Life Events Archives - Genivity
Do you have an estate plan? Most Americans don’t.

Do you have an estate plan? Most Americans don’t.

No one likes to envision their loved ones lives after they’ve departed. It’s unpleasant, stressful and at times, emotionally draining. Your clients are no different. Chances are they’ve been avoiding taking action on how their assets will be dispersed in the event of their death. They’re not alone. In fact, over half of Americans do not have a will.

Why estate planning matters

Estate planning is critical in the financial health of any individual or family. Knowing how their wealth will be distributed should they pass, has no bearing on the person who died, but is a great service to those who are left behind.

Most of your clients will have a (or several) recipients in mind. If it’s not family, then likely a friend or close acquaintance. This is important to convey, because without a will, assets can be held up in litigation for a long time and will ultimately be determined by the legal system. If there is an estranged family member, without a will, they can make a legitimate claim to some of the assets in certain situations even if that was never the intention of the person that is gone.

Your role as an advisor

Many people, from all walks of life have had long battles over wealth because of improper wills or the failure of the deceased party to put one in place. Often times, these are heart-wrenching situations because there is no do-over and there is no second chance. Once your client is dead, that’s it, whatever legal framework they have at the time of death will be what is used: a sobering thought for the underprepared. Ask your clients if they have given this serious thought as it is nothing to take lightly.

Simply put, a will is in place to make sure your client’s wealth is protected and distributed to the people and institutions they care about as a final gift. Encouraging your clients to put a will in place is, in no uncertain terms, your responsibility as a financial advisor. They are paying you to manage their wealth whether they are alive or dead. Make sure you do them the service of addressing uncomfortable issues like their death because most people don’t want to. 

Ensuring that your client’s have an estate plan is also a key component of creating a trusted relationship. When you show that you have their best interests in mind – beyond the time that they will be your client – you show that they are more to you than a number. You can also use this time to discuss their charitable giving and trusts. 

Helping your client think about all aspects of their wealth, including estate planning, investing, and health ensures that your value as an advisor goes beyond products.

Planning for Long-Term Care: The Cost of a Stroke

Planning for Long-Term Care: The Cost of a Stroke

When we think about long-term care in the United States, there are several diseases that come to mind. Cancer is often at the top of this list, similarly, chronic diseases such as diabetes or arthritis can cause people to be trepid about their future health care spending. But an often overlooked and sudden cause of long-term health expenses is having a stroke. The cost of stroke is high for many Americans and it’s only getting more expensive.

Why stroke costs are rising

The reason strokes can cause such financial hardship is because they come unexpectedly. While diseases such as cancer generally have a progression and time to adjust, strokes can be sudden and the amount of damage they cause can be immense. Loss of senses or immobility can happen in the snap of the fingers, leaving almost no time to prepare.

The question is, how does one expect the unexpected? While you are most likely not a health professional, that doesn’t mean you can’t have honest conversations with your clients about their health. Prioritizing their wellness now can save them tens of thousands of dollars in the future and postpone their need for long-term care.

How to better plan for clients’ long-term care costs

Such a topic can be sensitive, but numbers speak louder than most anything. Simple financial analysis and basic research can show both the risk for a stroke and the amount of money it could cost your client. Likewise, the sudden nature of strokes can be a great motivator for your clients to examine their lifestyle choices.

Genivity’s HALO report can also help take personal data from your clients, such as their health and family history, and give clients an idea of what their health care spending could look like in the years to come.

No matter how you decide to approach the topic, if you have a client who is making unhealthy lifestyle decisions, keep it in mind when calculating their future spending needs. Though this can be a tough topic to discuss, a cost analysis doesn’t lie. If you feel comfortable enough with your clients, approach them about the subject and use their calculated future health care spending as the impetus for such a conversation.

How to Plan for your Client’s Significant Life Events

How to Plan for your Client’s Significant Life Events

People are always seeking ways to see into the future. Some great literary works center around a plot of having a character with advanced knowledge of things to come. While this would certainly help plan for your clients future, as we know, no one knows exactly what the future will hold. So how do you help your clients with financial planning for life events that are yet to pass?

