Rudi Hoffman

Alcor Member Profile
From Cryonics September-October 2017

By Nicole Weinstock

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Rudi Hoffman

“One of my favorite phrases is, ‘success is not convenient,’” says Rudi Hoffman. A signed cryonicist and devoted cryonics industry marketeer of 23 years, Rudi has made a household name for himself in the cryonics community together with his wife and business partner, Dawn. Their company, Hoffman Planning, is responsible for about 68% of the cryonics funding market. With virtually 7 of every 10 cryonics policies under their belts, it’s quite likely you know them because they may be the very folks who secured yours. Or maybe you know them from their epic holiday greeting cards, boasting the latest lawn to roof decorations, backdropping their carefully costumed canines.


A hungry flamingo at the Sarasota Jungle Gardens hopes for a chance at Rudi’s afternoon snack.

Point of entry aside, and despite Rudi’s humble protestations, there’s no doubt that the Hoffmans have seen the brass ring. From a pool of 2,800 or so life insurance brokers representing the cryonics-friendly Life Insurance carrier, Hoffman Planning ranked sixth by productivity in 2015. Yet, unlike many at this level of achievement who shy away from the blood, sweat ’n tears moments that came before, Rudi is the first to admit, with humorous candor, to those “inconveniences” that have dotted his yellow brick road. It’s one of his most endearing traits, and quite possibly, the cornerstone of his success.

Rudi Hoffman
Rudi joined Alcor because he enjoys life and wants more of it.

Elementary, my dear Watson

“I worked like crazy and struggled like crazy, literally, for decades. I was barely making a living and barely making a ripple for something like the first 15 or 20 years of my career.” You may only know Rudi for his career in insurance, but his earliest calling was actually education. His wholehearted approach to challenge and his drive to realize potential hint at a scholastic past, but the veritable Christmas tree of educators known as Family Hoffman added a layer of arguable predestiny: Mrs. Hoffman was an elementary school music teacher, Mr. Hoffman was a German professor at Purdue University, Grandpa Hoffman was the president of Anderson University for virtually four decades, and Auntie Hoffman was headmistress for a private Christian school in Florida. “I always assumed that I’d be either a college professor or an administrator at some point,” says Rudi. “So I majored in elementary education, which was kind of the path of least resistance,” he adds, with a chuckle.


The Hoffman family poses on the snow covered campus of Anderson University. Rudi stands in the middle of his parents and two older sisters.


A young Rudi snuggles up next to the family dog, Waldi. The Hoffmans had four of these long-haired dachshunds growing up.


Rudi blows out the candles of his fourth or fifth birthday cake with his grandfather behind, and his mother to the right.

As it turned out, resistance and pay were directly proportionate. After graduating from his grandfather’s beloved place of work, Rudi went south to his now home of Daytona Beach, Florida for a fifth grade teaching position at Warner Christian Academy. “I made the princely sum of $6,200 a year,” recalls Rudi, sardonically, a salary equivalent to about $29,000 in 2017. “To put it in context, I was going to be joining the Peace Corps for $4,000 a year.”


Rudi poses with his first fifth grade class at Warner Christian Academy in Daytona, Florida.

But the Peace Corps never came to fruition. In 1978, after a couple of years at the academy, Rudi was recruited by an insurance company known for its controversial “Buy Term and Invest the Difference” concept, and aggressive recruiting of teachers and coaches. BTID encouraged consumers to choose term insurance over old fashioned “whole life” insurance, and invest the cost savings in mutual funds. Projections showed that the investment value with interest could eventually exceed the cash value of a “whole life policy” over time.

“I would’ve never gotten involved in the insurance business if it weren’t for that kind of unique company. Because my selfimage was that I could not sell anything. I did not think I could sell a piece of bread to a man that was starving to death.... But I did acknowledge that[, by] comparison with my old policy that I’d been paying on,...the new program that these guys had shown me...was simply dramatically better mathematically. The industry has now changed, and the new consumer oriented plans have a direct or indirect exposure to stock market index growth.”

So Rudi began working with this carrier, and in the midst of that, bought the house that he and Dawn still live in. And on the subject of mathematical benefits, “I managed to go from $6,000 a year down to $4,000 a year [in earnings] while increasing my overhead to roughly $15,000 a year. That’s why people have credit cards I guess,” laughs Rudi. “But If I’d had any brains I would’ve quit and got a good job.” But the reality is that Rudi stuck with it, and admits nearly 40 years later, “I would not trade all those challenging formative years of character building for anything.”

