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Understanding the Role Healthcare Play in Your Retirement

Jeff Motske, CFP®
August 31, 2018
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There are some great advertisements that show you retirees traveling, gardening and enjoying their hard-earned reprieve from the workforce. It gives a great glimpse of how good retirement can be, giving folks something to strive for. However, it’s not the only reflection of retirement. Sometimes there are valleys to go along with those peaks, and one of the most distinct valleys that are experienced in retirement is mounting health care costs.

The financial weight of health care can start off with small steps, or small pills to be precise. Nine out of ten people 65 and older have commented that they have taken at least one prescription drug within the last 30 days.1 As health issues progress, so can treatments, with some people having multiple medications and continuous appointments, not all being covered by private health insurance. According to an annual estimate conducted by Fidelity, the average retiring couple “will need $280,000 to cover health care and medical costs”.2 While many expect to rely on Medicare for their health care costs, the program is not comprehensive. Fidelity’s figure includes deductibles, cost-sharing requirements for certain medications, as well as services and devices that Medicare doesn’t cover, like hearing aids. For the unprepared, these figures can be staggering.

Those who are unprepared can, unfortunately, find themselves sliding into practices where they are not taking care of themselves in retirement. According to the 2018 Economic Well-Being Report, a quarter of adults went without needed medical care because they were unable to afford the cost.3 Those who do go in for medical care can be overwhelmed by mounting medical costs. According to a study done by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, “43 million Americans owe a medical debt.”4 Stress-induced by medical issues combined with stress over mounting medical costs is not what people expect to experience in their retirement.

The key to good retirement planning isn’t to plan to maintain your current lifestyle. It is to plan for possibilities and scenarios that may not seem likely today, but that statistics show could impact your tomorrow. While these statistics can be very overwhelming, if you start saving early and work with a trusted financial professional, you can be fully prepared to enjoy your retirement. In the end, you need your finances to be in good health for those moments when your body can’t be.

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Steve Hartel, MBA, AIF®
April 24, 2018

Congratulations. You’ve decided to work with a financial professional to help improve your financial situation. How do you find a good one? Unfortunately, that’s harder than it sounds. There is a huge barrier between people seeking good financial advice and professionals offering it. Advisors can be found in the yellow pages (Millennials, you might have to Google that), on various online sites, by answering incoming phone calls, by asking your friends and neighbors, or any number of other ways. Personally, I believe a referral or introduction from an existing client is the best way, but that could be another entire article. Here are some suggested questions you should ask a prospective advisor.

  1. Start by asking yourself what kind of help you think you want and/or need

Are you just seeking help with your investments? How about someone who will be the “quarterback” of your entire team of professionals (tax preparer, estate attorney, bookkeeper, banker, investment manager, etc.)? Are you looking for someone who simply suggests things for you to go do by yourself (what I call the “travel agent” model), or someone who will give you advice and then help you carry it out (what I call the “Sherpa” model)?

The answers to these questions will determine what kind of professional to seek out. I know some of you are thinking, “Wait—aren’t they all the same?” Trust me; the answer is an emphatic “NO”! One of the best ways to determine what type of professional someone is, is by asking about their credentials.

  1. What are your credentials and what do they mean?

Anyone can call themselves a financial advisor. A stockbroker, a life insurance agent, a mutual fund sales rep, an annuity salesperson, a banker, a mortgage broker. Seriously, there are no rules for the title Financial Advisor. The title Financial Planner, on the other hand, has very definitive rules. There are only two kinds of people who can legally call themselves a planner. One group took classes, passed some exams given by an industry group, and received the Certified Financial Planner (CFP®) designation. The other group took classes, passed some exams by a governmental group, and received their Series 65 or Series 66 registration. These folks are called Registered Financial Planners, although that moniker hasn’t caught on yet the same way the CFP® has. Both of these groups can legally charge you a fee for giving you advice.

You might also encounter professionals who received a Series 6 registration (this allows them to sell you a mutual fund) and/or their Series 7 registration (commonly called the stockbroker license). You will also encounter people who have some combination of these.

Someone who only has a CFP® can give you advice but can’t help you execute it. These are the “travel agents” I referred to. This might be a good choice if you want to pay for advice but then go do everything yourself. Another example might be people who hire a personal trainer at the gym one time to teach them the right exercises to do; then they go do them by themselves.

Someone who only has a Series 6 or 7 registration can sell you products for a commission, but they can’t give you any advice. Let’s call them “luggage salespeople.” This might be good for people who don’t want professional advice, make their own decisions, and simply need to buy financial products in a transactional relationship with a salesperson.

Someone who has their Series 65/66, or has their Series 6/7 and 65/66, or who has their CFP® and Series 6/7 and/or 65/66 can perform the “Sherpa” function of going on the journey with you and helping you implement the advice. These are good choices for someone who recognizes the value of professional advice and knows they need a little extra help with actually getting things done (or want that extra accountability). Think people who hire a personal trainer at the gym and see them week after week. In my experience, clients of these professionals make the most consistent progress toward their long-term goals.

