What Everyone Ought to Know About Long Term Care Insurance

What Everyone Ought to Know About Long Term Care Insurance

You’ve seen the stats.  Long term care is expensive, and we’re all likely to need it at some point in our lives.  The cost of spending time in a nursing home or assisted living facility adds up quickly, which is why many retirees choose to insure against it through a long term care insurance policy.

Problem is, since there’s a high likelihood of requiring long term care, insurance is an expensive proposition in its own right.

Are you better off crossing your fingers and hoping you don’t need expensive care for a long period of time?  Or is it better to cover this risk through an insurance policy that will cost you an arm and a leg anyway?

This post will cover the essentials of long term care insurance, including exactly how to decide whether picking up a policy is a good decision for you and your family.

 

Long Term Care: The Stats

So here’s the big question.  What are the chances you’ll ever need long term care?  According to longtermcare.gov, about 70% of people turning 65 will need long term care services at some point in their lives.  With the average annual cost of a nursing home totaling about $96,000 these days, this can be a scary proposition.

The stats can be misleading, though.  Many people who need long term care services only need them for short periods of time.  And since most long term care policies have elimination periods (the period before the policy starts paying out) of around 90 days, many people won’t even need care long enough for their coverage to kick in.

What Everyone Ought to Know About Long Term Care Insurance

What Everyone Ought to Know About Long Term Care Insurance

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The Overwhelming Case Against Whole Life Insurance

The Overwhelming Case Against Whole Life Insurance

Insurance agents love to pitch whole life insurance.

This is sometimes a controversial topic, but the truth is that insurance agents make massive commissions on permanent life insurance when compared to term policies.  Because of this, it’s not uncommon to see agents find creative ways to work permanent life insurance into a financial plan.

The truth is that most people simply don’t need permanent insurance, and are far better served with a term policy.  Whole life insurance is costly, and offers very poor return potential.  This post will cover what whole life insurance is, and why most people are better off with lower cost alternatives.

 

How Life Insurance Works

In order to understand whole life insurance, we really need to understand term life insurance first.  With term life insurance policies, you’re paying an insurance company a monthly premium in exchange for old fashioned, plain vanilla insurance on your life.  If you die while the policy is in force, the insurance company will pay your beneficiaries a death benefit.

Since it’s a term policy, it’s only good for a certain amount of time.  Most term policies are written for 10, 20, or 30 years, and have level premiums throughout the life of the policy.

By and large, term policies are the best way to insure your life.  They’re inexpensive and straightforward.  Plus, the whole reason most people insure their lives is to protect against the chance that they die before becoming financially independent.  Once they become financially independent there’s rarely a need for life insurance.  You have enough assets to pay for your lifestyle, which can be distributed to your heirs after you go.

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The Role of Insurance in the Pursuit of Financial Independence

The Role of Insurance in the Pursuit of Financial Independence

Executive Summary:

There are many unfortunate things that can happen to us that risk our pursuit of financial independence.  Some of them we can manage & control, others we can’t.  For the “stuff” out there we can’t control, insurance allows us to transfer risk to an insurance company in exchange for a nominal premium.

This post covers the role of insurance along your pursuit toward financial independence.  It’ll also cover a prudent risk management framework.  If used correctly, financial independence no longer becomes an aspiration that may happen – it becomes an inevitability.


Financial independence is a goal many of us share here in the America.  It’s also, of course, the focus of this blog.

For the baby boomer generation, financial independence lines up very closely to the traditional American career path: enter the workforce in your 20s, put in 40-45 years, and fully retire sometime around age 65.

Younger generations are starting to explore more creative paths to financial independence, like extreme budgeting and newfangled forms of entrepreneurship.

Whatever your route to financial independence, risk is an important part of the equation.  There are many unfortunate things that sometimes happen in this world that might drag us off course, or even be catastrophic:

  • We could die or become disabled unexpectedly
  • We could wreck our car
  • We could get sick
  • We could get sued
  • Our house could burn down

These are risks that we face every single day. They jeopardize our assets, our ability to earn income or both.

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What Will Healthcare Cost In Retirement?

What Will Healthcare Cost in Retirement?

Planning for retirement takes careful preparation and a decent idea of what your budget will be once you stop working.  This can be a pretty scary process with so many unknown variables.  How much will groceries, travel, and utilities cost in 15-20 years?  How long will you live, exactly?  What if you get hurt or need help with everyday activities like getting dressed or paying the bills?

Arguably the biggest variable when we talk about retirement is the cost of healthcare.  It’s no secret that the cost of coverage and prescription drugs is increasing at an uncomfortable pace.  This post will cover the current research on what healthcare will cost in retirement, as well as the best way to put money aside for it now.