Divorce and Marriage

While “expect the unexpected” might be an overused trope, its core message should be taken seriously. We’ve seen recently that surprise life changes can happen to even the wealthiest of individuals. Divorce among couples, while a sad event, can have a major financial impact on either spouse in retirement. It’s not your place to ask the health of your client’s relationships, but you certainly can run scenarios showing what would happen if couples were to divorce and how their wealth would be affected, if not for them, for yourself as a hedge against an unfortunate situation.

On the flip side of that scenario, it’s not unusual for couples to get married, start new relationships or cohabitate late in life. This can impact living expenses, retirement funds and other financial preparations that were made earlier. Again, it’s obviously difficult to predict if this will happen, but if a client is entering retirement single, with a spouse near death, or actively going through a divorce, you may be able to broach the topic and plan for a new romance.

Illness + Chronic Disease

It’s fairly certain that at some point in retirement that your client(s) will fall ill. For how long and the severity of the illness are the variables that are difficult to predict unless you use solutions such as HALO to better understand your client’s personal health risks. Either way, you should assume that illness will happen and you should dedicate money for helping with that scenario.

Though having conversations about long-term care can be difficult, it’s a critical part of planning. Nick Dragan, a financial advisor with Mass Mutual says that bringing the entire family together is an important part of having those conversations:

The most successful plans bring the families together and help them make decisions they would normally avoid like the plague. It’s tough to have these conversations sitting around the Thanksgiving table.

Loss of Income

Loss of income is a real possibility for many. Most likely, the entirety of your client’s wealth will not be wiped out, but it could vary wildly depending on market and political conditions. Very few people saw the 2008 crash coming, yet it certainly impacted everyone, including retirees. There will always be rumors of “the next crash,” try to rise above hysteria like this and plan a conservative, stress-tested investment that your clients will be able to rely on in a worst-case scenario.

Whatever the scenario, all the aforementioned topics are difficult to talk about. Remember tact and professionalism when discussing these scenarios with your clients. Getting the conversation started, however, is the most critical component of helping your clients create a financial plan for significant life events.

Helping Clients Avoid Surprises and Thrive in Retirement

Helping Clients Avoid Surprises and Thrive in Retirement

Planning for retirement can be stressful. There are a lot of unknowns that need to be accounted for and there are plenty of details that should be considered, but at the end of the day, your client should still be excited about retiring. Retirement opens up a whole new world of opportunity and many new and exciting things will take place in this phase of life.

It’s important then, to make sure that your client is confident about thriving in retirement. There are plenty of retirement planning resources that you and your clients can take advantage of so that you can keep the surprises to a minimum and help them retire on their terms.

Investing and Contingency Funds

It may go without saying, but one of the most important things your clients can do is invest. The more your client has invested, the more apt the will be to deal with unforeseen financial expenses. Make sure that your client is investing as much as they feel comfortable during their working years so those investments will pay dividends later. It’s also crucial that part of the planning process includes health care costs – a realistic view of what their out-of-pocket costs will be.

Encouraging your clients to create an emergency account for unexpected events is another strategy for thriving in retirement. Knowing that your client has already put aside a contingency fund can help them not worry about the “what if’s” of retirement. This money won’t draw from their general living funds and should be used only to address surprise expenditures.

What does thriving look like?

Every client is different in their goals for retirement as well as their financial situation. Your clients should be realistic about their non-essential spending. It’s important that you help clients strike a balance between going all-in on their retirement plans and planning for unforeseen expenses. Relaxation and entertainment are no doubt important things for retirees to spend money on, but try to make sure they are realistic about their budgets so that their R&R doesn’t impede their overall quality of life or put them at risk if they had a sudden financial emergency.

Suggesting clients take care of certain expenditures before retiring is another way to help their money stretch. It may be worth it, for example, for your clients to replace their roof while they are still working so that it last the bulk of their retirement. Similarly, upgrading or replacing a car might feel financially more palatable while money is actively flowing in instead of drawing from a limited pool of resources that might hamper their ideas for that money.