  1. How will I be charged? How do you get compensated?

Sometimes those are the same question and sometimes not. Does the professional make a commission when you buy a product? If so, how much is it? Do they charge an hourly fee, a monthly fee, or a one-time flat fee? Is the professional paid a fee based on the size of your invested assets? What is that fee?

If you are buying products, are there any fees built into the products themselves? How much? Are the fees for the product clearly spelled out or are they buried internally?

Will ALL of your fees be clearly itemized on your statements? Ask to see an example.

  1. What services do you provide?

This should line up with your answers to Question #1. Don’t make any assumptions here. Make sure the service you are seeking is actually provided by the professional you are interviewing. The professional might want to sound like they can do everything for you. For example, a stockbroker can open an IRA for you, but that’s not the same thing as doing retirement planning for you. Be clear.

  1. Are you a Fiduciary?

Due to a recent regulatory change, this is the new industry buzzword. There are multiple standards of care in the financial services industry. One is the “suitability” standard. Professionals who do not give advice are held to this standard. They need to show that the product is appropriate for someone in your situation, but they don’t have to disclose their compensation or prove that the product they recommended is actually in your best interest. If there were two products that both accomplished the same thing, but one resulted in the professional receiving higher compensation, the professional doesn’t have to tell you that.

The other standard is the “best interest” standard. People held to this standard are fiduciaries. They must always act in the client’s best interest. If they sell you a product, they must demonstrate that it is in your best interest rather than their own.


I’m a Sherpa, so I naturally believe that’s a better choice for most people seeking professional help with their finances. My fees are very clear and, they appear right on the statement or contract signed by the client. I think hidden fees should be avoided at almost any cost. My clients hire me on an annual basis to be their DecisionCoach. I give them advice, I help them make better financial decisions over time, and I help them implement the advice. Depending on the client, I might be helping with organization, cash flow, investment management, budgeting, retirement planning, college planning, income planning, tax mitigation, asset protection, insurance, advanced medical expense planning, estate planning, and much more. Are you looking for a professional like me?

Darcy Borella, CFP®
February 1, 2018

If you're one of the millions of Americans who received, or are expecting to receive, a tax refund, you are probably trying to decide how to spend it. The average refund this year is around $3,000, a nice chunk of change to throw at one of your goals. Rather than impulse buying that new Apple iWatch or splurging at Sephora, make the best use of this windfall by putting it towards improving your financial situation.

Build Up An Emergency Fund

Some very good friends of mine woke up recently to find that their downstairs had flooded from a burst pipe on the second level. They had to rip up their hard wood floors, replace furniture, and even replace some of the walls. Luckily, their bedroom and their child's nursery was spared, but THIS type of unexpected event is exactly why you need an emergency fund. If they didn't have cash readily available in a savings account, they might have been tempted to put charges for repairs and replacements on a high-interest credit card. Depending on your situation, you should ideally have 3-6 months of regular expenses in the bank. Use your tax refund to start, or top off, your rainy day fund.

Pay Off Debt

The power of compounding interest can work in your favor when investing, but it can also cause debt to grow faster than you might think. Credit card companies apply their interest fees to the amount that you owe initially. But every month (and sometimes every DAY!) after that, the compounding interest will apply to the principal, as well as the previous month's interest. If you want to apply the snowball method, apply your refund to the smallest account you can close out. Alternatively, you can use the “Avalanche” method, and put your refund towards the card with the highest interest rate. Paying off the smallest account might feel good, but if you have double digit interest accruing on a card, get that debt paid off as fast as you can. Take the windfall from your refund and put it towards cleaning up your personal balance sheet.

Fund an Individual Retirement Account

IRAs are one of the greatest savings vehicles you can have for retirement. These vehicles allow you to invest in the market outside of any employer-sponsored plans (like a 401K) with tax-free growth (no capital gains!) until retirement. There are two types of IRAs that are available to the general public: Roth IRAs and Traditional IRAs. With a Roth, you contribute post-tax dollars and don't have to pay income taxes on any distributions in retirement. There is, however, a phase-out limit based on income. With a traditional IRA, you do pay income taxes on distributions in retirement. However, contributions made could be tax-deductible for that tax year (contributions made from January 1st of the current year through April 15th of the following year). As of now, individuals can contribute up to $5,500 per year ($6,500 if you’re age 50 or older), or your taxable compensation for the year, if your compensation was less than this dollar limit.

Monetize Other Financial Goals

Planning to take a big family vacation to Disneyland in 5 years? Dreaming of owning a house but need to build up a sizable down payment? Wondering how you are going to pay for your pre-teen's college tuition? If you have any intermediate goals (prior to retirement), consider opening a brokerage account to help your money grow more efficiently. Statistically, the stock market has more up years than down, and historically, has recovered from those down years relatively quickly. If you have time on you side, consider monetizing these goals by participating in the market at a level that is in line with your risk tolerance.

But If You Must, Splurge…A Little

If you just can't help it, take a small percentage of your refund to treat yourself. Whether it's a nice dinner, a manicure, or checking out a movie with your spouse, take a minute to blow off some steam. Keep this amount small though as the path to wealth is paved with good decisions. Start making good habits today to delay gratification and secure a financial safety net in your future.

Get Started on Your Financial Life Plan Today