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Health Insurance for Retirees Under 65: How to Cope Until Medicare Kicks In

Health Insurance for Retirees Under 65: How to Cope Until Medicare Kicks In

If you’re planning to retire early, you might be wondering what you’ll do for health insurance coverage.  Medicare won’t kick in until you turn 65, and the rising cost of healthcare each year could translate to unknown monthly premiums and out of pocket costs.  This leaves you in a precarious situation if you don’t have another form of benefits.

Fortunately, the Affordable Care Act includes several rules designed to limit your costs.  For example, insurance companies may charge a 64 year old premiums of no more than three times those of a 21 year old.  The ACA also outlaws rejecting applications or charging more for preexisting conditions, and limits out of pocket costs to $6700 per year.

I’m not taking a stance on Obamacare here, but if you’re looking to retire early the road to health coverage is easier now than it was a few years back.  But despite the improvements, a major illness or  injury could still take a big chunk out of your retirement savings.  And as you probably know, the worst possible time to deplete your nest egg is immediately after you stop working.

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Fixed Annuity Pros and Cons: 10 Things You Need to Know

Annuities are incredibly popular instruments for retirement planning.  They come in all shapes and sizes, and while having more options can be a good thing, it can also be very confusing.  For that reason, fixed annuities are a popular way to guarantee income without wrestling with a complicated and expensive product.  Even so, buying an annuity is a major decision.  To help you weight both sides, here are 10 fixed annuity pros and cons:

 

Fixed Annuity Pros and Cons:

 

Pros:

1) Guaranteed Returns

Since fixed annuities pay you a set amount of interest (like a CD), your returns are guaranteed.  This is very useful if you’re concerned about stock market risk as you approach retirement.

 

2) Guaranteed Income

This is probably the most popular feature of fixed annuities.  You hand money to an insurance company via a fixed annuity, and in return the insurance company pays you consistent income for the rest of your life.  Your income doesn’t fluctuate due to stock markets, interest rates, or whether your rental property is leased for the month.  It’s guaranteed and reliable.

The only reason the insurance company might fail to pay this income is if they went out of business.  And even though many of us are skeptical about big companies in the financial industry, insurance companies are very unlikely to go bankrupt.  They are regulated by individual states, each of which requires them to keep a great deal of cash on hand to pay their liabilities (far more than bank reserve requirements).  Even though fixed annuities aren’t insured by the FDIC, the likelihood that you won’t receive promised retirement income is extremely low.

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The Ultimate 7 Step Checklist for Hiring a Financial Advisor

The Ultimate 7 Step Checklist For Hiring a Financial Advisor

A few years back, I had a friend approach me at a BBQ.  He had some questions about how his financial advisor was managing his accounts.

 

Friend: “Yeah, I just don’t know if this guy is doing the right thing for me.  We talk every now and then, he seems like a nice guy, but my portfolio hasn’t really gone anywhere.

Plus, every time we chat he has some brand new investment idea he tries to sell me on.  And every single time, he talks up his new idea like it’s the Michael Jordan of portfolio management.  (My friend is a big NBA fan).  His ideas sound good….I’m just not sure I’m in the right situation.  I feel like there’s more going on behind the scenes that I don’t see, but I don’t know what questions to ask.”

Me: “Well how did you find him?”

Friend: “A coworker recommended him.  Said the guy made him a ton of money a few years ago.”

Me: “How are you paying him?”

Friend: “Well, I’m not really sure.  Everything gets wrapped through the account somehow.”

Me: “OK.  Let’s take a step back.  Maybe it’d help to identify what you’re looking for in an advisor.  If you were starting fresh, what would you like an advisor to help you with?”

Friend:  “Hmmm.  I guess manage my money and help it grow, make sure I’m on track for retirement, and make sure I don’t run out of money after I stop working.”

Me: “So if you were starting from scratch, what qualities would you look for in an advisor?  What criteria would you use?”

Friend:  “I really have no idea.  I’ve never thought of it that way.  Plus there’s about a million financial advisors around here, I get information overload.  I guess I’d go with someone I know and like, and seems to have a good reputation.  What should I be looking for?”

I had to think about my friend’s question for 10 seconds or so.  At the time, I was working at Charles Schwab, but strongly considering starting my own firm.

Me: “I think if I were looking for an advisor, I’d try to find someone who’s competent, trustworthy, unbiased, enjoyable, and looks after for my finances for a fair and transparent price.”

Friend: “Whoa whoa whoa.  Slow down with the laundry list.  That’s a whole lot of stuff I don’t understand.  It sounds GOOD though.  I need to tend the grill, but let’s reconvene in a few minutes.”

Coincidentally, this was one of the very reasons I was considering starting my own firm.  There are about 300,000 professionals in the U.S. today who call themselves “financial advisors” or “financial planners.”  But in my opinion, only a small portion of them have the qualities and service model I’d look for in an advisor.

I’ve had this question come up many times in the years since, and my friend isn’t the only one who’s not sure how to evaluate a potential advisor.  And without knowing what questions to ask, how can you be sure you’re finding someone trustworthy and competent?