No matter the approach you take or suggestions you give, stay positive and be excited with your client for their retirement. It’s a part of life that everyone should be looking forward to and it’s your job to make sure that their retirement planning resources are in place to help them in their retirement goals.

Planning for when a Client’s Partner Dies

Planning for when a Client’s Partner Dies

It’s said that the only thing certain in life are death and taxes. While the reality of taxes is with us almost daily, one tends to put off the idea of death and, therefore, not plan for it properly. It’s very likely that, if you are married entering retirement, one spouse will die before the other. Financial planning with spouses is important to your client’s well being and their long-term financial health and often times, those looking toward retirement are failing to plan for the death of a spouse.

It’s an uncomfortable conversation to have, but one that will benefit your clients immensely in the future. On average, a woman will live longer than a man and is statistically more likely to be left alone, however, death is often indiscriminate of gender. Certain things apply depending on which spouse dies first, but a plan should be in place regardless of which spouse passes first.

Income Changes

When a spouse dies, income streams can be curtailed or even eliminated depending on the terms of the policy or payout. Social Security, for instance, is generally eliminated after someone dies (however a higher payout to the widow(er) is usually implemented). Try to identify these policies with your clients so they know what income will and won’t be around if someone were to pass.

Living Expenses

Plan for an increase in living expenses. Certain things certainly may decrease after a spouse dies, but certain aspects of home maintenance or even basic errands may have to be hired out to get them done in a timely and effective manner. Some costs are agnostic to the number of people they are servicing such as heating a house. Work with your clients to see where costs could be reduced in the event of a passing spouse.

Start the Conversation

Most importantly, you need to have this conversation with your clients so that they are aware of how it will affect their post-retirement wealth and planning. It may be a difficult topic to discuss, but everyone, including yourself, will be happy that you did should that day arrive sooner than expected.

Using HALO by Genivity can help you get the conversation started with your clients. Starting today is critical to the success of your own practice, so schedule a free consultation with Genivity today.

Tips for Protecting your Client’s Financial Plan while Caregiving

Tips for Protecting your Client’s Financial Plan while Caregiving

As your client’s parent’s age, it’s likely that they will find themselves with mounting healthcare and general caregiving costs. Whether these caregiving costs are predictable or unexpected, your client may think that accessing their own retirement plan to help ease the burden is a good idea, and rightfully so. A couple retiring today is looking at $280,000 in health care costs during retirement. Here are some tips to help them address these expenses so that they don’t feel like they have to jeopardize their own retirement in the process of caring for aging parents

Living with Family

If the client is open to the idea, suggest having parent(s) move in with them. Family struggles are real issues for some, but if an amicable relationship exists between your client and their parents, this can be a straightforward way to reduce the expenses paid by children and parents alike. Some cities are starting to legalize and encourage the construction of accessory dwelling units (aka “Granny Flats”) to accomodate this type of cohabitation. It’s a happy medium that allows access and care while still affording independent space.

Aging in Place

Having an extended family situation may not be best for your client, if that’s the case, it’s almost certainly more cost-effective to have them live in their home. There will be costs associated with retrofitting an existing house to better care for an elderly adult such as first floor bathrooms, grab bars, and ramps. However, these costs will likely be less than 24-hour care from an assisted living facility. If the parents need additional help, make sure your client investigates programs like Meals on Wheels, or state and county programs set up to assist aging in place.

Tax Breaks

Depending on the level of care, income, and monetary commitment, your client may be able to claim their parent as a dependent. This can offer the option of writing off large portions of care for parents and keep clients from using their retirement accounts to shore up funds. Similarly, some FSAs (flexible spending accounts) allow for pre-tax dollars to be spent on care for elderly parents.

No matter the route that your client goes, one thing is for certain, care will only get more expensive. Now more than ever, it’s important to have a plan for dealing with costs so that your client doesn’t feel the need to risk their own retirement to help their parents.