When it dawned on him

Through a twist of fate with a dab of religion, love was one of the unintended consequences of Rudi’s decision to stay in the insurance business. During his early years with the initial insurance carrier, he was also studying to be a minister for Unity Church. Founded in the late 19th century in Missouri, Unity is, in Rudi’s words, “a lot less awful than most religions.” (He now describes himself as an “agnostic slash atheist,” as you may have intuited). Nevertheless, Dawn O’Connell happened to attend a new member reception at Rudi’s church when he was 28 years old. A sacred “Burning Bowl Ceremony” was being held, for which each person in attendance wrote down something they were ready to let go of on a piece of paper to be symbolically burnt. Dawn saw Rudi drop his paper in the bowl, and they met shortly thereafter. He had intentions of recruiting her into the insurance business, but one thing led to another, and four days later, Rudi was down on one knee. “It was definitely love at first sight, and has remained so,” he adds. It certainly seems that way, because what Rudi wrote on that piece of paper way back when—the thing he wanted to let go—was, ever so coincidentally, “singleness.”

Now, more than 33 years later, Rudi and Dawn are partners in marriage and in business. “She’s very, very smart and very independent-minded,” says Rudi, “and she is the opposite of a yes-person.” Outside of work, they are active square and round dancers, avid dog lovers, passionate holiday decor artists (they’ve had 70 plus blow-up characters on their lawn before for Halloween), and zealous globetrotters.


Dawn and Rudi pose at the Evergreen Ball, a round dance event, in 2005.


Rudi and Dawn snap a photo during a New Orleans collectible cruise in 2005. They both sport pins with the popular collectible character, Mackenzie Mouse.

It’s particularly fortunate that Rudi found the travel bug in his partner, as it was a steadfast part of his upbringing. His father—the German professor and talented linguist, fluent in seven languages—was a huge travel enthusiast. Though they lived in Indiana, he used to drive the family all the way to Florida on long weekends to see the latest in tourist attractions. He even took Rudi on a three-month trip to Austria one summer. His influence played heavily into Rudi’s college years, when Rudi did work projects in Africa, Central and South America, and the Caribbean.


Rudi’s father was an avid traveler who took him on all sorts of adventures as a child, including this one at Tweetsie Railroad, a wild west theme park in North Carolina.

Rudi and Dawn may not be crossing the oceans these days, but they certainly make time for their domestic adventures. In fact, they celebrated their most recent anniversary at the Sarasota Jungle Gardens this past April. Known for its ten acres of native and exotic plants, the gardens are also populated by birds. So much so, that Rudi had to rather aggressively decline the advance of one reportedly libertine flamingo during their visit (see cover photo above). “I tried to explain that I’m open minded,” says Rudi, between laughs, “but I try to stay within my own species.” The bird should’ve known that it would’ve taken more than than a little leg to get between the Hoffman duo.

The pet that’s all but furry

In 2016, the inconvenience of success became an almost prophetic maxim. One less than fine day in April, a bump on Rudi’s leg was biopsied and, a few tests later, confirmed to be part of an aggressive lymphoma. The PET scan that sealed the diagnosis showed “golf ballsized glowing orbs” in Rudi’s spleen that, in so many words from the oncologist, were not frequent fliers. The six trips that the Hoffmans had planned in the coming months—including the luxurious allexpenses paid Swiss vacation that formed the apex of their wanderlust—were off the table. As Rudi recounts, “All of a sudden, it really became real that this has to be dealt with right now.”

The travel quashing was one thing; the effects of chemo on Hoffman Planning were quite another. While their business is home-based—a circumstance that allowed for commute-free days, and intermittent rest—it was still a challenge to juggle health and productivity in the small business world. “My practice consists of my wife and me,” says Rudi. “It’s not like we had half a dozen people to whom we could delegate or outsource work to keep the business running.” But after being designated the sixth highest productive life insurance brokerage team in the nation with their primary carrier the year before, the record was not to be tarnished. “My wonderful wife and business partner really stepped up,” he says in admiration. They came in at eleventh place on their primary life insurance carrier list in 2016, despite this health setback. Laughs Rudi, “We were pretty productive even while dying from cancer.”