Because of this, I thought it’d be helpful to build a checklist you can use to evaluate financial advisors & planners.  If I were looking to hire someone for help with my finances, these are the exact qualities I’d look for and the exact criteria I’d use.  And at the very least, hopefully you’ll be armed with a few good questions to ask.

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How to Analyze a Variable Annuity(2)

How to Analyze a Variable Annuity

Ever had a variable annuity pitched to you?  Maybe you own one.  They’re a popular way for many people to mix guaranteed retirement income with the growth potential of equities.

But I’m guessing even if you hold a variable annuity, you’re not 100% sure how it works.

“What are the annual fees again?”

“How does that bonus period work?”

These were a few of the questions a client asked me recently when he was considering a variable annuity.

**Full disclosure – I do not sell variable annuities** 

This client just wanted a second opinion. He’d recently met with an advisor who pitched him a variable annuity, and wanted input from an objective source.

My client was in a tough position.  He’d just lost his father, and was about to receive a sizable inheritance.  He wanted to use this inheritance to produce income throughout retirement, since he was about to turn 60.

He was skeptical about investing in the markets, fearing that another financial crisis would destroy his nest egg.  At the same time, he struggled with the idea of buying an annuity.  He was attached emotionally to the money since it was coming from his father’s estate, and he didn’t want to fork it over to an insurance company.  On top of that, the annuity he was considering was complicated and confusing, and he was feeling a little lost.

After walking through everything together, my client decided to use some of his inheritance to purchase an annuity – but not the one he was being pitched.  He opted for a fixed rather than a variable annuity, which he bought with a small portion of the money from his father.  He decided to invest the majority of the money in a diversified portfolio geared to produce income.

My client isn’t alone, and I get a lot of questions about variable annuities.  Since they have so many moving parts, I wanted to share exactly how I analyze variable annuities using my client’s contract as an example.

There’s a lot of nonsense floating around the internet when it comes to annuities.  Hopefully this framework is useful to you if you’re considering buying one.

 

American Legacy Annuity Analysis

In this video, I’ll analyze the American Legacy variable annuity offered by Lincoln Financial Group, which my client was considering.  This specific contract is the American Legacy Shareholder’s Advantage annuity, with the i4LIFE Advantage Guaranteed Income Benefit.  I’ll also assume that the Enhanced Guaranteed Minimum Death Benefit (EGMDB) is chosen.

Framework: How a Variable Annuity Works

Before we discuss how to analyze a variable annuity, let’s take a step back and review how they work & where they came from.

Variable annuities have become very popular in the retirement planning industry over the last 25 years.  Essentially, they’re a contract between you and an insurance company that guarantee you a series of payments at some point in the future.

There are two phases in a variable annuity: the accumulation phase and the payout phase.  What’s unique about a variable annuity is that you invest your contributions during accumulation phase – hence the term “variable.”  These investments are known as sub accounts and behave a lot like mutual funds.  They are professionally managed and will follow a specific investment strategy described in a prospectus.

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What No One is Telling You

What No One Is Telling You About Long Term Disability

When someone mentions the word insurance, most of us think of one of three things:

  1. Aaron Rodgers doing a discount double check
  2. The GEICO Gecko using his British accent
  3. The coverage we carry on our cars, our home, our health, or our life

What most of us don’t think of is our long term disability coverage.

Since tangible assets like our cars and homes are easy to visualize, they’re often top of mind when it comes to insurance protection.

But what about the risk that we get sick or injured, and can’t work?

Long term disability insurance is meant to replace our income if this happens.  And coincidentally, our ability to earn a living is probably our biggest and most overlooked asset.

 

Earnings Capacity

Let’s take a moment to think about your ability to earn a living.  Just imagine for a moment what your lifetime earnings will look like.

Your lifetime earnings includes every single paycheck you earn throughout your entire career.  It counts every single raise, every single promotion, and every single bonus.

When you add them all together you’ll get a massive number.  It will be far bigger than the value of your home, your car, and probably your retirement nest egg.

Your ability to go out into the work force and earn this money is your earnings capacity.

 

Now Imagine It’s Gone

Many people consider the possibility that they die, and the impact that would have on their family.  But what if you were hurt or sick and unable to work?

Your family would be left with monthly expenses like a mortgage, utilities, and grocery bills.   They’d also be left without your steady paychecks to afford them.

Plus there’s a chance you might need additional help from a caretaker if you’re permanently disabled.  The end result?  Higher expenses, lower income.

 

It’s More Likely Than You Think

If you’re thinking “that’ll never happen to me,” the statistics would disagree with you.

The social security administration says that 1 in 4 of today’s 20 year-old’s will become disabled for some period of time before they retire.

And if you’re under 45, the chances that you become disabled are far, far greater than the chances that you die.

 

Let’s Think About This

  1. Our earnings capacity is our biggest and most important asset
  2. Becoming disabled is far more likely than we realize
  3. Losing our earnings capacity could cause our family severe hardship

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