.
4. Are you an Army of One. Farmers (and many others) does a poor job of turning you into a lean mean fighting machine. Their training is local district office based for the most part, and the quality of training depends on your manager and his resources. Often times, these recruiting managers are poorly trained themselves, and lack the necessary skills to train a person to become a successful insurance professional. Many of these managers (called DM at Farmers) were once unsuccessful agents themselves, but got "promoted" to DM because of nepotism or some other "ism". You stand the best chance of success if you are a self-starter, and a business man/woman at heart. You will need to develop your own strategy, tactics, and the bigger war plan, or you will become a casualty in no time. If you have this type of personality and stamina, then Farmers could be a gold mine. Else look at other companies like State Farm that have centralized training for agents, and significantly more resources than Farmers Insurance to get the agents up and running. However, you will be on a much tighter leash with State Farm as they would want your first-born in return for all the resources they spend on you.
So, considering the above, issues like how much subsidy does one company pay while you are in training, and how much money will you owe the company at the end of your training etc are minor considerations. Do medical students really care how much money they will owe Uncle Sam at the end of med school? Well, maybe some do, but most see career opportunities way beyond what is owned on their student loans. Same is true for a career as a captive agent. If you have the acumen, then just go for it.