On immunity and grandeur

The meaning and subversion of the life-death paradigm lie at the center of cryonics; in a way, there is no subculture more familiar with this coin. In the case of Rudi, the death of his own father from cancer during high school, encouraged an even earlier awareness. “At fifteen, all of a sudden I had to deal with the fact that death definitely is stalking us all the time, and can be much closer than we think.” And yet, one of the most salient truths that he arrived at through this whole cancer ordeal, was just how much cryonics inadvertently fosters a sense of immunity:

“I think one of the hallmarks of cryonicists, is we tend to think the rules don’t apply to us, including the big rule that you’re gonna die.... I don’t think I ever really believed [my cancer] would not be cured, and it’s one of the reasons that I don’t think I gained as much wisdom as I should’ve from the experience, because I never really felt that I was going to actually die.”

He may not have had any blockbusterworthy, tear-jerking moments to share, but as you will read in his companion piece to this profile, Rudi did give thanks for some very crucial people and structures that helped ensure his recovery and future cryopreservation. He advises readers to be proactive in their support of evidencebased medicine, the pursuit of as much life insurance as possible, and the cultivation of meaningful relationships—people who will hold your hand while you toss your post-chemo cookies into the can for hours on end. These are the things that got him through. These are the things that balance the cryonicist’s immunity to death.

The other truth of cryonics that came to light during his cancer experience was this: “[Cryonicists] have delusions of grandeur. We tend to think we’re worth saving.” For Rudi, an early death was disturbing in large part because it would’ve prevented him from having the kind of impact in cryonics that he aspires to have. Says Rudi:

“I would really like to have a lot more impact, and share the value and the ideas of cryonics much more effectively than I have. Cryonics is such a reasonable thing to me with my life, and it’s so affordable for the vast majority of people. And yet there’s only something like 2,000 signed cryonicists in the world. That is such a huge disconnect. And it feels, quite frankly, like a personal failure. Because I’m a marketing kind of person...so it’s my job to be kind of a leader and get this remarkable option going a little more viral than it has, and I’ve not yet found the keys to doing that. And it’d be a real pisser if I would die before I figured out at least some of the keys.”

Even in the face of a premature demise, Rudi’s unwavering commitment to boosting awareness and understanding of the cryonics movement is palpable. He is currently working on a book designed to give a straightforward introduction to cryonics, The Affordable Immortal: The Emerging Science of Cryonics and You, in addition to a customizable, open-source PowerPoint presentation that can be a tool for cryonicists trying to get the word out to fresh audiences. And of course, he does all this on top of running his cryonics-focused financial planning business.

Saving the libraries

What keeps one man going on all of these fronts? Rudi is not a religious man, to be sure, but he is a self-identified humanist. The “delusions of grandeur” for which he may fault himself, are in truth, the very mechanisms that have shaped him into a man for all seasons (we’ll forget, for a moment, that Thomas More was Catholic):

“Imagine how tragic it is that people live their whole life and have all these experiences, become a unique segment of the universe that they become, and then they get sick or a bus hits them and all of a sudden they’re dead. And that irretrievable, irreplaceable, unique bit of the universe is gone forever. So, every death is like a library burning down, and cryonics is a way to potentially back that up and back up your life so that it could be sent to future technology that can resuscitate us, and hopefully allow us to live in a very happy way in the future.”

For all his knowledge in cryonics, for all his impressive accreditations from years of study and experience—Certified Financial Planner, Chartered Life Underwriter, and Chartered Financial Consultant—it’s Rudi’s authentic commitment to people that drives his success; cryonics is his vehicle of expression. “I’m a cryonics ideologue first and a life insurance broker second. I’m committed to helping as many people as possible.”

Success isn’t easy, and it certainly comes with its own set of trials and tribulations. And while outcomes can’t always be guaranteed, we are often better positioned than we think to control our inputs. Of this, Rudi reminds us, “...most [successful people] expect a lot of themselves. And they work at it. They try hard. And I’m not perfect, but most of the time I do try pretty hard.”

To read more about Rudi and Hoffman Planning, or to book a phone visit, you can go to www.rudihoffman.com. To join his mailing list, please email rudi@rudihoffman.com.

 

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